In the wake of Father’s Day, it’s always nice to reflect on fatherly wisdom. Dads teach us how to change the oil in our cars, how to open a bottle without a bottle opener, and to always brush your teeth before putting on your necktie.
I saw a Father’s Day card that said, “Happy Father’s Day Dad! Thank you for all the advice you have given me over the years. Today, I’d like to say that I’m finally going to follow some of your advice.” On the inside it read: “I’m not going to waste money on a gift for you.”
Dads are good for all kind of practical, quirky, and useful wisdom. But what about your other Dad? What about your Heavenly Dad? What kind of wisdom has God the Father passed on to you?
In the past two weeks we’ve talked about the Christian heart and the Christian voice. Today we’re going to learn about the Christian mind and the wisdom it possesses.
Our lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 1 beginning at verse 26. “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; 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.”
In this paragraph, Paul is writing to a young Corinthian congregation. In the Corinthian world where many types of wisdom were lauded and sought after, Paul reminds them to search foremost for the wisdom of God.
What is that wisdom? Paul starts by identify three things it is not.
1) Christianity is not about BOOK SMART WISDOM.
Paul writes, “Not many of you were wise by human standards…”. That’s still true today. We don’t require that you get a high sore on your SAT. We don’t exclude people from the church until they’ve gotten a Bachelor of Arts degree. And we don’t hold periodic games of Jeopardy with the high scorer being written in as the next Council member.
Christianity is not about BOOK SMART WISDOM. In fact, the teachings of Christianity often go against conventional wisdom.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Do you know what Trinity means? Three in One. Today is a celebration of the fact that we have a God who is ONE and yet is three PERSONS. Three persons who are divine and distinct and yet there is not three gods, but ONE God. In other words, we are saying, “1 + 1 + 1 = 1”
But it’s more than just the Trinity. Scripture says other things that are not reasonable to the human mind.
Jesus is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. The world was created in only 6 days and the age of the earth is only thousands of years, not billions of years. Some guy died on a cross. And somehow, that takes away all of the punishment for my sins? If you follow Christian logic, you will fail Math, Science, and possibly Social Studies.
Christian wisdom is not about book smart wisdom.
2) Christianity is not about STREET SMART WISDOM.
Society might agree that book smart wisdom isn’t necessary for success in this world. There are plenty of people who have made it big without so much as a high school education. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg are all multibillionaires who didn’t finish college
Is Christian wisdom simply street smarts then?
Paul writes, “not many of you were influential…” To be influential in Corinthian society meant you were a business man. This was a place of the market. The better your business did the more influence you had in rules and laws that were made – even if it were simply through a few extra bucks slipped to the government.
This being said. There was no requirement in the ancient church that prospective members had to have good business sense. They simply preached the Gospel to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between.
This is still true today. To become a member of our church, we don’t have a sit down interview where you prepare a PowerPoint presentation explaining how you think we can maximize revenue and get our brand out into the North Raleigh area. We aren’t a collection of business owners. We aren’t about ‘growing a business.’ When we canvass, we don’t skip the apartments and head directly to the homes that are 1.5 million or above -- because they might have some business wisdom.
In fact, Christian wisdom is not all the smart for business. Think for a moment what might happen if you follow the following business practices in the dog eat dog American business world. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Mt. 5:39) “Humble yourself – don’t exalt yourself.” (Luke 14) “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” (Mark 10:31) “Don’t be greedy.” (Luke 12:15)
Ever seen Shark Tank? In the show, you get a chance to pitch your entrepreneurial business model to multibillion dollar business sharks. They aren’t too kind if they think you idea stinks.
How do you think they’d react to such Christian ideals?
The point? Christian wisdom is not about influential wisdom.
3) Christianity is not about POPULAR WISDOM
Paul adds one more negation to the type of wisdom that is involved with Christianity. He writes, “Not many were of noble birth.” In the ancient world, these were princes and princess. Governors daughters and centurions sons. While this is, in part, a genealogical position, there is still a certain type of wisdom involved with being royalty. (i.e. Walk with your chin raised and always lift up your pinky finger when you drink tea.)
In America, there aren’t kings and queens as such, but we still have royalty. Musicians, actors, actresses, even reality TV stars garner our constant attention.
These pop culture icons also have their own a wisdom and culture. In fact, if you don’t follow it, you’ll never make it into Hollywood.
