20th Sunday After Trinity October 12, 1997
Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.
In the name of the Savior, Christ Jesus, who has become our wisdom sent from God, our wisdom which leads us to God, dear fellow believers in Him, dear fellow redeemed.
It’s traditional in many cultures that wealth brought into the family should stay in the family from generation to generation. Parents pass on their valuables and possessions to their children by way of inheritance. It’s been part of the American dream that parents work hard to give their children something better: a college education perhaps, or a family-owned business that the children take over. Such efforts for the sake of the family become the measure of success and give people a sense of fulfillment. But they are not the greatest contribution that parents can make for their children. Material advantage does nothing to build character or prepare the soul for eternity.
We parents want what is best for our children. The question is—what is the absolute best we can give? Nice clothing that eventually becomes thread-bare or the property of somebody else? Activities and opportunities that make our children well-rounded people? Yes, we need to develop their minds and their social skills. We put them in school to give them training for their life on this earth. But what about their soul? This is the part of the child that lives on after death. It’s the soul that needs the most attention of all. What we do for their soul is the greatest, most influential thing we can do for our children. You can think of it as spiritual inheritance. Eternal life should also be kept in the family. The words of Proverbs encourage us all to pursue what is truly valuable for ourselves and our kids. Let’s take those words to heart.
If you had to give up everything you owned, but you were allowed to keep one item, what would it be? What is the one thing you value the most? I suppose it depends on the standard of measurement that we use. Do we measure everything in terms of dollars and cents? Or is there a higher standard? When this world comes to an end and we stand before God to face the judgment, we’ll see the answer quite clearly. Everything that we bought or built will perish. Every accomplishment that we made for ourselves will no longer matter. God will examine your heart and mine in search of one thing. He’ll be looking for the wisdom of faith. Those who believed in Christ will enter the glory of heaven. Those who rejected Christ or gave up their faith in Him will suffer the torments of hell. It would be foolish to gain everything this world has to offer, but end up losing our souls in unbelief. When you count the value of what you have, think in terms of longevity. What’s going to last the longest? Obviously, that which is eternal, like our faith in Christ. Or as our text puts it, the wisdom of God. We must learn to see God’s wisdom as our greatest possession.
The value of this wisdom is measured in our text: “Wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.” The value of wisdom cannot be matched by any material thing or earthly pleasure or human relationship. Now what kind of wisdom are we talking about? Certainly it’s bigger than all the philosophies or the PHD’s of intellectuals or the discoveries of modern science. It’s the wisdom of knowing God and following His will. It’s the wisdom of having the Savior as your hope of eternal life. It’s the wisdom that God Himself must show you, or you would never know what it was.
According to man’s way of thinking, God is perceived as someone whose favor can be earned. But God comes along and shatters the idea as utter foolishness. Listen to the book of Psalms: “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.” Man’s wisdom will always get the wrong idea about God. God must tell us who He is. God must show us how we can become acceptable to Him. But the news is always hard to take. God hits us in the face with the fact of our sin. It’s a real ego-bruiser. God says that we have broken His commandments. And it’s true; we have. God says that we deserve His wrath and punishment. And it’s true; we do. God says that we can do nothing to fix the problem of sin. The first step in the path of wisdom is a very humbling realization about ourselves—what we are by nature. We must face the fact that we are sinners, that we are unclean, unfit for life in the presence of God.
Sounds like a desperate situation. Well, it is… until you hear the second part of God’s wisdom. The Lord follows up with good news. It’s the truth of Christ, the unchangeable fact of what He has done for us. Where we have disobeyed God’s commands, Jesus kept those commands for us. Where we have earned God’s judgment on ourselves, Jesus took the judgment for us. The end result was something totally unexpected and totally undeserved. Because of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, God forgave our sins. God says we’re not guilty. That’s the wisdom God wants you to know, accept as the truth, and believe with all your heart. It’s the wisdom of using Christ as your confidence to stand before God and not be rejected. The apostle Paul sums it up this way: “Of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’“ (1 Cor. 1:30-31)
The wisdom of knowing and trusting Christ is really a gift. We can never discover it by ourselves. God must give it to us. And once He does, we have this wisdom as our greatest treasure. Worldly things will lose their value at the end of our life on earth. But our faith in Christ will survive even the onslaught of death. The wisdom of faith will do for us what money and things could never do. Our faith will pay off with a perfect life in heaven, where we live forever in perfect happiness.
