You hold in your hand a blank check.1 The check isn’t from your bank; it doesn’t connect to your account. But the check has been given to you. It’s for you to fill out the “To” line, and for you to fill out the “amount” line. It’s all up to you.
Wouldn’t it be a powerful feeling to have a blank check? You can use it for anything you want, you can give it to anyone you want. The possibilities would be exciting, but they’d also be kind of overwhelming.
I mean, obviously, you could make the check out to yourself. There’d be lots of good reasons for doing that. You could pay some pesky bills, fix a few things around the house, make sure that everyone has all the clothes and food they need. You could pay for whatever you need, and maybe you’d even have enough left to help some others!
Of course, you could just write the check directly to someone else. You could give it to the church; you could write it to some other charity for people in need; you could directly help out someone you knew who needed it. It would be pretty incredible to have a blank check. What would you use it for?
In our text today, we get to see how someone else responded in a similar situation. No, God didn’t hand King Solomon a check; he gave him something way better. After all, a check is bound by how much money is in the bank. God’s offer was even better. He said, “Solomon, ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Ki. 3:5) Whatever! Just name it and claim it! It’s all yours!
Can you imagine that? Can you even begin to imagine the possibilities? Forget paying a few bills and finishing the car payments. You can just ask for the bank. You can just ask to be in control. You can just make sure you get whatever you want. I mean, this is the kind of stuff usually reserved for stories about genies in lamps. But for Solomon, this was no story! It happened.
But we already read the text before; you know how it turned out. You know that Solomon, when he could’ve gotten anything, asked for wisdom. Wisdom! How boring is that? How could he have blown his chance like that?
But you know that’s not right! You know Solomon didn’t blow it. You know he made the best possible choice. So, would you make the same choice? Would you choose wisdom from God if he offered you anything? You know it’s the right choice. But it probably doesn’t feel like the best choice.
There are a few reasons for that. You might argue that God offered Solomon the chance to ask for anything, and he’s never offered that to us. You might think that Solomon was in a much different situation and he had better reasons to ask for wisdom than we would. You might even think that wealth, today, is just way more important than it used to be, and it’s just plain more important than God’s wisdom.
But here’s what I want us to realize today: wisdom is wealth. God’s wisdom, the wisdom he gives to us is worth literally more than all the treasures of this world put together.
Let’s take a look at God’s Word to see why that’s true. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Ki. 3:5) Here we have Solomon, the son of King David. At this point it wasn’t all that long since David had died, and Solomon hadn’t been king all on his own for very long. But then, kind of out of the blue, God tells him to ask for whatever he wants.
Now, if you want to say that this is a pretty amazing, unique offer from God, you’re right. We’re not told of God making this exact offer in this exact way to others — not to Solomon’s father David, not to kings later on. And the fact that God actually appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered this is special; it’s not something that happened every day, even in the Bible.
But if you think that God has never made even a similar offer, you’re wrong. If you think he’s never made a similar offer to you, you’re wrong. Listen to some of the things Jesus himself says in the Gospels. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matt. 21:22) And again, I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14) Here’s one more, You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (Jn. 15:16) I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.
God has asked you to ask him for anything. He’s told you that you get a chance to go to his throne in prayer, that you, a sinful human being on earth gets to have a direct line to the holy, creator God in heaven and ask for anything you want. Now, it’s true that God is expecting us to ask according to his will, with the understanding that he will provide the answer that is best for us.
But the offer is there. We get to pray to God and be sure that he will answer our prayers! So, what do you ask for when you pray? For wealth? For help? For wisdom? I’ll let you think about that for a bit.
But maybe you think Solomon was just in a completely different world than we are. And in a way that’s true. Listen to Solomon talk about his situation in our text. He said, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, too numerous to count or number. (1 Ki. 3:7-8)
None of you here today are the king of Israel. You don’t have thousands and thousands of people who depend on you. You’re not expected to fight battles against enemies or feed the hungry or be a king, period.
I mean, when you see all Solomon had to do it kind of makes sense what he asked for. He said, Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (1 Ki. 3:9) Yes, Solomon had a lot on his plate. Asking for a discerning heart, for the wisdom to be king made a lot of sense for him.
