Ancient Wisdom for the Future
by Burk Parsons
Although attributed in error, Mark Twain is often quoted as saying, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” When we’re young and full of self-reliant optimism and esteem we look to no one but ourselves in our sophomoric pursuit of knowledge and truth. And although some say, “with age comes wisdom,” that is only one part of the equation. In truth, it is only those who age wisely to whom the great honor of being called “wise” can be attributed properly. Nevertheless, it is generally true that as we age we become more wise as we learn from our own deeds and misdeeds, as we learn lessons from those around us, and, most importantly, as we learn from the wisdom of God’s Word (Job 12:12; 32:9).
Throughout history, societies have honored the aged among them. Men and women who have lived full lives have been counted among the wise and respected. Traditionally, the aged have been protected, revered, and prized as a society’s most cherished citizens. However, to our great shame, such cannot be said for most societies today. When a community chooses not to care for its aged, it has chosen not to care for itself, and when a people do not cherish the aged among them, they will soon self-destruct. Therein lies wisdom from the ages and wisdom for the future. If we are concerned for future generations as we should be, we should be all the more concerned about what future generations can learn from past generations.
The wisdom books of the Word of God were not given to us merely to help us have a better society. The wisdom of God’s Word is no small matter, and it is not to be dealt with foolishly. It is truth itself (John 17:17), and it is the wisdom of God for every society under heaven (Ecc. 1:13). If we study the Word of God earnestly, we will age wisely before the face of God, and we will be able to impart wisdom to all who seek it before the face of God. In his second letter to Timothy, perhaps his last epistle, the aged and wise Paul wrote: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14–15).