The biblical story of King Solomon is the basis for much of our thinking when we refer to the concept of Wisdom. It is commonly believed that Solomon represents the character of wisdom more than any man or woman in history. Putting aside any biases (good or bad) that you may have about the Bible and its authenticity, just accept for a moment that the story of Solomon is capable of enlightening us about the nature of wisdom.
It was common for Solomon to allow people from his Kingdom to come before him as judge to make determinations about justice. When two women present themselves before the King with an infant baby, they each claim that the baby should be theirs. The birth mother is one of the two women. Solomon listened with great care to the arguments as to who should gain custody of the baby. Finally he declares that there is only one answer…the baby shall be sliced in half by a sword and each of them should get ownership of one half of the child. The one woman was accepting of the judgment. But the mother of the baby cried out that her child should not be killed. If it meant that the baby was no longer hers, so be it. Solomon recognized the passion of the mother and gave the child to her. In his wisdom he had found an answer and it revealed to him the justice beneath the arguments. (I Kings 3: 16-28)
The answer given by Solomon was not one which would be pleasing to all of society. To murder a child to settle an argument was offensive and repugnant. However, Solomon’s wisdom had a very pragmatic character to it. His little drama revealed the true nature of a woman’s love for her child. A far greater issue than public opinion was at the heart of the matter.
I have been thinking of this matter all day as I have listened to the argumentation surrounding the President’s decision to consult with Congress before enacting a military strike against Syria. There are people on both sides of the issue who believe they are right. Some are calling him brilliant and sensitive. Others are calling him a coward. President Obama has chosen a route which requires more work, an open-ness to criticism, and a potential “death blow” to his effectiveness as President.
However, at the same time the President has offered a possibility for the very non-political dialogue for which he has yearned for the past five years. To allow the members of Congress, allies and political enemies, to speak their piece, is a wise and welcome decision. He knows…and we all know… that he is not required to go before Congress on this matter. However, his decision is not based upon a legal issue; to the contrary, it is a moral issue before the people. Opening the dialogue to the entire membership of the Congress is to give voice to those who feel disenfranchised by the current Administration.
I suspect that this is not the most restful evening the President has had during his tenure. There are thousands “out there” who want to let him know just how foolish this act may be. He probably won’t hear from those thousands of us who may applaud his decision.
I was as impressed by the way he went about this decision-making as I was about the decision. He listened. He spent time alone weighing the matter. He consulted wise people who could give him good advice. Away from the clutter and chaos of the Washington machine he found his answer and he revealed it without pomp, and without judgment. He demonstrated wisdom.
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