Is Wisdom What's Missing From Your Obedience?
When I was young, my dad used to tell us a story about a missionary kid who, more than anything else in the world, loved to run. One year for his birthday, his dad bought him a stopwatch so that he could start timing his runs.
It happened one day that the father had to leave for a long trip. The boy was determined to use the time to get even faster. The weeks went by, and the boy practiced and practiced his running. When his father got home, the first thing the boy wanted to do was to show him how much he had improved, so the father got out the stopwatch and stood at the front of the house. Only a little ways into his run, the boy realized that this was going to be his fastest ever. He couldn't wait to set his new record.
But as he was coming around the bend, to his dismay he heard his father say, “Son, STOP right now and lay down on the ground.” This was the strangest command the boy had ever heard from his father. Why would he want to stop him in the middle of his fastest run ever, and ask him to lie down in the dirt? Surely it wouldn’t make any difference if he stopped right where he was, or a hundred feet further. But he had never disobeyed his father before, so, he did as his father said.
As soon as the boy was lying on the ground, the father ran back into the house and came out with his shotgun, took aim and shot at a branch right over his head. Out fell a deadly anaconda. The boy realized that if he hadn’t obeyed his father —even though he didn’t understand—he could have died.
We all know that when children are young, there are many occasions when, as parents, we can't explain the why behind our instruction because they’re not old enough to understand. But I think sometimes we have the tendency to get stuck in this view of obedience—perhaps we even think that the very highest ideal of obedience is when you obey without understanding the command. And perhaps, in a way, we even prefer that.
Just like in my dad's story, in Proverbs we are taught that the path of obedience will lead away from death and towards life. Like the anaconda in the tree, sin is indeed crouching at the door, waiting to devour us. But unlike my dad's story, we learn in Proverbs that what actually keeps the son from danger is not blind conformity to God's law, but the wisdom to see and pursue its beauty. Proverbs 2:10-11 says:
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you,
Understanding will keep you …
When we think of obedience, we often think of the old saying: "When I say jump, I want you to say, 'how high?'" But Proverbs surprisingly asks us to approach God's commands with an attitude of "why?"—not a belligerent "why", but the attitude of a son who wants to grow up into the maturity of intelligent, free-standing virtue.
Where does the Christian go to find the wisdom that leads to life and blessing? The same place we go for every spiritual blessing. Colossians 2:3 tells us that in Christ are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Ephesians 4:13 tells us that spiritual maturity can be found by reaching for the knowledge of the Son of God until we "grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ." God also promises in James 1:5 that, "if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
If you find your obedience to God weak, half-hearted, bitter or hypocritical, don't be afraid to ask "why." We have a Father who loves to answer.