Summary: PROPER 20 - YEAR B - This sermon deals with the difference between intellegence and divine wisdom. Wisdom is not something we attain but someone we know, Jesus Christ

The other day Rosemary and I went grocery shopping at Shop and Stop. We only had a few items to purchase so we use one of those “Do it Yourself” checkout machines. You run the bar code of each item over the scanner and it totals the items. When you are done you put your money in one of those automatic change machines. And then you leave. No long lines, no person at the register to deal with, pretty cool actually.

But on this trip we had a few items without bar codes,so the TV screen instructed us to place them one at a time on the scale and then to push the “no code” button. The first item was a tomato, we put it on the scale and pushed the button. As I did this I couldn’t help but ask, “Now how is this machine going to know what I just asked it to total?” But then, there it was, “Tomato” and the price. Wow, cool. Let’s try that again. This time a single lemon. And again the machine got it right, “lemon” and the price. And the third time, green pepper, it got it right. By this time I’m checking out the machine, looking for some form of method by which it can determine the difference between a lemon and a green pepper. And now our fourth and final item, ground coffee in a brown paper bag. The store had run out of the regular coffee bags and in their place had left unmarked brown paper bags.

Now here was a challenge, let’s see how the machine does this time. We placed the bag on the scale and hit the button.... and .. “ground coffee” it read and the price. Now wait a minute, how could this machine possible know what was in that bag. X-rays, lasers, artificial intelligence?

Finally out of my need to know how this worked I turned to a bored teenager overseeing the automatic registers and asked, “How does this machine know what we put on the scale?” The young man turned to me and with a grin revealed the great mystery, he said, “I tell it.” I should have known,there was intelligence involved, it just wasn’t in the machine. It was in the person most of us walk right by without noticing.

Intelligence, we rate it pretty high in this country, there are intelligence tests, aptitude tests, SATs, You name it and we test it. But you know there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom. It took intelligence to harness the atom, to send men to the moon, to create artificial hearts. But intelligence of itself is not necessarily wisdom. It took intelligence to build an interstate highway - but on the Island of Hawaii? It took intelligence to come up with the idea of putting Braille on ATM keypads - but for the drive-up window? And it took intelligence to create a law in Vermont outlawing dangerous behavior - but whistling under water? No, we may have intelligence but that doesn’t mean we necessarily have wisdom.

Even James understands the difference when he writes, "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." A Columbine student on the second anniversary of their tragedy illustrated it this way.

The paradox of our time in history is

that we have taller buildings - but shorter tempers;

Wider freeways - but narrower viewpoints;

We spend more - but have less;

We buy more - but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses - but smaller families;

We have more degrees - but less sense;

These are the days

of two incomes - but more divorce;

Of fancier houses - but broken homes.

It is a time when

there is much in the showroom

and nothing in the stockroom.

But what then is wisdom? What would it look like” Is it contained in simple statements like, A bird in hand is better than two in the bush A fool and his money are soon parted A stitch in time saves nine. Or is wisdom something that is gained only after living a long time. The benefit of old age. Not if my growing old is any example. Then what is wisdom? Moses, as he prepared God’s people for entrance into the promise land declared in Deuteronomy 4:5-6,

"Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples."

And King Solomon in his opening statements in the book of Proverbs declares,

"The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity..."

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