This post serves as the second part in a series that my friend, Joe Jones, is writing on 1 Corinthians 2. Joe will be speaking at my ministry’s worships service Tuesday night, so this post serves as a forerunner to that message.
Joe is a wise man, as well as humble–which you can gather from this picture of him. 🙂
WISDOM: Content & Context
The term ‘wisdom’ is a big deal in Christian circles. We go to churches, ministries, and Bible-studies because we believe they offer wisdom. We pray for wisdom. We get all warm inside when people call us wise. But for all the talk we do about wisdom, I often wonder what exactly Christians mean when we talk about wisdom. I’ve asked many of my friends this question, and I found that though we talk about “wisdom” or “wise decision-making”, we rarely break from using general terms; therefore, a clear and particular definition of wisdom was hard to pin down.
I believe 1 Corinthians may provide Christians with a helpful definition of wisdom.
Paul (the author or Corinthians) defines wisdom in two ways:
First, he defines it as having a lot of what my great-grandmother called “fancy book learnin’” (1:20). It is the type of wisdom that we see in people who write and debate well. A good example of this is Ben Stein. Ben Stein is so smart that in the 90’s there was a game show in which, to win, you had to prove you knew more than Ben Stein. In reality, I’m sure there are a bunch of people out there with Noble Prizes who are smarter than Ben Stein, but I can’t pronounce their names, and they aren’t on TV very often.
The second way Paul defines wisdom is understanding the purpose of life (2:12). This type of wisdom is not simply about having knowledge, but how to use that knowledge as well. This is the wisdom we associate with Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela – Less reality television but more C-Span and CNN!
What I love about Paul’s definition of wisdom in 1 Corinthians is that Paul does NOT mark either type of wisdom as bad. Instead Paul urges people to be careful–it is one thing to possess wisdom, but quite another to be a good steward of it.
In my efforts to acquire both types of wisdom, it’s helpful to remember that I can’t discover the second type of wisdom on my own. As Paul explains, only God can reveal the purpose of life, and He reveals it to individuals who are humble enough to admit, “I know far less than I think I do.”
What’s more, 99% of my non-Christians friends that are weirded-out by Evangelicals or Southern Baptists are actually quite comfortable talking about Jesus. What they can’t stand is when Christians try to prove we are wise through our exceptional debating skills. They are turned off when we are passionate for the first type of wisdom, all the while neglecting the second.
A very famous anti-Christian philosopher once said, “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”
It breaks my heart to think that a man with such an astute definition of wisdom was inspired to hate Christianity by the actions of a few Christians living apart from a 1 Corinthians definition of wisdom.
To read more of Joe’s writing, check out his blog at www.iagreewithjoe.com