Off-Topic Thursday: Should You be a Fool?
One of the most challenging parts of the Christian life to me is what I call “the dynamic tension of truth”.
By that I mean there are some truths that appear to contradict each other, but are both true at the same time (for example, God is 3 and He is 1, Jesus is fully God and fully man). Other truths are true, but how they express themselves may depend on the circumstances (for example, Proverbs 26:4-5).
Today’s post is about one of the latter truths. Are we as Christians to be wise or fools? The answer isn’t as easy as you might think. Here are a couple of passages to get us started:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
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. Brothers, 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. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-27)
I could give more on this, but that one passage is long enough by itself and makes the point.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)
“Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
“Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Romans 16:19)
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24:45-47)
So, Which is It?
Are we to be wise or foolish? Clearly, according to Scripture, the answer is, “Yes.”
There are two reasons for this answer.
- There is a certain kind of wisdom that God wants us to have, and a certain kind that He doesn’t.
- There are some areas where using “wisdom and understanding” is beneficial and some where it is not.
James describes the right kind of wisdom, what he calls “Godly wisdom,” for us:
”Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom….But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
A wise person with the right kind of wisdom recognizes that the source of wisdom is God, not himself. He seeks the counsel of others. He considers the consequences of his actions. He is prudent and plans well. He is humble. And his wisdom leads to action.
By contrast, the foolish person thinks of himself as wise and the source of his own wisdom. He trusts only his own counsel. He follows his own heart without seeking to align it with God’s heart first, and has no concept of what the consequences of his actions will be—or worse, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t plan ahead and prepare for what he will need.
Dave Ramsey teaches a lot about the wisdom of getting out of debt and having an emergency fund. Some call this foolishness because it seems not to rely on the provision of God. And yet, by the descriptions above, his teaching is biblically very sound and very wise. Doing as he teaches involves planning ahead, providing for your family, being generous, being prudent, and more. Not doing this and instead choosing to just stay in debt, live beyond your means, not have an emergency fund, and not have any idea how you’ll pay your bills this month is foolish.
I am a life and personal development coach, and as such I teach people to understand their gifts, talents, abilities, strengths, passions, and so on, and to grasp how they work together to be God’s tools to use you to fulfill the unique mission He’s given you. Choosing to remain ignorant of this is being a poor steward of what He’s given you, to not seek His wisdom and the counsel of others, and to not take action. It is foolish.
Earlier I said there are times where wisdom and understanding are out of place and foolishness must reign, though. When is that?
Well, for one, this is true when it comes to our salvation. That’s a large part of the context of the 1 Corinthians passage. The Jews were looking for a Messiah who fit the Law and their traditions. The Gentiles were so proud of their human understanding that anything not fitting it was impossible to accept. And so the Cross is foolishness to both. It is simple. It is free. It doesn’t demand anything of us to earn it. It seems so ridiculously simple, but it’s God’s chosen method for saving us.
It’s also true when we’re going through some trials. Sometimes this requires wisdom—to learn something new, get counsel from others, or to have persevere and “keep at it”. Other times, we must simply sit and wait. We endure trials and there’s no way out we can find. Or worse, there is one, but it requires us to depend on human wisdom that says , “I can figure this out on my own.” But God wants us to rest, to wait, to trust, to heal, or—the one we dread—to be broken.
The only way to know which is which is to be spending time with God. The more you know Him, the closer you are to Him, the more clearly you’ll be able to grasp when you’re facing each situation.
Because true wisdom comes from Him, if you’re praying and seeking Godly counsel but nothing is coming from it, stop fighting and striving to understand and succeed. This may be a time when God is teaching you to rely on His “foolishness” rather than your wisdom. But this isn’t the default. The default is to seek His wisdom and then trust it.
At times that may appear foolish to the world—giving up a “good job” to pursue your passion, sacrificing to get out of debt, devoting yourself entirely to something you believe in that no one else seems to understand but which you know in your heart is right.
Question: How do you know which is which in your own life? Talk about it in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.