Guest post by Matt Bianco
When we think of wisdom, we often think of Solomon as the embodiment of it. Solomon’s wisdom came primarily as a gift from God but he also studied the animals and plants of the world, further developing this gift and he undoubtedly learned from his parents as well. His wisdom eventually became the Proverbs.
As Solomon increased in wisdom, he shared this wisdom with the world around him through his writings and through his just judgments. We are familiar with his Proverbs and his poetry, as well as with the story of the two mothers fighting over the same child. Solomon’s wisdom, so long as he pursued it and shared it rightly, was all to the glory and honor of God. However, his motivations changed.
The queen of Sheba had heard of the great wisdom of the king of Israel. She desired to confirm the stories as well as experience it herself.
And she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.” (1 Kings 10:6-9, KJV).
As Solomon pursued wisdom and shared it, he glorified God, and this led to the pagan queen of Sheba glorifying God herself. She also blessed Solomon with gifts: “And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.” (1 Kings 10:10, KJV).
The chapter goes on to tell the reader about all of the gold and horses that Solomon accumulated. Following hard on the heels of the Sheba story, the reader sees that his wealth (gold and silver) and power (military power pictured by the accumulation of horses) is the result of his wisdom.
There is, however, an unfortunate chapter break at this point. 1 Kings 10 ends describing how wise, wealthy, and powerful Solomon was. Chapter 11 begins by describing Solomon’s accumulation of wives. Solomon’s accumulation of wives was detrimental: “…and his wives turned away his heart.” (1 Kings 11:3, KJV) I say the chapter break is unfortunate because one might understand this to mean that only the accumulation of wives was the problem, when, actually, his accumulation of gold and horses were problematic as well.
Solomon violated the three laws of the king found in Deuteronomy 17:14-17. The king shall not accumulate much gold, many horses (especially from Egypt, where Solomon was getting his horses), or many wives. Solomon’s pursuit of wisdom became the pursuit of wealth, women, and power. This pursuit turned his heart away from God.
We, of course, can be guilty of the same motivation in almost any area of our own lives. Education, however, is especially dangerous for us. To pursue education for credits, degrees, higher pay, a powerful career, or other worldly desires is akin to Solomon’s use of wisdom for women, wealth, and power.
We must, on the other hand, pursue wisdom for the sake of wisdom in our educational endeavors. And in pursuing that wisdom, we glorify God. And in glorifying God, the cares of this world will be met. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the cares of this world will be added unto you (my paraphrase). Seek first wisdom and the glorifying of God through it, and our physical needs will be provided.
Seeking the wrong ends harms us in our decision-making and in our relationships. Not only did Solomon begin pursuing wealth, women, and power rather than the glory of God, but it resulted in his heart turning away from the true God. Moreover, remember that the queen of Sheba expressed wonder at how happy his people and his servants were? This did not continue. At Solomon’s death, the people begged his son, Rehoboam, to reduce the tax burden that Solomon had placed upon them. They were unhappy and Rehoboam’s lack of wisdom in leading the people led to the secession of the northern Kingdom.
As we pursue our own advantages, we express a love primarily for self, and this self-love impacts our ability to rightly love God and our neighbor. As we pursue God, we express a love primarily for Him, and this love of God leads us to rightly loving our neighbors and ourselves.