In our house, the right tool of the job is usually considered to be the tool that gets the job done. I’m sure that professionals would cringe at the use of a screwdriver as a prybar (or as a chisel), as well as using a power drill – rather than a saw – to cut a slot in drywall. Still, even when using the “wrong” tool for the job gets the work done, it’s rarely as effective as using a tool that was specifically designed for the current situation.
I ran across this passage from Isaiah, which reminds us that we don’t always need to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, so to speak:
For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
Nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin;
But dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club.
Grain for bread is crushed,
Indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever.
Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it,
He does not thresh it longer.
This also comes from the Lord of hosts,
Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.
Isaiah 28:27-29 NASB
As I read this passage, using excessive brute force to process agricultural products is more or less self-evident. Any early farmer who tried to accelerate the de-husking process with more force, or over-threshed his crops in order to try and extract just a little more usable grain, should have only made that mistake once, and then learned from it. (And, for those who don’t grow their own food, here’s an example from technology: If I need to change the SIM card in my smartphone, I may be able to use a hammer to pound on the device until the back panel comes off, but the phone probably won’t be worth much afterwards.)
Still, no matter if we learn from knowledge of how the world works, or from negative experiences (whether our own, or others’), God ultimately provides us with that wisdom. As many great thinkers of the Renaissance, who believed that the world was orderly because God had made it so, we can acknowledge that all knowledge comes from the One who gives us intellect in the first place.
Backing up a few verses, the lead-in to this passage makes the same thing clear:
Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed?
Does he continually turn and harrow the ground?
Does he not level its surface
And sow dill and scatter cummin
And plant wheat in rows,
Barley in its place and rye within its area?
For his God instructs and teaches him properly.
Isaiah 28:24-26 NASB
There is a lot to be learned from this chapter, but let’s consider a few bits of wisdom that we can take away from it, especially in context of other wisdom that God has shared throughout the Bible:
- God’s wisdom is the best. (See Romans 11:33) No matter the number of advice, self-help, and “miracle solution” books (or Internet articles) that may be written, God will still be wiser and more knowledgeable. Because God’s wisdom is combined with His love for each of us (rather than those who spout lofty-sounding suggestions in order to gain YouTube followers, book sales, or just the accolades of others), we will also find God’s advice to be superior to man’s in its applicability to our living a whole and complete life.
- Don’t just bulldoze your way through life. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance to know when to hold strong, when to yield, and when to stop. (See John 14:26 and Romans 15:13.) God did mighty things for His people through Samson, as well as through Samuel. He helped both Joshua and Jonah. Even David was a shepherd and songwriter sometimes, as well as a soldier and slinger at other times.
- Be gracious, even with wisdom. When sharing truth with others, the “blunt instrument” approach isn’t always appropriate. (See Colossians 4:6) There are people in situations – whether they are mourning, struggling, or simply confused – who simply aren’t ready to hear your sage advice. Certainly, there is a time to sow God’s wisdom into a ready heart, so that the recipient can grow or heal. However, knowing the right thing to offer at the right time takes insight beyond the limits of our humanity.
- True strength is power under control. (See Matthew 26:53) This combination is sometimes defined as “meekness”, but – unlike some modern definitions – that is not a lack of power, but rather the control of it. The opposite of power under control includes flying off the handle and acting (or overreacting) inappropriately when we find ourselves in challenging circumstances. That rarely accomplishes anything of lasting value. This sort of errant behavior may show that we have the ability to hurt others or break things, but it also shows that we lack the ability to manage our own selves.
So, while I encourage you to learn from the wisdom of others – especially those who have followed God’s leading for many years – don’t let anything take the place of God’s wisdom. Read about it in His word (the Bible), listen for it through the insight of the Holy Spirit, and watch for His leading in circumstances.
Learn when to use the right tool for the job, and when the job is done. Otherwise, all you’ll have left after a life of striving to get more, is chaff.