Stop your foolishness!” I can still hear the words as they left my grandmother’s lips. As a young boy, I really didn’t understand what she was referring to. Now, I realize, it was the noise and commotion I was involved in that was not in compliance with what was supposed to be happening. In that situation, “foolishness” was a matter of opinion. Now I see the irony that our opinions often are the source of a lot of foolishness.
Let me explain myself. My childish foolishness was a matter of how much noise and chaos my grandmother was willing to tolerate. As a young child, I know that I could generate my fair share of chaos. Now, as a full-grown man, I understand the true meaning of foolishness and know that it is no longer a sliding scale.
Foolishness can be determined in several ways where Christians are concerned. We can say that foolishness is worldliness. 1 Corinthians 2:14 describes the “natural man,” the one who thinks according to the flesh rather than the spirit, as being foolish…or, at the very least, being caught up in foolishness. Foolishness springs from a heart that isn’t working toward God, as in Mark 7:20-22’s description of the things that defile us. Yet I believe all of these things have a central source. It is one that is embedded in the root of our problematic being and described perfectly in Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” It is foolishness that leaps out when we lose the fear of the Lord – that reverent respect and honor for the awesome and powerful, wonderfully-merciful God – and a pulling away from His wisdom and instruction.
The danger lies in allowing opinion to rule behavior instead of Biblical truth. This seems to be the “perfect storm” that affects the world around us, as well as many in the church today.
We have politics (and political correctness) permeating the peace of our homes, our work places, our very lives, and, of course, the body of Christ. The church has not been immune to these discussions and disputes. The social climate is rife with the voices of those who certainly don’t consult the wisdom and counsel of God’s Word in directing their paths. There are those in the church who have not been grounded in a firm foundation of Biblical teaching that call for a softening, or removal in some cases, of those things they don’t understand or deem “outdated.”
The question remains, “How do we remain faithful and loving?” How do we operate in a post-modern world and still keep our feet firmly on the solid rock? How do we avoid the foolishness? The greatest tool that we can wield in building a shelter from foolishness is God’s Word! That didn’t surprise you, did it? Good! If you have made it this far, I beg you to read on.
Where the world’s cultural teaching is concerned, we can never compromise God’s Word to appease those who are made uncomfortable by our faith. I have heard suggestions from around the brotherhood saying things such as, “Maybe if we just relaxed a bit and gave in with some of these things, more people would attend.” The truth of that matter is that the church has always been viewed as out of place and out of touch with the world. Here is an awakening for some: we are supposed to be different. Peter referred to God’s people as peculiar, remember (1 Pe. 2:9)? Paul wrote the same to Titus (Ti. 2:14). God has always called for His people to act differently than those around them. So if we want to avoid the foolishness of the world, the answer is follow Jesus and not the world…or the world’s imagination of Jesus.
Foolishness hits us on many different levels and so we need to pull the circle in a bit closer to home. James was talking about embracing worldliness when he said that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (Ja. 4:4). Some might say that we stretch a bit to talk about actual friendships in the world falling into this text, but I think it fits greatly. Again, I return to Proverbs where we get wonderful guidance from God’s wisdom given to His servant Solomon who says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26). The way of the wicked is foolishness. A defiance of godly ways will always lead off the path of righteousness to a sure and certain death (Pr. 14:12; 16:25).
Our friends can and will alter our focus, either for the good or the bad. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ and you can’t count members of His body as your best friends, you need to reevaluate the course you are trying to walk. Want to avoid a stumbling episode? Make sure that the ones you walk closest to are really walking the path laid out by God.
That being said, the closest family that we need to be most concerned with is the congregation where we attend. The church has been likened to a hospital and I believe that to be an accurate description. It is a place where broken people come to be made whole again. It is a wonderful gathering; yet be mindful that not all broken people realize the extent of their wounds. Not all are there for the same reasons and it can be where the devil’s greatest work can take place. Where beliefs, traditions and opinions meet, there will be foolishness.
This is the place where we should be safe from problems, but that is not always the case. We are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (He. 10:25), so a lack of attendance is neither the answer nor an option. So how do we avoid the foolishness in the church? The answer once again comes directly from Scripture. The number of answers here is too great to fully cover in this article, so we will look at a few and I pray we will continue in a self-study in the days to come.
We read that foolishness was present even in the early days of the church. It seems people haven’t changed much since then. When I was a teenager, I was a professional grumbler. I return to my roots even today, and it seems like I am not alone. We like to complain about a myriad of things. The sermon (the length, content, lack of content), the song leader (too slow, too fast), the prayers (too long, too short, didn’t mention me…), the temperature (too hot, to cold – I even heard too comfortable, believe it or not)…you get the picture.
The Bible talks specifically about our complaints. Paul’s letter to the Philippians directed them (and us) to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (2:14). He then gives the reasoning for that in verses 15-16: “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” That sounds like a great way and an excellent reason to avoid the foolishness of complaining. I would also add that our complaints within the church about these things can be discouraging and in some cases a stumbling block to our brethren; when it goes outside the body, it gives those who would oppose God a foothold (2 Sa. 12:14a)
I spoke earlier of opinions. To some it seems this is a book in the Bible, and one that they cling to with great passion. We see time and time again the folly of this way of thinking. Paul addresses this line of thought when he said, ”But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless” (Ti. 3:9). Stay away from these side roads that only lead to trouble and you can avoid a great many arguments and divisions in your walk.
Remember the urgency of our mission and the glory of our goal! You wish to avoid drowning in the foolishness that seems to be rising all around? Here is sound advice from our brother Peter that will, if followed, cure and prevent a great many issues that plague us all:
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pt. 4:8-10).