Choose the right path to wisdom

Published 8:53 pm Friday, June 12, 2015

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

What if you could ask God for whatever you wanted? Solomon had that opportunity after inheriting the throne of Israel, as the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:5).

Solomon had a blank check to ask God for the greatest desire of his heart. In a way it was a test of his heart. What would he ask for?

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We can learn much from what he does ask for, from what he doesn’t ask for, and from his attitude.

First, his attitude. Solomon is grateful. He says to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant.”

Second, he is humble. He says to God, “I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7). In reality, Solomon was not a little child, but a young man. Still, he is humble enough to understand that the task before him is enormous, and he needs God’s help if he is going to carry out his duties as king.

Someone once said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” If we have these two attitudes — gratitude and humility — we are in a great position for God to bless us.

We can also learn a great deal from what Solomon does not ask for. God points out that Solomon did not ask for long life or riches or the death of his enemies (1 Kings 3:11).

Certainly, if most people had the chance to ask for whatever they desire, they would ask for wealth for themselves. Why? Because, as Pascal said, all people seek happiness, and most people believe that great wealth will bring them great happiness.

One rarely hears anyone who actually has great wealth saying this, though. They know better.

Solomon also does not ask for the death of his enemies. That would have been very tempting for someone in his position, because he certainly had political enemies. But he does not ask for their death.

Solomon seems to understand that “sweet” revenge is really not so sweet. As JRR Tolkien says in “The Return of the King,” “It is useless to meet revenge with revenge. It will heal nothing.”

Neither did Solomon ask for long life. He seems to know that far more important than a long life is an impactful one.

No, instead of wealth, a long life, or revenge, Solomon asks for wisdom. He says to God, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

To Solomon, wisdom was not just intellectual, but moral. He wants to be able to make choices that are pleasing to God. Second, he doesn’t just want wisdom so he can be personally successful. He wants wisdom to serve others. He knows the quality of his leadership will greatly impact other people.

His desire is like that of John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”

That’s the path to wisdom, fulfillment and joy.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.