Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)
Wow, there's a lot to unpack in that paragraph. This morning I did a search for "wisdom fool" to see what came up, and almost every sentence above showed as a separate result. I was going to pick just one, but then I decided that it is actually a pretty awesome chunk of scripture there, one that is making more and more sense to me as I take VLI and study church history.
Take for example "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom." This speaks very clearly to the culture in which Paul found himself. The Jews were so hung up on works that they needed to see great works to be convinced that Christ was their Messiah. And the Greeks had a culture where oration and high levels of thought were key. So they demanded "wisdom" or "mystery" to be revealed in order to be persuaded of someone's deity.
And here comes Paul, saying let's follow this guy who died when the Romans crucified him like a criminal. Um, yeah.
But Paul even speaks to this. Yes it's foolishness, he says, to follow this man Jesus. It's foolishness as we humans see it. But you do not know the mysteries of God.
I do not think that Paul had to persuade anyone that God existed. Everyone believed in gods back then, and even if they did not follow the God of the Jews, they knew of Him and quite possibly accepted Him as a deity. Because remember the Greeks were polytheistic. So sure, there's this God. So what Paul has to do, then, is explain a little bit of who God is. He is so wise, Paul says, that even His foolishness is greater than the greatest wisdom of the greatest man. If God were to make a mistake, it would still be the smartest course of action that anyone on earth could conceive of.
So it is the son of this God that Paul is promoting. Yes Jesus did miracles and displayed wisdom (and even good orating skills!) but it is not on those works that Paul is pinning Jesus' laurels. It is on his father, the true and only God, who is perfect and knew exactly what He was doing when He sent Jesus to die. For our sins.
I suppose if you're already Christian you might think ok, no worries, I believe in Jesus, so what does this mean to me? Well, I would say two things. First, this gives you something to point to when you are speaking to someone who does not believe. And second, don't we still sometimes have to remember that we are not the smart ones here? That our decisions, even when they seem wise, are not always right? And that there is only One who is capable of true and lasting wisdom. And maybe sometimes we should hand the reigns back to him for a bit. :)