Are you a smart and successful person? Do you want to be? If so, do you have any real idea of how to get there? The peculiar thing about people is that we all think we know what’s best for us. Not only that, but we also usually have some concept of how to at least try to get it. Yet associating being smart with being successful at getting what we want makes it particularly difficult to arrive at a consensus of what being smart is in the first place. God, however, defines true intelligence–possessing wisdom and knowledge–as something quite different than success in life.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
Mankind’s definition of success–what we envision as the end goal of being truly smart–typically involves achieving what we set out to, whether it is a certain level of financial security, education, fame, influence, expertise, or other self-defined criteria of accomplishment. Yet Jesus specifically warns us about success that does not take the eternal into consideration:
“Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide with me [share] the property our father left us.” But Jesus said to him, “Who said I should judge or decide between you?” Then Jesus said to them, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns.” Then Jesus told this story: “There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, “I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!” ’ “But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God.”” (Luke 12:13-21 NCV)
Elsewhere He says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NIV) A life lived with no consideration of what comes afterward is absurdly foolish.
God tells us, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25 NIV) He also says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4) Living life without any concern for what comes at its end is utter foolishness, yet ironically, when we get right with God and start paying attention to the things He wants us to pay attention to, and thinking about what He wants us to think about, and living as He wants us to live–when we delight ourselves in Him–He will give us what we want. This doesn’t necessarily mean that if I start going to church the person I like will start liking me back, or I’ll get the job I want, or I’ll get accepted to the school I want to attend. What it does mean is that as my desires start to dovetail more with God’s desires, what I want will be more in line with His heart–with what is good for me and others–and these are desires God wants to and will fulfill.
Jesus affirmed the Heavenly Father’s love for us and His desire to give us good gifts when He said: “If your children ask for bread, which of you would give them a stone? Or if your children ask for a fish, would you give them a snake? Even though you are bad, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more your heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 NCV) Much more so than even our earthly parents, God wants to give us good. And, we are instructed to ask: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 )
So, are you smart? Do you want to be? Then fear God–take what He says to heart, turn away from any wrong you might be doing, and get close to Him–because that is the first step to becoming truly knowledgable and wise. Then, find your joy–your genuine delight–in Him, and He will give you what your heart desires!
Help me not despise wisdom and instruction, but be genuinely smart. Help me delight myself in You that You may give me the desires of my heart! Amen.