"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”” (1 Corinthians 3:18–20, NASB95)
We live in a world where it is common to be told how we should think, and we are even ostracized if we dare not think or speak in that same manner. In general, we all have a desire to be thought well of and to have something valuable to offer other people. In our passage for today, Paul is not speaking of this good innate desire, but rather he is speaking of the arrogance that we see and find so distasteful and for which we are to guard against in ourselves. Being on Facebook as a social media platform, I see all sorts of things posted, and it is not uncommon to see something posted by someone who is so forceful in their expression that they put down anyone who disagrees. This is particularly so when it comes to views on gender identity, relationships and politics. The bottom line is that every person has an opinion, and there is clearly a wide chasm generated when those opinions alienate people because of how strongly they attack or malign those who disagree. Without a standard of truth there is really nothing to say that any single viewpoint is either right or wrong. And, when speaking without a foundation we can easily see how foolish one person’s view seem in relation to ours.
In this passage today, we read that these “wise” people who espouse or advocate their positions further entrench themselves in their stance by their own words and the support of those who similarly agree. It becomes a self-feeding structure that reinforces itself by selectively hearing that which best supports their position. Things can even be called proven science or fact, when in reality it may be little more than a strongly held idea. become science when in fact science may indeed say something different or may even be itself silent. And, what is determined as scientific fact really at times is nothing more than a preponderance of people coming together to agree on what may really in scientific terms be nothing more than an unproven hypothesis indicated by a symptomology without a proven cause.
Many try to boast in themselves or their ideals. They can speak with authority, even be quite knowledgeable, and appear wise in what we say. But Paul says that this kind of wisdom has no eternal value. It won’t save anyone. The real way to find answers is to humble ourselves and listen to the One who is eternally existent and is in fact the Creator of all that exists. In simple terms, the way to become wise is to become as a fool in order to learn from the One who is infinitely wise. There is so much that we don’t understand and there are so many pieces that we cannot put together, but God is knows everything without limitation, and He has revealed Himself to us. There is nothing that man can bring to God to cause Him to learn. But for us to really learn, we need to go to Him and let Him teach us. We need to let our minds be absorbed in His truth and His Spirt become the counselor of our hearts.
In our passage for today we read, ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.” Before Robin and I got married we had both been drawn to a particular passage of Scripture, which is Proverbs 3:5-6. And, it has been the principles of this passage that have been so much a part of our lives as we have walked together for 38 years through so many different things. It reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95) Even now it is Him that we are heavily relying on as we are looking to the possibility of a move and the opening of an exciting and even intimidating new opportunity for ministry. There are many answers that we do not have but having it all figured out is not our standard for moving forward with God. What we are called to do is to seek Him for His leading and having that to step forward trusting Him to take care of the stepping stones along to way as He truly does direct our steps. He provides the principles by which we live. We then are to trust Him as we live by those principles and do what He has given us to do even making decisions that don’t have every “i” dotted or “t” crossed.
The world, however, does not work this way. We continue to read, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” The world schemes and walks according to its scheming. Man, apart from God, is about devising his own path and then figuring out ways to get to his desired end. The reality is that God knows the intent of every person’s heart, and He knows just how futile all of these intents are apart from Him. People may garner a great amount of wealth and admiration in the world, but one day they will die, and all of this will be gone. They will stand before God with absolutely nothing to offer because the reality is that their way might have helped them navigate this life, but it had no ability to bring them into His presence.
“But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth and sends water on the fields, so that He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd, so that their hands cannot attain success. He captures the wise by their own shrewdness, and the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted. By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night. But He saves from the sword of their mouth, and the poor from the hand of the mighty. So the helpless has hope, and unrighteousness must shut its mouth.” (Job 5:8–16, NASB95)
“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:7–9, NASB95)