3rd Sunday in Lent
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 Sermon
March 19, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
164 "God Himself Is Present"
482 "Beneath The Cross Of Jesus"
50 "Jesus Name Of Wondrous Love"
242 "Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation"
BEING ONE OF GOD’S FOOLS
TEXT: “Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thought of the wise are futile.’ So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”
Davey was a pretty good kid. He had an outgoing personality, he loved to visit, and he had a good interest and curiosity about life and the world around him. Oh sure, he got into mischief like all kids do, but for the most part, he was all right.
However, Davey didn’t have an easy time of it. He was a little pudgy, and rather average looking. He was uncoordinated and did not do very well in sports activities. He was also a peace loving person, and so he avoided fights and confrontations whenever he could, and would walk away from many situations rather than get involved in a battle of fists. He didn’t like to use bad language, nor did he like to argue. He also respected his parents and elders.
All things considered, he didn’t seem to quite measure up to what everybody wanted, and so he wasn’t very popular. Davey was the kid in school that everybody would pick on. Playing in the school yard, he was always the kid that was picked last for any team. Kids wanted to get him into fights and beat him up. He was teased mercilessly.
When the other boys would gather together, they would say things like, “You run and throw like a girl.” “You’re no good, Davey.” “Go home Davey, we don’t want you around.” And the girls would stand around, giggling and pointing at him.
Of course Davey didn’t want to be around where he wasn’t wanted—but he still longed to be able to do those things, and to be the type of person that would make him acceptable to the others.
At home, Davey’s parents loved him; but they were continually reminding him how much better he could be than he was. Davey was an average student; but his parents, along with his teachers would tell him how much better he could be if he would only apply himself. He would do a little task to help out around the house, only to be criticized about what he did wrong, and how he could have done it better. If Davey was upset about something, his parents wouldn’t take him seriously, and frequently teased him about it. Even though his parents loved him and wanted the best for him, Davey was hurting; and he learned early on that it was much easier to just keep his feelings to himself.
It seemed like nobody understood or really wanted to care about what was happening. The problems with the kids at school, the teasing, and the continual reminders that he wasn’t living up to everyone’s expectations cut Davey rather deeply. Why couldn’t people accept the fact that he was trying? Why did people create these certain “standards” of who was in and who was out—who was acceptable in society and who wasn’t?
Certainly there were many things that were good and right that were told to Davey, and those things were told him for his own good; but why did people always have to bash him over the head with those things? And so, as the situation continued, he just tried to shut it all out. And many nights, Davey simply went to bed by himself; and with all those feelings churning over in his mind, he would cry himself to sleep.
Well, let’s leave Davey here for the time being; but keep him in mind as we examine our text for today. The whole thrust of this section is on worldly wisdom and self-deception. Paul begins our text by saying in verse 18, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise.”
With that in mind, let us consider how we should be “One of God’s fools.”
The main problem in Davey’s case was that he was being measured against a set of standards in the world which were important to others. In order to be a “proper person,” according to these standards, one had to be thin, good looking, articulate, athletic, and be able to wear the cuts and bruises of a fight like a trophy. One had to constantly rebel against authority, talking back to older folks, and getting into trouble. Davey was an outcast because he didn’t measure up to this scale.
Paul writes, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” And it really doesn’t take too much to see how utterly ridiculous it is to measure a little boy’s worth on such a scale.
But aren’t our scales every bit as faulty? We tend to hold some pretty shaky values very high. I was reminded the other day how sick our society is, when sports stars, and rock musicians, and movie stars, and even prostitutes and drug dealers make multi-million dollar salaries; while teachers, and nurses in the hospital, and social workers, and law enforcement officers barely make enough to keep food on the table in many cases. That is the scale of value our world uses to rate and reward individuals. That is the type of thing our “worldly wisdom” produces! This is evidence that our world is sick, and that our sense of values are completely warped! Indeed this is foolishness in God’s sight.
And you know, we’re one of these people! We live in that society that rewards a rock musician more than a police officer. That’s not just everybody else’s thinking, that’s the way we think! The outcome and values that we have might not always be the same in every case, but it is a symptom of the same disease of sin that so warps and twists our values! We tend to boast the accomplishments of people above everything else. Yes, our wisdom is just as faulty as the person who values a prostitute more than a teacher.
This type of thinking creeps into the church and into the hearts of Christians as well; and as Christians we need to be continually aware of it.
I’ve heard people take the Word of God and use it to brag about themselves. They will look at accomplishments of the Holy Spirit, and claim them as their own accomplishments. In an effort to witness to others, they’ll take the Bible and beat people over the head with it, instead of speaking the truth in love, doing so in gentleness and reverence.
You’ll find people saying things like, “If you don’t join our church, then you’re going to go to hell,” or, “Look everybody, see how closely we follow God’s Word,” or, “See what perfect Christians we are.”
Then there are those who in effect go chasing after people with their Bible in hand, and basically beat them over the head with the law with words like, “You’d better repent like me, or you’re going to go to hell!” or, “Are you that stupid that you can’t see how much God loves you, you filthy rotten sinner?” or, “Only a complete idiot would believe that the Bible isn’t the inspired and inerrant Word of God.”
Does that sound like thoughts we might have had? Perhaps we have thought along those lines, or we’ve had similar thoughts in other situations. But this is the wisdom of the world speaking! This is worldly wisdom with a theological topic. This is self-righteous bragging, which Jesus condemns so strongly among the Pharisees.
But you see, the wisdom of the world is twisted. And suddenly, when people take the Word of God, and use the wisdom of the world to do their own self-righteous thing, then the results are disastrous. What person, if being spoken to in the ways I’ve just mentioned, wouldn’t turn-tail and run the other way? People will simply not tolerate being bashed over the head, even if it is with the Word of God.
