Wisdom from a Godly Old Man

I just met B.W. Miller Sr., a local mountain man who grew up on a potato farm in the Howard’s Creek area. He now lives on his great granddaddy’s farm. His dad was also surveyor, which he did until he was in his seventies. One day he was with his dad surveying and he said, “Let’s go back to the house, B.W., I just can’t figure any more.” Mr. Miller is now eighty-four years old but still works every day with his son taking care of beef cattle. He explained, “When my son was little he used tottle around after me everywhere I went. Now that I’m old, I tottle around him everywhere he goes.”

As I continued to talk with him, I realized that this was a man who had allowed the experiences of life and the truth of God to give him depth and fullness. So, standing in the driveway with the Spring sunlight shining on us, I took advantage of this brief opportunity and asked, “What is the most important piece of advice you would give a young man?”

He didn’t really have to think about it. He looked at me for a moment, as if to determine how serious I was about my question. Then he answered, “Take care of your wife.” As tears filled his eyes, he repeated, “Take care of your wife. Take care of her . . . every day. She’s the most precious thing you have. And take care of your children. . . . You have to communicate with your wife and children. Be sure you talk to them. I’ve been married for 54 years and me and my wife have never had a fightin’ quarrel. We have had disagreements, but no quarrel. . . . I learned that when she’s ill, I’m to be careful. And when I’m ill, she’s careful. . . . And when you get old, after 54 years of marriage, you keep taking care of her. She’s not doing so well now and I still take care of her every day.”

After talking with a person reputed to be wise, Socrates reflected as he walked away,

“Well, I am certainly wiser than this man. It is only too likely that neither of us has any knowledge to boast of; but he thinks that he knows something which he does not know, whereas I am quite conscious of my ignorance. At any rate it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think that I know what I do not know.”

- Plato, Apology

The Vanity of Wisdom

“There is more gain in wisdom than in folly,as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness” (Ecc 2:13-14).

Wisdom is about seeing. Figuratively, this indicates understanding. I want to “have my eyes in my head.” The writer of Ecclesiastes goes on to explain, though, that even the wise die and are forgotten, so wisdom is also "a striving after the wind." It must be understood that our Christian definitions of wisdom as faith in Christ and biblical truth are not in view here. It is possible for someone to be wise “under the sun” but to not understand eternal things. There are many smart, wonderful, wise people who just don’t grasp eternity.

As Paul wrote:

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:18-25)

Got Wisdom?

“Buy truth, and do not sell it;buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” Prov 23:23

This verse clearly teaches that all believers must go to college. Just kidding. I’m not sure paying for a formal and institutional education was the norm at this time. Besides that, one would be assuming that such an education would offer truth and wisdom!

So how does one buy truth? He does not literally buy truth. This is figurative language for counting the cost. Truth and wisdom must be diligently sought. We are not born with it uploaded into our brains. It requires time, energy, concentration, work, and diligence. It is not always easy. But it is worth the price. Truth and wisdom are worth any earthly resource one possesses. Thus, one also is not to sell it. It is possible for one to choose to keep such earthy resources instead of gaining wisdom. Or one may even forsake the truth and wisdom one has obtained to chase after such temporal goods.

I am finally done with my formal education. But I am committed to being a life-long learner. I will read, study, discuss, experiment, practice, listen, write, and observe till I die. I am on a mission to discern truth and gain wisdom at every turn.