From the Pastor - October 2022 Newsletter - Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
“Biblical Wisdom vs. Worldly Wisdom”
I have often encouraged us to compare and contrast words we hear in our world with how Holy Scripture speaks of them. We must always ask the question, “What does God say about this? How does He define it?” For in the end, this is all that matters.
As with many things, wisdom is often thrown around in our day without definition. So it is important that we understand what Scripture says about wisdom and how it is defined so that we can determine what is from God and what is not. In Holy Scripture, wisdom is not, first and foremost, intellectual. It is not the person in the room with the highest IQ, nor the person who did the most with their career, nor any other typical way in which a “wise person” may be defined in our day.
Wisdom, in Holy Scripture, deals with morality. It is the way one lives their life. This morality is found in how we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). This is true wisdom. Wisdom defined as by the Triune God in Holy Scripture.
Any “earthly wisdom” then, that does not teach us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves, is defined by Holy Scripture as “folly” or “foolishness.” It is from Satan and so can end only in death and everlasting damnation.
To illustrate these two contrasting views of wisdom, we can look to the Book of Psalms. Both Psalms 1 and 2 introduce the theme, so to speak, of the entire Psalter. And wisdom is defined in the very beginning.
The wise are those who “walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” (Ps. 1:1) In contrast, they “meditate on the Law of the lord day and night” (Ps. 1:2). In other words, they delight to hear God’s Word and ponder it. For God’s Word feeds their souls, teaching them that they do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:4).
On the other hand, the wicked do not meditate upon the Law of the LORD, but on “vain things” (Ps. 2:1). In Psalm 2, we are told the kings of the earth set themselves against the LORD and against His Anointed saying: ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us!’” (Ps. 2:2-3)
Notice the wicked work against “the LORD and against His Anointed.” This “Anointed” is further introduced a few verses later: “The Lord said to Me: ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.’” (Ps. 2:7)
So then, who are those whom the wicked meditate vain things against? The Father and the Son; the Triune God. We see this fulfilled throughout history. The world constantly seeks to undermine Christ and His work, which is folly to them. The Jews attempted to put Jesus to death in order to “stop Him,” but “the LORD sat in the heavens and laughed” (Ps. 2:4). Jesus’ death was not a defeat, but a victory and the demise of all those who stubbornly “meditate vain things” by fighting against Christ and His work in this world.
St. Paul agrees with this interpretation when He declares that Jesus is “the Power of God and the Wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Jesus does not simply possess wisdom; He is Wisdom Personified (cf. Proverbs 8).
This is the Wisdom that matters most. Anything considered wisdom that is opposed to Christ and His Work – given through His Word and Sacraments – is folly. It cannot save. True Wisdom, namely Christ, is what is essential for eternal life. In Christ, we are enabled and strengthened to grow in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.
Christ has become for us Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30). Thus, whenever something is defined as wise, we must first “test the spirits” to see whether or not they are from God (1 Jn. 4:1). We are to test them over against Christ and His Word. For here alone do we hear the Son speak. Here alone does He teach us. Here alone does He conform us into His perfect Image, so that we can be wise and increase in such wisdom, namely love of God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.
Take refuge, therefore, in Christ Jesus alone, the Wisdom of God. Take refuge in Him by joyfully hearing His Word and receiving His Body and Blood and you too will be blessed.