Monday, August 31, 2009

Pursuing Wisdom: Sine Qua Non

When I was in college, I had an old professor who loved to impress his students with his mastery of the Latin language. He was from the old school. Picture the schoolmaster, pulling off his wool newsboy cap to reveal disheveled gray hair. He takes off his tweed coat, unpacks his beaten-up leather satchel of books, and hands out his syllabus. On the syllabus is a list of terms that you’ve never heard before. “These are your sine qua non terms,” he says. “That’s Latin for without which not. In other words, these are the terms you need to know, without which you will not pass this class.”

Last week we talked about pursuing wisdom. There are several prerequisites, several sine qua non conditions we must meet, without which we will not acquire the wisdom we want in our lives. In 1 Kings 3:3, we saw that Solomon had already met two: He demonstrated his love for God, and walked according to the instructions given him by his fathers. This week, we’ll look at the other two prerequisites that Solomon and we must meet, before God blesses us with wisdom.

The latter part of verse 3 says that Solomon “offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” Solomon was a king, and as such could have held himself above worshipping with the common people. The high places were where the common people went to seek God. Solomon could have had a chapel built in his own palace, yet he remembered that in God’s eyes, he was the same as all the people. Out of humility, he deigned to worship with the commoners. Along with love for God and respect for tradition, humility is one of those sine qua non qualities, if you’re seeking wisdom in your own life.

In verse 6, Solomon tells God, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.” Solomon recognizes that God is the source of all things. He could have said, “Look how great my father was, that he achieved this great position for himself and for me.” Instead, he recognizes sees that “every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17).” Wisdom can only come when we realize that God is the wondrous source of all things.

My professor said that our sine qua non terms were ones without which we would not pass his class. Love of God, respect for tradition, humility, and the recognition of God as the source—these are the sine qua non conditions for seekers of wisdom. When God saw these qualities in Solomon’s heart, He was glad to write the king a blank check. Do we want God’s wisdom in our lives? We would do well to seek these things.

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