“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches . . .” – Jeremiah 9:23
You may recall the amazing story which gained a great deal of publicity several years ago, about Oceola McCarty (1908-1999), a local washerwoman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi who became The University of Southern Mississippi’s most famous benefactor. “She drew global attention,” according to Wikipedia, “after it was announced in July 1995 that she had established a trust which at her death, a portion of her life’s savings would be left to the university to provide scholarships for deserving students in need of financial assistance. The amount was estimated at $150,000, a surprising amount given her low-paid occupation.” In 1998 Oceola, who only had a sixth-grade education, received an honorary degree from USM, along with scores of other awards and honors, all in recognition of her humble and unselfish spirit.
You may also recall another story which gained a great deal of publicity thousands of years ago, about King Solomon, who in his day was considered the wisest, richest and most powerful person on earth. What great potential he had, given such wisdom, wealth and power. Yet, as we know, Solomon spent much of his life squandering these great gifts on sensual living, and abusing his leadership power by overworking and excessively taxing his people. Only in his later years did he recognize the error of his ways as expressed in an essay known as the Book of Ecclesiastes. “All of it is meaningless,” he confessed about the way he had squandered his life, “a chasing after the wind.” In some ways I suspect Solomon wished he had lived his life the way Oceola had lived hers.
Then there was the man I once had the privilege of working with, a man gifted with tremendous intellect like Solomon, earning multiple advanced and professional degrees, and becoming a distinguished member of his profession. Except, unlike Solomon, he also possesses that same humble and unselfish spirit as Oceola, claiming no credit for his many accomplishments, crediting them instead as gifts from God. And wasn’t that the Lord’s message to Jeremiah? “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.”