In a dream, God tells Solomon to “ask for something” and God promises to give it to him.
I have never heard anyone ask for what young King Solomon wanted. “Give me an understanding heart,” he said.
He was well on his way to having one. God praises Solomon for seeing how longevity, riches, property, and revenge are not as important than the gift of understanding to know what is right.
What is ironic about this whole orientation toward wisdom is this: The wise seek wisdom, and fools love foolishness. So in a sense, only the wise are smart enough to pray for wisdom.
Of course, we all know how Solomon turned out: wiser than any other philosopher or scholar in his day. He made an admirable judgment regarding the child with two mothers. He clearly impressed the shrewd Queen of Sheba. Still, very smart men can still make very dumb choices.
To honor the Lord he built a lavish temple that took seven long years to complete. Then he spent 13 years building his own palace, showing an amazing lack of balance. This included the forced labor and the taxes levied to support these projects. Much human suffering were involved.
God warned Solomon not to cross the line and allow any veneration of foreign gods. The people are to worship Yahweh alone. The ban on idol worship was not to be compromised. No warning could be clearer. So what does the wisest man on earth do? He marries 700 foreign women and takes 300 concubines besides. Shrines to strange gods were not far behind.
Maybe wisdom is not all it is cracked up to be – that is to say, it is not enough. Wisdom must be accompanied by humility for a person to follow it effectively. Being able to quote or recite the wise sayings of learned people, even Jesus Christ, does not mean a person is smart or wise.
When someone brags about how smart they are or how wise they are, you can be sure of this: they are not very smart or very wise. You will never hear a learned person bragging about how smart they are because they are learned and know how much they do not know.
If we want to have an understanding heart like Solomon, we have to treasure wisdom and seek it in our daily lives. What matters most to you? Just check your calendar and you will find out.
As writer Annie Dillard says in her book The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our life. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
The days, hours, and minutes of our lives are God’s gifts to be used either for searching for wisdom or for seeking one valueless trinket after another. What we do with the precious gifts of our time and our talents reveal what we truly value, whether it be wisdom, faith, and love – or our own comfort, ease, and amusement.
As the mystics like to say, humility is the first step toward wisdom – and it is every step after that. In a dream, God tells Solomon to “ask for something” and God promises to give it to him.
If God made that offer to you in a dream, what would you ask for? Would wisdom and an understanding heart be on your list? We can find true value and joy in being Christ’s disciples, but only if we are up to the task of living the Christian life on Christ’s terms, rather than our own.
Mark Twain once said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
When we discover what God wants us to do in life, we will have found the wisdom of infinite value, a life filled with God’s grace, love and joy.