Sunday, June 9, 2013
Stronger is Not Necessarily Better
Eccl. 10:10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge,
then more strength must be exerted;
but wisdom helps one to succeed. (NRSV)
Ecc. 10:10 If the ax is dull
and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed,
but skill will bring success. (NIV)
Reading through these nuggets of wisdom in Ecclesiastes you have some "duh" moments! Of course if you're using a dull axe you have to exert more effort. It takes a very strong person to try and chop wood with a dull axe. Not only do you need a strong person, but it could be quite dangerous. Think of the back and eye injuries which could ensue. But the job doesn't have to be that difficult. The wise person will take the time to sharpen the blade and then the process will go much more smoothly. No longer is brute force necessary, but the skilled worker of most any size will be able to accomplish the task.
When I was a child my mom would tell us to be careful saying, "Don't be a bull in a china shop!" In other words, pay attention and be careful with the way you throw yourself around. There are times when we simply want to use our physical force and strength to make our point. It's often when we don't take the time to think through a situation that we become the "bully" and we use what comes to us instinctively. Sadly, this is often not the best course of action. John Wesley commented on this verse, "As wisdom instructs a man in the smallest matters, so it is useful for a man’s direction in all weighty affairs."
If we are trying to accomplish anything in life without taking the time to have the right skills and tools available then we are really just wasting our energy. What might that mean for us within the kingdom of God? We might need to realize that we need to take time to sharpen our "tools" before we can be effective workers in the kingdom. Simply going out like a "bull in a china shop" may do more damage than good. We must spend time in God's presence and get to know God's heart. We must also spend time feasting on the word of God so that we will be nourished with the revelation of God. But if we are going to be workers within the kingdom we need to also be diligent at learning how to be the very best. This may involve academic study, internship, and a dedication to learning to be the very best that we can be! Look at what happens when the tools are in the best condition they can be -- they are successful at doing the task, and not just successful but much more efficient.
There have been times that we have thought that we could find short-cuts to doing the job. We have, at times, simply used brute force. That works for a little while, but eventually we get tired and worn out. Then we stand and look over the little pieces that we have chopped. They are a ragged bunch of blocks and we are exhausted. Why not spend some time sharpening the iron and then move forward in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit? Stronger is not necessarily better.
Lord, thank you for these nuggets of wisdom. May I listen and apply them to my life. Amen.