A man once presented a Roman emperor with a gift of three small dolls. The emperor was angered over such a little gift.
“You are mistaken as to its value,” advised the guest. “This is a most unusual gift.” He then handed the emperor a string, telling him that it was part of the gift. “There is a hole in the ear of each doll,” he said. “Put the thread through the hole, and see what happens.”
The emperor was intrigued, and put the string into the ear of the first doll. It went into one ear and out the other. “This is one type of person,” said the man. “Whatever you say to him goes in one ear and out the other.”
The emperor then did the same with the second doll. This time it came out of his mouth. “This is a second type of person,” explained the man. “Whatever you tell him, he tells everyone.”
The process was repeated with the third doll. This time the thread did not appear anywhere. “This is the third type of person,” declared the man. “Whatever you tell him he keeps to himself.”
“Tell me, which type of person is the best?” asked the emperor.
“None of them,” was the reply. Then, the man gave him a fourth doll, and asked that he again put the thread through the ear. He tried several times, and each time the thread reappeared in different places. It came out through another ear, the mouth, and once it did not come out at all.
“This is the best type of person. A person must possess all three traits,” he explained. “He must know when to forget, when to remain silent, and when to speak out.”
In Matthew 10:16, with His followers facing a hostile world, Christ advised them to “be wise as serpents.” The Egyptians used the serpent in their hieroglyphics as a symbol of wisdom. Christ was teaching the same truth. No creature equals them in the rapidity and skill in which they escape harm and danger. Christ is saying that we need caution and wisdom in the midst of an evil world.
In Deuteronomy 4:6, Moses exhorts Israel to be a people of “wisdom.” What is wisdom? It is the Hebrew word chakem, and it means, “decisions and correct judgment.” Wisdom enables us to make right decisions and proper judgments. The word also means, “cunningness used to outwit and outdistance.” God’s wisdom will show us how to be wise as a serpent.
“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great as a knowing fool, but to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom” (Spurgeon).
Dave Arnold, Pastor
Gulf Coast Worship Center
New Port Richey , Florida 34654