Little me, big problems. Is there hope?

studying - book and pencil

My students and I have been talking about cheating and academic dishonesty over the last couple weeks. The more we discuss it, the bigger and more complex the problem seems. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that seems to allow no escape. Plus, cheating in the classroom is intertwined with corruption, manipulation and lying that happens everywhere else. Children who learn to “work the system” become adults who continue the behavior.

Sometimes we feel so small, and the problem seems so big.  Even those of us who want to do the right thing seem to get pulled back into wrong behavior. Is there any hope?

There is hope for us through a relationship with God.  That sounds like something very theoretical or unreal, but Proverbs chapter 2 gives us a window into some of the practicalities of looking for wisdom and developing a relationship with God.

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
It starts with a choice. There are so many distractions–cell phones, friends, homework, and entertainment just to name a few. But we can make a choice to “tune” ourselves to God’s wisdom. Instead of trying to solve all our problems ourselves, we need to realize that there is a God who is able to be actively involved in our lives. He has wisdom that can help us make the right decision, even if it’s not the easy decision. However, we need to make the decision that we want God’s help and that we are willing to follow his counsel. It’s been said that you shouldn’t ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to. Asking for widsom without accompanying willingness to obey God won’t help. Notice that this includes our heart–the center of our decision-making–as well as our mind. One practical step we can take to seek God’s wisdom is to read the book of Proverbs because it was written “to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth” (Proverbs 1:4).
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
It continues with prayer. Many times I think something is important to me, but then I can see from my actions that it’s actually not. For example, I used to think that cleaning my car was imporant to me, but after years of driving a dirty car, I finally had to admit to myself that it’s just not a priority for me. It’s the difference between what I should care about and what I actually care about. The same goes for wisdom. I might say that I want wisdom from God, but how do my actions show it? When I really need something from God, I talk to him in prayer about it. And when I’m really serious, I raise my voice. This might not be the way you normally pray, but it is how God invites us to pray to him for his wisdom.
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

God will answer. This takes faith to believe because we don’t want to start a journey that will end in failure. But the Bible clearly teaches that God “exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus taught us that the one who seeks will find. The good news is that wisdom is something God is willing to give if we take the steps previosly mentioned in Proverbs 2.

he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
We reap the benefits of a relationship. Notice that there are good things we get from God: wisdom, protection, guideance. The flip side is that we must obey him (“walk in integrity”). So many times we are looking for the benefits of a relationship with God without being willing to do what he teaches. For us, this means making the choice to walk in integrity and trust that God will in turn protect and guide us.
delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
We find that God is bigger than our problems. Society may never change. Cheating, corruption and dishonesty will undoubtedly continue in some form or another. But God can lead us through it. How? you might ask. I don’t know. But I know the One who does know.  When a young man asked Jesus how to get eternal life, Jesus did not give him a system or a list of rules. Instead, he offered a relationship: leave your old life and come follow me. That’s the way God works. His wisdom comes through actively seeking and developing a relationship with him.

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