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DECISION AND WISDOM

Read­ing Time: 4 minutes

Introduction

Today’s First and Second read­ings under­line two facts: ‘Decision (mak­ing)’ and ‘Wis­dom.’ On the oth­er hand, the Gos­pel is a prag­mat­ic expos­i­tion of our decisions and the applic­a­tion of wis­dom or lack of it in our actions and decisions. Since the 4th Sunday, we have been read­ing and reflect­ing on one of the major Matthean dis­courses – the Evan­gel­ic­al dis­course, oth­er­wise known as the Ser­mon on the Mount.….….….……

Decision

The indis­pens­able­ness of dis­cern­ment can­not be over­em­phas­ised. Hence, Jesus rep­rim­anded the Phar­isees and the Sad­ducees for their abil­ity and agil­ity in fore­tell­ing the weath­er, but not being able to dis­cern this time. Kairos dif­fers from ordin­ary time and tim­ing.  The inab­il­ity to dis­cern is sum­mar­ised by Jesus either as hypo­crisy (Greek: upokrisis) or as fool­ish­ness (Greek: aphrōn), or even a com­bin­a­tion of the two. Hence, a fool who can­not dis­cern con­cludes in his or her heart that there is no God (cf. Pss 14:1; 53:1), a con­clu­sion, that is, wrong decision that leads to reck­less­ness, ungod­li­ness, unguided and unguarded com­port­ments and utter­ances.

Wisdom

In the bib­lic­al world, wis­dom has an exten­ded range of mean­ings. But in our con­text, it is dis­cern­ment and judg­ment; dis­cre­tion, enlight­en­ment, and accu­mu­lated know­ledge. It is the res­ult of judg­ment, prac­tic­al truth and know­ledge. Wis­dom is insight into the true nature of things. “I, Wis­dom, live togeth­er with good judg­ment. I know where to dis­cov­er know­ledge and dis­cern­ment” (Prov 8:12).

I have come not to abolish…

Guided by the wis­dom of the Fath­er, Jesus can con­fid­ently affirm and cla­ri­fy that he has not come to render inval­id the Law and the Proph­ets, but to ful­fil them through his actions and teach­ings. On its lit­er­al level, plēroō is to make some­thing full. Fig­ur­at­ively, the same verb means to fill someone or some­thing with spir­itu­al qual­it­ies (cf. Matt 23:32; Acts 5:8). As regards laws, proph­ecies, pre­dic­tions and prom­ises.….….….…

Unless your righteousness…

In Mat­thew 5:20, Jesus sternly warned the dis­ciples “unless your right­eous­ness exceeds that of the Scribes and Phar­isees, you will not enter the king­dom of heav­en.” Now, the ques­tion is how is or how was the right­eous­ness of the Scribes and the Phar­isees? On vari­ous occa­sions, Jesus con­fron­ted the Scribes and the Phar­isees and con­demned their exter­n­al­ism and advert­ised spir­itu­al­ity. Though they glor­ied in out­ward con­form­ity to bib­lic­al and extra-bib­lic­al reg­u­la­tions, yet, their hearts were impure and miles away from God (cf. Isa 29:13). They knew how to clean the out­side of the cup, for­get­ting that it is the same per­son that owns both the out­side and the inside (cf. Matt 23:5.23.25–28).

If you are bringing your offering…

In the words of Jesus, if you are bring­ing your offer­ing to the altar, and right there close to the altar, you remem­ber your broth­er or sis­ter has some­thing against you, Jesus advises that you sus­pend everything, go and recon­cile with your broth­er or sis­ter before com­ing back to con­tin­ue with your offer­ing (cf. Matt 5:23–24). The idea of bypassing this instruc­tion by insist­ing that since the per­son is already at the altar he or she should con­tin­ue with the offer­ing, and do the recon­cili­ation later is not inten­ded by Jesus.….….…

If your right eye…if your right hand…

The call for mutil­a­tion. That is, the advice to cut off your eye, hand, leg or any oth­er part of your body is a meta­phor, an ardent appeal to apply wis­dom in all that we do. It is not to be taken lit­er­ally. The link between the eye, the hand and the heart is excep­tion­al. They eye is the means through which a per­son lusts for some­thing or for someone. Unless the eye sees, the heart can­not decide. Atten­tion! This con­clu­sion is lim­ited only to our text. It is not everything the heart con­tem­plates that passes or passed through the phys­ic­al eye. On its own, the hand is the instru­ment for the actu­al­iz­a­tion of what the eye has seen and what the heart has desired. I won­der why the leg is not included. But why right eye and hand? Do remem­ber the slap­ping on the right cheek? In the bib­lic­al world, the right side has great import­ance. Hence.….….….….……

Conclusion

An able lead­er is sup­posed to be filled with admin­is­trat­ive ḥok­mâ (wis­dom). Solomon (though he derailed when he decided to please his wives) under­stood this. Hence, he asked God to grant him wis­dom to enable him do well as the King (God’s rep­res­ent­at­ive). Keep­ing or not keep­ing the com­mand­ment on love of neigh­bour is our choice. Obey­ing or dis­obey­ing the rules of life is strictly our choice. To be faith­ful or unfaith­ful is our decision. Fire or water? You are free to pick the one you prefer. Life or death? It is up to you to take one (cf. First Read­ing). Whichever choice you make, be ready as well to accept the con­sequence pos­it­ive or neg­at­ive. But remem­ber, you need wis­dom to know the dif­fer­ence. And you equally require wis­dom to avoid leg­al­ist­ic con­form­ity to soci­et­al rules and reg­u­la­tions.

The inab­il­ity to apply wis­dom in our every­day­ness simply leads to god­less­ness and sin. And since God, the abso­lute own­er of cre­ation includ­ing our lives, has neither com­manded us to be god­less nor giv­en us the per­mis­sion to sin, we need to redress our steps now before it is too late (cf. First Read­ing). The recourse to wis­dom implies vera­city of our deeds and utter­ances. With wis­dom, your yes will always be yes, and your no, no. Always remem­ber that any wrong decision you take can ser­i­ously con­di­tion or even ruin the life of oth­ers. There­fore, always seek divine wis­dom in your decisions. God bless you. Sha­lom!

[1] The Hebrew equi­val­ent is nākar. Cf. for instance Ezra 3:13 where the sense is to dis­tin­guish.

[2] Cf. Wil­li­am D. Mounce (ed), Mounce’s Com­plete Expos­it­ory Dic­tion­ary of Old and New Test­a­ments Words (Zon­der­van, Grand Rap­ids – MI 2006), p. 793.

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