Fools for Wisdom

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 130; 148, 2 Kings 1:2-17, 1 Corinthians 3:16-23, Matthew 5:11-16


What does it mean to be wise? Unlike certain types of intelligence, wisdom is not something we can rate on a scale. Neither is it the same as knowledge, which we can acquire by the ton without finding an ounce of wisdom. The cliché that wisdom comes with experience certainly holds some truth, yet many people manage to experience decades without growing much wiser at all and some young people are what we call wise beyond their years. Though most of us would like to be wise, few of us would honestly describe ourselves as such.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul calls the thoughts of the wise futile. He advises them: “Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.” What could this contradictory message mean?

Worldly wisdom points toward wealth, power, security, and a legalistic kind of justice. God’s wisdom, expressed through the teachings of Christ, points toward humility, mercy, risk, and a kind of justice that is about serving those most in need. The worldly view is often more appealing, and the temptation to twist scripture to rationalize our own desires and prejudices is a strong one. When we interact with the world, particularly if we are called to lead in some way, we should humbly seek God’s will above our own. Our confidence is to be primarily in God, not in our own thoughts and desires. True wisdom tries less to impose itself and more to invite others along.

Acting out of God’s wisdom may make us look foolish to the world, but it also empowers us. When Jeremiah insisted he was too young to be a prophet, God told him: “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.” (Jer 1:7). Is there a sense of freedom in knowing we are not under pressure to be wise, but instead to be listening for and guided by God’s wisdom? After we listen we must still act with integrity, discernment, and accountability – as only a fool can do.

Comfort: 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 (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Challenge: Once in a while consider the possibility that you might be wrong about something you are sure about, and pray on that.

Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 129:23-24)

Discussion: Who do you consider wise?

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