What? Become A Fool?

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)

Years ago I heard a preacher telling, in a most engaging way, the story of Elijah's showdown with the 400 prophets of Baal.  He said something like this: "Elijah didn't need to Hebrewize or Greekize what God said, he didn't need to bend it, twist it, or stretch it, he didn't need to analyze it, debate it, or discuss it, nor did he need to go to school to learn what it meant — he just believed it.  In fact, he was just dumb enough to believe God."  Is this what the apostle was thinking when he penned the somewhat enigmatic statement above?

This declaration sounds very similar to Jesus' statement: "If any man wishes to save his life, he must lose it."  How can anyone save his life by losing it?  How can someone become wise by becoming foolish?  Let's take a closer look at this statement.

Understand this: foolishness is having a short perspective; wisdom is having a long perspective.  Compared to God's eternal perspective, even the perspective of Methuselah, who lived 969 years, was just a moment.  So, if God is wise, then every human is a fool by comparison.  The man who studies very hard and fills his days with the acquisition of knowledge and experiences may be much wiser than the person who does nothing but sit around drinking beer and watching TV.   But both of them are nearly identical fools when compared to God and his wisdom.

So if I think that I am wise, I am deceiving myself.  In order to be truly wise, I must first become foolish — or, in other words, I must humble myself.  The only way I can gain the wisdom of God is for him to give it to me.  The scriptures make it clear that God gives it only to those who pursue it from him with a proper attitude.  To "become foolish" is to admit that I have no wisdom and that I cannot get any by myself.  There are those who find it difficult to swallow their pride and admit that they know nothing, and that they are totally dependent upon God to have any knowledge, wisdom, understanding, or discernment.  They simply don't grasp that the most profound human wisdom is utter foolishness to God.  

The only way that God will give you his wisdom is if you become foolish — humbly admit that you don't know anything and cannot know anything, apart from him.  How did Solomon become the wisest man who ever lived?  When asked what he wanted God to give him, he said: 

Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of your people which you have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9)

Solomon became foolish so that he could be made wise.  He admitted that he needed what only God could give him, and he humbled himself in prayer.  "I'm just a little child; I don't even know how to go out or to come in.  I need your wisdom for everything that is in front of me.  I've never been a king before, so I'm going to depend totally upon you for the wisdom and understanding to do this well."  Even if you ran a business successfully last year, you have never run one successfully this year.  Even if you have done a good job raising your firstborn, when your second child is born, you have never raised him or her.  

After God had given King David instructions that led to a successful battle against his enemies,1 David asked God for instructions the next time the enemies were getting ready to attack.2 David "became foolish", and asked God what to do.  God gave him different instructions for this battle, and David was victorious again.  Had he trusted in his own "wisdom", he would probably have thought: "It worked last time, so I will use the same strategy that yielded a victory during the previous battle."  But instead of depending upon himself, he became foolish and humbly asked God for directions, to which God responded with a winning strategy that was considerably different from the first one.  

Three times in the gospels we see Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and on each of these occasions we find her at the feet of Jesus.  The first time she's just sitting at his feet and listening to him.  The second time she falls at his feet after her brother had died.  The third time she was pouring myrrh on his feet before his passion.  On this occasion, when Judas complained that such an expression was a waste of money, Jesus said: "Let her alone, she's preparing me for burial."  It is not a stretch to say that Mary, alone, understood that Jesus was about to die.  Because Mary made it a point to humble herself before Jesus, it appears that she had greater spiritual insight and wisdom than any of the other disciples.  

How did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?  Jesus clearly said that it was no human wisdom that brought him to this conclusion, but it was by the revelation of God alone.  Then Jesus began to reveal to his disciples more about what was going to occur: he told them that he would suffer and die.  Did Peter respond in humility?  Did he "become foolish" in order that he might gain wisdom?  No, in bold arrogance, he took aside the one that he had not long before declared to be the Messiah, and told him that he couldn't possibly be right.  There is no insight — no wisdom — without humility.  Where there is pride, God does not grant wisdom.

There were no people in Jesus' day who knew the scriptures better than the Pharisees.  Yet, for all their knowledge of the scriptures they missed the very Messiah they were waiting for.  They were so full of pride — puffed up with their own knowledge — that they were unwilling to "become foolish" in order that they might become wise.

One more scripture that teaches this concept — that only those who humble themselves are qualified to receive God's wisdom — is found in the first chapter of Romans.  

Even though they (men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness) knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:21-22)

These people are obviously proud and unwilling to humble themselves before God: they neither honor him nor give thanks to him.  So, you see what happens to them: they sink even deeper into spiritual darkness.  They claim to be wise, but by God's standards, they are fools.  Sad— if they would only humble themselves (become foolish) before God, he would open up their understanding to know the truth (become wise) and they could place their dependence in him.

How about you?  Do you know anything apart from Christ?  Are you willing to say, with Paul: "We are fools for Christ's sake."  In order to know Christ and make him known, are you willing to "become foolish"?  Are you willing to humble yourself, so that God can make you wise?  Remember: anyone who thinks he is wise, is only deceiving himself.  There are a lot of people — and many of them are Christians — who are convinced they know something, who think they're wise.  But they are fools before God.  Don't be a fool in God's eyes.  Become a fool in your own eyes —humble yourself — in order that God may make you wise.

2 Samuel 5:18-20

2 2 Samuel 5:22-25

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