wisdom

A Story About Water

It's important to read a story from the author's point of view—including their time and culture. If we don't see it from their point of view, we'll miss both essential and more subtle details.

Here, Jesus and His followers are traveling from Jerusalem in Judea in the south to Galilee in the north. This causes them to go through the region of Samaria. The Samaritans were considered a mixed breed of people with a false religion by the Jews.

The Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans who responded with antagonism towards the Jews. Prejudice and mistrust between people groups have existed since ancient times.

Jesus and the disciples stop in Sychar near Shechem at Jacob's Well. Jesus stays there while His followers go to town to buy food. When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the heat of the day, Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. This in itself would be unusual, as revealed in the story (below), but their conversation takes an even more unexpected turn.

Scripture

Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John. (Actually, Jesus was not baptizing people. His disciples were.) So he left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

Jesus had to go through Samaria. He arrived at a city in Samaria called Sychar. Sychar was near the piece of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s Well was there. Jesus sat down by the well because he was tired from traveling. The time was about six o’clock in the evening. [vss 1-6]

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.) The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus replied to her, “If you only knew what God’s gift is and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink. He would have given you living water.” [vss 7-10]

The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have anything to use to get water, and the well is deep. So where are you going to get this living water? You’re not more important than our ancestor Jacob, are you? He gave us this well. He and his sons and his animals drank water from it.”

Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.” [vss 11-14]

(John 4:1-14 GW)

Key phrase—

The water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the specific details we're told about the situation in this story?

  • What seems to be the turning point in the conversation between Jesus and the woman?

  • How does the woman respond to the statements Jesus makes?

  • What kind of water does Jesus offer and what do you think He means by this?

Reflection...

Jacob's Well was hundreds of years old even in the time of Jesus and was quite deep. The region of Samaria was disputed land then as it is now. This is evident in the story by the woman's contentious responses to Jesus.

But Jesus immediately flips the conversation by telling her she should be asking Him for a drink of living water.

The woman doesn't back down. As Jesus so often did, He turns what seems like a typical conversation into an opportunity to reveal spiritual truth.

He offers her living water—water that continues to flow like an artesian spring—giving eternal life. This conversation and the story continue, but we'll stop here to consider how Jesus turns a contentious situation into an opportunity to share spiritual truth.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How do you typically handle or respond to contentious people and situations?

  • We are not Jesus, but what can we learn from how He responded to the woman?

  • How does Jesus describe what He has to offer her, and us, by shifting the conversation from a focus on the physical to the spiritual?

  • Have you personally experienced what Jesus says about the living water He offers?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— When we focus on the true need of a person, we can choose to see them through the lens of God's love. We can trust God's Spirit to lead us in how to turn mundane conversations into opportunities to consider eternal concerns.

Prayer Focus— Ask the Lord each day to help you see the people you encounter as He sees them—who they are, their needs and life situations. Pray for wisdom and grace to turn everyday conversations into opportunities to share your faith.

©2018—Word-Strong

Dead Flies and Foolishness

Does anyone like flies? I haven't met anyone who does. Perhaps the Lord of the flies (the devil) does, but I'm pretty sure that's a metaphor to describe an evil ruler.

Ever notice how one pesky fly can ruin so much? When a fly lands in your glass or on your food, it's just unappetizing. A fly buzzing around your face is both irritating and distracting.

There's good reason King Solomon likened flies to foolishness. In ancient writings, a fool was a person who lacked good judgment or moral integrity. We have all had those moments in life.

Scripture

A few dead flies will make even the best perfume stink. In the same way, a little foolishness can ruin much wisdom and honor. The thoughts of the wise lead them the right way, but the thoughts of the foolish lead them the wrong way. Fools show how foolish they are, just walking down the road. Their minds are empty, and everyone knows it. Don’t quit your job simply because the boss is angry with you. If you remain calm and helpful, you can correct even great mistakes. [vss 1-4]

Here is something else that I have seen in this life that isn’t fair. It is the kind of mistake that rulers make. Fools are given important positions, while the rich get jobs that are not important. I have seen servants riding on horses, while rulers were walking beside them like slaves.[vss 5-7]

If you dig a hole, you might fall into it. If you break down a wall, you might be bitten by a snake. If you are moving large stones, you might be hurt by them. If you cut down a tree, you are in danger of it falling on you. But wisdom will make any job easier. It is very hard to cut with a dull knife. But if you sharpen the knife, the job is easier. Someone might know how to control snakes. But that skill is useless if a snake bites when that person is not around. [vss 8-11]

Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction. Fools begin by saying something foolish. But in the end, they speak nonsense. Fools are always talking about what they will do, but you never know what will happen. People cannot tell what will happen in the future. Fools aren’t smart enough to find their way home, so they must work hard all their lives. [vss 12-15]

(Ecclesiastes 10:1-15 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 10]

Key phrase—Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction.

