The Root of Wisdom

There’s a little gift from the Lord for each of us.  So many of us have taken this particular gift, kept it neatly wrapped and stuck it high up on a shelf.  We don’t want to even peek inside and see what is in it.  The gift I am referring to is the 7th one the Lord gave to us through the Holy Spirit — after wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge and piety.  That it is mentioned last makes it no less precious.  This gift is fear of the Lord.

Why is fear of the Lord a precious a gift?  We cannot be wise without it.  Psalm 111:10 tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  And Job 28:28 says “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.”  And Sirach 1:18 tells us that “the root of wisdom is fear of the Lord.”  Why do we need wisdom?  Well, according to Psalm 50:21, without wisdom, we would perish like beasts.  ”For all their riches if mortals do not have wisdom, they perish like the beasts.“  Fear of the Lord leads to obedience towards Him.  But “those who fear the Lord disobey not his words“ (Sirach 2:15).  It is when we find ourselves in disobedience and steeped in sin that we are sure to dismiss or even detest the mere mention of fear of the Lord because “…the fear of the Lord is an abomination to the sinner (Sirach 1:22).

It is true that associating fear with God is generally passé in modern times — with a strong preference instead for spreading sweet and sticky messages of “love,” and “God will understand” over everything in order to make us all temporarily feel better. 

It is also true that there is an unhealthy and neurotic type fear that God does not want us to have.  This is why Christ tells us in Matthew 6:25:  “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” 

But fear of the Lord is a different type of fear than that spoken of in Matthew — a healthy holy fear — a fear born from love.  Our love for God can cause us to fear ever separating ourselves from Him through sin.  Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us in the Summa Theologica that “…love causes fear since it is through his loving a certain good that whatever deprives a man of that good is an evil to him… and… he fears it as an evil.”  Saint Thomas assures us of the validity of this type of fear by teaching that this “fear is… borne of love.”  Saint Paul the Apostle tells us in Philippians 2: “in fear and trembling work out your salvation.“  And fear can even make us more charitable towards others.  It was St. Augustine who said “fear leads to the love of charity.” 

There is even reason to view fear of the Lord as a spiritual antidote to financial difficulties.  Fear of the Lord keeps us in check, asking God always if our actions are pleasing in His eyes.  If we want to hold onto our finances, it is wise not to let go of our fear of the Lord.  Once we let go of fear of the Lord, it is easy to be blinded by the chance to make a larger profit and by the struggle for ever-greater wealth.  In that blindness we can sometimes make unwise choices.

For the sake of profit many sin,
And the struggle for wealth blinds the eyes.
Like a peg driven between fitted stones
Between buying and selling sin is wedged in,
Unless you earnestly hold fast to fear of the Lord,
Suddenly your house will come down… (Sirach 27:1-3).

Blindness can likewise lead to unwise choices in our voting.  Abortion is an intrinsic evil.  No evil in this election can surpass the evil that abortion is.  We must vote with a good and formed conscience, as we ask ourselves: what if I was in the womb and the knife was coming for me?  As U.S. Bishop Rene Gracida stated in a recent radio broadcast:

“A Catholic cannot be said to have voted in this election with a good conscience if they have voted for a pro-abortion candidate.  Barack Hussein Obama is a pro-abortion candidate.”

We will be held accountable to God for our voting.  A vote in support of those who vote for abortion, translates into a vote for abortion.  To vote for abortion is to vote in favor of the shedding of innocent blood by Heaven’s littlest ones whom God most especially loves.  This shedding of blood demands justice and if we continue on our current path it would not be at all unreasonable to expect that God will eventually dispense His punishment in His time and in His way, to us as individuals and to us collectively as a nation.

Just as earthly fathers must at times punish children whom they dearly love, so God dispenses punishment on us as His beloved children.  God is love and the dispensation of His just punishment is an act of mercy.  “Justice and mercy appear in the punishment of the just in this world, since by afflictions lesser faults are cleansed in them, and they are more raised up from earthly affections to God…” “The evils that press on us in this world force us to go to God.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 

That little box so neatly wrapped still sits upon the shelf holding that precious gift and gathering dust.  Perhaps the time has come to take the box down from the shelf, blow off the dust, untie the bow, peek inside, and receive the precious gift the Lord has waiting for us that is designed to bring us wisdom — the gift of fear of the Lord.  Before we vote, we must pray and ask God for the wisdom to discern His will, and the strength to vote in accord with that.  We must read our Bibles and Catechisms, to better understand His will and pray for the grace to stop offending God through sin.

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  • Warren Jewell

    The foundation of our fear (awe, really) of our Lord is the same as love for our Lord.

    Wow! He’s God and I’m not!”

    Both fear and love, then, are eternally self-interested very-best ideas.

  • Cooky642

    Perhaps “fear of the Lord” is such an under-used gift (when was the last time you heard a homily on it? can’t remember back that far, can you?) because it is both the seed for and the fruit of love for God.

    It is the seed that grows into love. How can we “love” what we “fear”? My husband’s father was a huge, intimidating man (think linebacker), and yet he was the sweetest teddy-bear I ever knew. When he told anyone to do (or, not to do) something, the force of his size required obedience. On the other hand, “punishment” for failure to obey was his disappointment….and it was worse than any beating. On one level, I was afraid of him; on another, I loved him so dearly that I’d rather die than disappoint him.

    In case you hadn’t guessed, it was he who taught me how to love God.

    “Fear of the Lord” is also the fruit of love. When we love dearly, deeply, we’d rather cut off an arm than disappoint the one we love. We will go to any lengths necessary to “live up to” the expectations of that loved one. And, what is God’s “expectation” of us? He wants us to be saints.

    Dear Warren mentioned “eternal self-interest”. What truly loving father doesn’t want the very best for his child? So, fear of the Lord becomes our truest “self-interest”, the fruit of love.

    Who was it who first said, “Salvation is free, but it costs you everything”.

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