Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Poor Wise Man

""It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit" (Harry S. Truman).

There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege works against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. Nevertheless, I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard (Ecclesiastes 9:15,16).

Martin Luther, in his commentary on this verse, cites as an example the story of Themistocles, the Athenian soldier and statesman who commanded the Athenian squadron and through his strategy won the Battle of Salamis, drove the Persian army from Greek soil and saved his city. A few years later he was ostracized by his countrymen and banished from Athens. “Thus, Luther concludes, “Themistocles did much good for his city, but received much ingratitude," another confirmation of the ancient adage that no good deed goes unpunished. 

The crowd, for some perverse reason, will always prefer proud fools to humble, wise woman and men, and will quickly forget the good they have done. No matter. “Wisdom is (still) better than might” even if “the wisdom of the humble man is despised" (vs. 16). It’s better to be a humble, simple sage who, though forgotten, leaves much good behind, than a swaggering, vociferous fool who, though many applaud him, “destroys much good” (vs. 18).

Accordingly, what matters in the end is not the recognition and gratitude we receive for the work we’ve done, but the eternal souls of those in whom we’ve sown the seeds of righteousness. Jesus put it this way: “Wisdom is vindicated by the children she leaves behind.” (Luke 7:35). 

David Roper 


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