Back in May of 2010 I wrote a few posts about Matthew 11:19, which says, "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." I explored the passage a little, confessed a little, and went to other passages to explain the concept further.
The verse keeps coming back to me, probably because like so many of the things Jesus said, it confuses me a bit. I'll think I'm getting a handle on it and then some other perspective or way of seeing it comes to mind.
For instance, last Friday I was thinking about how I instruct and discipline my children and the students in my classroom. I'm often hasty and overly critical. I fancy myself an encourager because I have been encouraging to some people around me before, but often I instruct by tearing down. I know that sometimes in construction--of buildings and people-- we must first tear down in order to build up.
This makes sense, if we keep the ends in mind, namely a better building or an improved child or student or friend. But I often don't have the ends in mind; I'm too hung up on the present and the mistakes or aggravating behavior of my kids or my students. I am not demonstrating wisdom in my words, my tone, my attitude, my action.
And here's what I've realized about wisdom being justified by her deeds: as far as I can tell (today) wisdom is as much about action as head knowledge.
This is one of my typical NO DUH realizations, which seem to strike me with such force that I can't understand how I never saw the truth of it before. In this case, the verse even says as much: "Wisdom is justified by ALL HER DEEDS." Jesus says it because he is doing wisdom, as was his cousin John (see Matthew 11).
Yes, this is an awkward way of saying it. How can someone do wisdom?
Like the epiphany itself, the answer to this question is simple: wisdom isn't just something someone has, though it is something someone has. True wisdom is something that can be exercised, acted upon, done. In the Star Wars movies, Yoda isn't just wise because he can sit on his little chair and pontificate, saying wise things. He can also act himself and instruct others in the ways of wisdom. He has great clarity in his head, which leads to great clarity in his personal actions and his instruction of others as he seeks to help them with their actions.
Wisdom is about how we act in our bodies as much as it is about what is in our minds.
So then, as I train and instruct my children and my students, I need to keep this in mind. I have short-comings, yes. But wisdom learns from mistakes and then acts differently in the future. I'll seek to genuinely correct and instruct with the ends in mind, and not just criticize. I want to build up, not just tear down. As a parent and teacher, this should always be our goal. We want to live as people who have and exercise wisdom, so that we can raise up children and students who do the same.