1 Corinthians 1:20-31:
“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
I was reading another one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books the other day when he brought up the difference between a puzzle and a mystery. When solving a puzzle, we are given too little information and tasked to find that extra bit of information to make the puzzle complete. But in mysteries, we are given too much information and have to use our faculties and judgment to sort through the overload of clues.
Our faith is a mystery. And maybe that’s why Paul seems to have this less-is-more approach to wisdom. Maybe wisdom isn’t a means to know God more, but just a byproduct of striving to know God.
When Jesus sought out disciples, he went to fishermen. Imagine today, someone wanting to spread a message and passing over the college professors and theologians and going for the, say, coal miners. Jesus had a wonderful way of flipping things upside down – inverting social pyramids.
This is what Paul is reminding the people of Corinth- that their lowly status (and this audience had quite the lowly status) would not impede their faith, but in fact strengthen it. Perhaps being born into a life where someone else is in control, it’s not hard to imagine something else in control. But for us (and for ‘us’ I mean myself and the stereotypical Episcopalian) we’ve been born to think that we – our brains, are our own source of wisdom and it’s much tougher to let go of that illusion of control.
This can lead us to believe that our faith is a puzzle: that with just the right bits of information we can put all of God together and perfectly know the whole of God. But, alas. Our faith is a mystery.