“The strong will beat the weak, but the smart will beat the strong.”

That’s one of my memories from the time I taught at the old Redemptorist High School in the Irish Channel of New Orleans in 1972-73. I used to hear Skeeter Theard, the Rams’ legendary baseball coach, say that a lot. He attributed the quote to a character played by Jimmy Cagney in a movie from the 1930s. Many days at lunch Coach Theard would launch into one of his stories, usually about baseball, and wind it up with the “moral”: “Well, like Jimmy Cagney said, ‘The strong will beat the weak, but the smart will beat the strong.’” I couldn’t always relate it exactly to his story, but I did remember the saying. And I was rather surprised when I found the same thought in Scripture: “A wise man is more powerful than a strong man, and a man of knowledge than a man of might” (Proverbs 24:5). And Ecclesiastes 9:16 says, “Wisdom is better than might.”


I think it was sometime in the early seventies that I started to sense that I should pray daily and diligently for the gift of wisdom. About that time I “discovered” and devoured the Wisdom Books of Scripture, comprising about one-third of the Old Testament. I felt the Lord showing me that wisdom was the most important thing I should ask for, and I should make it a priority to do that. I identified with Solomon in his great desire for wisdom; I only wish I could identify with him in the attainment of wisdom!


If the wisdom of Solomon was indeed proverbial, Jesus made it clear that “one greater than Solomon is here” (cf. Matt. 12:42). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are contained in Jesus (cf. Col. 2:3). St. Paul says that “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24). Specifically, it is the “word of the cross” of Christ that makes foolish the wisdom of the world, because “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). May we constantly yearn to “gain Christ and to be found in him…to know him and the power of his resurrection” (cf. Phil. 3:8-10). May Jesus, Eternal Word and Eternal Wisdom, fill us with his Spirit.


First, ask for it with faith. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given him.” But we have to ask in complete faith, based on the fact that God promised to give it and He keeps His word. I think that Solomon’s Prayer in Wisdom 9 is the best way that we can ask for this precious gift.  Just look at how it worked for him!

We are told that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). What is “fear of the Lord”? It is respect, reverence, obedience, attentiveness, discipleship, service – all  those things combined would constitute fear of the Lord. Some wisdom can be gained by study and experience, to be sure, but true divine wisdom begins with a humble attitude of heart and spirit. Oh yes, and discipline! Don’t forget discipline, which usually involves pain of some kind (cf. Heb. 12). Scripture presents discipline as an excellent way to get wisdom.

Another way to gain wisdom from the Lord is to listen to wise people who know the Lord…people who have a “history with God” and who have learned at the feet of the Master. We tend to become like the people that we associate with. Scripture says if you  find a wise man, “wear out his doorstep” (cf. Sirach 6:36).


Like Coach Theard and Jimmy Cagney said, “The strong will beat the weak, but the smart will beat the strong.” Let us be smart, or wise, so as to defeat the “strong man” in our lives, the devil –  the enemy of our salvation. And let us pray that the Holy Spirit would fill us and bring  his great gift of wisdom:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray…

O God, who did instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and ever to rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.