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‘An understanding heart’

- Lessons from the Pastor

Have you ever wondered what it was about Solomon that made him so wise, as the biblical record given in I Kings 3 indicates? The chapter shows that it was a special blending of his qualities of understanding and caring, of his mind and his heart. And in preparing Solomon to follow him on the throne, David is quoted as saying, “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts”
(I Chronicles 28:9). 

Evidently Solomon remembered his father’s advice, for soon after Solomon became king he reached out to God with that now famous prayer: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad” (I Kings 3:9).

As a Christian Scientist, I associate what Solomon called an “understanding heart” with the expression of divine Mind and Love, two of the seven terms Mary Baker Eddy uses in her writings as synonyms for God. (The other five are Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, and Truth.) I like to think of Mind and Love as going hand in hand, working together like a pair of equally weighted bookends.

The Bible offers a clear example of how fully God answered Solomon’s prayer—and also indicates how fully Solomon made use of that understanding heart (that blending of understanding and caring, of mindfulness and love), which God gave him. This comes in the story of Solomon discerning who is telling the truth in a dispute between two women, each claiming she is the mother of a newborn child (see I Kings 3:16–28).

Solomon’s solution to this dispute showed an extraordinary blending of imagination and empathy. He called for a sword and said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” This gave the infant’s true mother the opportunity to make her identity obvious by pleading to the king for the life of her child.

This story shows how Mind and Love are interrelated. For, if we only expressed divine Love and did not also express divine Mind, our loving affections could lead us to unjust conclusions. And if we did not express Love, though we expressed Mind, all our knowledge about a situation could do the same. Yet it is actually impossible for Love or Mind to work independently of the other, for both are synonyms of the one God. In fact, all seven synonyms for God can be thought of as always working together harmoniously. The connection between Love and Mind is a good example.

What this suggests is that we cannot really love without truly knowing, and vice versa. We cannot truly love ourselves and others if we do not know ourselves and others as children of God. Likewise, we cannot truly know ourselves and others as children of God if we do not love. This knowledge and this love allow us to heal and live, as the above passage indicates Solomon did, with “an understanding heart.”

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