[bctt tweet="Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is foolishness likened to dead flies and contrasted with the wise?

What are some ways that foolishness is given importance that doesn't make sense?

How can wisdom benefit any person with any given job? How do the examples given relate to what's said before them?

What else are we told about fools and foolish talk?

Reflection...

Careless words can undo great accomplishments and a person's good standing in life. This is all the more true with today's near instant media exposure. It can be like one loose thread when pulled that unravels the whole garment.

Much in life is beyond our control. When something is unfair we can choose to react or respond. Reaction requires little thought (if any), is driven by emotion, and tends to make things worse rather than better.

A wise response requires applied wisdom. Instead of an emotional outburst, wisdom can produce a passionate, yet measured counter to what's wrong.

Dead flies stink. So also foolishness. This is where wisdom is needed. Only the wisest of all—God—is able to remove what is foolishness in us, if we're willing to allow Him to do so.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When have you said or done rash things you've regretted? What prompted these?

How do you handle situations where you're criticized, treated unfairly, or insulted?

Have you learned how to handle criticism and insults in wiser ways than before?

Do you have people in your life who are good examples of wise living? Are you willing to learn from them and their example?

Time, Fairness, and Wisdom

"It's not fair!" How many times have moms and dads heard this from their children? It's the usual preface to a complaint related to some disciplinary restriction or denial of a request.

It can be both comical and annoying when a child says it. But when an adult says it, there's usually another meaning, which boils down to—things should be done my way, or seen from my viewpoint.

Many things in this life are unfair, far beyond petty, childish claims of injustice. Some people claim to be victims and maintain a victimized persona, even when they've brought trouble upon themselves.

Tens of thousands in the world are true victims of injustice, who often go unheard and unnoticed. Sadly, their cries for help may be silenced by those who insist on their own way.

Scripture

I also saw other things in this life that were not fair. The fastest runner does not always win the race; the strongest soldier does not always win the battle; wise people don’t always get the food; smart people don’t always get the wealth; educated people don’t always get the praise they deserve. When the time comes, bad things can happen to anyone! You never know when hard times will come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often trapped by some disaster that suddenly falls on them. [vss 11-12]

I also saw a person doing a wise thing in this life, and it seemed very important to me.There was a small town with a few people in it. A great king fought against that town and put his armies all around it. But there was a wise man in that town. He was poor, but he used his wisdom to save his town. After everything was finished, the people forgot about the poor man.But I still say that wisdom is better than strength. They forgot about the poor man’s wisdom, and the people stopped listening to what he said. But I still believe that wisdom is better. [vss 13-16]

Words spoken by the wise are heard more clearly

than those shouted by a leader among fools.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war,

but one fool

can destroy much good.

[vss 17-18]

(Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 9]

Key phrase—Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one fool can destroy much good.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one fool can destroy much good."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are some things noted as unfair in these verses?

What are two things than can happen to anybody over time?

What is the injustice done in the story of the wise man and the city?

In the face of injustice, what does King Solomon claim is better? Why?

Reflection...

When injustice exists, someone or some thing is the cause. Inordinate amounts of time and energy are often spent on assigning blame and finding fault.

This blame-game plays out in households and within businesses, but also escalates into national and global scenarios.

By far, more time is spent shouting about injustice than resolving it. Loud-mouthed fools may hold center stage for a time, but wisdom will prevail. The One who is all-wise will see to it.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When have you seen true injustice? Did you do anything to help resolve it?

How have you handled what appears to be unfairness or an unjust situation in your own life?

Do you seek ways to move beyond what seems unjust or unfair in life?

How do you react when you see injustice? Do you complain about it, or are you moved with compassion to do something about it?

Things We Can't Understand

It's said that curiosity killed the cat. Perhaps. But curiosity is a driving force in life and for scientific discoveries.

If we never risked looking beyond the obvious and status quo, there would be no significant progress in what's important to our lives now.

Still, many things remain unknown and beyond our grasp to understand. Could this be intentional on God's part? If so, why?

