Our Wisdom Is Foolishness to God Can we really be wise without considering the author of wisdom? March 16th, 2020 Gary Wiley
Our Wisdom Is Foolishness to God
Our Wisdom Is Foolishness to God Can we really be wise without considering the author of wisdom? March 16th, 2020 Gary Wiley
Bible Engager’s Blog

Boy, we don’t like to hear that! All of our accumulated wisdom from over 7 billion people multiplied over millennia adds up to a bunch of foolishness. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:18-19a, “Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

We are so wise in our own eyes. We have libraries full of books. We have an internet of knowledge that just doesn’t stop. Someone is always writing another book. Someone is always adding more data. Where does it stop? As long as we have life and brains, we will continue to produce more stuff. Sometimes all this “wisdom” makes us seem larger than life and we assume that we are the “end-all, be-all” and we leave no room for the wisdom that comes from God. How does our “wisdom” measure up to the wisdom that God offers? Psalm 94:11 states it clearly: “The Lord knows what we think; he knows how senseless our reasoning is.” We are quick to disparage the wisdom of our forebears (those who lived in a different era), but Paul reminds us of our defect that we consider ourselves wise because we live in this age (the 21st century).

A recent meeting of government officials began with prayer. They were seeking wisdom as to how to deal with an emergency situation. Some criticized this group claiming they were relying on prayer instead of science. Of course, the assumption was that you can’t be wise if you also trust in God. Thankfully, it is not an either/or proposition.

Any wisdom that does not point to God is faulty to begin with. It is based on a shaky foundation, like the house that Jesus describes in Matthew 7—it is built upon sand, and then a storm comes along and it is washed away.

This wisdom, we could call it conventional wisdom, claims that we know best, that we can fix our own mistakes, we can cover our own sins, we justify our actions, we say the right words about wrong things and hopefully no one will be the wiser. What a wake-up call we get when we find out our best laid plans have within them a fatal flaw. We aren’t so wise after all. When we leave out the author of wisdom, it turns out we are more often than not, blowing smoke!

The Bible contains several books classified as “Wisdom Literature.” There we find Job, some of the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and two books that are found in the Deuterocanonicals: Book of Wisdom and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). If you take time to read through these book you will find reference after reference to wisdom, to the source of wisdom, and how without this wisdom our lives will go from bad to worse.

The book of Proverbs opens with these words:

Here are proverbs that will help you recognize wisdom and good advice, and understand sayings with deep meaning. They can teach you how to live intelligently and how to be honest, just, and fair. They can make an inexperienced person clever and teach young people how to be resourceful. These proverbs can even add to the knowledge of the wise and give guidance to the educated, so that they can understand the hidden meanings of proverbs and the problems that the wise raise.
To have knowledge, you must first have reverence for the Lord. Stupid people have no respect for wisdom and refuse to learn. (Proverbs 1:2-7).

Wow! This is true wisdom. The reverence for the Lord is the source of wisdom, and to despise this wisdom makes us “stupid people [who] have no respect for wisdom and refuse to learn.”

It would be interesting and very helpful to make it a practice to filter all we hear through these wise words from Proverbs to discern whether we’re following God’s wisdom or buying into the “wisdom” of this present age. This filter will help us as we listen to political leaders who call down God's blessings on us, but tiptoe around or blatantly support ungodly actions; or to church leaders who insist there is nothing amiss with their flowery speeches and who keep silent when they should speak up about those things that are drawing people away from God; or to average Christians who speak one thing and live another; or, and perhaps most dastardly of all, to those of us who offer up “wise words” about the human condition, but in doing so deny the wisdom of God.

How honest dare we be with ourselves and others as we speak and live in the light of the wisdom of God? Place that filter from Proverbs over what you are saying, watching, reading, and believing. Are these things leading you to honesty? To justice? To fairness? Would a young person following your example be led to knowledge and guidance? And most importantly, are you and those you influence being led to eternal life with the all-wise God?

Truly we all have to give account before God regarding our words and deeds, what we have done and what we have failed to do. I know my own faults, even my grievous faults, so I can’t take the truth lightly, for my own soul’s sake, I can’t ignore what God says and whitewash the truth I find in his Word. I am chilled to the bone when I read Ezekiel 3:18-19.

If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life.

Better to be foolish, than wise in my own eyes! May we find ourselves sowing to the Spirit, so that we may reap eternal life from the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). That’s the wisdom of God!

Read more posts about: Spiritual FormationIdentity

Gary Wiley
Gary Wiley

Gary is a writer and the Scripture Engagement Content Coordinator for American Bible Society. He lived for many years in Lima, Peru, where he served as pastor and missionary with his family. He lived in New York City for 15 years serving as a pastor. He received a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He now lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his wife, Charlotte. They have been married 41 years, have three adult children, ten grandchildren, and are members of St. Peter Parish in Merchantville.

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