Read: 1 Corinthians 1:25-31
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.”
Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians reminds us of a theme that is especially poignant in Holy Week: God’s wisdom will often look like folly to us and our own wisdom often turns out to have been misguided. Paul’s sharp contrast between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world is accurate, but this contrast can often only be seen in retrospect. Although the wisdom of the world may turn out to be folly, it never appears to be foolish at the outset. If it did, the wisdom of the world would hold no attraction to anyone. The capacity to discern God’s wise ways is only cultivated in us over time—through prayer, worship, and attention to scripture among other things. We need to be formed to recognize God’s wisdom.
We are only recently beginning to grasp that our plans and policies for using land, water, and other natural resources are not sustainable. Most of the practices that now seem dangerously unsustainable seemed to be wise ways to maximize the production of certain foods at the lowest possible cost. Although the aims were good, our current practices now seem to threaten our very lives. Producing cheap energy seems to come at the expense of breathable air and drinkable water. Using large quantities of grain to produce a pound of beef in a feedlot starts to seem inefficient as well as generates animal waste that pollutes our water.
The wisdom of the cross may help us think further about this question. If Jesus’ self-offering on the cross is the epitome of God’s wisdom, how can that same attitude of self-offering love mark our lives with regard to the world’s resources?
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 832)
Stephen Fowl is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Maryland.