April 23, 2014

Curiosity and seeking wisdom

Two things are on my heart today. The first one is interesting, even delightful . . .

I’ve been reading a book called “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci” which is of course secular without much to say about God. However, it does offer some good advice. One is that a wise person should never stop being curious. Up to Da Vinci’s time, this was far from the norm. People plodded through life, dull of mind and in the dark. He changed that and changed the world. Part of what made the difference was his curious mind.  

The Bible says nothing about curiosity but a great deal about seeking understanding, wisdom and insight, qualities that can be gained by being curious . . .

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown. (Proverbs 4:7–9)

The book recommends making a long list of the things I wonder about, that rouse my curiosity. I’ve not started that list, but I suspect many items on it will be about spiritual matters. A danger of using curiosity to find wisdom is turning such a search into an academic exercise, or a trivial pursuit. Adding data to my brain does not make me wiser, even though it might give me more information.

A huge danger of increased knowledge is that it “puffs up” or builds arrogance. This is not the attitude of a godly person. The Bible tells us to, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5–7)

The last part of that passage brings me to the second thing on my heart, which is far from delightful and concerns the health of a family member. He is in the hospital and each report sounds more ominous. He may not recover. For this, I am to, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

But I am moved, not in the sense of the verse, but in the sense of moving near to God and bringing this situation to Him. The Bible says that, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7) In this ‘day of trouble’ God calls me to run to Him for help, consolation, even wisdom to know how to pray. Do I pray for healing? Do I pray for mercy and grace that suffering is not lengthy? It is easy to know what we want, but much more difficult to know the will of God and pray for it.

In that regard, perhaps the curiosity promoted by the Da Vinci book is related to seeking the Lord in prayerful intercession, only in this case, I’m not wondering why a daisy is white or how thunder clouds form. Instead, I want to know the best way to pray for someone who seems to be entering the valley of the shadow of death. Curiosity may be delightful, but it does have a sad and difficult side.

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