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Wisdom & Wonder, Week 5: Work and Words

Introduction:

Our two Wise Up chapters for this week are “Looking to the Ants” (Week 8, p. 87) and “Honesty is the Best Policy” (Week 11, p. 125).  Diligence and Speaking Truth are the subtitles, and the two concepts can be combined under a single heading: Integrity.  A person should act true as well as speak truth: “He’s as good as his word” indicates a person who will do as he says, no matter how difficult.  “Her word is her bond” means that she will deliver on what she promised.

Diligence means following through on commitments or responsibilities—specifically, keeping at a task until it’s done.  Proverbs has a lot to say about diligence, beginning with the lowly ant (Prov. 6:6-11: “Go to the ant, you lazybones! Consider her ways and be wise”).  As you go through the Wise Up study, you’ll see that diligence is not just a means of gaining wealth or living an orderly life; more importantly, it’s one way we glorify God and exercise his gift of grace.   (Remember that the next time you have to mow the grass!)

Truth seems hard to find these days, especially in this era of “fake news.”  Fake or false can take many forms: partial truths, misleading statements, selective reporting, exaggerations, or out-and-out lies.  God hates all of it, as Prov. 6:16-19 shows.  He Himself is true through and through—ultimate truth.  The more we strive for honesty, the more we reflect this essential facet of his character.  Our Wise Up chapter identifies lying as a common human failing and acknowledges how difficult it is to tell the truth sometimes.  That’s partly because of the source—the lying habit may have deeper roots than you suspect.  But there is a remedy for our truth problem, and it’s 100% guaranteed.

Additional Proverbs for this week:  15:19, 16:26 (on Diligence); 3:32, 23:23, 17:15 (on Honesty)

General Discussion Questions and Activities

Tomorrow we’ll post a list of books for all ages with applications to this theme.  You can probably think of others.  Here are some general questions you might apply to the story:

  • What’s the central struggle or conflict of the story?
  • How does the main character exercise diligence to achieve an end?  What setback occur and how does the character overcome them?
  • Who is the most truthful character?  Who is the least?  Do any characters lie to themselves?
  • Do any plot developments depend on lying?  What sort of lies are they—Malicious? Careless? Prankish?  Necessary to a character’s aims?
  • In John 2:47 Jesus describes his disciple Nathanael as one “in whom there is no guile”—in other words, without pretention or hypocrisy.  Do any of the characters in this book “have no guile”?
  • Find a Proverb that directly reproves a character’s lack of diligence or honesty.  Imagine a conversation in which you explain the proverb and try to correct the character’s behavior.
  • Do the coin-sorting machine exercise on p. 89 of Wise Up.  Can you think of any other activities (such as a team sport or a group chore) where a sluggard gums up the works?
  • “True or False” activity on p. 127: discuss the kinds of lies that might “bend the wire”—deliberate ones, thoughtless ones, flattering ones, etc.  Can you think of specific examples in your reading or real life?

Anchor Discussion questions and activities

For Wise Words:

  • In “The Farmer’s Treasure,” the farmer and his wife seem to gain the whole world and are sure they will be rich. How do their expectations affect their daily life on the farm? What do they lose in the end?
  • In “The Magical Walnut,” the woodsman continues to work after his kindness to the squirrel brings blessing on his family. What is the significance of only taking one walnut per week? (Hint: Do we have a weekly source of blessing?)
  • In “The Cloud of Birds,” the farmer and his wife prosper as long as they take care of the birds in their barn. But when they begin to make excuses to avoid responsibility, they try to blame natural causes for their loss of wealth. How do you think this applies to us?
  • What is the end of Braxton Hicks, whose words were mightier than his works?

For The Wilderking Trilogy:

  • How do Aidan’s followers exhibit hard work and diligent preparation for a coming battle? How do they differ from King Darrow’s soldiers? (Way of the Wilderking)
  • What are the consequences of the letter Maynard sends to King Darrow in which he claims that Aidan is setting himself up as king? How is Maynard twisting the truth about Aidan in this letter? How is Maynard lying outright in this letter–particularly in the last line? (Secret of the Swamp King)

For The Playmaker and The True Prince:

  • During Richard’s first days in the theater, he feels like an ant!  With only the faintest idea of the big picture, he’s frantically running here and there, checking the posted “plot” for cues, dropping lines and pikestaffs, tripping over his own feet.  How does he show diligence in his work, and how is it rewarded?
  • How does Kit’s lack of diligence in his profession in The True Prince hinder the entire company?
  • In what ways did an Elizabethan actor have to exercise diligence?
  • Honesty is not just a matter of what you say—what lesson does Richard learn about his actions in Chapter 7 (“A Foothold,” p. 101)?  What character shows the most dishonesty?
  • In both novels, what characters play roles off the stage?  Is it okay to pose as someone you’re not, or to lie for a good cause, such as solving a crime?
  • In The Playmaker, is Starling’s story about her father a “lie”?  Why or why not?
  • Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts.”  Richard seems to recognize this at the end of The Playmaker, where he makes a commitment to tell no more lies.  Does he keep this commitment directly after?  Or in The True Prince?
  • Would you like to be an actor?  Write a rough schedule of a typical day for Richard Malory, drawing especially from The Playmaker, pp. 70-75.  Which aspects of theater life would it be hardest for you to be diligent about?
  • Kit’s friend Captain Penny agrees with Shakespeare’s Falstaff that “Honor is a mere scutcheon!”  When Kit decides to give up on “honor,” is he being more honest, or just cynical?  What’s the difference?
  • At the end of The True Prince, Kit says he desires to keep his name.  What does this mean in terms of honesty?   Write a brief dialogue in which you visit him in jail and encourage him.  In relation to the True or False activity on Wise Up page 127, how do you think he could get his good reputation back?
  • The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, but it becomes very important to Richard’s story.  Find a re-telling of The Winter’s Tale, such as Tales of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, Stories from Shakespeare by Marchette Chute, or William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale by Bruce Coville.  Marcia Williams includes The Winter’s Tale in her comic-book style Tales of Shakespeare.  What deceits appear in this play, and are any of them justified?  Specifically, how does Leontes deceive himself?

Special Drawing Challenge:

  • Illustrate a Proverb reflecting diligence, using one of the Key Proverbs in Wise Up, or one of the additional verses listed above.
  • In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One, Falstaff famously declares that “Honor is a mere Scutcheon!” (Act V, Scene 2).  A “scutcheon” is an emblem representing a family, typically displayed at funerals or on a coat of arms.  Falstaff is implying that honor doesn’t mean anything once you’re dead.  Design a scutcheon for your family, representing a true view of honor.

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