On this Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
King David’s dynasty continues in his son, Solomon. We are all familiar with the Wisdom of Solomon. When God offered Solomon anything he desired, Solomon asked for wisdom:
“Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:9.
God is pleased with Solomon’s request and rewards him not only with wisdom, but also with wealth, longevity and fame.
For Solomon, this wisdom gives him insight into people’s hearts, the ability to discern their inner desires and motives. He becomes famous far and wide for his wisdom.
His earliest display of wisdom involves a dispute of two mothers, each claiming she was mother to an infant. Solomon orders that the baby be split down the middle and half given to each mother. The true mother—wanting the best for her child—surrenders her child, asking that the child be given to the other. Solomon sees this, knows the true mother and gives her the baby.
From this decision comes the expression of “splitting the baby.” Unfortunately, common usage misses the entire point of Solomon’s decision. Nowadays, “splitting the baby” is typically used to describe a compromise position, perhaps something a mediator or arbitrator might do to arrive at an easy answer. Or the end result of difficult negotiations:
Since then the expressions “splitting the baby” or “cutting the baby in half” have generally been applied as a metaphor to relate to the need to find a simple compromise solution which “splits the difference” in terms of damage awards or other remedies.
But this—compromise between two positions—isn’t the wisdom displayed by Solomon. He wasn’t trying to negotiate some middle ground between the two mothers. Instead, his wisdom arose from his knowledge of human nature. He knew the true mother would rather give up her child to another to spare its life. His wisdom allowed him to discern this.
Despite his divine wisdom, Solomon fell. And he did so in spectacular fashion. Solomon had 1,000 wives from various countries and religions. And his wives “turned his heart to follow other gods.”
Because of Solomon’s idolatry, God withdrew His blessings. What an incredible fall from grace! Despite all his wisdom, Solomon could not avoid the temptations of his wives who lured him into idolatry. Not that I am blaming them any more than Adam can blame Eve for his forbidden consumption.
If someone with all the Wisdom of Solomon can fail, can succumb to temptation, what chance do I have? I wonder if Solomon’s failure was caused by his reliance on his own wisdom and not on God. Was it pride that made Solomon vulnerable to temptation?
I know I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon. My only recourse is to lean on God and seek His strength. And when I do fall, I am comforted know that there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Luke 15:7.
In my weakness I rely on God. In my foolishness I seek His wisdom.
God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast* before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:27-31.