Parmenas

As much as we would like to know more about the Seven first “deacons” of the church in Jerusalem, for most of them, we are limited to knowing just their names. Parmenas is one of those. His name is a shortened form of Parmenides. The legends surrounding his story are too late and too conflicting to trust, but that’s alright. The scriptures tell us three things, and that’s enough. He was “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Since we have already spent time contemplating what it means to have a good reputation and how we can identify someone full of the Holy Spirit, let’s consider the virtue of wisdom.

“Sophia” is the Greek word for wisdom, and it describes “the capacity to understand and function accordingly.”[1] Wisdom is more than just the accumulation of knowledge. It is the ability to apply that knowledge. A person might know a great deal and still be a fool. Much of the Old Testament is devoted to acquiring wisdom. The book of Proverbs begins:

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 

   To know wisdom and instruction, 

to understand words of insight, 

   to receive instruction in wise dealing, 

in righteousness, justice, and equity; 

   to give prudence to the simple, 

knowledge and discretion to the youth— 

   Let the wise hear and increase in learning, 

and the one who understands obtain guidance, 

   to understand a proverb and a saying, 

the words of the wise and their riddles (Proverbs 1:1 – 6).

Isaac Asimov observed: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” So how do we become wise like Parmenas and the other six? Confucius said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Terry Pratchett shared, “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of a lack of wisdom.” On the other hand, I like this corollary: “True wisdom comes from experience, but it doesn’t always have to be yours.”

How do we know we have become wise? The color of your hair often reveals it! (“It’s not grey. It’s silver!”) I believe it comes as we meditate on our experiences, guided by the insights of the Holy Spirit. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we may not understand why something is dangerous, but by faith, we accept his guidance, and, in time, we will understand the outcomes.

  [1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 934). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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