Listen to the words of Paul in our text once again. In verse 18 we read, “Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” And that is our object—to become one of God’s “fools.”
The word “fool” here is an interesting one. Literally translated, the word is “moron.” And by the standards of the world, “fool” and “moron” aren’t very complimentary terms. But Paul is saying that we who think we are so smart by the standards of this world should become “fools” and “morons” by those standards, so that we may become truly wise by God’s standards.
Little Davey learned a lesson one day just how foolish those worldly ways are. He was walking home from school one day. It seemed that he had been picked on more than usual, and so he felt rather hurt and angry. He was kicking a can as he walked, pretending that it was one of the boys that had picked on him. By and by, Billy came walking by, also coming home from school. Billy was a year younger than Davey, and a year behind him in school.
As they approached each other, Billy simply said “Hi Davey.” But instead of returning the greeting, Davey decided to do to Billy what the other kids had done to him; perhaps a little aggression would make him feel better. So Davey began to call Billy names and push him around.
Billy stared in absolute shock; he had known Davey all his life. They even went to the same church. He couldn’t believe that this was Davey doing this to him.
Then Davey began to beat up on Billy. He hit Billy in the face, and knocked him in the mud. His lunch box fell to the sidewalk and his Thermos broke. Billy sat up. He was covered with mud and he had a bloody nose. He didn’t fight back. He didn’t even say a word. He just began to softly cry. “I guess that’ll teach you to mess around with me!” shouted Davey. Billy didn’t say a word as he picked himself up. He retrieved his lunch box dripping with milk, and started to slowly walk away—whimpering, and continually looking back at Davey over his shoulder.
Davey didn’t sleep too well that night. He kept picturing Billy and the look on his face. He should have felt good, he thought; after all, it seemed like everybody else got pleasure out of picking on him. But he didn’t; Davey felt absolutely horrible. What if somebody had seen him do what he did? He remembered the kind smile of his Sunday School teacher, and the lesson she had taught just a few weeks ago: “If someone hits you, turn the other cheek.” She would have been so disappointed.
And then it suddenly hit him—Jesus DID see what he did. Jesus knew. And how disappointed Jesus must have been! Davey felt as if he had swallowed a rock. He sat up in bed and bawled. “I’m sorry Jesus!” he cried, “I’ll never do something like that again!”
Davey knew that Jesus wasn’t the only one that needed an apology. So the next day, Davey took the brand new ten dollar bill his Grandma had given him for his birthday, plus another 63 cents in change he found, and headed off for school. He brushed on by the bullies who tried to pick on him, and went to find Billy. He saw him coming, with a black eye and a scratched face. Billy sort of shrank back as Davey approached him. With his eyes welling with tears, Davey said: “I’m really, really, really sorry about what I did to you yesterday. Please forgive me! And please take this money—I hope it’s enough to buy a new Thermos for your lunch box. I promise I’ll never hurt you or call you names again, not ever!” Billy put his arm around Davey’s shoulder, smiled and said, “That’s okay; I forgive you.”
The words of our text today speak quite clearly. “He catches the wise in their craftiness; and the Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” All the philosophies of the age, the “might makes right” ideas, the warped standards from which spring words of hate and acts of violence; they’re all foolishness in God’s sight. None of the world’s wisdom can match the simple word of forgiveness. Davey learned that lesson, and so should we.
Becoming fools for God means that we become fools in the eyes of the world’s wisdom. We take those standards and that type of wisdom, and throw it all aside; and we look for that simple word of forgiveness that God promises us by faith in Jesus Christ. Self-righteous indignation has no place in our faith and in our life. We’re nothing but sinners in God’s eyes, and all we can do is cling to that cross, and trust that we are indeed forgiven through Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God.”
What we have here, is nothing of our own doing. Our faith does not have its roots in the wisdom of the world; in fact, according to the world’s view, it is nothing but foolishness. By looking away from ourselves and our own righteousness, and trusting in Jesus alone, is being a fool or a moron according to the wisdom of this age. But it is being one of God’s fools; for in that so-called foolishness, we find true wisdom; for then we find forgiveness for our sins, and eternal life. True wisdom indeed!
Our Christian faith isn’t something God has given us to use to boast about ourselves, saying “Look and see how good of a Christian I am, and you’d better be one too!” Rather, we are to share our faith in a spirit of gentleness and reverence. God has graciously redeemed everybody on the earth, and promises forgiveness to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Jesus is the one we boast about, and not ourselves.
Yes, we are God’s fools, and nothing on our own. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish nothing. Bragging and Bible-bashing are part of worldly wisdom, and can only serve to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit.
Remember Davey? Do any of you know him? I think we all do. I believe that we’ve all felt like Davey at sometime in our lives. In varying degrees, we’ve all felt the failure of living up to a warped set of standards. However, we’ve probably been on the other side of the situation too, being one of those people who pick on and ridicule the Daveys of the world.
I admit I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about Davey and speaking in terms of childhood achievements and goals. This school yard wisdom shows us how foolish some of those standards are. However in the adult world, our worldly wisdom is every bit as foolish in God’s eyes. Now God asks us to be fools according to the standard of worldly wisdom, so that through Christ Jesus, we may gain that true wisdom which is from God.
As we live our lives, we do so according to God’s Word with a spirit of humble thanksgiving. And as we seek to spread the message of the Gospel to others, we aren’t to go bashing the Daveys of the world with a Bible; rather we go forth with a spirit of gentleness and reverence, boasting only in Jesus Christ and the wonderful new life that awaits all who believe.