What Is Wisdom?

Series about my New Knee

This week I plan to set up a page with all the blogs around my experience of receiving a new knee. It is my hope that my thoughts and experiences will be helpful for others who are waiting for the same surgery. I have learned so much in this process. For today, I have a blog about wisdom.

What Is Wisdom?

     There is a story in the Bible (Matthew 1:16) often titled, “Workers in the Vineyard.” A vineyard owner needs to hire help for harvest. He had to return repeatedly to the town square all day for more workers, Even an hour before the day’s end, he hired and sent more workers to the vineyard. In those days, a “denarius” was the usual wage paid at the end of each day. He first paid the last hired a day’s pay. Seeing this, the first hired smiled. “This owner is grateful. He needed us. We’ve worked hard. We’ve saved his harvest. “Their expectations rose. But when they reached out to receive their pay, it was the same pay as for the last hired. They groused. “We deserve more. We worked all day.” The owner replied, “You received what we agreed upon. I’ve chosen to be generous. That’s who I am.”

There is a clamour today for a basic minimum wage for all people, a way of dealing with hunger and poverty. The hope is, if all receive enough to live, maybe our world would be a kinder and healthier place. Maybe there would be no need for social programs and food banks.

For the last few centuries, we’ve rewarded those we identify as “the entitled:” the educated, the skilled, the hard working who have managed to have jobs. Grudgingly, we provide less than enough through government programs and policy-regulated  charity to those who for whatever reason or entitlement, could not work at jobs and earn at least a living wage.

In our country, people hold two and three part time jobs with no “benefits,” yet still need food banks to survive. We, who have plenty, provide the food. We would like there to be no need for food banks but … In the Bible story, we are the workers who were hired at the beginning of the day. We have the education, the skills. We’ve worked hard. We deserve to eat, have shelter, enjoy life. We deserve to live with dignity. When some of us rise up and say “No, we want to be the generous landowner,” we are shouted down. “Ridiculous. Those people can’t be equal to us who’ve done all the work.”

As Christians, we are faced with Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of God is like a wealthy landowner.” In God’s world, God’s expectation, God’s desire, is that all will have enough. Our God calls us to be generous. Our God calls us to love unconditionally. Our God does not choose homelessness for some , left freezing in the cold as they walk the streets. Our God does not choose that some children come to school without breakfast, their learning limited by hunger. As Christians we have chosen to follow Jesus. He taught the “Great Reversal”. All people are God’s beloved children. The needs of all must be met. Welcome the lost sons, the last hired, those who’ve spent foolishly and come loaded with debt. A basic living wage for everyone. Wise. In today’s world? Of course NOT. It makes no sense. Jesus Christ never promised faith that makes sense. We want to be the generous vineyard owner. We want enough for all.

Not everyone chooses to live by our faith. “Survival of the fittest” is a doctrine well-supported by many. Please allow me to offer these thoughts to all who have chosen this path.

I’m reading Rutger Bregman’s “Humankind,” subtitled “A Hopeful History.” Bregman asks, “In the evolutionary process, why did Homo Sapiens survive and not the Neanderthals? Archeologists have learned that Neanderthals were physically stronger and more intelligent. They built fires, made clothing, made musical instruments and more. Neanderthals have a Macbook Pro brain while ours is only a Macbook Air. We may boast a superbrain; they packed a gigabrain.” Why then did Homo Sapiens prevail? Bergman details actual experimental results that support the doctrine saying the kindest, the friendliest survived. The humans who focused on working together and learning from each other evolved to become Homo Sapiens, not the strongest, nor the cleverest. It’s an interesting argument. Research tells us that “Our distant ancestors knew the importance of the collective, and rarely idolized individualism. Hunter-gatherers the world over, from the coldest tundra to the hottest deserts, believed that everything is connected. They saw themselves as something much bigger, linked to all other animals, plants and Mother Earth.”

What is wisdom? Maybe, just maybe, universally providing all with enough is one essential element in the evolution of our species. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus taught some wisdom after all. Thanks be to God.


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