Thus says the LORD: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD; I act with steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the LORD.
(Jeremiah 9:23-24, emphasis added)
Wisdom, might, wealth.
Love, justice, righteousness.
Two lists, separated by God.
Wisdom, might and wealth are human gains.
Love, justice and righteousness belong to God.
That explains a lot about our country right there.
What do we pursue the most? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We search for those things in our wisdom, might and wealth.
Wisdom, according to Merriam-Webster, is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; good sense; generally accepted belief; and accumulated philosophical or scientific learning.
We gain wisdom as we learn things. Wisdom is never complete; we never see the entire picture.
For centuries, “generally accepted belief” and “scientific learning” told us that Earth was flat. As we gained more wisdom, we learned otherwise.
That’s why trusting entirely in science is not enough. There’s so much we don’t know yet. All the tiny details of how atoms work, how to cure cancer, what’s on the far reaches of outer space. We know a lot, certainly, but wisdom comes in bits and pieces, sometimes by excellent research, sometimes by good luck, sometimes by trial and error.
Wisdom is what we’ve learned. And since some of my experiences differ from yours, my “good sense” and “generally accepted belief” might be different than yours. My wisdom is not your wisdom, necessarily.
Wisdom is good, but only to a point. It’s not conclusive.
Why do we glorify physical strength? The reason so many NFL players get hurt these days – ie, nearly all of them – is specifically because they all are so big and strong. (And when they retire, what happens to their bodies without the exercise? We never hear about that.)
I weigh 140 pounds. I’m on the low end or off the scale of every height-weight chart I’ve seen. I’ll never win a weight-lifting competition. If might is the goal, I have no chance.
The Winter Olympics is coming up, when athletes will show tremendous feats of strength and agility. Once the Olympics is over, we won’t hear from most of those athletes again. How fleeting life is in the public eye.
We glorify might, but it doesn’t last. Our bodies wear out eventually.
Wealth is power. You have to be rich (and either a Republican or a Democrat) to run for political office. Money talks in the business world. Entertainers and athletes make big money. (Teachers don’t, comparatively.) The largest public employee salary in many states belongs not to the governor, but to a college football or basketball coach.
As with might, money doesn’t last. When we spend it, it’s gone. And when we die, we can’t take it with us.
Most people across the world don’t have near the wealth that the average American has. Even our poor are wealthy by the world’s standards.
It’s easy to get greedy and envious. There’s always someone who has more than I do. (There’s always someone who has less as well, but most of us aren’t looking in that direction.)
Wealth is either inherited or earned.
And it can disappear overnight. Those of us invested in the stock market in 2008 can attest to that.
Are wisdom, might and wealth the highest goals we can attain?
Love has many definitions, of course. The purest love wants the best for the other person.
It’s not about me. It’s about you. Me serving you. God serving us both.
This kind of love does not come from us. We are selfish by nature, every one of us. True love originates with God.
This is not debatable.
Again, there are many types of love. Husband-wife, parent-child, friends. All of them are (or should be) other-person-centered.
Others-centered love does not come naturally. If it did, our divorce rate would not be between 40 percent and 50 percent (higher for subsequent marriages – we aren’t learning the lesson the first time around). Our violent crime rates wouldn’t be so high. We wouldn’t be searching for love in all the wrong places – illegal drugs, prostitution and pornography, fancy clothes or cars or houses or (fill in the blank), climbing the corporate ladder, a bigger salary … and on and on.
God shows us the love we need. All we have to do is accept it, then give it away.
It really is that simple.
In theory, at least.
Justice, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims,” the administration of law, and the quality of being just, impartial and fair.
How well is all of that working out in our nation?
When we impart justice on human terms, it changes all the time. Jim Crow laws. Same-sex marriage. Legalization of marijuana (which is coming eventually nationwide).
What is murder, anyway? Self-defense? Insanity plea?
So many gray areas in our laws. Loopholes and exceptions. How do we know which of these are just?
Depends who you ask.
Do impartiality and fairness even exist?
We need to try, certainly.
But ultimately, justice belongs to God alone. He sees the big picture. He understands the human heart, because He created it, so He understands motive. We try to figure it out, and we don’t always get it right, do we?
The Ten Commandments were given to us for a reason. For our own benefit. No human court of law or body of legislators has ever improved upon it.
Righteousness, again quoting Merriam-Webster, is acting in accord with divine or moral law; morally right or justifiable.
We don’t hear much about righteousness in the news, because it’s about “divine law.” We’ll stick with our own “morally right or justifiable” laws, thank you.
Even though those laws change depending on who has the wisdom, might and wealth at the moment.
Is there a “moral law” greater than the human mind can come up with?
We’re doomed if there isn’t.
As we enter 2018, if we can’t figure out how to get along with each other – love in its most basic form – we won’t have much of a future as a nation.
The prophet Jeremiah warned us about this 2,600 years ago. We still haven’t learned the lesson.
Will we ever?