Thursday, April 05, 2007

Proverbs 2:2: Tuning to Wisdom

Proverbs 2:2 and the surrounding verses tell us the benefits of “tuning your ear to wisdom, tuning your heart to understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible). What does that involve? How do we do that? Three things come to mind: measuring pitch, adjusting to conform to that pitch, and continually repeating those steps.

Measuring Pitch
The act of tuning first requires listening to something with perfect pitch. That gives us the standard we are trying to meet. When we seek wisdom (living our day-to-day lives according to God’s precepts) we find perfect tone in scripture, as it’s brought home to us by the Holy Spirit. We are to listen for it by regularly getting into the word, studying it, and thinking about what it means for how we actually live. We also hear it in the promptings the Holy Spirit gives in connection with particular situations. Developing an ear for these things takes some time, but God gives ample help to those who seek it. See Proverbs 8:17 Wisdom 6:12-17; Sirach 6:19, 27-28;  Sirach 14:20; Matthew 7:7-11;  Luke 11:9-13; James 1:5.
Tuning also requires listening to your instrument to see how it compares to perfect pitch. When we seek wisdom, we compare our lives to the standards set by scripture and the Spirit’s specific promptings, measuring how close we come to their pitch. That is not nearly as pleasant as listening to the pitch itself, and can in fact be quite painful at times, but it must be done and is always worth it in the end. See Sirach 6:19-31; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12; Hebrews 12:11; James 1:2-4; 2 Peter 1:6-7.  

Adjusting to Tone
Recognizing perfect pitch and differences from it is not enough; one must act to bring the instrument to that pitch. So it is with wisdom. Once we have identified how our lives differ from God’s standard we must act to bring ourselves into conformity with that standard. Sometimes we have to stretch beyond our natural inclinations, the equivalent of tuning up. Other times we must tune down, stopping or slowing when we would prefer to act. Both can be hard; we have to do things that don’t come naturally. But just as the results of a properly tuned instrument are worth the effort, being tuned to God’s pitch produces benefits that far exceed the cost of the changes. See Sirach 6:19-31.

Anyone who’s played a string instrument knows that tuning is not a one time task. Instruments fall out of tune and must be repeatedly monitored and adjusted. So it is with us; we must regularly, and continually, compare lives with God’s instructions and make the tunings necessary to conform ourselves to His perfect pitch. There is simply no avoiding that reality, but there are things we can do to decrease the times we fall out of tune and the difficulty of retuning.
Just as exposure to loud, discordant, sounds can take an instrument out of tune, exposure to ungodly influences (media, profane music, bad company) can pull us away from God’s standards. We can limit that by limiting our exposure to those influences and seeking to replace them with Godly ones. See Proverbs 13:20, 22:24-25, Sirach 6:16-17; Sirach 6:34-37; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Philippians 4:8.

We can limit the difficulty of retuning by doing so sooner rather than later. It’s easier to retune a mildly out of tune instrument than one that’s dramatically so, and the same is true of our lives. We save ourselves significant difficulty by retuning as soon as we detect a variance from God’s pitch, rather than waiting until we’re far out of tune. See Sirach 5:7.