One of the smartest guys in history didn’t have a very high opinion of human wisdom. The Apostle Paul uttered the inspired phrase, “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.”
So why are we still obsessed with man’s wisdom?
I know I am: In my work as a consultant, I read the latest books of leadership and teamwork. I can’t resist articles that promise to reveal “7 Secrets of Lasting Change,” or “How to Get Your Way While People Think They Are Getting Theirs.” And don’t try to tell me you’re not a sucker for this stuff either. Instead of the radically foolish act of following Jesus, most of us hunger for the latest insights from Psychology Today, the Harvard Business Review or Cosmo.
Yet in chapter after chapter, the story-rich message of scripture lifts up the example of fools following God:
- The “Father of nations” tried to kill his only son.
- God backed a deceitful schemer to carry the promise of blessing to the nations.
- In order to become the prime minister of Egypt, God engineered a career path of slavery and prison.
And we’re not even out of the first book of the Bible:
- Israel’s deliverer and lawgiver was slow of speech and apparently had a temper.
- The man after God’s own heart was an adulterer and murderer.
- To demonstrate God’s love, one prophet married a prostitute.
And when God decided to pay us a personal visit:
- He was smuggled to earth in the womb of teenage girl.
- He avoided all certification and authorization from the authorities.
- He considered his shameful and horrifying death the pinnacle of his mission.
I know: Every one of these actions proved successful. But how many of us embrace them as our model for life? We celebrate their successes without celebrating the foolishness that paved the way.
One final example: In my years as a pastor, I picked up a graduate degree along the way. I read many books by the learned and the wise among Christianity. Here, at last, I found the wisdom of God, right? Not so much, it turns out. Academics love the lofty, erudite preaching at Mars Hill, even though the scripture describes it as ineffective. The city of Corinth is described again and again in scholarly journals as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” (to steal a phrase), even though it became the birthplace of one of the largest churches in the first century. I never—not once—read a practical application of Paul’s view of wisdom found in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 (go ahead and read it, I’ll wait).
What if part of the wood, hay and stubble destined for destruction is the wisdom of the wise?
It’s been said that God’s Kingdom is an upside-down kingdom, but what if we are the ones standing on our heads? Romans 14:17 describes God’s kingdom as two-thirds relationship and one-third emotion. Where is rationality and the cunning of men?