Wisdom and Fear

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Wisdom is one of those slippery words. Some people use it as a synonym for “smart.” But we know it’s more than that. For me when I’m alone and thinking, or in a group and feeling small, wisdom can easily seem like this unattainable thing only superior humans achieve.

Whether you think of “wisdom” as an altogether unattractive concept or the “secret to the sauce” of living, you don’t have it.

While you’re recovering from the insult, maybe you’ll find encouragement too. Because even though I’ve heard that I’m “wise beyond my years” more times than I can count, it just isn’t true.

When growing up, I made a point to use big and respectful words, rallying all guns (automatic or not) for intellectual conversation. But the root issue was wounded, vain, disgusting pride. See, I was the youngest of five children and it just never seemed like I was good enough, or that my words were taken seriously. So I set out to make the world believe I was clever. I would prove them wrong. (Did you notice how many times the word “I” was in this paragraph?!)

Even with all the surgeries on thoughts and ideas that I constantly performed, this verse kept echoing, and taunting my mind:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

What is that “fear of the LORD” thing? If it’s the beginning of knowledge, then I didn’t know anything. And I don’t know about you, but there was plenty within me that despised instruction. I wanted to make my own mistakes, my own choices, come up with my own knowledge.

Well, that just wasn’t wise. Proverbs 1:7 is clear. If you don’t believe, by all means interrogate it. What is the starting point of knowledge? Can you have wisdom without knowledge?

Wisdom does exist, and it is accessible to us. But if it doesn’t come from knowledge and instead starts with the fear of the LORD, then I want to know about this fear of the Lord.

It is written, I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE. Where is the wise man? Where is the Scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:19-21, 25)

How many categories of wisdom are talked about in this passage? Is it impossible for humans to be wise in and of themselves? Well sure, but it’s weak and flimsy. More than that, the gospel destroys the world’s wisdom. In fact, the gospel sounds like crazy talk to those with worldly wisdom; God camouflaged the beautiful, impossible truth of who Jesus is as foolishness. How strong is God to do that, according to this passage?

I’ve been revisiting these Scriptures a lot over the past couple of years, as I make what are considered to be big decisions in Western culture. God has been patiently teaching me that the He specifically choses foolish things to shame the wise, so that I don’t have anything to be prideful about. (1 Corinthians 1: 26-31 explains this really well).

The Holy Spirit has also been convicting me that there is a lot of fear that lives in my heart; but it’s not fear of God. It’s fear based on worldly wisdom like: not being smart enough, attractive enough, accomplished enough, being a disappointment, a failure…and the list of expectations built on worldly wisdom goes on and on.

But God is teaching me to start at the beginning. There’s no tidbit of worldly wisdom that will shortcut the process. The gospel eradicates fear, because God is love; and His perfect love casts out my fear (1 John 4:19), replacing the punishment of abusive thoughts with the mind of Christ.

That all sounds theological and pretty, but what does that mean practically? Let’s admit and confess our foolishness, wrestle with the fact that to follow Christ is foolish to the world, and ask our loving Father for good gifts of wisdom for the walk today.

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Joy is a recent college grad and 2014 Precept intern. She is currently seeking out opportunities to serve the Lord in work and life, while learning what it looks like to focus more on Jesus each day.

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