Are you a wise person? Is that a fair question? If you think you are wise do you say “yes” or go with humility and say “no”. It’s a little awkward to claim one is wise, and so much easier to talk about someone else. Wisdom is a strange thing, for what is it that makes a person wise?
Yesterday at Hobart Baptist we began a series on “The Getting of Wisdom.” In his letter to the believers, James suggests there are two types of wisdom: wisdom of the world and wisdom that comes from God. Sometimes they look decidedly similar, yet often, they lead to very different outcomes. After asking “Who is wise and understanding among you? (James 3:13), James goes on to say it shows itself in a life of good deeds marked with humility. Wisdom is not just knowledge of what is true or right, or knowledge of how to do it, wisdom is actually doing it. As Jesus said, “wisdom is proved right by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19).
In the New Testament we see that the ‘divine wisdom’ of the Old Testament is personified in Jesus and not just in Jesus himself but particularly in his crucifixion. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul emphasises how God’s wisdom is supremely shown through the cross of Christ (1 Cor 1:18-31). He then encourages us to seek this wisdom and to see these character qualities in our own lives.
Here the contrast between the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom is clear. By the world’s standards the crucifixion is folly. It goes against what normal people think sensible and wise. If God is God, then this God must be all powerful. Suffering and death for such a God is not only nonsense, but a scandal.
No, says Paul, “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1Corinthians 1: 25). True wisdom, God’s wisdom, while it looks stupid, is in fact the most wonderful and powerful thing in the world. The wisdom of God is about seeing the world afresh from God’s perspective.
Are you a wise person? It depends on your vantage point. If you accept God’s wisdom as personified in Jesus Christ and his death, you will look stupid in the eyes of the world. But from God’s perspective you are a wise person and you can call yourself wise.
Stephen L Baxter