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HOW SMART ARE YOU?

February 25, 2016

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Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.
— Isaiah 29:14 NIV

The Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah in 1 Corinthians 1:19. Why? What's the point Isaiah is making and why does Paul write to the people in Corinth 750 years later? Further, why does it matter now?

Isaiah's World

People were rejecting reasoning. Isaiah was a frustrated preacher for decades preaching to a besieged Judah on the verge of Assyrian take over but unable to deal with the realities of their demise. "Let's just eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" is not a recent quote but Isaiah quotes the people's own philosophy. They are partying, ignoring their creator, except for some brief lip service in worship. Living from pleasure to pleasure was their way. Sound familiar? I'll write more below about this.

Paul's World

Paul quoted Isaiah to the Corinthians who were caught between two inaccurate ways to view the cross of Christ. For the Jews, the cross was an offense. What God would die on the cross? Messiah would never be crucified but enthroned. Because they were looking for another King, miraculous signs and not more sacrifice, they missed that for Jesus, the cross was His throne, his final and most mind-boggling self-revelation of God. The cross is Christ's throne, the deepest way He shows how much He loves humanity. Non-Jews misunderstood this in their own way. Greeks in Paul's day thought the cross was foolishness. Where Jews looked for signs, fulfilled prophecies, the Greek's looked for wisdom, and the cross was non-sense to them. Paul says the cross is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks.

Paul's punchline is, If the cross is foolish, then God's foolishness is wiser than humanity's wisdom. God's fool died for you. And this foolishness became wisdom for us, this cross of suffering and shame became redemption. 

Our World

When we look at the worlds of Isaiah and Paul, it seems familiar to the twenty-first century. We think we're pretty smart. We have gadgets that ads proclaim "make us feel smart." Our phones, our cars, the things we hook up, connect, get stuff done on, all seem to make us think we are smarter than we really are. Scrolls, books, tools from the ancient world are all tools but were those tools meant for people to brag about? Does the hammer make a carpenter? Does a computer make a useful user? Does a phone help anyone in the hands of a fool? These tools don't make us smart, don't give us wisdom. Our jobs, our tools, our smarts don't mean much if we live meaningless lives of self-service, indulgence, and smugness about how crafty we are. 

Prayer

A famous king named Solomon prayed for wisdom, and God gave it to him. What happened to Solomon over the years? Did he stop praying for wisdom, come to think he was really the wise? What's happened to you over your lifetime? Do you think you have become smart yourself? Claim your brain, your tools, your life is self-made? Are you really so smart? Does this cause you to be prideful? Pride is sin, and the worst part about this sin is that it separates you from the wisdom of God.

Fasting

Fast from your gadgets for as long as it takes to realize you are really addicted to them, believe somehow these things make you smart, make you feel like getting things done with them is a reason to be prideful rather than to serve God.

Giving

Give away every gadget and tool you really don't need. Do you have too many? Are you amassing things? Do you love things and use people? Or do you love people and use things? What things do you need to give away?