Wisdom is my topic for today. Wisdom is my theme.
Once upon a time there was a crow that was dying of thirst. She found a pitcher that was half full of water. She tried to drink but her beak could not reach the top of the water. So she used all of her strength to push against the pitcher in hopes of tipping it over. If she could tip it over she would be able to drink the water that would spill out.
But the pitcher was very heavy and it would not budge. Then she had a bright idea. She picked up small pebbles with her beak and dropped them into the water. The pebbles sank to the bottom of the pitcher and the water rose. It took several dozen pebbles and a lot of patience but the water finally rose to the point where she could take a drink. And this is the moral of the story: Patience works when force fails.
Parents and teachers have used that proverb for many centuries. It is a good tool for teaching people that patience works when force fails. We call this teaching a proverb because it is a short saying that expresses a truth: When we study the Bible we discover that certain books are classified as Wisdom literature because they contain proverbs: little sayings that are filled with wisdom.
A proverb is a short, concise sentence that contains truth. Today’s first reading came from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is one of the Wisdom Books found in the Old Testament. From this reading we learn that it is foolish for rich people to cling to their possessions because all their property is distributed to their neighbors after they die. And this wisdom saying goes like this: Vanity of vanity! All things are vanity because you can’t take your things with you.
Psalm 49 has a similar message. Psalm 49 is a poem that comes from the realm of wisdom literature. In that psalm the sacred author says, “My mouth will speak words of wisdom. Do not get upset when people become rich. When the die they will not take anything with them.”
The Book of Job also comes from the field of Wisdom literature. Job says that it is foolish to become too attached to the blessings that God has given you because “God gives and God takes away.” That is Job’s wisdom statement: “God gives and God takes away.”
When Jesus came upon the scene, his audience discovered that he was a prophet of wisdom. Jesus tried to warn his followers not to be too attached to the things of this world. Jesus told them about the rich man who refused to share his banquet with Lazarus. In the end, the rich man found himself in the everlasting fire.
Likewise, in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the farmer who tried to keep the bumper crop of grain for himself. He built extra grain bins and then died very suddenly. He did not share the surplus wheat with people in need. God had provided a bumper crop so that everyone would have food. But the farmer said, “The surplus is all mine. It is mine to keep.” His selfishness didn’t pay off. It led him to the everlasting fire.
Jesus says that if the farmer were wise he would have given away the surplus and gained favor in the sight of God. That is the point that Jesus is trying to make in today’s Gospel: Your goal in life is to gain favor in the sight of God. In fact, that is the final sentence of today’s Gospel. Jesus says, “Your goal in life is to gain favor in the sight of God.”
On a different day Jesus said, “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.” Jesus promotes the virtue of detachment. He speaks sharply against those who are too attached to worldly goods. And then Jesus goes one step further. He tells us not to be too attached to ourselves.
He says, “Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who humble themselves shall be exalted.” Jesus turns out to be teacher of wisdom in his own right. He does more than copy the sages of the past. He adds his own wisdom to the wisdom of the ages. Jesus says, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul.” “Whoever wants to be first in the Kingdom of God must be the servant of all.” “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.” Jesus has many wisdom sayings for us to ponder. His wisdom was handed onto the church after he died and rose on the third day. His wisdom is one of His gifts to the church.
I will close with three wisdom sayings: Number One: Do not get upset when people get rich. When they die they will not take anything with them. Secondly: There is more joy in giving than in receiving. Finally: Whoever wants to be first in the Kingdom must be the servant of all.