But do you think you have it easy, compared to Solomon? Sure, you don’t have the same problems, the same day-to-day struggles that he had, and I don’t either. But I don’t think we really have it easy. We live in the same sinful world that Solomon did.
We get hit with health problems. We lose people who are close to us. We have so much to do but seemingly never enough time to do it. We have complicated relationships with huge lists of other people, and we wonder how best to handle those relationships. That’s not to mention the decisions we have to make when it comes to marrying someone or how to raise kids or what to do in our jobs or in school. Our lives are complicated, and we face trouble and difficulty all around us.
But maybe we think, those problems would just go away if we had unlimited funds! We wouldn’t have to worry about bills, about what job we had, about a whole lot of other things, if we just had a big, never-ending pile of cash laying around!
I mean, Solomon was already king at the time he made this request. There’s no reason to believe he was a poor king before this. Maybe a king in biblical times didn’t have to worry about cash flow, while we have to make sure there’s enough in the checkbook to cover what we’re buying that day.
Do we really think, though, that earthly wealth is going to solve all our problems. I read a story recently on different people who had won the lottery. You’d think winning the lottery would be the closest thing to heaven on earth. Millions of dollars! Getting whatever you want! But these were some sad stories. Many of these winners lost everything awfully quickly. Some of them ended up in jail. Some of them ended up killing themselves. Earthly wealth did not save them.
Or, think about the Lord’s prayer. We already heard that prayer is our chance to ask God for anything, to go before his throne. Notice, though, what Jesus put into the Lord’s prayer when he told it to us. In that prayer, there are seven requests that we usually call petitions. Well, in those seven petitions, how many of them ask for earthly stuff, for wealth, and how many of them ask for spiritual blessings?
Only one asks for stuff in this world. Just one. Give us today our daily bread. Even that’s a pretty modest request. All the other requests are about our relationship with God, and our connection to him spiritually.
Wisdom is wealth. True wisdom, wisdom that God gives to us in his word, that is the most valuable thing that we can ever possibly have. Look again at how Solomon asks God for wisdom. Give your servant a discerning heart. (1 Ki. 3:9) Now, “discerning heart” is a perfectly fine way of translating this phrase. But the originally language here literally says, “a listening heart.” I think that’s such a neat way of saying it. Solomon wanted a listening heart that would listen to God for the best way to live his life.
That is exactly the kind of wisdom that I want you to have, and that I want to grow in my whole life. I want us all to have listening hearts, hearts that listen to God in his Word and there find the wisdom we need for this life and the next.
It’s when we listen to God in his Word that we see how to live. We see his commandments. We see how we’re supposed to interact with others and live our lives. But the closer we listen to those commandments, the more we realize we haven’t kept them. We’ve broken them.
The more we listen to God’s Word the more we see a tendency to want physical blessings for ourselves instead of his spiritual blessings. We see how easy it is for us to miss church or not study the Bible, because there’s just always something else that we think we need to do. We see our tendency to to put ourselves first and what we want instead of listening to what God wants.
But as we have a listening heart to God’s Word, we are also pointed to his Son. There, we see Jesus who knew our sins but loved us anyway. We have a God who was willing to give his one and only Son even though we don’t deserve him. We have in Jesus one who was absolutely perfect, perfectly wise, who never made a bad decision. And as we listen to God’s Word, we see Jesus gives that to us. In our baptism we have been covered in Jesus’ righteousness. In Jesus’ death we rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins. In the Lord’s Supper we taste and see that God’s love is real and that it lasts forever and that because of it we share in the eternity of heaven that Jesus won.
So what about our needs now, what about the earthly wealth that we need in our lives, will God give that to us? Yes! He will! Jesus said, Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. (Matt. 6:31-34) God will take care of you in this life, and he will bless you with the next life.
You don’t need the lottery. You don’t need a blank check. You need your Savior. You need to hold on to his promises. So ask God for a listening heart. Ask him to help you listen to his Word and trust in his promises now and forever. That’s wisdom. Wisdom is wealth.