Solomon said, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word.” - 1 Kings 3:9-12a (NRSV)
I’ve read thousands of books, maybe even tens of thousands. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all those stories, it’s to be careful what you wish for. Most characters in books, as in life I guess, don’t really know what they want and don’t really understand the consequences of their desires.
Usually when the protagonist is granted one wish, they ask for The Thing they believe will be the One Thing. Surely if only they had a billion gold pieces, or their perished lover alive again, or the ability to turn invisible at will, then everything else would fall into place. After that One Thing, they will never have to strive for anything else again.
Or so the thinking goes.
Solomon turns the trope on its head. When God grants whatever he wants, Solomon asks for wisdom. Wisdom isn’t in the end point, the one thing that will instantly make life easier or powerfuller or more fun. Wisdom is the beginning.
Once Solomon, or any of us, is granted wisdom, we are also granted the difficult work of choice and discernment and understanding. Wisdom doesn’t make life easier, but if we try it, we will find that it makes life better.
Holy One, Grant me wisdom. And grant me the courage to face what wisdom reveals. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.