by Tom Wacaster
Over the span of more than 45 years of preaching, I have had the opportunity to carefully study, and even teach a series on the amazing wisdom of Solomon as contained in the book of Proverbs. Yet the wisdom of David’s son only pales in comparison to the divine wisdom demonstrated by David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Having said that, my various journeys through the Proverbs has consistently yielded an abundant harvest of rich, spiritual fruit to nourish the soul. I never grow weary of the praise that Solomon lavishes upon wisdom and the possession thereof. Here is just one example: “A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, And bringeth down the strength of the confidence thereof” (Pro. 21:22). Listen to another of Solomon’s bits of wisdom along that same line as contained in the book of Ecclesiastes:
I have also seen wisdom under the sun on this wise, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good” (Ecc. 9:13-18).
In this age where violence seems to dominate Hollywood and where nations seem to be increasingly at odds with one another, perhaps it is time for humanity to take a little advice from Solomon. History is filled with examples of great leaders who gained the upper ground over their enemies, not by force, but through wise negotiations. Let me share one such incident that illustrates the point I think Solomon was making in the two passages noted above.
Plutarch tells of an encounter between Taxiles and Alexander the Great. With a mighty army Alexander came into India. So powerful was Alexander’s army that he could cause the earth to literally shake beneath his feet. Taxiles was a prince whose territory was as large as Egypt and which contained good pasturage of fertile and arable land. Taxiles had a great army, perhaps as great and powerful as any Alexander had ever faced. Taxiles and his army presented a formidable foe for the Grecian conqueror. But Taxiles was a wise ruler, and after he greeted Alexander, he asked him, “Why should we fight battles with one another? You have not come here to rob us of water or the necessities of life, and these are the only things for which sensible men are obligated to fight. As for other kinds of wealth and property so-called, if I possess more than you, I am ready to be generous towards you, and if I have less, I shall not refuse any benefits you may offer.” Alexander was so delighted at this that he took the hand of Taxiles and said, “Perhaps you think that after your kind words and courtesy our meeting will pass off without a contest. No, you shall not get the better of me in this way. I shall fight with you to the last, but only in the services I offer you, for I will not have you outdo me in generosity.” Plutarch goes on to tell how Alexander received many gifts from Taxiles, but returned even more, and finally presented him with a thousand talents of coin.
Perhaps the same kind of wisdom can be used to avert personal problems that arise from time to time. Seldom do I read a local newspaper that does not contain a report of some domestic squabble over what, seems to me, a rather insignificant matter. Some minor disagreement stirs up emotional feelings, physical violence takes precedence over calm deliberation, and angry words all too often lead to spousal abuse. The cycle is endless, the beat goes on, and wisdom fails to get a decent hearing.
Solomon’s words are also applicable to churches, are they not? If a little earthly wisdom demonstrated by the wise counsel of Taxiles to Alexander could avert a war, how much more the wisdom that comes from above as it is applied to brotherly disputes. Paul spoke of our weapons and the warfare we are to fight as God’s people: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). It is only with the wisdom that comes from above that we can ever hope to successfully engage our spiritual enemy. I wonder how many church splits could have been avoided if brethren had only used the wisdom that comes from above to address the problems of the moment.
Some years ago I was privileged to travel with an older brother in Christ to various brotherhood activities. I was living in Oklahoma at the time, and each year he and I would make the eight hour drive to Henderson, Tennessee to attend the Freed-Hardeman Lectures. I was much younger then, and he in his early years of retirement. He reminded me of Colonel Sanders with his mustache and beard, though he was much thinner than the Colonel. Those long drives provided us opportunity to visit and share stores with one another. I like to think that some of what he shared with me of life’s experiences helped me mature and grow in Christ. He told me the following story that demonstrates the truth of Solomon’s wisdom. His father had served as an elder of the Lord’s church in the community where he grew up. One of the “issues” facing the church at that time was the one-cup issue. There were strong feelings on both sides. Congregations were being troubled by those opposing the use of multiple cups, leading to splits in some of the churches. This brother told me how his father, and the other elders handled the situation, thereby defusing what could have very well split the congregation. A sister in the congregation had a communicable disease [tuberculosis, if I remember correctly], but was desirous to attend the services. The congregation actually used two cups, and it was advised that they provide a third, smaller cup for this sister to use so as to avoid any spreading of the disease. This seemed to be acceptable to the contentious party, and so a third cup was added. It was also suggested that a fourth cup be added for any brethren who might even suspect they had some like disease, so as to use all precaution against further causing illness among the brethren. It was agreed, and for several months the congregation used four cups at the Lord’s Table. Eventually one of the leaders of that little element that fought tooth-and-nail against the use of multiple cups approached the elders and conceded that their opposition to multiple containers was rather short sighted. The congregation remained at peace with one another, and when the time came to introduce the multiple cups into use at the Lord’s Supper there was no voice of opposition.
Seeing that heavenly wisdom is granted to us by the Father upon our request (Jas. 1:5), it would behoove us to search the scriptures, and become familiar with that heavenly wisdom demonstrated by Solomon, but most of all, that which was manifested in the life of our Lord and Savior.