The Wisdom of
Shortly after God put the man in the garden to
cultivate it, God decided that the man should not live alone. God
brought every living creature before the man to see if any one would
be a suitable helper. The man was also responsible for assigning a
name to each of the creatures. Ever since that first roll call,
humanity has sought to understand the environment in which we live by
assigning names not only to every living and non-living thing but
also to their behavior and characteristics. Western civilization
often employs the Greek and Latin terms associated with the entity or
behavior. For example:
- letter (graphics)
– life (bio+logy, study of life)
the turn of the century the psychologist, Henry Goddard decided to
give labels or names to the different levels of intelligence as
determined by the Binet Intelligence Test or what we now call the IQ
test. The Binet scale had four very unflattering labels to denote a
persons level of intelligence. People who score between 0-25 were
labeled “idiotic” and those between 26-50 “imbecile”. Goddard
used the Greek μορια to describe those
whose IQ range from 51-70. Transliterated the term is moron. It is
the term that Paul uses five times in this morning passage and is
This may sound a
little harsh but Paul is saying essentially that to the secularized
and religious world, God looks like a moron. I am not referring to
the Hallmark greeting card god. That god has been stripped,
sanitized, and sentimentalized into a harmless, neutered spirit.
That god is harmless because he or she is powerless. That god watches
the unraveling of human history from a safe distance, expressing
concern and empathy but never really getting involved.
Paul is referring to
the God of the ancient Scriptures; who offered an old man and an old
woman the foolish promise of a son; who told the people of Israel to
abandon the security of Egypt for the foolish promise of their own
land; who sent a shepherd boy foolishly into battle against the
mighty warrior Goliath and then appointed that foolish inexperienced
young man king of Israel. Paul is also referring to the God who sent
his one and only son into the fray of human existence, exposed to the
pain and suffering of human existence, vulnerable to human authority
and power, and subject to the limitation of fleshly existence.
Neither the Jews nor the Greeks could understand that sort of God.
His methods seemed all wrong.
The Jews expected the
messiah to adhere to the religious traditions and conform to time
honored rules. Jesus appeared to go out of his way to break their
norms and trample upon their religious laws. They thought that the
Messiah would duplicate the miracles of Elijah. Jesus refused to
preform for them. He did not come to entertain them so he refused to
perform miracles in their presence.
In the rock opera
Jesus Christ, Superstar, Pilate has sent Jesus to King Herod
for trial. The king has heard rumors about Jesus and is excited for
the opportunity to meet him. He first asks Jesus change his water
into wine then he request that Jesus “walk across my swimming
pool.” The composition really caught our “God on demand”
expectation. His refusal to display his power and authority went
contrary to cultural wisdom. Superstars are supposed to thirst for
more than 15 minutes of fame. They are supposed to seek the
spotlight, the center of everyone’s attention. Jesus refused. He
did not have to prove himself to anyone.
The method of Jesus’
death also shattered good conventional Jewish wisdom. Prophets often
faced the threat of death but none them them were hung for a crime.
Such punishment was probably reserved for only the most heinous
crimes. The book of Deuteronomy states that anyone who dies by being
hung on a tree is cursed by God. Why would God chose have the Messiah
die by such a method? It just defied all common sense.
The methods that God
used to present his son also baffled the Greeks of Paul’s day. The
philosophers had moved beyond the polytheistic folklore. They may
have used the names of Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo and other gods but
they did not believe that they actually existed. The philosophers’
argued that for god to be God he/she must be above human feelings.
They argued that if God could feel human emotions, then a human must
have influenced God and is therefore greater than God. God not only
would not feel human love, hate, or anger; God would also not feel
the sting of a whip, the pain of a nail and most certainly not die a
One philosopher also
declared that we insulted God by even suggesting his involvement in
human affairs. The idea of the incarnation in which God takes on
human flesh seemed ludicrous. God was considered good and beautiful.
If God became a part of the material world then God would change from
good to bad, from beautiful to ugly, and from happiness to sadness.
God would never accept such a change, making the incarnation an
the Jew and the Greek considered the message to be nonsense. They
also could not understand the people God chose. While we do not have
a complete description of the congregations at Corinth, Paul gives us
a hint of the people that were part of the body. In vs 26 Paul writes
of you were
human standards; not many were influential;
not many were of noble
This brief sentence
suggests two very important characteristics of the church. First, the
church had people from many different walks of life. Some were
influential citizens and some were not. Some were of noble birth and
some were probably free. Some were educated while others could not
read the most basic Greek letters. The gospel cut across social and
economic conditions. It was not just for the intellectually elite.
The philosophers of Paul’s day would not have understood this. They
believed that a person could not understand truth, obtain knowledge
and acquire wisdom without years of extensive training. More
importantly, they could not comprehend why any educated person, any
person of social or political standing, would want to associated with
the general public. The church in Corinth offended people because it
consisted of rich and poor, educated and non-educated, free and slave
all worshiping together. This just did not make sense to the Greeks
and made even less sense to the Jews who were always conducting
purity tests to determine if a person was religiously safe.