Scripture

When a sentence against a crime isn’t carried out quickly, people are encouraged to commit crimes. A sinner may commit a hundred crimes and yet live a long life. Still, I know with certainty that it will go well for those who fear God, because they fear him. But it will not go well for the wicked. They will not live any longer. Their lives are like shadows, because they don’t fear God. [vss 11-13]

There is something being done on earth that is pointless. Righteous people suffer for what the wicked do, and wicked people get what the righteous deserve. I say that even this is pointless. So I recommend the enjoyment [of life]. People have nothing better to do under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves. This joy will stay with them while they work hard during their brief lives which God has given them under the sun. [vss 14-15]

When I carefully considered how to study wisdom and how to look at the work that is done on earth (even going without sleep day and night), then I saw everything that God has done. No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun. However hard a person may search for it, he will not find [its meaning]. Even though a wise person claims to know, he is not able to grasp it. [vss 16-17]

(Ecclesiastes 8:11-17 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 8]

Key phrase—No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun

[bctt tweet="No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What seems to be the result when there's no consequence to a crime?

What is said to be the benefit for those who fear God over those who don't?

What is recommended as a break from hard work? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

What will remain beyond the understanding of the wisest people? Why?

Reflection...

I'm thankful for people who were curious for the benefit of all humanity. Think of the things we use every day that didn't exist fifty years ago. How about 500 years ago?

It's hard to comprehend the rapid advance of modern technology over the past few decades. Most of us can't keep up with it all. Yet with all these advances, humanity has not solved the problem of violence and evil in the world. Theories exist for resolving these problems, but they go unchecked in many parts of the world today.

Some things remain beyond our understanding, like how to cure cancer or HIV/AIDS. Other things seem to defy solutions, such as human evil, violence, and hatred.

Why would God allow this?

If no mystery existed, most everyone would be complacent and apathetic about such things. We would have no wonder or awe. We would see no need for a relationship with God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How do you view injustices in the world? Do you see them as humanity's problem, or God's neglect or indifference?

Have you ever suffered wrong or injustice? If so, how did you handle it?

Are you able to disengage from work and the problems of the world to enjoy life?

When you can't understand things in life, are you able to trust these things to God?

Looking for Answers

What do you think? Are people by nature good or bad? Wait! Before you answer, consider that this is a centuries-old debate.

People with credentials may speak with authority when they give their opinion, but it's still just their opinion. Opinions don't resolve debates, they tend to polarize the debate.

An important part of the discussion, if you want to move beyond mere debate, is to define terms. What's the basis for goodness? How do you define human nature?

Scripture

Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. But wisdom can make one person stronger than ten leaders in a city. Don’t listen to everything people say. You might hear your own servant saying bad things about you. And you know that many times you too have said bad things about other people. [vss 19-22]

I used my wisdom and thought about all these things. I wanted to be wise, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. I studied and I tried very hard to find true wisdom. I tried to find a reason for everything. I did learn that it is foolish to be evil, and it is crazy to act like a fool. [vss 23-25]

I also found that some women are dangerous like traps. Their hearts are like nets, and their arms are like chains. It is worse than death to be caught by these women. God’s followers should run away from them. Let the sinners be caught by them. The Teacher says, “I added all this together to see what answer I could find. I am still looking for answers, but I did find this: I found one good man in a thousand. But I did not find even one good woman. “There is one other thing I have learned. God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad.” [vss 26-29]

(Ecclesiastes 7:19-29 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness

[bctt tweet="I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about people in general and the value of wisdom?

What advice is given about what people say, and what is the basis for this advice?

What did King Solomon find out in his search for wisdom and reason for life?

What was Solomon still looking for, and what did he learn about God and people?

Reflection...

An opinion is a belief based on a subjective point of view. Why is it subjective? Because it's a personal point of view.

In the very beginning of humanity, when God created the universe, it was all good. Not good in the way that expression is used today. Everything created was genuinely good, pristine, and in right order.

God is the only true standard of goodness. However, the world around us is no longer in pristine condition, regardless of your opinion on climate change. And, the population of the world does not live in harmony with one another or their environment.

Our view of people and life in general is jaded. It's jaded because we have a hard time seeing beyond ourselves and our own point of view. Solomon was onto something when he said— God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad (verse 29).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your view of human nature, God, and goodness? What do you base this on?

If you've been living for a while, how has your view of life and human nature changed?

What areas in life are you still seeking answers? What are you sure about? Why?

Where do you seek wisdom? How has the wisdom you've gained in life helped you?