Currently this blog is exploring Paul’s Corinthians correspondence. Its recent series on Genesis and Mark which started on 01/01/2015, can be accessed from the archive.Access by date is via the archive, access to particular bible passages can be obtained by googling for example emmock.com John 3:16; and to particular themes by googling for example emmock.com holiness.
The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live in.
18 Let no one fool himself. If someone among you thinks he is wise (by this world’s standards), let him become foolish so that he may become really wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is nonsense, as far as God is concerned; inasmuch as the Tanakh says, “He traps the wise in their own cleverness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are worthless.” 21 So let no one boast about human beings, for all things are yours — 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter or the world or life or death or the present or the future: they all belong to you, 23 and you belong to the Messiah, and the Messiah belongs to God.
Paul is writing here about receiving the whole world not as something earned but a something received. Those who have been humbled by the crucified messiah are no longer full of themselves and are ready to receive everything from God’s hand. Suddenly they become rich people, as everything is theirs to appreciate rather than to possess.
Even religious wisdom can become a possession or achievement; if so it remains worldly. But when people trust that God possesses them, they gain access to God’s goodness which includes all things along with themselves. This is especially directed at the “gnostics ” ( from Greek gignosco, to know) meaning people of knowledge in the Corinthian assembly, who feel superior to those who merely trust in God. The word Gnostic (with a capital G) is applied to a type of religion which flourished inside and outside the Christian church in the second and third centuries CE. Perhaps the Corinthian knowledge – people were forerunners of this tendency.
Although Paul insists on foolishness, weakness and poverty as Christian virtues, he wants to show that these are positive rather than negative. The worldly wisdom that demands power and wealth is in his view poor in comparison with the true riches enjoyed by those who receive all of life as a gift.
Some scholars think that Paul’s ethics are formed by his conviction that this world will end soon; and are therefore not much use for the long haul. I think that this mistakes the nature of Paul’s teaching about the “end”, and underestimates the practical value of his ethics. For example, one of our main economic problems is how to achieve justice and ecological balance in populations who demand more of everything all the time. Foolish people who are content to receive the world as a gift and do not feel entitled to greater wealth might just be the ones we need to save the world.
Clever people who tells us that infinite growth is possible in a finite world may just be the kind of people we could do without.