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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

What Makes Us Wise?


Wisdom and Folly

The Second Sunday after Trinity – 6/9/2024

Proverbs 9:1-10

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of Proverbs with special emphasis on verse ten which reads as follows:

 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                We human beings are meant for wisdom. That is to say, we are supposed to be masters of the world around us, which includes knowing about this world, how to use it, our place in it, and the general state of affairs of it. In other words, we are supposed to have the information and know how to make good choices and to see ourselves rightly.

                However, this is not the sole possibility in this world. We are sinners, after all. As such, it is also possible, indeed all too easy, for us to fall victim to something other than wisdom, namely, folly or foolishness. Biblically speaking, these are really the only two options. Either we become wise, or we fall into folly.

                Folly is simple enough. It is the opposite of wisdom. It is foolishness, particularly exhibited in a life that tries to work against God and the structures of reality that He made. And it does not matter if those structures are physical, like gravity, moral, like marriage being between one man and one woman, or theological, like those who deny that our Lord Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. No matter which way we approach it, whenever we start against the very rules of reality that God has given and made, we pursue folly.

                Sometimes we reduce wisdom and folly to matters of practical experience. For example, we often consider wisdom to be something gained by experience and folly to come from ignorance or inexperience. While this is certainly true in everyday matters, it is decidedly not true in the weighty things of God. That is to say, we are taught here by King Solomon that truly having wisdom is not a matter of having put in sufficient time in this life, but having learned from God about Himself. As the old king puts it, it comes from proper fear of the Lord. Fear is connected with rightly knowing God, that is, knowing the truth about Him and the things He has done and said. As such, we gain wisdom in this most basic form from hearing from God, which we do when we study His Word and hear it preached to us.

                The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. The reason for this is very simple: in order to understand the world and us and all the things God has made, we must first understand Who God is and What He has done and said. This is the most foundational sort of wisdom from which we can build other wisdom on.

                Specifically, to properly fear the Lord, we should give Him the reverence and deference that is owed to Him by His very nature. This is doubly true when we consider what He has done for our salvation in giving up His Son to die for us and ear for us forgiveness, life, and salvation.

                Fear of the Lord then is at the very root of all that we do. It undergirds our family life. Being wise means listening to God when He teaches us the structures of family, the need for forgiveness, and the purpose of authority in lovingly and sacrificially caring for those under that authority. We can see similar ordering and responsibility in the other structures in this life: government, occupation, and even church.

                In other words, not only can people be wise or foolish, that is, have folly, but the institutions and groups built and inhabited by people can be as well. Since this is a sermon, let us take a moment and think about wisdom and foolishness in church life. As we just discussed a short while ago, wisdom is living with right knowledge about God, His works and His ways, and rightly understanding this world that He made and living in it accordingly. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. So, then, what would a wise church look like? Acknowledging God’s nature and ways means being reverent. Such a church would not change its practice or music because of how the congregation felt about it. Instead, such matters would be thought of first and foremost from the perspective of what was most reverent and respectful toward God and in conformity with what He says about Himself in His Word. This congregation would begin understanding worship by learning from the Holy Scriptures what God desires and commands concerning worship. Everything about the congregation’s worship life will be thought of first and foremost concerning what God likes, so to speak, what He commands, what He wants to give, and the reverence and respect that are rightly given to Him. Even little things like décor, flooring color, paint, and the like are thought of in these terms first, long before questions of taste and preference come to the table. Preaching and teaching would be done with an eye toward faithfulness to the Scriptures, that is, faithfulness to what God says and would not change or deviate based on fear of what people might say or think. Such a congregation would joyfully seek to have her members live a Christian life, both in service to neighbors and a right confession of the truth of the Lord Jesus which naturally flow from her worship life.

                A foolish church, a congregation given to folly, would approach these things from a different perspective. Instead of practicing fear of the Lord in reverent worship, such a congregation would put the felt needs and desires of the congregation first and foremost. Music, worship, and programming would be picked based on what the congregation wanted or to appeal to potential converts first and foremost. While there is nothing wrong with being hospitable, such a congregation would listen more to market analysis and trends than to Scripture. Being fresh or contemporary, or exciting,  which is really code for listening to the desires of men before the will of God, would be primary. Everything would be left to be changed in light of these desires. Décor, flooring, and paint would simply be chosen based on preference or the intended ambiance for congregation or potential visitors. Preaching and teaching would be geared to making people happy or content or satisfied rather than being faithful. Certainly, nothing potentially offensive would come from the congregation lest offense be given to others. Christian life would be confused. Without a right understanding of it being taught given the emphasis on what the congregation wants, people would be left to largely forge their own way in the world. The congregation would teach people to promote the local congregation first, rather than Christ and His Kingdom. And, at the end, everything would be very nice, very pleasant, friendly, and free from the true and weighty things of the Gospel.

                In other words, a wise church would obey God to the best of her ability, her worship and life would be built on what God says and desires, and her teaching and confession faithful. The same can be said of a wise individual. His or her life would seek to obey God to the best of his or her ability out of fear, love, and thanksgiving to God, making a faithful confession along the way. A foolish church, one of folly, would focus on us human beings and what we like and want for church, its teaching and confession would be inoffensive and human focused. The same can be said of a foolish individual: he or she would be focused on the wide, easy path of low or no offense that caters to inborn, sinful desire.

                But the problem with folly is simple enough: it leads to death. Folly goes hand in hand with sin and, just like temptation to sin, temptation to folly makes folly look easy and fun, but in the end, it gives death and destruction. Wisdom is much harder, that is, it comes with greater opposition in this world. But our Lord Jesus says that the burden is light and the yoke easy in following Him.[2]  But it is not without cost. The world is filled with folly and foolishness. Wisdom comes from Christ and leads back to Him. To be wise is to fear the Lord, to listen to Him, and to live accordingly. And the greatest wisdom of all is to know God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, and His giving of Himself for us sinners so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.

                The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. So, be wise. God has made you, you are no accident. He is the Almighty, the very Author of creation and He who made all things with but a Word. He not only has made you and this world and all good things in it, He also desires your salvation from sin, death, and the devil. Because of this great love for you, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place so that your sins would be put to death, your forgiveness earned, and your salvation secure. We can only be wise if we know God and this, this is God and what He has done for us.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 


[1] Proverbs 1:10 English Standard Version

[2] Matthew 11:30

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