Flipping For True Wisdom
1 Corinthians 3:18-22 (ESV)
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours.
Flipping for True Wisdom
When I was a child in the 70s, I was obsessed with headstands. “Why would I just walk upstairs, when I could do a headstand on each and every step?” I thought. When I wanted to watch TV, I would not sprawl on the couch like a normal child, I would launch myself headfirst into the recliner, flip my spindly legs into the air, and stand on my head for hours, breaking only long enough to recirculate my blood. It was my preferred posture and as routine as peanut butter and banana sandwiches in my Wonder Woman lunch box.
Over time, I became so skilled at auto-flipping images on the TV that not even the flashing word, “MOM,” in an infomercial could confuse me—I automatically read it as “WOW.” To my family’s relief, I eventually dropped my headstand obsession, but I never outgrew my aptitude for up-righting upside-down messages. As it turns out, my headstand years were perfect training for Christian living.
Have you noticed that Jesus constantly blew the minds of his hearers by his counter-cultural, upside-down, sayings? He said things like, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35),” and “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25).” Can’t you just hear those fishermen saying, “wait, wut?”
In today’s Scripture reading, Paul gives the feuding Corinthians their own “wait, wut?” moment, meant to both humble them, and upright their distorted reality concerning wisdom. It would appear the Corinthian church was filled with wise guys, so Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, reminded them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to God. If not always foolish by substance, requiring Christians to practice the antithesis, worldly wisdom is certainly foolish by measure. In comparison to God’s wisdom, even the wisest among us has only begun to understand.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10)
We in 2021, like the Corinthians, live among many wise guys, and if we are honest, we often need to look no further than the mirror to find one. We are all guilty, from time to time, of being wise in our own eyes. Maybe we think the world is still in this pandemic because nobody in power has asked us for our opinion. Maybe we think we have the right theological take of Eschatology even though faithful scholars have debated for centuries. Maybe we think we understand who the guilty party is and how justice would best be served. Even if our arrogant thoughts never leave our lips, our inner wise guy can betray and cause quarrels among us.
Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:7)
Is it possible that one of our greatest needs today is to get honest about the source, substance, and measure of our wisdom? Imagine the impact greater humility would have on our relationships with the Lord and each other, not to mention our witness to an upside-down world. At first blush humility can look and feel a lot like foolishness, but if we are willing to flip to our heads, we would clearly see that becoming a fool is the only path to true wisdom.
Lord, I humble myself before you today and confess that sometimes I am wise in my own eyes--which must look pretty foolish from your vantage point. I confess that sometimes I look for wisdom among sources that don't even acknowledge you, let alone fear you. Please forgive me and help me to live courageously according to YOUR wisdom, revealed in your Holy Word, even if that makes me look like a fool in the eyes of the world.