[Sept 24]—Wisdom of God and Men

            Part of the problem with interpreting the epistles is that it’s like we’re only hearing one side of the conversation. If you were listening in on a phone conversation but could only hear one side, you could figure out what the other person’s saying, but it takes a little work.
            The issue that Paul’s addressing here is that the church in Corinth—allowing the surrounding culture to influence them—put a high premium on “wisdom.” They’d listened for far too long to charismatic charlatans who sounded really “deep” and spoke really eloquently but who led them astray.
            Greek and Roman society and culture valued philosophers, people with greater than normal insight into the human experience and metaphysical questions (like “What’s the greatest good in life?). Paul experienced this personally when he went to present the Good News (or at least open the door for it) at the Areopagus, where they all “spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” Now, if you were here during our study of Proverbs, you know that not only am I not against the study of philosophy, I believe that every Christian should be, in the most literal sense, a philosopher (literally a “lover of wisdom”).
            But there’s all the difference in the world between God’s wisdom and man’s. Mankind looks at a man hanging on a cross—so badly beaten that he’s barely recognizable as human—as the epitome of foolish. “If you want to win in this world, you need X,” and X might be any number of things, like money, or sex appeal, or good PR, or strong military might.
            But God looks at his Son hanging on a cross and says “My plan is working perfectly.” And guess what? I think I’ll take the wisdom that fashioned the world and set the planets into perfect orbit over anything that any man can come up with. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” On God’s “worst” day, he’s still wiser and stronger than anyone on their “best” day. It was this wisdom that effected our salvation. To the world, a man hanging on a cross might elicit pity at best and scorn at worst, but to us it’s the salvation of God, our salvation.
            You see, he loves doing things in a certain way so that only he gets the glory. He loves to choose unlikely instruments in order to accomplish his plans. He takes an exiled prince who’s herding sheep to lead his people out of Egypt and be the conduit of his Law. He takes another shepherd, the “runt” of the family, and makes him king of the nation.
            And the Corinthian Christians could testify that he continued this pattern with them. Sure, there might be a prominent or wealthy citizen among them or two or three. But most of them—and history matches this pattern—would have been drawn from the “dregs” of society. Our Lord loves to take nobodies, the has-been’s and never-was’s, pull them out of the bottom of the pit, and turn them into his beloved heirs. Once again, we have a huge gap in perspective: The world sees them as dregs, and he sees them as the brightest jewels in his crown.
            Why? Why does he choose to work this way? The passage gives a simple enough answer: “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” If he chose the important people--the VIP’s—all the time, then people might give credit to the human agents. But he prefers to use people that no one else would choose so that there’s no way that people can give credit to anyone but him.
            Most likely you can testify to this in your own life as well. One of the surest marks of increasing grace in a person’s life is a clearer awareness of how unworthy you are of that grace. A less mature—quite frankly, a more ignorant--believer has to fight off the inclination that he’s doing a favor to Jesus by saying “yes” to him. A more mature believer says “I’m an unworthy servant; I’ve only done my duty.”
            And of course there’s a wonderful word here for the nobodies, the has-been’s and never-was’s: You’re a prime candidate for him to use in a mighty way. You might say “But I can’t speak well,” or “I don’t know enough about the Bible,” or “I’m so weak in this area.” His response: “Perfect! That’s just who I’m looking for!”
            Are you hearing him say this right now? If not, you’re probably not listening.

Lord Jesus, the longer I walk with you, the more I see just how much you’re carrying me on this journey together. How boundless your grace, how matchless your mercy, and how surprising are your choices! Whatever you’re asking of me, the answer’s “yes.” 

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