“You gotta know that you don’t know.”
This is usually where I start when coaching people. You gotta know that you don’t know. In other words, you’re not going to know it all and you’d better know that you don’t know it all or you’ll be incapable of learning.
Why is it so hard for us to know that? You’d think saying “I don’t know” would be easy—especially once we get a little education under our belt, right? Yet, it seems the more we know, the more we deny the body of knowledge we don’t yet know.
Such happens to pastors, too. Shocker! I know. It was news to me until I found myself doing it. There’s a pressure on all of us—maybe even an expectation—to take our education and life experience and be positioned in a sage-like office for others.
Hasn’t that happened to you? Has someone come to you about something expecting you to know all about it just because you either went through something similar or have some level of education or training in that area?
The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon of Israel, was in the same boat. And when you’re the wisest man who ever lived…well, let’s just say there are some expectations on you.
In Ecclesiastes 7:23–29 he writes:
23 All this I tested by wisdom and I said, “I am determined to be wise”— but this was beyond me. 24 Whatever exists is far off and most profound— who can discover it? 25 So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly. 26 I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare. 27 “Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered: “Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things— 28 while I was still searching but not finding— I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all. 29 This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes.”
Ecclesiastes 7:23–29 (NIV)
Now we must address this up front: Solomon (nor the Holy Spirit who inspired him to write) is not down on women as the source of all evil or folly. Consider how wisdom is personified as a woman in Proverbs. He speaks highly of women in this very book (Ecclesiastes) and Song of Solomon certainly portrays women in a great light.
So we have to consider Solomon is writing this for a specific effect. And indeed, he is. Humans, at our best, are not wise on our own. For all we know and learn, all we discover is more questions. In Solomon’s day, women would not have received the education of men so one would not expect to find a wise woman in his day.
And he claims in the 1,000 women comprising his wives and concubines, he did not find one righteous (which is one definition of wisdom). After all, they led him away from God. And that was Solomon’s foolishness.
But for all us, we can be confounded by the knowledge left to learn. My wife and editor, Patty, once remarked, “For all I’ve learned about the Lord through the Bible, I’ve learned there’s more to learn.”
This is Solomon’s frustration and his breakthrough. Apart from God, our search for the treasure of wisdom is futile, frustrating, and foolish. Our hearts are bent towards evil. We’re part of the sphere of this world and sin.
Only those with Godly wisdom will have the ability to walk through the traps and pits of sin surrounding us. Knowledge all by itself cannot do this. As the old expression says, “Knowledge is knowing there’s a snake in the grass. Wisdom is staying out of the grass.”
As we face the challenges of life, don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. Because there, dear one in Jesus, is the space in which God shows up and demonstrates His wisdom and power.