Based on a sermon from 2014
Corinth was a place well known for its politicians, philosophers, thinkers, and people who considered themselves to be wise. But much of what they considered to be wisdom was merely opinions, ill informed speculation and gossiping. Paul quoted to the Corinthians chapter 29 of Isaiah I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the cleverness of the clever, when the supposedly wise people of Judah made an alliance with Egypt – against Gods wishes, which proved to be disastrous.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is equally pertinent for us now. He distinguishes between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom which can only come from God. He is not decrying the wisdom which is learned through school, at work, college or university. But is pointing out that wisdom which comes from God is unlike anything which can be learned, studied or memorised.
Paul tells the Corinthians and us that knowing God does not come through acquiring the world’s wisdom, or acquiring more knowledge learning, or more and higher qualifications. Paul is helping us to understand that the wisdom which comes from knowing God and comes to us through the Holy Spirit is what distinguishes a Christian.
Jesus birth, teaching, death and resurrection turned ‘upside down’ the world’s values, it confounded the worlds wisdom, and demonstrated that God cannot be known by following the world’s wisdom.
Everything about Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection confounds the world’s values and wisdom. His birth, receiving of the Holy Spirit, miracles, resurrection and your and my salvation are all impossible if we follow the logic of the worlds wisdom. Jesus chose 12 ordinary men to be his apostles, fishermen, teachers, carpenters, labourers. None were learned scribes, none were wise by any human standard, none were powerful, and certainly none were of royal birth. Paul reinforces the distinction when he says of Jesus He has chosen things with no rank or standing in the world, mere nothings to overthrow the existing order. Quite clearly God’s wisdom is very different to the worlds. So to know and love Jesus, does not need the worlds wisdom, nor is I needed to be saved. Paul sums up Gods wisdom in saying God has chosen you, He wants you to walk humbly with him, to be just and to show constant love – he wants you to live your life according to his wisdom and not the worlds.
As we grow older we accumulate stuff, as many of you know my son Matthew how has a family of his own and my daughter Imogen is living in York.
Until very recently also living at home were all the soft toys that Matthew acquired and all of those that Imogen acquired, we had a spare bedroom full of soft toys, Oh and books, pieces of furniture, paintings, ornaments, and well the list goes on.
The worlds wisdom is that we should be continually buying new stuff, Paul is challenging us to consider Gods wisdom – should we be always acquiring new stuff Is that an attitude, a value which is getting in the way of living life how God wants me to? Is it obscuring Gods wisdom. Almost all of their stuff has now gone to charity and to children and people who can use it.
One of the great story-telling preachers, Dr. Fred Craddock, tells about one of his schoolmates who spent many years as a minister in China. He was under house arrest with his wife and their two small boys. The soldiers came one day and told him that the family could leave China and return to America. The soldiers said to him and his wife “You can take 80 kilos with you.” They had been there for years! 80 kilos is about two hundred pounds in old money! They got the scales and they started to discuss what to take, what they had that they could not do without.
Must have this vase…Well, this is a new typewriter…What about my books?…What about our toys? They weighed everything and took it off, weighed it and took it off, until at last they had it right on the dot: two hundred pounds.
The soldiers asked if they were ready to go and they said, “Yes.” “Did you weigh everything?” They said, “Yes!” “Did you weigh your children?”
“80 kilos including the children”
In the blink of an eye, typewriter, vase, books, soft toys all had no value…
The worlds wisdom tells us to keep everything, God’s wisdom helps us to understand what is of value. Jesus wisdom is very clear, we are not to store treasures on earth – they won’t last. Jesus was unambiguous in saying not to “lay up treasures in this world where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Gods wisdom is that there is heavenly treasure which is ours by grace, that neither time nor age can take away from us.
The worlds wisdom is central to the parable of the farmer, who had so many good harvests that he kept on building bigger barns, all he did was work, work, work – he didn’t live a just life, he wasn’t being kind and he certainly wasn’t walking humbly with his God. The Farmer couldn’t see what was of real value, he was following the worlds wisdom.
Are you following the worlds wisdom or Gods wisdom?
“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go wrong and leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy.” Robert Burns
“If love is the mood and motive of your life; then, when the things of this world are swept away, you will find yourself in the kingdom of the permanent. You can bet your life on that”. Thomas Butts