A lot of smart people do really dumb things. A fairly large slice of today’s headlines-what we call news-turns out to be a recitation of the missteps, miscalculations, and mistakes of people who probably should have known better.
In 2005, Robert McCormick-CEO of the internet technology company Savvis- was forced to resign because he rang up a $241,000 tab at a New York “gentleman’s club.” This might have gone unnoticed but for the fact he put all the charges on his corporate credit card.
Stephen Glass was universally admired as a 25 year old wonderkind reporter for The New Republic-that is until 1998, when it was discovered he had invented many of the “facts” supporting his latest feature. Follow-up research revealed that 27 out of 41 pieces for the magazine were fabrications in part or whole, including phone numbers and websites made up out of thin air.
Senator Gary Hart was the frontrunner to become the 1988 Democratic Party nominee for President until reporters asked him to respond to accusations of infidelity. Within 24 hours reporters had uncovered a hidden relationship and Hart’s political career was over.
Why do educated, knowledgeable people routinely make decisions that shipwreck their lives and reputations?
“Westerners live in a culture that has separated knowledge from ethics”-writes author Terry Muck. Standardized methods for identifying “smart people”- whether IQ tests, SAT’s, or routinely winning your family’s annual Trivial Pursuit competition- are not to be confused with measurements of spiritual and emotional health. It’s quite possible to know a great deal about a lot of stuff, yet not know how to live.
So what’s the need of the hour?
It’s wisdom. And searching for wisdom always leads to an Old Testament destination like no other. Proverbs is arguably the most down-to-earth of the Bible’s 66 books.
The first two chapters have the feel of a series of lectures or pep talks. Then comes a 20-chapter patchwork quilt of “sentence proverbs.” Pouring over them is a bit like opening hundreds of fortune cookies at a single sitting. Some make us laugh while others help us see old problems in a new light.
Above all, this unusual book-essentially a collection of collections-has one aim: “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Wisdom isn’t about becoming a more intelligent person. It’s a practical guide to becoming a “spiritual-street smart” person-someone who knows how to thrive in a culture where listening to God’s voice has become something of a lost art.
There’s an old saying that “it is hard to fly with the eagles if you have to live with the turkeys”. Proverbs has the unique power to remind us that we, too, are card-carrying turkeys. But the God who invites us to his family is able to teach us how to soar.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain