A MORTGAGE AND TWO DOGS — THE COST OF WISDOM
I’d like to ask you a question. First let me tell you the story that prompted my question. A few years ago I had a plumber in our house working on our kitchen sink. I was talking with him as he was half-submerged in our cabinetry, and he made the comment that what he wanted more than anything in life was a cabin in Washington and an RV. His comment caught me off-guard. He was serious, passionate even, in his desire for these two things. All I could think was, “Really? More than anything?” Those seemed like good things to put on a bucket-list, but to have as his ultimate goal in life made me feel unexpectedly sad — as if there was nothing greater to propel and direct him through life.
So . . . I’d like to ask you the question. You don’t have to write your answer down or share it with anyone — but, in the quietness of your heart, will you answer the question: What do you want? I mean, what do you want more than anything? Honestly.
I don’t know what your answer is, but God tells us in Proverbs that "To get wisdom is better than gold" (16:16) and ". . . wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot compare to her" (8:11). The apostle Paul gives his answer to my question in Philippians 3:7-8. He says, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." You might be thinking, "Wait a minute! Didn’t Paul say that ‘knowing Christ’ is of surpassing worth, while Proverbs says that wisdom is what is better than gold? So which is it . . . wisdom or knowing Christ?" Well, if we flip over to Colossians, we read that "all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ" (2:3). Wisdom is found in knowing God because He is the source of all wisdom, He is the embodiment of all wisdom, and He contains all wisdom.
Listen again to what Paul is saying. He says that he is willing to lose all things in order to know Christ. But, in knowing Christ, what he gains is worth far more than gold, or silver, or jewels. So what is lost is rubbish and what is gained is everything. What a deal! Who wouldn’t want that?
John Piper says, "We should bend all our efforts to become wiser tomorrow than we are today." I don’t know about you, but I don’t do that. I lose perspective. The little things in life become big and the really big things become little. I have a friend whose son-in-law felt like the Lord was leading him to go to law school. But it was a very difficult decision because he had a wife, a mortgage, two dogs, a daughter, and another on the way. He and his wife finally decided they were not going to let a mortgage and two dogs stand in the way of following God. I was cheering for them as they took this step of faith, but, at the same time, I was asking myself what the "mortgage and two dogs" were in my life. What were the little things that had become big and were keeping the big things from happening? What is it for you? What would it cost for you to pursue knowing Christ more? What might you lose?
To ask it another way, what are the "mortgage and two dogs" in your life? Sometimes the answer can be as basic as sleep or time. Sometimes it can be as big as a career or a reputation. Most of us live in a country and a culture where our faith is not highly costly. We don’t fear for our lives. Most of us will never be demoted or lose a job over our faith. But what if we did? What is it worth for you to pursue him and his wisdom? Would you be willing to count your career, or your savings, or your circle of friends as loss? What about sleep? That’s about as costly as it gets for most of us, yet it can feel like a costly sacrifice when that alarm goes off and the snooze button is calling! Whatever your particular "mortgage and two dogs" are, in light of eternity, Scripture tells us that they are considered to be like rubbish.
But the cost of pursuing wisdom does not stop there. Proverbs 9:10 says that, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Knowledge is important and we have to commit ourselves to its acquisition. What we know of God and how we think of him affects our lives. On one hand, wisdom is not merely knowledge; you can’t just fill your head with knowledge about God and consider yourself wise. But neither is wisdom devoid of knowledge. Wisdom is a lived-out knowledge of God. Both the attainment of knowledge as well as the endeavor to apply that knowledge takes a lot of time, effort, change, focus, and sacrifice. Whoever said that wisdom is both a divine gift and a human task was absolutely right. God has inclined our hearts to pursue him and has given us his word; God has made himself known. The knowledge of God, the wisdom of Christ, are available to us. But Scripture tells us to dig, seek, search and cry out for it. So we’re back to our original question. What do you want more than anything? If it is knowing Christ and the wisdom found only in him, it will probably cost you. But what you lose is nothing in light of the surpassing worth of knowing him.