I’m thinking about Matthew McCauneghey winning an Oscar for best actor, thanking the Academy to raucous cheers, and then thanking God – to crickets. “Who’s God again?”
Or it leaks into our ‘non Hollywood lives” as well, doesn’t it? Popular wisdom tries to dictate our decisions.
Maybe you already knew this, but God's wisdom is not always (usually) popular.
In fact, the world might not consider Christian wise at all. It doesn’t make rational sense. It doesn’t fit into academia. It isn’t even all that popular. Some might call it (and have called it) stupid!
….That’s, the point.
Look at verse 27-29. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; 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. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Grasp what Scripture is telling us in that section. God chose things that the world would consider foolish! God looked down at human knowledge of physics, human business sense, and human popular opinion and he chose things that were the exact opposite!
There are some very good reasons why God chose to do things in such a splendidly opposite way of human beings.
1) God is eternal!
His knowledge is way beyond you or me. It’s way beyond some Scientist who’s been alive for 40 years. It’s beyond some politicians who's lived to 50. It’s way, way, way beyond some actress who specializes in Science. Of course, his wisdom is different!
It’s like how a child and an adult tie their shoes differently. The adult carefully bends over and politely and precisely ties the shoelaces into a perfect bow. The child bends over, wiggles his fingers around his laces, and finally stuffs the knotty mess into the back of the shoes.
The adult is wiser because they’ve been around longer. God is wiser than any human being because he is eternal! He has always been!
2) God is holy.
Humans, scripture tells us, are sinful. We are selfish. We are greedy. We are hateful. We worry about ourselves.
Now think about this, it means that our collective thought process will always be sinful. It will always be influenced by this hatred. There will be traces of selfishness in every single attitude we have.
God? He doesn’t have that. This means that it will be naturally the exact opposite of human thought. And he can never support these sinful human thoughts, because then, he’d be sinful!
It’s why State fans are never caught dead into Tarheel blue. They can never support Carolina!
God can never support sin. NEVER. Yet, humans are so stupidly sinful that we look at God’s ways and say, “You’re hateful. Not me!”
3) The final reason is God chose to do things in a way that is so drastically different from human reason?
1 Corinthians reveals it to us this way, “God chose the foolish things…the lowly things…the things that are not…so that no one may boast before him.”
God knew that because of sin, not a single person would ever be wise enough to gain heaven. And he also knew that our sinfulness would affect our thinking such that we wouldn’t even acknowledge it. Instead, we find ourselves thinking, “I’m doing just fine. I’m good enough. I can figure it out on my own.”
Is it any wonder that every religion in this world, why there are shallow differences, preach the same basic doctrine? Buddhism says, “Live a peaceful life and earn heaven.” Mormonism says, “Life a like like Jesus and earn your own planet.” Islam says, “Follow Islamic Law and earn paradise.”
Why are they the same? This is the best that sinful human beings can come up with is to try our sinful best to remove sinfulness by doing sinful things.
Thank God that his plan is different:
This is God’s plan. So different and so marvelous, endorsed by all three persons in the Triune God.
What does all of this mean?
It isn’t about you. Thank God. In fact, it isn't about anyone even remotely similar than you! (Can you imagine a salvation plan enacted by a sinful human being? It will result in sinful people sinful failing to win a sinful result!)
Salvation is about Jesus, our Savior. It’s about the Father our perfect Justifier. It’s about the Spirit, our Sanctifier. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved! And praise be to God for making this plan so different that it sticks out as Divine wisdom!
Otherwise, we’d be stuck in our sinful human head: “I’m awesome. I figured out God. I have the smarts to make it to heaven. I deciphered it with my decoder ring. God, of course, selected me for heaven, because of my wisdom!”
But it’s not about you. Paul said it this way, “It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (v. 29-31)
Kids love to boast about their dads. “He’s the smartest guy I know.” He’s stronger than your dad. He was awesome at baseball. If only he hadn’t of hurt his leg, he’d probably be more famous than Babe Ruth.”
Why not boast about your heavenly Father?
“My heavenly Father is so wise he planned my salvation before the beginning of the world.”
“My heavenly Father is so powerful he raised my Brother Jesus from the dead!”
“My heavenly Father is so loving he forgives me for my sinful pride and arrogance.”
“My heavenly Father is the best. Holy. Incredible. Absolute.”
Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. Amen.