If you have read Proverbs for any amount of time, you will know that wisdom is priceless in the Bible. Its worth has been compared to gold, silver, and jewels, and is said to surpass even these. Yet, wisdom is also priceless from a worldly perspective. Throughout the centuries, thinkers such as Confucius and Socrates have been admired for their philosophies on wisdom. If both of these realms – secular and Christian – embrace wisdom, how can we reconcile these two views?
This post will be in two parts, since the end of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2 both discuss wisdom. Stay tuned for Part 2 of 6 Verses That Will Refresh Your Perspective On Wisdom!
The text for this devotional will be 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Read this passage, then join me to discuss wisdom!
1 Corinthians 1:21
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.
Don’t let the wording of this sentence confuse you! It is actually a very simple concept that is fundamental in Christianity. Basically, it is telling the story of mankind, from Adam & Eve to the birth of Christ.
The story of humanity…
The world had started to rely too much on its own worldly wisdom, and therefore thought it didn’t need God. God, however, in His wisdom, knew that they DID need him – desperately. But, He also knew that they couldn’t know Him through their own wisdom, but through belief.
So, He sent Christ to earth as a mere infant, born in a humble manger, who preached a message of sheer foolishness to those who had before relied on their own wisdom (think of the pharisees). To believe in Christ’s message, God required a clean slate, pure from any worldly knowledge, so that their religion would be based simply on faith.
Emptiness of worldly wisdom
This is how I read this verse, although I am sure that there are many varied interpretations 🙂 What I love about this verse is that it reveals a whole new facet of wisdom.
Wisdom is complicated. Most people look at it merely as experience. Other people think it is just an overdose of common sense. Still others think that it is a more “mystical” power, in line with eastern teachers such as Buddha and Confucius.
But, the point that I think the Bible drives home is that worldly wisdom inflates your ego. As it says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, knowledge puffs up. One of the main signs of worldly wisdom is that it is more of a bragging right than a gift.
I think that greek philosopher Socrates had the right idea when he famously stated,
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
Ludwig Beethoven believed something similar when he wrote,
You will have to play a long time yet, before you realize that you cannot play at all.
Rather depressing, isn’t it? Both of these highly successful and talented people realized that behind the facade of worldly “wisdom”, there was really nothing. But it doesn’t stop there. As Christians, we must take that extra step and choose to believe. Thankfully, our faith is not based on mere knowledge – which is often the basis of many humanistic religions today. It is based on a faith in God’s power. As 2 Corinthians 5:7 states,
We live by faith, not by sight.
True wisdom will not puff up your ego, but will remind you how much you need to believe in Christ and His wisdom – the only wisdom that will truly satisfy.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. In the sequence of the story of our redemption, God knew that we would have to be stripped of our worldly knowledge (I won’t call it wisdom, because, as you will see, the word “wisdom” should be used sparingly).
1 Corinthians 1:27
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.
I’m sure many of you have heard this verse before – I know I have! But, this time around I encourage you to think about the application. Can you think of a practical example of this verse? Personally, I have always thought of this verse as referring to humble things, such as cockroaches, dirt, and ants (I don’t know where those example came from….maybe it’s because we are visiting Florida??)
Which is definitely an option.
But, have you ever thought of it to mean humble experiences?
Humble events in your life
Perhaps these verses are not only referring to the history of mankind and humanity, but to your personal history. Maybe this process – recognizing the shortcomings of worldly knowledge, being stripped of it, and finally understanding God’s wisdom – is a process that can be applied to your life!
One of the most effective ways for God to strip away your pride in your own wisdom, is to test your faith through trials. Remember, your religion is based in faith, not in your own confidence in your intelligence. There is no possible way that we can ever attain God’s wisdom, unless we are first refined and purified by God to understand our ingrained need for that wisdom.
Understanding the silver lining…
You see, God will never force you to accept his gift – it is a matter of free will – but He will provide experiences in your life that will nudge you closer to Himself. This concept – that you must first experience hardship to understand your need – has been written about by almost every Christian theologian out there. But, I will quote one of my favorite Christian authors, who I believe sums up what I have just been saying,
Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay… If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth – only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I know from experience how much suffering teaches you. As a family, we have suffered much since our brother was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago. It is a situation that cannot be healed with knowledge or “wishful thinking”. It must be healed with faith in God’s plan, because we know that to reach God’s wisdom, we must endure the “dismay” in the beginning.
Being stripped of your satisfaction in your own knowledge is a painful and arduous process, but you must allow God to use these humble and lowly experiences if you want the ecstasy of attaining spiritual wisdom.
The last verse for Part 1 of this post…
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Now we have come full circle. We have seen how our fleshly knowledge is nothing – it can puff up like a balloon, but also like a balloon, is empty. We have also seen from verse #2 that God will use humble experiences and true suffering to grab our attention, and make us realize our need for His wisdom – the one that truly satisfies.
Remember how I noted that it would be incredibly depressing if we were left at verse #2? We would be emptied of ourselves as a result of the trials, but we would be discouraged. Like Socrates, we would be depressed at how much we didn’t know.
However, this is not the end of the story – fortunately! Through Christ, we have access to God’s wisdom. Paul describes this wisdom as our “righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Wrapped up in this spiritual wisdom is our entire identity. Because of Christ, we are righteous, holy, and redeemed – redeemed from our past of relying upon empty knowledge.
In Part 2, I will dig deeper into what Paul means by spiritual wisdom, but for now, the point is that this new wisdom doesn’t puff us up. It isn’t empty like a balloon, and it doesn’t make us feel better about ourselves. In fact, it makes us feel worse about ourselves – our old, fleshly selves, that is.
On the contrary, it gives us a more eternal, lasting worth. Why? It gives us the identity of Christ, and allows us to boast in Him. Know that your old identity is worthless, defined only by what people tell you, what society says, or what others think about you. But, your new identity is timeless – priceless no matter what your friends say.
But, spiritual wisdom tells us that we are new creations in Christ, completely redeemed by Him.
The next time you think about wisdom, I hope you will think of it not as a continuation of common sense, but as a continuation of God’s grace – a gift extended to us that allows us to live out our Christ-like identity with confidence!
How would you define Christian Wisdom?
Don’t forget to join me on Friday for 3 more verses that will refresh your perspective on wisdom!