1 CORINTHIANS 1:20-31
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God.30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
I love the feeling of being competent. I love to be knowledgeable on certain subject. I love opportunities to show off how much I know. I love it when people are impressed by me. I miss those things when they are absent from my life, as they have been much of the last two years. I think I’m a pretty smart guy and when I don’t feel like my intellect is being appreciated, I shut down.
Paul again challenges the constructs of his (and our) day by putting the lie to the idea that being smart in the eyes of the world or being respected for your intellect is not of utmost importance. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people”. I think Rabbi Heschel’s wisdom is much closer to the wisdom of God.
The desire to be smart and respected is a particular temptation for me. I have so often in life felt my voice unheard and I never felt that being bigger, stronger, or better looking would be the place where I could distinguish myself. I have relied on my intellect so often to make my way in the world. Yet ultimately, I find that reliance on intellect can have a chilling effect. People perceive you as cold and you do in fact become cold at times. Facts aren’t warm. They are cold and subjective. Grace is warm. Love is warm. Love sees us objectively through the lens of One who passionately cares for us.
I’m an enneagram 5. My particular personality type is prone to intellectual pursuit and withdrawing into the life of the mind. While I think that there is place for such intellectual pursuit, Paul reminds us that the life of the mind and the life of the spirit can be mutually exclusive and it is of far greater value for us to err on the side of the life of the spirit.