#GrowWise. The Eight Most Important Words of Instruction Ever

10

January 23, 2015

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Proverbs 23:12  (read the whole chapter)

Apply your heart to instruction
    and your ears to words of knowledge.

CONSIDER THIS

instruction

Several years back I watched a television documentary on the life of the late French philosopher, Jacques Derrida. Derrida is famous for his postmodern philosophical approach known as deconstructionism. I have attempted to read one of his books and after forty five minutes of being on the same page I decided to throw in the towel. Derrida is to my academic skill as LeBron is to my basketball prowess. ;0)

At one point in the documentary, Derrida led the interviewer through a tour of his library. About the size of a gymnasium, the room rose up on all sides, covered in books, toward a cavernous ceiling. Awed at the sheer magnitude of the size of the collection, the interviewer asked the obligatory question at such a moment, “So, have you read all these books.” Derrida wryly replied, “No, but I have read two of them really, really well.”

After all, a philosopher is simply one who “philo” LOVES “sophia” WISDOM.

We live in an age where mastery of informational knowledge is prized over all. More is better. Faster is smarter. Information is power. Who knows the most is the smartest.

Today’s text read through the lens of today’s information ethic will yield a completely different meaning than the wisdom writer intends.

Apply your heart to instruction
    and your ears to words of knowledge.

We are almost done with January and I’ve already seen a number of friends and colleagues reporting out metrics on their New Year’s resolutions to read thus and so many books a month. I’ve engaged in that “my pile is bigger than your pile,” approach to reading before, and it can feel pretty satisfying. There’s something seductive about people referring to you as being a “well-read” person.

I think I like Derrida’s approach better. “So have you read all these books?” “No, but I have read two of them really, really well.”

That’s how I want to be with Scripture. Reading the Bible in 90 days or twenty minutes or one year. . . . it’s fine. I’m just not  sure that’s the best way to “apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.”

To do this implies a kind of slowly paced abiding with the text, a long  and lingering relationship with the words, a growing relationship with the author, and a revisiting it day after day after day for long seasons at a time.

As an example, Jesus said, “My command is this. Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

What might it be worth to apply my heart comprehensively to this tiny bit of instruction; to open my ears fully to this word of knowledge? What if I decided I would give myself until next year to read the Gospel of John. . . . really, really well? And what if I started by writing these eight words at the top of every page of the book, “Love each other as I have loved you.”

The entire scope and summation of the meaning of life can be brought down even further to five of these eight words of Jesus’ singular command, “As I have loved you.”

Our chief calling and highest ambition is to apply ourselves to understanding and appropriating and creatively enacting the meaning of these five words, “As I have loved you.”

Imagine one day Jesus asking you this question, “So my friend, have you read every word of the entire book of the Bible?” And, what if you replied, “No, but I have read one verse really, really well.” ;0)

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 24.

P.S. Sometimes I overstate my case to make a point. You know that by now. I highly prize reading the whole of Scripture. In fact, I don’t think we can begin to fathom what “as I have loved you,” means apart from the whole of Scripture. I think you see my point– the goal isn’t to read more and faster and better. Completion isn’t the goal. The goal? It’s applying our heart to instruction and our ears to words of knowledge to the end of grasping “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and knowing this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18).

#GrowWise.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent commentary, JD. Too many think too much about reading the “whole” Bible; and those who claim to have done so seem lacking in the wisdom imparted. Like the difference between knowledge and wisdom, and what happens to us when we become too “puffed up” by how much we know or how much we’ve done.

    Thank you for your faithfulness and insight.

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