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Power & Riches Couldn't Save the Wisest Man on Earth: What You can Learn from his Kryptonite

Every great leader has their Achilles heel. Whether real or fictional, our beloved leaders have their glaring weaknesses...

Beloved bosses, sports icons, and political figures can all have cracks (or gaping chasms) in their portfolio of life. Though we know this, we often turn a blind-eye to the frailties and weaknesses of some of the leaders we idolize in real life.

In the Bible, King Solomon is one such leader: beyond rich, powerful, and sagacious. He is the epitome of the wise king. He truly had everything, yet something brought him down.

Yes, leaders can learn from Solomon, but I believe his life can lead you into better wisdom as well.

Solomon was a true influencer, and his wisdom spread far-and-wide.

The Scriptures detail some interesting stories about Solomon. One in particular highlights his far-reaching splendor.

One day, the story goes, Solomon received a special guest. The Queen of Sheba had arrived to see for herself what she had only heard. Though a royal icon herself, Solomon's splendor, wisdom, and furnishings "took her breath away" (2 Chronicles 9:4).

King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the world in riches and wisdom.

2 Chronicles 9:22

I can't give you an exact number on Solomon's possessions and affluence, but the Bible offers this image: "The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones…" (1 Kings 10:27).

I could easily detail for you all of Solomon's achievements, building projects, and wealth, but I hope the above details will suffice.

He had it all.

The Roots of Wisdom

In an earlier story, God grants Solomon "a wise and discerning heart" when the new king is overwhelmed by the weight of his rule. He recognizes his limitations as a person and asks God to give him the wisdom needed to take care of his people.

It's really a stunning scene, as a normal person may ask for riches, honor, or power over others. Even God recognizes Solomon's humility:

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.

(1 Kings 3:10-12)

As I write this, my son is watching Disney's Aladdin—the original one with Robin William's genie. At this point, the genie is singing about his unlimited powers and showboating what he could offer to Aladdin.

I can't help but think how different Solomon's story would have been if he had seen God as a metaphysical, all-powerful genie. He could have wished for riches or power.

Instead, the king knew his place in the world.

Humility and honoring God's sovereignty were the roots of Solomon's wisdom. He knew he didn't have all the answers and that he could not rule well on his own. Later, Solomon penned these words:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

(Proverbs 3:5-8)

Solomon's foundation was leaning on God's wisdom, not his own. Therefore, God poured out His wisdom freely on this humble man.

As life went on for him, though, things changed.

Enter the Kryptonite

Abundance marked Solomon's life: Riches. Possessions. Entourages.

Many, many wives.

A quick caution: the narrative shows it's Solomon's choices are the root of his failure, not the plurality of his wives. Yes, it does note he had "seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines" (how did he find the time!?), but what follows in the narrative is important:

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

1 Kings 11:4-6

Note the refrain: Solomon "followed" after other things.

This word "follow" implies more than paying attention to something. It means to listen and to obey the commands of that deity. Much like how we follow influencers online and take after their interests and personalities, Solomon in a much deeper way followed the heart and practices of false gods.

(For a little historical context, the Ammonites would sacrifice their own children to the god Molek in worship. As God formed the nation Israel, He wanted them to be different and to worship Him rightly—you will never find a command from God demanding the sacrifice of children to please Himself. His command not to intermarry with foreign wives was not a dig at other ethnicities but a way to protect His children from sin and pain at the time.)

In short, Solomon lost his wisdom. Biblical wisdom is more than head knowledge. It's a humility which says, "I definitely don't have the power or strength to do it all, so I must trust and lean on God instead!"

Though the Biblical narrative does not offer heavy detail on Solomon's decline, we can determine the following about his life:

  • Solomon did follow after God and delight in His commands (for awhile).

  • Solomon had it all: money, power, women, influence, and comfort.

  • Solomon was wise and sought God's wisdom in the toughest of situations.

  • Solomon chose to attach himself with literally hundreds of people not following God.

  • Solomon chose to crowd his heart with other gods.

Wisdom Reexamined

I've often thought about what it would like if all of our mortgage was eradicated, if we had extra income to blow through, or if we had more time and influence.

But looking at Solomon's life, there's a clear warning to all of us: power, money, and influence cannot force a life of true wisdom and meaning.

A life of pleasing God reflects a wisdom that seems unwise to everyone else around them. Jesus, who is called the "wisdom of God," poured His life out for others, lived in poverty, and sacrificed Himself for the world.

Would the world deem Jesus's earthly life a success? Seriously, think about that for a second. Would our culture see the life of Jesus as meaningful according to our own standards of success? (I will be releasing more on this in the near future!)

Externally, Jesus had a hard life. But internally, His heart never strayed from following and knowing His Father.

I want to be like that. I want to know God and to lean on Him even when others see it as "unwise." When the whole world is sacrificing their time and energy at the altar of success, I want to sacrifice success for the wisdom of God.

Solomon may have had a better start than most of us, but I believe God has left us these stories so we would choose life rather than Solomon's kryptonite.


Further Reading & Listening

This article was updated on November 26, 2020

Jordan Hopkins

Jordan is a freelance content writer and educator. He is passionate about serving others and amplifying their narratives through quality writing. You can find him hanging with his family, fishing, playing guitar, and grinding the best beans for his morning coffee.