18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. 19 It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent [Isaiah 29:14]. 20 Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. 22 Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom.
The apostle Paul knew his central message was “foolish” to some and “scandal” to others. He knew no PR person or mythmaker would try to impress Greeks, Romans or Hebrews with a crucified savior. Yet he preached Christ crucified as a life-changing physical and spiritual fact with utter conviction. He relied on God’s power, not sheer human logic, to change people’s lives and thinking. He trusted that God’s wisdom and strength were greater than this world’s, and found that they are.
Dear God, I am grateful that your strength and wisdom are greater than the world’s! I need that—I can’t save myself. Help me to trust and depend on you for what I need most. Amen.
I grew up Christian and had a deep faith through my high school years; but my faith really grew in college, not because I learned more about God (even though I did), but because I learned more about life. It was easy to trust God with my finances when my income was $0. When I had bills to pay, when I started down a path of career preparation, I had tangible things to give up to follow God, and that made me think a lot more about the things I believed in.
Jesus’ message was radically counterintuitive. Give your riches to the poor to store up treasures in heaven. Take care of the sick and welcome the alien into your land. Take care of your neighbor even when your neighbor is a different race than you and has mistreated you. These are all things that are easy to ask other people to practice, but really tough when it comes time to give something tangible up ourselves to accomplish. So moving from an environment where I had nothing to give up into one where I had little and giving up even a little meant much more—that made these things much more real.
The older I get, the more I realize: Jesus’ words were timeless because we, as the human race, never fully embrace them. His words were radical then and they’re radical now. We live in a world that still constantly seeks to give more money to the rich, turn our backs on the sick, and turn the alien away from our land. We live in a world where many of us are more likely to lock our doors than to stop our cars as we drive past a stranger in need.
These things are easy to ask other people to do; but when it comes time for us to give something up, we’re armed with an arsenal of pithy statements we heard from talking heads on social media about why we don’t need to, about why giving things up and welcoming others is actually a bad idea. When someone comes up with a passable reason why we shouldn’t do these things, they’re often lifted up as intellectuals rather than bad influences.
It’s easy to talk about how Jesus’ message was foolish to the Greeks and Hebrews in his time, but it seems to be quite a different thing when we’re asked to give our own money away, or work to end systemic injustices that may benefit us, or wear a mask to protect the sick during a pandemic. Many of the hot topics today still come down to taking care of the poor, sick, and outsiders in our society, and that’s a testament to how hard these things are to accept personally. Are you willing to do foolish things for God? Don’t be content with the ways you already are; carefully examine the ways that you’re not, and dig into why. The answers you get might surprise you.
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