After I recently finished reading through Acts, I asked God I should read next. He told me to read Proverbs.
Little back story. I’ve become increasing aware of the gap between heavenly wisdom and earthly wisdom. What I’m about to share might get on your toes but that’s ok! It’s gotten on mine and it’s a weight I’m glad to carry. You see, a lot of people don’t realize that when Jesus called his disciples to follow him, he didn’t give them a back up plan. They said yes to a lifelong commitment that made no earthly sense. Or, if I can be so free as to put it as I’ve heard it in church foyers: it wasn’t “wise”.
I’ve become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I now enjoy being counter-cultural. Some people think I’m crazy for what I’m doing with my life right now. I sometimes get wows when I share stories and that’s fun. But something I can’t get through my head is how often people say: I wish I could do that BUT…and they name a few responsibilities they have.
It seems to me that there are two major schools of thought when it comes to decision making: in mission culture, “foolishness” is celebrated and in church culture, “wisdom” is celebrated. I know I’m really generalizing here, but I’ve been in a few different settings over the last three years and it seems pretty consistent. Even in the different generations I feel the same polarized views of wisdom and foolishness. My generation is stirred by stories of those who have given everything up and live purely by financial faith that looks ridiculous. The older generation seems moved by stories of those who carefully invested their money and are reaping what they sowed.
So! Who’s right? The young missionaries who love being called foolish or the older church elders and business owners who are honored to be called wise stewards?
I’m not going to mess around here. I’d rather be called foolish by the world than wise by the church even though both are godly. I’m going to explain why.
Before we get there, there’s Proverbs. When God told me to read it I was like ok God, that doesn’t really vibe with my whole foolish for Jesus mojo. All I remembered are the many verses that talk about being blessed financially, storing up wealth, and having financial security. I honestly had to ask God, what am I missing?! Well, I haven’t nearly finished Proverbs or arrived at a full revelation of what I’m about to share. I just know that we’ve got to start somewhere in order to unravel this mystery of wisdom and foolishness. Let’s start at the very beginning…
One of the most memorable verses in the entire Bible is Proverbs 1:7. It says that “the fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom.” You’ve got to get past the familiarity we’ve built around this verse and really hear it. There are many times that the Bible describes what wisdom looks like and how to obtain if. However there are few that actually discuss what it is. I think there’s a reason for that.
To talk about heavenly wisdom, we have to talk about “heavenly fear”. If you study the word that’s translated fear in most translations, you’ll find out that “fear” is not a great translation. The Hebrew word involves worship and reverence and intense revelation of the power of God. Because fear of the Lord isn’t being scared of God, even Jesus carried it. Isaiah 7 says that the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord rested upon him. Do you think Jesus was scared of the Father? Of course not! He loved him passionately and was in awe of him! His “fear of the Lord” led him to complete surrender and obedience, even to death. (Phi 2)
Fear of the Lord is simply gazing upon the image of God and being WOWED. The beginning of the Fear of the Lord really starts in worship, doesn’t it? In the place of extravagant praise and worship, God translates his heart for the lost, faith for miracles, and radical trust in his plan. This is the beginning of heavenly wisdom. And trust me, it can lead you to do some crazy foolish-looking things!
Contrast that to earthly wisdom. In 1 Cor 1, Paul asks, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Clearly there’s an earthly wisdom that exists that is not from God. If heavenly wisdom begins in the fear of the Lord that proceeds from the worship of the Lord, then this earthly wisdom begins in the fear of man. What does fear of man look like? It goes deeper than you just being intimidated to share the gospel with a stranger of family member.
Fear of man is actually always opposed to fear of the Lord because fear of man worships man. Instead of the worship of the One who is worthy of worship, fear of man worships people’s opinions and culture’s expectations. The fact is, whatever you elevate and allow to influence you more than God is idolatry.
What does this mean for me and you? Clearly there’s heavenly wisdom and earthly wisdom. Which one influences our life has a massive impact on what we do and where we end up. It’s really not about being wise or foolish with our decisions or finances; it’s about allowing the Spirit to instruct us in those decisions from the place of pure worship. The key to knowing whether you are walking in heavenly wisdom that usually looks like earthly foolishness is to find out where you are being influenced. Are the conversations with concerned peers what drives your decisions or are the moments of “wow God” in deep worship what steers them?
For some of us, that means giving up safety and living our lives without saving for retirement. For some of us it looks like learning to build a business or a family that will last past our deaths! As sons and daughters with unique callings, let’s take it all back to our Father and let the knowledge of his glory and power shape our wisdom. We have to trust his voice. We cannot compare or judge another person’s lifestyle but we can seek the Lord urgently to hear his thoughts on our own lifestyle.
When I am in worship, God is constantly urging me to be ready to drop everything. He hasn’t told me to invest my time in career building or saving up enough money to buy a house. When I feel his burning presence on my heart, there’s a constant pull to “go”. Explaining this to people who don’t know Jesus the way I do is difficult. Honestly, I’m glad it doesn’t make sense to them. If I was to sell-out on the plans he has for me to travel to various countries and preach the gospel, I know I would be walking in the fear of man. I can’t do that.
There are people who feel trapped in the American dream who need to be set free. I’m convinced that we must not let our culture shape our wisdom. If you are with me, go deep in your worship of the King. When you find yourself engulfed by his powerful presence, ask him for direction. He will give it you. He loves to guide his children.
Comment your thoughts or questions below!