Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
What is wisdom? This has been a pursuit of people since the dawn of time. Wisdom the ability to gather and apply knowledge has been our human quest from the time we first had to find food to eat. We went from gathering food, to hunting, to finding clothing better suited for climates. Eventually we gained wisdom of agriculture, which opened new quests within our lust for wisdom. As we learned to plant crops and domesticate animals, cities emerged. These cities grew into nations, and empires. As these empires grew they developed cultures and devised systems of transferring the wisdom they gained in their quests through various methods. These methods include oral histories, the invention of paper, alphabets, hieroglyphs, scrolls, books, and tablets. They devised mathematics, mythologies, philosophies, sciences, governments, and universities. Our predecessors developed all of this to pass the knowledge of one generation to the next, and to broaden that knowledge base.
Still we ask the question what is wisdom? If you were to really think about what you would call wisdom each of you would have your own definition and probably examples. Our culture dictates to us what it considers important and worthy of pursuit. Which actually is dictating the course of our knowledge base. Think about that for a bit, what exactly is our culture encouraging us to gain knowledge in?
This passage reflects something similar to today a group of people with differing ideas trying their hardest to get their way. We see this throughout our culture, in our government, in our schools, even in our places of worship. But to understand it fully we need to have a general idea of the people Paul wrote this letter too. Corinth was located approximately half way between Sparta and Athens in Greece. This is a unique position in the Ancient Greek nation because in Ancient Greece the nation was basically a loosely confederated nation based out of major cities. Through out ancient history we hear of three major cities states Athens and Sparta are two of those cities. A thin area of land that is the region of Corinth connects these two cities. Corinth was a major port city it provided a safe way and quick way to get to the heart of Greece. They found themselves in the middle of every war, and new idea because everyone seemed to pass through Corinth. It is no wonder that after the Romans burnt and rebuilt the city it grew quickly to become the home of many Romans, Greeks, and Jews eager to earn their own living in the merchant and trade industries.
Since they were in the middle of everything so to speak, they were a melting pot of ideas. They were well informed, well educated in and a center of culture. This city was often times more important economically and culturally most of the other well known cities of Greece. Paul found himself writing to these people, a people that would change their ideas and beliefs quickly and often.
What is wisdom in a culture like this? The Corinthian people changed alliances politically often. If you were to read their history it almost remind you of a soap opera they were changing their stances so much. I say this jokingly but it was beneficial to them. They were a port, a city of connection. Their alliance was coveted because it insured safe passage. This is why Paul also spent so much time counseling this church. They were important they had a unique place. They had the potential to be a great church and partner in the expanding Kingdom of God. Wisdom in a place like this came from many different places.
He asks the readers to consider where they find their wisdom. Do they find it in the offices of the Jewish rabbis or in the chambers of the counsels? The wisdom of both these sources come with very different places.
Where do we find our wisdom? Wisdom and the values of the world aren’t that different than ancient Corinth. We have alliances with various parties. We base these alliances on various criteria. The world often focuses on power and wealth. They base their decision on what will give them more of what they want. Wars are fought because of economic or political interests. In our recent history we saw NATO enter into a war with a nation literally because that nation threatened to cut off oil supplies if Europe didn’t stop encouraging protesters. We have fought wars to liberate people in nations in the Middle East and south East Asia under the guise of the war on terror, but stayed away from Sudan even though they too were struggling with similar issues. Why did we leave Sudan to fight their own fight and assist other nations? Worldly wisdom. Our culture flirts with those that have a potential of making us the most money or give us the most power. I say this knowing that many of us have served in the military, are serving, or have family members who do. I raise the question only to encourage us to think like those in Corinth in Paul’s day, where are we getting our wisdom?
Every few years our nation enters into a transfer of power in our government, where we ourselves decide who we want making the rules we will all live by. We listen to debates, attend rallies, and vote in primaries and elections to determine who will govern us. These people we vote for speak on the issues we find important and we hope that they will be able to turn the nation closer to our own views, what ever that view may be. They debate; they enter into a forum of argument to sway our attention. They give speeches and run ads encouraging us to vote for them because they have better ideas. These ads and debates don’t always cover all the issues. They are ads directed to that particular area to gain your support. They keep quiet about the issues that those areas would openly disagree with. Do we gain our wisdom from the debaters?
Or do we gain it from the scribe? When I watch TV it is usually tuned to a channel that is educational in some way. I don’t know why I do this, but I think it has to do with that quest for wisdom. In many of these programs they quote scholars, show evidence. I have yet to be convinced that aliens are the ultimate cause of everything good about our world. The next day the same channel will run a program that has a theory on similar subjects that is the exact opposite of the other, using similar evidence as the previous.
The debaters and the scribes have their own ideas of wisdom or the best way to do things. Paul is encouraging us to use our own brains and to consider another factor, that of the cross. I mentioned that I watch a lot of educational programming. All of these programs try to diminish the God factor. There are people that try to say that God is only ancient people trying to explain visits from aliens, or some natural phenomenon that they didn’t have the technology to explain. Other programs propose that the bible has been changed to meet the desires of ones in power, and totally write out the true history of the movement of Christ. To the many of them the idea of God, the cross, and the resurrection of Christ is foolishness. But Paul asks where are you getting your wisdom?
The message of the cross is one of repentance. It is also one of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. It is a message of giving all you have to obtain something better. What is foolish about that? The message of the cross, the Gospel is that God loved the world His creation so much that had to do something to help. So he sent his son to teach us. Jesus taught many things and continues that teaching even today. The greatest thing that he taught is that if you want something to change you have to invest your own life into it.
The debaters of our age will debate many things. We may or may not agree with their wisdom, but the wisdom of Christ encourage us to do something more. It is easy to vote to spend money somehow. It may not be easy to invest our lives also. That is the purpose of the church. Our whole point of existence is to love God, embrace the Holy Spirit and to live Christ’s love with others. These are relational terms, terms that require personal investment. Not just knowledge but knowledge put into action.
Paul encouraged the disciples of Jesus in Corinth to live like Christ. We cannot debate with the debaters; they are skilled in twisting words. We cannot only engage the scribes who look for signs and evidence because it is up for interpretation. We can live a life reflecting the love of Christ. When we live a life reflecting the love of Christ it becomes a stumbling block to the scholars because they now have to explain why and how this thing they can’t explain logically is lived out before their very eyes. When we live a life reflecting the love of Christ, those that try to argue away God or the cross must explain away why our lives defy their wisdom.
The wisdom of God is not found in knowledge but in lives. It is found in how well we incorporate the knowledge found in scriptures and other educational disciplines into our lives and apply it. The wisdom of God is not a book but a person, it is a person that was born, grew up, learned, taught, lived, and ate among people just like us. The wisdom of God gave up that life on a cross to allow us to live for him. The wisdom of God was buried in a grave for 3 days, and rose from the dead to give us hope and power. The wisdom of God lives, and it lives in those that recognize Him as Lord of their lives, and turn completely to devote their lives as He did to expand that kingdom and wisdom to others not only through their words but in their actions.
As we enter into this time of silent worship, a time where we as Friends pray and listen to the voice of God. Let us consider where we obtain our wisdom, and what we intend to do with that wisdom.