Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive...wisdom!
Jesus deserves our wisdom, just as He deserves our power—our influence and authority—and our wealth—our possessions and capabilities.
What is “wisdom” here?
Wisdom, biblically, is often separated from knowledge and understanding: knowledge is facts and data; understanding is knowing what the facts and data mean; wisdom is know what to do about it. In Scripture, wisdom is often used of real-world, applied, decision making—like that which a builder or a crafter uses—as well as philosophy and logic.
Here in Revelation the word for “wisdom” is used in two other places: 1) “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number” (Rev 13:18), and “This calls for a mind with wisdom” (Rev 17:9). In Revelation, then, “wisdom” includes the parts of our selves that are connected with “understanding,” and “calculating numbers,” and our “mind” or thinking ability. In other words, it encompasses the whole range of areas related to thought and decision making, including logic and rationale, as well as insight and interpretation.
What's more, in the list of seven attributes Jesus is “worthy” of, this is the only word that references the “data-processing” that we do. So "wisdom" encompasses more than mathematics and philosophy. It’s every brain-ish thing that we use to navigate life. Including logic. Including emotion. Including mathematical rules. Including philosophical assumptions. Including folk-wisdom. Including intuition. Including blood-sugar based will-power depletion. Including media habits. Including day dreams.
“Wisdom” here is everything that participates in the realm of how we notice, collect, interpret, narrativize, decide, remind, and prompt ourselves to act.
We consider ourselves to be sophisticated in our ability to understand all that’s happening in this realm of our selves. But much of this was known to the Greco-Roman philosophers hundreds of years before Revelation was written. Certain foods were beneficial or harmful, and certain practices, habits, and rituals. They knew that a person could develop mental-abilities with training, practice, and discipline. So we actually share an only slightly more nuanced understanding of the forces at work in our selves than John did when he heard praised what is here called, “wisdom.”
And so now we turn to the second question: How do we bestow our “wisdom” on Jesus?
First, let’s honor our wise-self. You have wisdom. Again, if we don’t honor what we have, we will never lay it at Jesus’ feet.
Now, for a variety of awful reasons, many people think that they’re Dumb or Not Logical. Let’s pause. If this forms a key part of your identity, then you will never honor the wisdom you have or the wisdom-processes by which you live—or by which you are swept along. When the Bible talks about wisdom, it isn’t talking about the ability to form syllogisms (If A, and B, then C…). It’s talking just as much about the insight that comes from feeling deeply as it does the insight that comes from staying emotionally detached. We tend to value math-logic: cold, detached, precise. More and more we’re seeing that this is not good, that we need more. We just don’t know how to do it. We still mainly value STEM progress in our education and testing; a graph of college students majoring in humanities degrees is a picture of a sledding hill. But this is not the main component in wisdom. (In fact, science is “discovering” that logic is only moderately involved in anyone’s decision-making and opinion-forming! [HT: KO]) So, here at the beginning, let’s honor this: you have wisdom. Because of mean people and personal insecurity, it might not be a wisdom you care for, but it’s yours. It’s part of how God made you. Honor it, and care for it.
Which brings us to the second part of this initial step—honoring our wise self—which is honoring the wisdom-processes in our lives. Think of a tire-factory: raw chopped up rubber rolls in, is melted and mixed with chemicals, is formed into tires, and “rolls” off the assembly line. Here’s your wisdom-factory: raw data enters—in the form of media, friends, Bible—and is melted down and mixed up, to roll out as reactions, decisions, plans, etc. Now, this process is either done intentionally, with wisdom, or haphazardly.
What’s happening? You’re doing something with the data, running it past your assumptions—which are shaped by opinions you’ve formed or have been handed to you—connecting it to other data points in order to form a story—“So and so always does that…” or, “that’s just like what happened when…” Ever wonder where crazy opinions passionately held come from? Not from bad data, but from haphazard processes working with no management oversight.
So to honor Christ with our wisdom means, in part, managing these processes. Slowing down. Being selective of the data presented to our minds (so reading and memorizing a lot of Scripture, hymns, creeds, and good words). Being mindful about our emotional state (which is connected to sleep, diet, stress, etc.). Being reflective or self-critical (Do you have an internal feedback loop?). Inviting wisdom from other sources to help assess our thinking (i.e. friends).
Our thinking shapes our doing. That is, not our opinions, but our way-of-thinking. How we think, the stories we tell our selves, shapes how we react in the moment, how we plan for the future, and how we’ll interpret future situations too. When Jesus says, “Go make disciples, teaching them to obey all I’ve commanded you…” that involves not just the statement of His teachings and a description of obedience. It involves the entire process, here described in brief, that takes us from Jesus’ teachings to actual obedience. That’s the process of Wisdom.
So we need to honor our wise-selves, but then, secondly, live that wise-way, with our wisdoms, for Jesus’ honor. Form opinions, craft habits, make plans, assess and tweak, for Jesus’ purposes and His interests.
Is Jesus involved in our media choices? The news programs we watch? Is Jesus involved in the pace of our thought processes? Do we think as people aware of our sinful tendency to craft self-justifying stories? Do we delay decision making? Do we have real friends, who sometimes correct us, and whom we sometimes listen to? When we decide on something, it is prayerfully submitted to Jesus? When we engage in a task that takes creativity and deep presence, do we pause to put the wisdom-works in His hands? Do we appeal to Jesus’ wisdom, so that the wisdom that runs our lives may more and more look like His? When’s the last time we questioned our assumptions? When’s the last time we changed our mind? When’s the last time we listened with love to an opinion we deeply opposed? Do we sleep enough? Are we careful about what we eat and when we eat it so that we are not willpower-depleted and left more susceptible to temptation, depression, and folly?
There’s much more to say about wisdom and what Jesus is worthy of, but this is enough for now. Jesus is worthy of our wisdom. So let’s listen, read, gather, process, think, discuss, decide—let’s live for Jesus.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive...wisdom!