You want that for yourself, don’t you. You want this for your children. We can make our family eternally rich by tapping into God’s wisdom. Of course, there is a process involved. God “delivers the goods” through His Word. If we fail to hear the Word, the delivery breaks down. So our text gives a very important piece of advice. Let’s make the Word of God our top priority.
We all know you rarely get something for nothing. It takes effort to make a living. It takes effort to get an education. Well, it also takes effort to nourish our spiritual life. Hearing the Word of God for ourselves and teaching it to our children is an ongoing process. It takes effort on the part of the Sunday School teacher, the Christian day school teacher, and the pastor. It takes effort from you adults, when you bring your children and yourselves to learn what the Bible says. God mentions this in our text: “Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.” The word “instruction” literally means discipline. We must discipline ourselves to make time to hear the Word. We must teach our children the good habit of hearing the Gospel and learning Scripture, so that they will continue the habit on their own when they reach the age of adulthood.
Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Other activities get in the way. Time with the Lord gets put on hold while something else occupies our attention. It’s rather backwards when you think about it in terms of need. The needs of your soul must come first. All other things—they must be put on hold while we have our time with God.
It all comes down to priorities. What’s your top priority? Whatever it is, that’s what you’ll spend your time pursuing. Now we’re all guilty of making something or someone more important than God. But God can help us break the pattern. For example, the Lord makes a promise in the book of Matthew, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) God promises to take care of your earthly needs. You will not suffer or lose anything important when you take the time to listen to Him. So let’s do it. Let’s make the hearing of God’s Word our top priority, especially as we proceed with a another year of Christian education.
“Christian education” is a phrase we use to describe all the opportunities we have to learn God’s Word. You can make Christian education a “self-study” program right in your own home. You can spend time each day reading the Bible. Start with the book of Genesis or the book of John. Get to know your God better by letting Him talk to you privately through the reading of His Word.
In families where children are present, we need to find a way to pass the Word onto them. You parents have an obligation to share the knowledge of Christ with your kids. You can show them that Christ is the only way into heaven. You can let them have the same wisdom of God that you have. You can do it by reading Bible stories at bedtime or having family devotions at the dinner table. You can do it by discussing what the Bible says about your child’s fears or concerns, his plans or desires.
You parents, both mothers and fathers, are the spiritual teachers in your house. It’s a great responsibility. But God gives you plenty of help. For one thing, you become a better teacher when you become a better student. The more you know the Bible, the more you are able to share its message. You become a better teacher of your child when you keep up your own knowledge of the truth. It’s so important that you come and hear the Word proclaimed in the church service. You also have the opportunity to study what Scripture says in your Bible Class. There’s no better way to reinforce and grow in your knowledge of Christian doctrine. Bible Class will help you understand the Biblical reasons why we believe the doctrines that we believe. It will help you share your faith with somebody else. It will help you know God’s will in the other areas of your life. Any time you have the chance to study what the Bible says, you can be sure that God is there speaking to your heart and strengthening your faith.
Along with Bible Class, we have our Sunday School. This church recognizes the need to teach Christ to the lambs of God’s flock. Sunday School does not replace the work of the parent. It helps the parent by giving the child a greater knowledge of the Savior. The same goes for the Christian day school. We operate the day school because of what it does for the soul of the child. It makes the Word of God a top priority in the education of our children. When Scripture has the chance to influence the child’s heart day after day, you can expect good things to happen. The Word of God is going to accomplish positive results, when it’s given the chance to do so.
We can make the effort with confidence. The Word of God should get our top priority because it has the power to bless our family. It’s the key to making our families eternally rich. The effort will pay off, when we take what the Word has to offer.
When you hear God’s Word, you are getting more than information. You are getting all the benefits that God wants you to have. You get the benefit of knowing who the true God is. You get the benefit of having His forgiveness, freely offered through His Son Jesus Christ. Because the Word has great power to work on the inside of people, you get the benefit of faith. God uses the Word to plant your faith and make it grow. It’s the spiritual food supply that preserves your faith until the final benefit is granted: the actual enjoyment of eternal life.
The wisdom of God—the hearing, learning, and believing of God’s Word—is really a matter of “give and take.” God gives to us, and we take from Him. We take with the attitude that His wisdom is our dearest, most valuable possession. What could be more important than our faith in Christ, which leads to eternal life? All other matters in this world will eventually fade away or break down or burn up or fall into the hands of somebody else. But not the spiritual treasure that we have in Christ. It’s the greatest wealth that parents and children can share together. We don’t have to wait until death to pass it on. God has laid out a plan to make our families eternally rich. We count on Him to make the plan work for ourselves and our children. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.