Today we started reading from the Book of Wisdom, which was written in Egypt about a century before Christ was born. There was a large Jewish population in Egypt and the book was written to give encouragement to the people who were experiencing persecution and opposition, as well as to offset certain philosophies which were at odds with the Jewish religious approach to reality.
As the Book opens the author is concerned that the people remember a basic truth that God must come first in their lives. Any approach to God which ignores him or puts him in the background, is not wise or sound. Our Lord gives the same warning in the gospel when he speaks of scandals. The word ‘scandal’ literally means a stumbling block or an obstacle. In the gospel it refers to any teaching or action which could cause people ‘to fall down’ or stumble in their approach to God. A scandal would put an obstacle in their way.
The same warning is not without meaning for us today. We live in a society in which values opposed to the Gospel are constantly promoted. Much of the advertising we see and hear, particular in the run up to Christmas, would have us believe that happiness comes from what money can buy. The moral and good purpose of advertising is to allow people a choice among products based on their merit, but most advertising today seeks to create a desire for superfluous things and to make a necessity of luxuries.
The Book of Wisdom teaches us that it is the wise person who chooses to live simply and humbly and who in all things makes sure that God and His values come first in life.