Whether we want to or not, by default we measure everybody by our own standard. Anyone stupider than us is a fool, and anyone smarter than us is a sage. Now we would never admit this to anyone, not even to ourselves (of course, I’m saying it here so what kind of fool does that make me?)
How do we measure a wise man or a fool? I think most of us would say it really doesn’t have much to do with level of education. I know some people who can answer any Jeopardy question thrown at them, but who are as street-stupid as a squirrel (what other animal on the planet waits for a car to come before crossing the road?).
The Bible says that God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom (1 Cor 1:25). What does that mean? Does God have a foolish side? Not at all. Paul is just trying to make a point how ridiculous man’s “wisdom” is. We take so much pride in how much we know as a species–that we have figured out mathematics and physics, that we can cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, that we can create great works of art and architecture. But let’s get real–God invented mathematics and physics, he raised the dead, he fashions thousands of our perfectly designed bodies in their perfectly designed wombs every day. Our wisdom is amoebic compared to God’s.
Several years ago, the sisterhood of churches of which I count myself a member imploded. I think we thought we were so wise and God proved us to be fools. We’re humbler now and finding our way through the murk. But I think we’re seeing how completely far we swung out on the pendulum. Some of our members fled and ran straight back to the world (drugs, sex, and credit card debt). Others are clinging to the old ways like a Woodstock groupie to 8-tracks. My dearest friends are somewhere in between fighting to keep from being overrighteous and overwise or overwicked and overfoolish (Proverbs 7:16).
I certainly haven’t figured it out yet. These recitations are part of my attempt to do just that. I’m sure I could do a flotilla of things better. Read my Bible more. Pray more. Be more hospitable. Be more patient. Volunteer more. Meet more needs. But I exhausted myself doing all those before—and patted myself on the back for all my righteous deeds and how well I did them. Yeah, I know, a whole ‘nother kind of fool.
I think it is human nature to ride life at a full gallop hitting the highs and lows like a heart rate monitor on speed. But you can only do that for so long before you emotionally flatline. If your blessed enough to have someone counsel you in this or you are discerning enough to pick it up in your regular Bible reading, you’ll see that God never intends for us to be the ball that’s whacked back and forth between the racket of wisdom and the racket of foolishness. That would make even God dizzy.
Remember the “IF-THEN” mathematical corollary in pre algebra? If a = b and b = c, then a = c. Well IF the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10), and IF a man who fears God avoids all extremes (Ecc 7:18), THEN I think it’s safe to say that a wise man avoids all extremes.
In other words, we should all strive to not be so wise that our head is the size of a hot air balloon nor so foolish that we end up dead from stupidity. How does that translate to the real world? Don’t be so perfect at your job that you miss out on taking care of your family AND don’t be so focused on being the perfect parent that you’re too distracted to do your job. Don’t be so focused on being healthy that you can’t enjoy the sweets of life AND don’t be so undisciplined with your health such that exercise is an anathema. In other words, don’t get so caught up in ANYTHING such that you miss the big picture.
Man, this wisdom thing is HARD! I feel kinda like a tight rope walker (minus the tights, please) always striving to find the perfect balance. One minute I got it, the next minute a gentle breeze stirs and I’m sure I’m in for a nosedive. (Sure, God’s net of mercy is there to catch me, but that imagery is so clichéd). But then I look up from my single taut rope stretching out before me and see all the other ropes—your rope, his rope, her rope—and remember we’re all trying to do the same thing. Just get to the other side without making a complete fool of ourselves.
I guess in the long run, that’s wisdom.