The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God

The Standard November 19, 2020

In the beginning portion of his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, the Apostle Paul addresses the dangers of the church being divided over its leaders. Ultimately, we follow Christ and not any human being. All ministers should be pointing us to God and discouraging any tendency to elevate themselves. Paul also discusses how spiritual things, the things of God, do not make sense to people who do not follow the Way, the Truth and the Life.

“Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about human leaders!” (1 Corinthians 3:18-21)

Throughout the ages and from place to place, philosophies and schools of thought outside of the Christian realm have varied greatly. Their starting points and presuppositions have included any number of ideas. On the other hand, there has been a remarkable degree of uniformity in fundamental Christian thought around the globe throughout history, despite the fact that Christians have had differences in many of the gray areas or non-essentials. Christians have one written source, which is Scripture as illuminated by the Holy Spirit. At times, aspects of popular philosophies actually might coincide with God’s wisdom, but they never are in complete alignment unless they are rooted in Christ.

The teachings of Jesus often make little sense to the non-Christian.  God came down to earth, fully divine and fully human, to make a way to God. Every human being needs a solution to the problem of their sin. Jesus took the form of a suffering servant rather than that of a strong, military conqueror. He was crucified on a cross for our sins, yet rose from the dead, never to die again. He taught the early disciples a revolutionary approach which they, in turn, taught in person and through letters. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Do not seek your own glory. Do boatloads of good but do not draw attention to it. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Give when it hurts. Aim to please God and not people.

In our current culture there is a strong element of encouraging us to stand up for those who have less power, which is wonderful. More often than not, we also are told to demand what we deserve, to do almost anything with our bodies that feels good to us, to tout our own accomplishments, to seek advantages for ourselves and our families,  and to give prestige to people based on the schools they attend, the things they own and the status they achieve. The message of Jesus generally stands at odds with the wisdom of this world as it relates to power, the innate worth of every human being, sexuality, riches and what we should value. If we find ourselves completely fitting in with what popular culture says is important or correct, we need to reevaluate our way of thinking.

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