Scripture: 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12; 3:5-14
Was Michael Jordan the greatest basket ball player of all-time?
Would you consider Mother Teresa the greatest humanitarian?
Is Abraham Lincoln America’s greatest president?
Labeling almost anything the “greatest” or “best” seems laden with historical perspective or dependent on your cultural and/or personal bias. San Antonians might believe Tim Duncan needs a wider hearing on the greatest basketball player ever. Depending on where you place the emphasis on humanitarian work, even people in India might look further back to Gandhi. And depending on your political and historical biases JFK, Ronald Reagan or George Washington might be your greatest president.
I believe a balanced, open, and honest reflection on any life will show us how we are all a mixture of noble, good, and heroic actions that are combined with detestable, evil, and scheming actions. No one I have ever met is exempt from this combination. The greatest heroes have feet of clay and the seemingly most contemptible people have deeply redemptive qualities.
Perhaps, it was in this light that King Solomon asked God to grant him wisdom. Wisdom would not exempt him from this strange concoction of mixed-motives we all experience, but perhaps it would offer him greater awareness of its impact within him and in his leadership and governing.
I occasionally teach an Intro to Old Testament class where I typically assign all of the major Hebrew Kings a designation of “Good” or “Bad” and I always struggle with where to place Solomon when reviewing his life in such an either/or all or nothing way. On the one hand, the Hebrew Monarchy was never more impressive or expansive as under his reign, and he did oversee the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. On the other hand, this grandiose size led to exploitative labor, economic excess, and compromised marriage alliances.
Wisdom might be understanding at our best we are still flawed, feeble, and in need of God’s grace. Wisdom might equally be an understanding that at our worst we are still created in the image of God and beloved by God. Wisdom might allow us to hold more honestly all of the complexities of our own lives and of the situations we speak into more fully and more honestly. And I’d hope that helps us to act more fairly and faithfully.