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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Vantage point determines outcome

 There's nothing better than being wise, knowing how to interpret the meaning of life. Wisdom puts light in the eyes, and gives gentleness to words and manners.
(Ecclesiastes 8:1)

Solomon is near the end of his life when he is writing these words.  His years of service as King of Israel have been both rewarding and somewhat taxing.  His summation of life's pursuits, challenges rewards, and the futility of following after things not really all that important have been the theme of his writing.  He was known for his wisdom - a gift from God that helped him rule well.  He boldly proclaims that there is "nothing better than being wise".  He qualifies what he means as "being wise" as "knowing how to interpret the meaning of life".  

There are books upon books written about finding "meaning in life".  Some might have a tidbit of truth to them that we can glean from our consideration of the words penned by their authors.  Others are clearly just reporting ways we might improve our "self-image" or engage in positive "self-talk" that will bring some type of "meaning" into our life.  The opportunities to consider what brings "meaning" into one's life varies as much as the quantity of books on the bookshelves of our "self help" sections of the local bookstore or library.  There are lots of opportunities - but Solomon advises that wisdom is the best.

Wisdom gives us perspective - it gives us a vantage point from which to view life in such a way that we make our choices for action based on the "view" we have attained.  Let me break that down.  If we view a troubling circumstance like an unexpected debt from the vantage point of fear, we will panic at the possibility of damaging our credit or not being able to pay it off.  If we view that same unexpected debt from the vantage point of faith, we might ask for help from the one we owe the debt to structure manageable payments over a longer period of time in order that we might pay the debt without fear of losing our good credit standing.

A "vantage" point is simply that which gives us a view that we might call "the 5,000 foot view".  In other words, we see things from a bigger perspective than just the thing immediately in front of us.  We often hear this referred to as the "big picture" view of a situation.  Solomon reminds us that our vantage point determines our perspective.  If we allow wisdom to become the basis by which we make choices in life, we will have a better vantage point than if we live by impulse or "whatever feels good" mentality.

Solomon gives us three examples of how wisdom affects a life - affects perspective and determines the vantage point from which we interpret or handle life situations. 
  • Wisdom puts light in the eyes.  Wherever we have our focus is reflected in our eyes.  That is why the Word reminds us that the eyes are windows to our soul.  If our focus is on Jesus, the eyes will reflect the possibilities of faith.  If our focus is on self, the eyes often reflect the hopelessness of self-effort.   Perspective is determined by our vantage point - at best, self will struggle to accomplish the same thing that faith can accomplish by simply trusting.  
  • Wisdom gives gentleness to words.  Words are often a solid indicator of our focus or perspective at the moment.  Solomon reminds us that having gentleness to our words is an outcome of having a right perspective in life.  Harsh words, or words that focus on the problem instead of the possibilities, are often based on being "internally focused" in life.  We only see things from our vantage point, not the vantage point of another - and certainly not the vantage point of Christ.  Therefore, words are reflective of what is best for us, what elevates us, what makes us look or fell good.  They are often far from gentle (kind and loving).  
  • Wisdom gives us gentle manners.  Manners is just another way of referring to behavior.  Wisdom affects our behavior.  Our vantage point determines our choices - if we have a "big picture view", we often make different choices in life.  
Wisdom is really all about perspective - where we place our hope, what it is that we trust in, and how we either embrace or reject input into our lives.  If our perspective is in Christ, our vantage point will always give us the best insight that will ultimately produce/result in the best for our lives.  If we think we have a "good" vantage point and then end up being overtaken by our enemy, we really did not have much of a "vantage" point in the first place!  We need the benefit of a "solid vantage point" in life.  There is no other vantage point better than we will find than when our focus is solidly on Christ.