Buy truth, and do not sell wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Great Lent, the Sixth Week, Thursday, Vespers. Proverbs 23:23 from the selection Proverbs 23:15-24:5
The wise virgins told the foolish to go and buy for yourselves, when asked to give some of their oil to the foolish.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. (9) But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:8-9 )
This proverb, which we read today, expresses the same idea. The oil in the lamps represents the grace of the Holy Spirit, from which all Wisdom comes. Without Wisdom, that is God, who is called Wisdom in many places in the Holy Scriptures, we cannot know truth.
We should not give away or sell the grace of God that is within us. In fact, we CANNOT sell or give it away, but we can lose it.
We have bought it – from those who sell. There is only a small amount of time that this market for truth is open to us, and then comes the time when no man can buy or sell, when the eyes no longer see and the body can no longer obey the soul. We buy through our interactions with others in this market.
No man can give the grace of God to another. It is grace which saves us, gives us wisdom, heals us. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan?
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (Luke 10:30-34 )
Those that passed by were unable to impart the healing grace of God to the one stricken by thieves. Only the Samaritan, our Lord Jesus Christ, was able to heal.
The Proverb, and the parables of the wise and foolish virgins, and of the Good Samaritan teach us the same thing about grace. We cannot sell it, or even give it, but we must buy it.
This does not imply that we can earn grace! We just recently read this:
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
The answer to this important question is: nothing, and everything. There is nothing we can use to earn grace, but we can buy it by giving ourselves.
We buy what is precious to us. How do we buy truth? WHAT IS TRUTH, Pilate asked. To buy truth, we must know what it is. It is none other than God abiding in the soul. We purchase it by following after it. This is likened by our Savior to be the way of the Cross.
“… Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 )
We cannot give money for it – what can a man give in exchange for his soul? We give ourselves. The Lord demands our heart. It is all we have to give.
In the Great Canon, the Holy Bishop Andrew of Crete, no doubt cogitating on the ideas contained in the scripture we have just discussed, instructs his soul:
“Watch, my soul! Be courageous like the great Patriarchs, that you may acquire activity and awareness, and be a mind that sees God, and may reach in contemplation the innermost darkness, and be a great trader.“ (Great Canon, Ode 4, Clean Tuesday and the fifth Thursday of Great Lent)
Will we be “great traders”, and buy truth?