Proverbs 4:7 says,

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

In this proverb there is a very clear link between wisdom and understanding. Understanding is to get to the heart of the matter, to see things clearly, to see things as they really are. It’s the image of a doctor who has properly diagnosed an illness. What happens if a doctor rushes the diagnosis or gets the diagnosis wrong? Everything that follows, the medication and treatment, instead of being helpful, becomes harmful. What we learn here is that if you don’t have understanding then you can’t truly make wise choices that bring about life and goodness.

So how do we gain understanding?

1. We listen.
Proverbs 1:5 says,

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.

Listening is an essential part of becoming wise. If we do not truly listen to someone, we cannot truly understand them, and we won’t be able to truly serve them. We need to practice the art of listening, not just giving people time to talk, but in actually engaging with what they say. We need to listen to one another and the people in our community if we truly wish to serve them.

2. We are honest.
There’s no point in listening if what’s being said is not true. It reminds me of the Emperor’s New Clothes. An emperor is told that his new outfit is incredible when, in fact, he is completely naked. He listens, but he listens to a lie. The result? He ends up out on the streets, in front of all the people, in all his glory. It’s a funny story, but a heart- breaking reality, when we are not honest with people, we lead them into foolish choices!

Ephesians 4:15 tells us,

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

The scriptures talk about how we are to be honest with each other, our honesty is to be marinated in love. We are honest, not to cause harm or hurt, but to serve. Did you catch what Paul says? It leads to maturity. As we are lovingly truthful, we are not crushed by the truth, nor do we make foolish choices, instead we become mature in every respect. Honesty without love is brutal, love without honesty is deceiving but honesty with love can be a powerful way to serve.

So, what does this mean? As a church, we need to understand where we are if we are to make wise choices about where we go in the future. We need to listen more than we speak so we can truly understand one another, but when we do speak, we need to be lovingly honest, so that we can best serve one another, this church and this community.