Skip to main content

Accepted wisdom

Accepted wisdom.

Something to read

I will show you; listen to me; what I have seen I will declare—what sages have told, and their ancestors have not hidden.

- Job 15:17-18.

Something to think about

As they try to come to terms with Job’s sufferings, his friends resort to the accepted wisdom: ‘what sages have told and their ancestors have not hidden’. This is the traditional wisdom that has been handed down from generation to generation.

Such ‘wisdom’ still exists. We come across it when something is spoken of as self-evidently true and used to explain why a person or group is suffering. We can often identify it by when someone talks about ‘they’ - often accompanied by the word ‘always.’

The power of this ‘wisdom’ was such that Job’s friends could not move past it to really listen to Job’s experience. The only cure for such flawed wisdom is, in fact, good listening.

Something to do

As you read the newspaper, listen to the news or hear people speaking, listen for phrases like ‘they always ...’. How often is ‘accepted wisdom’ used in a way to explain the way people are or something has happened?

Something to pray

Have mercy on me, O Lord,

for I have often made assumptions about people,

how they think and behave.

Give me opportunity for real engagement,

and open me to new understandings.


Peter McDowell is a lecturer in Missiology with Practical Theology at Belfast Bible College. Previously he has been a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and worked in Nepal.