Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, NIV
Our country is in crisis. American citizens are dealing with a highly contagious deadly disease, COVID-19. Unemployment is at an all-time high. People are experiencing food insecurities and homelessness. Our children can’t return to school. They are suﬀering from the eﬀects of isolation and the lack of socialization with their peers. Many American citizens are on the verge of a mental health breakdown.
People mistrust the government, so they attempt to overthrow it. Yet, many of the persons elected to Congress to represent the people have opted to display tomfoolery as oppose to seeing the seriousness of the situation. They have decided to use a filibuster to delay voting on legislation that will provide aid to the American public. These so-called “wise men and wise women” read children’s books as opposed to release a compromised a bill that would save people’s lives. This is foolishness on display in its worse form!
The opposite of foolishness is wisdom. I have gained a clear understanding of the meaning of wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge combined with experience. If people act foolishly, they either don’t know any better, they are inexperienced or they are just plain fools. Our scripture comes from the book of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. Acts 18 tells the story of how the Corinthian church was established by Paul. Paul lodged and worked with a Jewish couple, Aquila and Pricilla, who lived in Corinth. They were tentmakers like Paul.
Every Sabbath day, Paul went to the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, Paul protested and preached to the Gentiles. The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for the next year-and-a-half, teaching the Word of God. Then he left for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.
Corinth was the chief city of Greece, both commercially and politically. It was the crossroads for travelers and traders. Corinth contained at least 12 temples. The most famous one was the temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The worship of Aphrodite fostered prostitution in the name of religion. At an earlier time, 1,000 sacred prostitutes served her temple. Corinth was a center for open sexual immorality.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians dealt with several problems in the Corinthian church caused by divisiveness. In chapter one, Paul called for unity among the people — “…agree with one another…be at one in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:12).
The people debated about who they followed. One of you says, “I follow Paul;” another, “I follow Apollo;” another, “I follow Cephas [Peter];” still another, “I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul then asked the question, in verse 13, “Is Christ divided?” In other words, if all these men whom you came to follow, follow Christ, then what diﬀerence does it make who you follow?
My advice: Follow me as I follow Christ. And if I should stop following Christ, take the path that leads to Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Paul wrote that Christ is one body with many members. All believers in Christ were baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body.
Paul’s God-given mission was not to baptize, but to preach! He wrote that Christ didn’t send him to baptize, but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send him to preach the good news with clever words [human wisdom] so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning [and power] (1 Corinthians 1:17)
Paul’s message was not couched in human rhetoric like the Jews. It did not contain philosophy like the Greeks. Paul message was a simple, life saving message — the message of the cross: Jesus Christ crucified, dead buried, and resurrected.
Chokma is the Hebrew word for wisdom. Divine wisdom is an attribute of God. The Lord by wisdom founded the earth (Proverbs 3:19a). Human wisdom is given to people through the fear (reverence) of the Lord. Human wisdom is knowledge guided by understanding. Knowledge is nothing but facts known by a person. A person studies to gain knowledge — the facts.
Jeopardy is a game of knowledge. The contestants are good at recalling facts. When knowledge is combined with experience, wisdom is the result. Experience teaches how to apply the acquired knowledge. However, the wisdom of the world tends to be self-centered.
Leaders should possess both knowledge and wisdom. To be endowed with these attributes allows one to discern when to delegate to subject matter experts. A wise woman knows she does not know everything. So, she surrounds herself with other wise people. The other day, I heard a lady say, “If you’re not smarter than me, you can’t be in my crowd.”
The Book of Proverbs is filled with wise sayings attributed to Solomon, David’s son. Proverbs 9:10a summaries the first nine chapters of Proverbs: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.
Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, defined wisdom as understanding why things are a certain way, which is deeper than merely knowing things are a certain way. Reason and philosophy are fundamental to worldly wisdom. The thought process includes rationalization.
Dr. Fauci is a brilliant man in the field of medicine. He is one of the leading experts in infectious diseases. But, the Coronavirus 2019, COVID-19, has him confounded. Now he’s advising the American public to get vaccinated and wear two masks. In the words of Mother Avalon, “If you can’t get people to wear one mask, how can you expect them to wear two masks?” Human wisdom is nothing without God, (Jeremiah 8:9).
The Jewish leaders expected a triumphant, political Messiah, not a crucified one. Paul’s preaching about a crucified Christ was foolishness to them. Not that the preaching was foolish, but the message (Christ crucified) was viewed by “the world” (Jews and Greeks) as foolish. It’s hard for the so-called “highly educated” to accept the message of the cross. Their thinking is meaningless because they have a wrong concept of God and God’s revelation. This world’s wisdom is foolishness to God. God catches the wise in their cleverness. The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are silly (1 Cor. 3:19-20). But to those who are saved, the message of the cross is the power of God! Divine wisdom is the knowledge of an omniscient God guided by faith.
When you think you have become smarter than God, God said, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. ”God is omniscient — all knowing.” God possesses universal or complete knowledge. Human wisdom is thwarted in comparison to God. It’s like a drop of water from the vast ocean. Who made the universe? Who made the world? Who made the mountains, the ocean, the desert and the seas? Who made the birds of the airs, the lilies of the fields, and all the breasts of the earth? Who made you and me? God! If God did all this, God’s wisdom trumps human wisdom. God is the wisest!
Human wisdom cannot save people. Since the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. So, who needs human wisdom? Who needs a miraculous sign? You don’t either. In order to know God, you need Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He gave His life as a ransom for many on Calvary. They hung Him high and stretched Him wide on an old rugged cross. They pierced Him in his side. The blood and water came streaming down. He hung His head. For you and me He died.
They laid Him in a borrowed tomb. But early on Sunday morning, He got up! God raised Him up with all power in His hand! If you believe the message of the cross, you are saved!
The crucified Christ is the power of God. The crucified Christ is the wisdom of God. The resurrected Christ is the one who saves. He is the logos — the word of God. He is the bread of heaven that nourishes your soul. He is shelter in the time of storm. He is order in the midst of chaos.
He is peace in times of trouble. He is medicine — the balm in Gilead – for incurable diseases. He is joy in times of sorrow. He is our hope for a better and brighter tomorrow. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The message is simple: Believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised him from the dead and you are saved. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor is the senior pastor of Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church, 3719 W. Slauson Ave., in Los Angeles, CA.