By Dane Neufeld
The Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
A Reading from Wisdom 7:1-14
1 I also am mortal, like everyone else,
a descendant of the first-formed child of earth;
and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh,
2 within the period of ten months, compacted with blood,
from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.
3 And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air,
and fell upon the kindred earth;
my first sound was a cry, as is true of all.
4 I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths.
5 For no king has had a different beginning of existence;
6 there is for all one entrance into life, and one way out.
7 Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
8 I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
9 Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem,
because all gold is but a little sand in her sight,
and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
10 I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,
because her radiance never ceases.
11 All good things came to me along with her,
and in her hands uncounted wealth.
12 I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them;
but I did not know that she was their mother.
13 I learned without guile and I impart without grudging;
I do not hide her wealth,
14 for it is an unfailing treasure for mortals;
those who get it obtain friendship with God,
commended for the gifts that come from instruction.
I have always been a little perplexed by the story of Solomon. He asked for wisdom above all else — “all gold is but a little sand in her sight” — and yet in the end he found “in her hands uncounted wealth.” But his wealth eventually corrupted him as he took many wives, worshipped their gods, and built extraordinary palaces to house them at the expense of the nation. There seems to be a familiar logic at work: by rejecting the corruption of wealth he gained it; in gaining it he became corrupted by it.
The pattern is familiar within the history of the Church, as many movements have sprung up whose leaders have been radically committed to the gospel above else. For this reason they become popular and attractive, acquire followings, and eventually gain wealth and power, removing the movement by degrees from the integrity of its source. It marks the shadow side of Jesus’ observation: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12). I don’t think Solomon humbled himself merely in order to be exalted, or that he was trying to exploit wisdom enroute to wealth and power, but he clearly lost wisdom’s thread.
Solomon’s story does not discredit the humbling process itself, but it does highlight some of the dangers. In fixing our eyes on Jesus, we see the perfection of the path that had long existed. His humility, wisdom, and self-sacrifice did not disappear in his exaltation, as though they were stages on the road to glory. Rather it was those very things that were exalted, glorified, and lifted on high. May we too seek the wisdom of the gospel above all else, in anticipation of the day when it will fill all creation with its wonder and glory.
The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Virginia
The Diocese of British Columbia (Anglican Church of Canada)