Would-be pirates, swashbucklers, and imaginative children have long been captivated by the prospect of discovering hidden treasure. Even less adventurous adults have been known to prowl beaches with a metal detector in hand in hopes of finding something very valuable hidden just beneath the surface. Stockbrokers and financial advisors often work on the premise that what is most profitable is not always readily apparent. You have to look for treasure. You have to invest in the search. And sometimes, what is most valuable is often right under our noses. As a child (and to my shame, as an adult), I would often lose valuable possessions, like my house key or school ID. After tearing my room apart like feds looking for contraband, what I was missing was right in front of me the whole time, even though I didn’t see it. My father would admonish me saying, “If it was a snake, it would have bit you.”
The book of Proverbs presents wisdom as a prized possession worthy of a lifelong quest. In speaking of the ultimate value of wisdom, the author writes that “the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her” (Prov. 3:14–15). In other words, gaining wisdom is literally more profitable than winning the lottery. But wisdom doesn’t come easy. No, we must search for it. The writer of Proverbs also states, “if you search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:4–5). And sometimes, the source of such wisdom is right in front of us the whole time, even though we don’t see it—like that snake my father spoke of.
What is this precious source of wisdom hidden in plain sight right before our eyes? Before we unearth that gem, let’s first talk about what is obstructing our vision. Though we are not always conscious of it, we swim in the currents of our culture. As the villain Bane describes his upbringing to Batman in the film The Dark Knight Rises, “You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it.” Likewise, we are born in a specific culture and molded by it. This doesn’t just apply to the way we speak, the way we dress, and what we eat, but also the way we think and perceive things. The way we view wisdom is very much colored by western culture.
In our culture, we often conflate wisdom with knowledge. The more I accumulate facts and theories about a particular subject, the more I am seen as wise and as an “expert” in that field by my peers. For example, if I could describe to you in great detail precisely how combustion works in an engine to propel a vehicle forward, I might give you the impression that I know a thing or two about cars. If I could go on and describe all the various parts of a car, how they function separately and in relationship to each other, you might think I’m very wise and knowledgeable when it comes to vehicles. In fact, you might be tempted to bring your car to me if is experiencing problems. But in reality, you would be very disappointed, because although I may know all of these facts and theories, I actually don’t know how to work on a car. I would be all knowledge, but no wisdom.
The same thing applies to theology. I can go to Bible college, attend seminars, and read dozens of well-written books by sharp Christian minds, and in doing so, accumulate a great deal of knowledge. But does that automatically make me wise? For instance, if I can articulate in great detail how the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, but nothing in my life reflects such a change, am I really wise? Of course not. Wisdom is not theoretical. Wisdom is tried and true. As Jesus said, “wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19). In other words, a wise person will leave a trail of evidence in their life pointing to the possession of wisdom. Riccardo put it this way in his first sermon on Proverbs: the wise are those who have walked in the ways of God for a sustained period of time.
We can easily seen, then, how the confusion between knowledge and wisdom can have an impact on me at a personal level. But how does this conflation of wisdom and knowledge create an impact upon our community as a whole? Well, if I see knowledge and wisdom as synonymous, my search for the precious jewel of wisdom will primarily be through the means of education. I will listen to lectures. I will read books. And, most likely, I will use Google searches. And in doing so, I will neglect the most precious resource of wisdom: the wise. I will gloss over the fact that there are other Christians in my church who have walked with the Lord far longer than I have. If all the knowledge in the world is literally at my fingertips in the form of a smartphone, why would I ever put in the effort to build relationships with and learn from older and wiser people? Living in a culture that prizes efficiency and immediate gratification, I simply won’t.
As a result, my community may simply be my peers. After all, it is hard work to bridge generational gaps. And if I feel that I simply don’t need older Christians, why would I go out of my way to share life with them? Rather than living out the model in Titus (see Titus 2:1–10), where Paul admonishes the older men to teach the younger men, and the older women to teach the younger women, I will live by a different paradigm. My primary source of wisdom will be Riccardo’s sermons, a couple books, and maybe a podcast. The consequences are disastrous. Instead of being a community which reflects the kingdom, the church becomes fragmented, and I merely mirror my demographic. And the life lessons borne through pain, trial, and continued experience of God’s faithfulness all go to waste. They pass away along with those who possess them. And those of us who are younger are left without a metal detector, blindly rummaging through the sands of life in hopes of stumbling upon the precious wisdom we so desperately need.
Redemption Tempe, we are a young church. But let’s not be a foolish church. Wisdom is not easily found. We must look for it. We must invest in the search. Thankfully, we have hidden treasure in the midst of very own congregation: older Christians who have experienced God’s faithfulness and walked faithfully with him over an extended period of time. If wisdom is worth more than a winning lottery ticket, then older, wiser members of our congregation are worth more than winning lotto numbers. If you aren’t already having someone like that pouring into your life, then now is the best time to start. They’re already right here in our midst. My father might say, if they were a snake, they would have bit you.