Tag Archives: Estate

Wisdom & Winnowing

Wisdom and Winnowing (CaD Ps 49) Wayfarer

When we look at the wise, they die;
    fool and dolt perish together
    and leave their wealth to others.

Psalm 49:10 (NRSVCE)

Over the past few years, I have watched, and assisted, as my parents’ lives have gotten significantly smaller in footprint. From a giant ranch home where grandchildren hung out together and spent a week each summer at “grandma camp,” to a townhouse, a two-bedroom apartment, and now a smaller apartment. With every subsequent move, there is a winnowing of life’s material possessions.

“Does anyone want this?”

“What should we do with that?”

Somebody might use that. Let’s give it to the Many Hands Thrift Store.”

Seriously. Nobody wants that. Throw it in the dumpster.”

Some time ago I was listening to a teacher who encouraged listeners to perform a virtual winnowing of life in your head. Think about everything you own. Not just the big items like homes, cars, and furniture, but the boxes of stuff in storage rooms, attics, and garages. Think about the collective contents of junk drawers, closet shelves, and storage bins. Having taken an exhaustive mental inventory, now consider where it’s all going to end up, and who is going to own it, when you die. Note: Someone else will own everything that doesn’t get pitched into the dumpster. And believe me, for many of us there will be a dumpster.

Today’s chapter continues a string of ancient Hebrew song lyrics written for a specific purpose. Psalm 49 is one of just two songs in the anthology of 150 songs written as “Wisdom Literature.” Across antiquity, sages throughout the Near East created proverbs, songs, parables, and literary works intended to teach and pass along wisdom.

As I shared in this chapter-a-day journey through the book of Proverbs (a classic example of “Wisdom Literature”), even in the Great Story wisdom is personified in a woman often referred to as Sophia. Wisdom Literature is typically marked by a calling out to or from wisdom as the songwriter does today in verses 3-4:

My mouth shall speak wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
    I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

The songwriter then challenges us as listeners and readers to consider the fact that rich-and-poor, wise-and-foolish, good-and-bad all end up in the same place and leave everything behind. Even the Egyptians who packed King Tut’s tomb with stuff for him to use in the afterlife only ended up lining the pockets of Lord Carnarvon and the displays of various museums.

Of course, Lady Wisdom calls out to me to think about this in relationship to what it means for me today, and I hear the echo of Jesus in my soul:

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Matthew 19-21 (MSG)

In the quiet this morning, I hear Wisdom, Jesus, and Holy Spirit whispering to my soul. The exercise of virtual winnowing needs to lead me to actual physical winnowing, or else they have simply wasted their collective breath.

An Unorthodox Choice

Michelangelo david solomon
Michelangelo’s David and Solomon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. 1 Chronicles 22:6 (NIV)

When reading the ancient stories in God’s Message, I’ve learned that a big part of the story is often not what is said in the text, but what is left unsaid. I found it interesting last week when we read 1 Chronicles 20 that the scribe left out the naughty bits about David’s sin with Bathsheba and his conspiracy to murder Uriah, her husband. Today, the scribe moves right into the story of David commissioning his son Solomon to build the temple, but why Solomon was chosen as the one to ascend to the throne is never addressed.

Through the millennia, it has been a common practice in monarchies around the world for the throne to be passed to the eldest living son. In the case of King David, there were many children born to him from a handful of wives and several concubines. David’s scandalous dalliance and subsequent marriage to Bathsheba happened relatively late in his life. There were several sons born to David prior to Solomon, but David chooses his young son Solomon, born to him through Bathsheba rather than any of his other children.

Very few families escape the conflicts, machinations, and hard feelings that arise from parental favor and estate. This is true even of simple nuclear families trying to settle  issues of a parent’s last will and testament. Imagine the chaos that ensues when polygamy, the throne, political power, and vast riches are at stake. David’s choice of the young Solomon could not have gone over well with his half-siblings who had been waiting in line for the throne for many years.

I am reminded again this morning what God said to Samuel when David was anointed King as a young boy:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

We don’t know why David chose young Solomon over his siblings, but David had a long track record of seeking to do the right thing in God’s eyes. I must wonder if David’s choice was based on what he saw in the hearts of his children rather than sticking with human protocol of simply handing the crown to his eldest.

Life is full of choices and decisions. Handling family dynamics with children of diverse personalities, gifts, and capabilities can be difficult for the even the most dutiful parent. It requires, if you’ll forgive the blatant connection, “the wisdom of Solomon.” And, perhaps, that is what David perceived in making his unorthodox choice of successor.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 32

estranged
Image by Norma Desmond via Flickr

They continued, “If you think we’ve done a good job so far, give us this country for our inheritance. Don’t make us go across the Jordan.” Numbers 32:5 (MSG)

Land is a funny thing. Along life’s journey I’ve watched families and friends become enemies over land disputes. I’ve watched people fall into deep bitterness, anger, and resentment over arguments about boundary lines and the inheritance of land. I’ve written a lot about how things have changed since the time of Moses, but there are some things that I observe never change.

I knew two upstanding men who, each week at church, claimed a pew on the opposite side of one another in the sanctuary. They’d been feuding over a boundary line between their farms for decades and refused to speak to one another or sit near one another in church. In another case, I watched as parents used land and their children’s inheritance as a tool of manipulation and power which ultimately divided the family. I’ve seen siblings back bite and slander their brothers and sisters throughout their parent’s funeral as they squabble over who is going to get what in the estate. I’ve known people so focused on maximizing and increasing their land wealth that they isolated themselves until their land became a relational island.

Today, I’m reminded that the things of God can’t be bought or sold, nor can they be hoarded, deeded, or put into our last will and testament. Land, like all earthly possessions will end up possessing us if we do not guard our hearts closely.

Enhanced by Zemanta