I was asked, “Is being smart the same as being wise?” Christians need to be “clever as serpents and harmless as doves”(Mt.10: 16). One of King David’s choir members wrote these words, “See how your enemies plot, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you love” (Ps.83: 2-3). Job’s friend, without being unaware, described the reason for deceitful craftiness. “Your sin promotes your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you” (Job 15: 5-6).
Craftiness is a cunning way to entice and subdue others to their will. The Bible does not endorse such a method. “He (God) thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wile are swept away” (Job 5: 12-13). This type of smartness leads to retaliation and there is not an ounce of wisdom in it. It is the reverse of the golden rule: “Do unto others what you want them to do unto you.” It is also, “What we sow we shall also reap.” This is not even being smart. It is unfortunate that our culture has been endorsing this type of craftiness.
There is a better way only the world regards it as foolishness (I Cor.1: 20). Paul, the Gentile Apostle, learned that a certain kind of love that does not seek advantage over others is far more efficient and lasting than knowledge or smartness (I Cor.13). This type of wisdom based on this mysterious love generates an inner self-control that results in harmony and peace even with enemies (Gal.5: 22-23). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a summary of practical wisdom (Mt.5-7). It is based in a genuine and healthy fear in a “Being” that shall hold us accountable for our behavior and deeds (Pr.9: 10). It is that kind of understanding that people use to act in a manner becoming of humans.
The Jewish people elevated Salomon to the pinnacle of wisdom. He did well as long as he obeyed the Laws of his God. But, when he was recognized for his craftiness, he could not handle the praise. He wanted more fame and it became costly. Instead of being that great mind, he became the great builder and lover. He used the people to pay for his programs and bankrupted the country (I Ki.12). Salomon had a cousin by the name of Jonadab. He is the only person the Bible describes as “a crafty man.” Salomon’s half-brother Ammon lusted after his half-sister Tamar. Jonadab advised Ammon to play sick and have the King send Tamar to feed him. She obeyed the King and Ammon molested her and then disgraced her in public. Absalom, Tamar’s brother, killed Ammon. Absalom went into exile. The crafty Jonadab persuaded the King to reinstate Absalom. Then, Absalom rewarded his father David by rebelling against him and ended up being hung by his hair while he was pursuing the King (II Sam.13-18). In the midst of all this, crafty Bathsheba got her son Salomon to be the next king (I Ki.1). Salomon did not keep his promise to God and neither did his people. The words of II Chronicles 7: 14 were composed for Salomon and it did not take long when they fell on deaf ears then as they do today.
This craftiness that was practiced in the House of King David has a modern ring. The names of people change, but the method of managing our affairs has not. Human pride does not allow us to change. It insists that we can manage ourselves without God. Yet, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”(Ja.4: 6; Pro.3: 34). “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted,” (Lk.14: 11). Being humble is not being ignorant, but practical that can get us farther than being smart or wise (I Cor.3: 18-20).