Jan 1st 2023 ‘wise in your own eyes’ message by Rev Dr Ed Hird at All Saints Crescent Beach
Proverbs 26: 1- 12
How many of you have ever lost your wallet? I lost this wallet at the Save-on Foods parking lot during a recent snowstorm. After checking everywhere and cancelling my credit cards, I had a phone call from a Good Samaritan who had almost drove over this wallet. God was teaching me afresh that day that he answers prayer, and also that I need to be more careful with my wallet in snowstorms.
Here is what I am wondering: What has God taught you in 2022? What has he tried to teach you in 2022?
On Jan 1st New Year’s Day, my first question for today is: “How teachable are you in 2023? Secondly and closely related, are you wise in your own eyes?
Bishop Peter often says that the essence of discipleship is being F.A.T. This morning I will focus on being teachable.
How eager are you to learn about God’s wisdom in 2023? How open are you to instruction?
Do any of you have any Methodist heritage in your family system? My dad was a Methodist for a year until he converted to the United Church in 1925. The Methodists in Canada used to be full of the fire of the Holy Spirit. On New Year’s Eve, John Wesley’s disciples, instead of getting drunk, had watch-night services where they dedicated the coming year to the Lord.
I have been sitting under Bishop Peter’s preaching for the last four and a half years, and have gained so much. Let me confidentially tell you the greatest weakness with Bishop Peter’s preaching. It is the issue of our teachability. It is so easy for us to say to Peter ‘fine sermon’ but leave the service unchanged. Have you ever been a hearer of the Word without being a doer of the Word? Have you ever built your house on the sand? Have you ever gone out from your house like the five young virgins did with no oil in your lamp? All this is what Jesus called foolishness.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, bishop Peter spoke about the challenge of obedience, and our reluctance to do things God’s way. Only the teachable become obedient to God’s will. Only the teachable actually surrender their Will to God. Teachability is about flexibility and not always having to having things our way. Far too often, even as Christians, we can be stiffnecked and hard hearted, unwilling to bend, unwilling to let go. This is why Ephesians 5:17 says: Don’t be foolish, but rather understand what the Lord’s Will is. Doing the Lord’s Will is wisdom. Doing our own Will is foolishness.
Today’s passage Proverbs 26:-12 teaches us 11 times in just twelve verses about the dangers of foolishness. The word fool or fools is mentioned 99 times in the book of Proverbs and around 360 times throughout the Old and New Testament. In Greek, the term is mores, from which we get the word ‘moron’.
Foolishness in vs 1 & 8 is connected to the Asian concept of shame, dishonour, and loss of face particularly for one’s family.
We must be slow to point the finger judgementally at other people’s foolishness. Jesus strikingly said in Matthew 5:22 said that anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” It is so much easier to be aware of other people’s foolishness than to be self-aware of our own.
Dan Rockwell suggested 12 ways to spot a fool (which may include ourselves at times):
1. Fools believe they are (always) right.
2. Fools hate accountability; prefer to live in fantasy.
3. They Love the blame game; it!s always someone else’s fault.
4. They are always hedonisticly looking for easy street
5. They always want their own way & their own agenda..
6. Fools reject instruction. Proverbs 1:7 says that fools despise wisdom & instruction.
7. Fools can’t see their foolishness. No self-awareness.
8. Fools go quickly to anger and ranting: Ecclesiastes 7:9 says “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”
9. Fools love to Gossip and tear down others.
10. They act over-confidently, thinking they’re better than everyone else. Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:10 said “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ
11. Fools never stop talking. Proverbs 10:8 says that chattering fools lead to ruin. Ecclesiastes 10:2 says that fools multiply words.
12. Fools despise listening. Why listen when you already have all the answers to life?
The opposite of foolishness is wisdom. The term Wisdom (hokmah in Hebrew & Sophia in the Greek) is used 233 times in the Bible. Biblical wisdom literature is primarily found in the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, James, & the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible teaches that the third person of the Trinity is the Spirit of Wisdom. We are also told in Colossians 2:3 that in Christ, the second person of the Godhead, are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. The very essence of the Trinity is loving wisdom.
I’ve really been into this sermon, even working on it in my dreams, and remembering my night time sermon preparation about wisdom become flesh. Proverbs 1 and John 1 tell us that in the beginning was wisdom, also called the word, and wisdom was with God, and is God. Through Wisdom, all things were made; without Wisdom, nothing was made that has been made. Jesus is wisdom become flesh. How greatly in this messed up world that we need Jesus’ wisdom. How slow we are to turn to his wisdom, often as a last resort after we have tried everything else.
Have you ever, like 39% of North Americans this year, made a New Year’s resolution, perhaps to eat and drink less, cut out smoking, or start exercising? New Year’s resolutions are notoriously easy to make and hard to keep for more than just a month. The very term ‘resolve’ means to decide firmly.
How many of you would like on this Jan 1st to firmly decide to grow in wisdom for 2023? You might want to consider reading one chapter of Proverbs daily over the thirty days of January? How many of you think that you already got enough wisdom and maybe need to cut back in 2023? You might want to consider cutting back on prayer, fasting, self examination, repentance, and generosity. That would definitely help you reduce your personal wisdom.
Wisdom is ultimately about growing in Christlikeness. Sometimes wisdom comes through experience, if we are teachable: “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” Proverbs 20:29 NIV
As Epiphany reminds us, wise men still seek him. Wisdom is about embracing the apparent foolishness of the cross which 1 Corinthians 1:18 says makes no sense to those who are perishing. Wisdom happens as we surrender all of our hopes and agendas, placing them at the foot of the cross.
Would you like to know the open secret to raising the three million dollars for the Oikos Project by April? It is the wisdom of God. Our job as the All Saints community on each step of the Oikos Project journey is to keep prayerfully discovering God’s wisdom and will, and then obeying it. As James 1:8 puts it, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
It is amazing how slow we may be to prayerfully ask God for his wisdom.
Have you noticed how much swearing is religious, almost sounding like a prayer invoking God and Jesus Christ? I believe that swearing needs to be back into genuine “Oh My God” praying. It would also be wise to convert our worries, particularly our financial worries, into prayers, especially prayers of thanksgiving. Thank you God that in your wisdom you have the Oikos Project journey all figured out.
One of the most dangerous forms of foolishness, mentioned in Proverbs 26 vs. 5 & 12 is being wise in our own eyes, thinking that we have everything all figured out. Proverbs 3:7, Isaiah 5:21, & Romans 12:16 also warns us to not be wise in our own eyes.
Have you ever been wise in your own eyes? Have things ever gone in one ear and out the other? Romans 1:22 says that claiming to be wise, they became fools.
So-called Wise guys quickly become unteachable, because they conclude that no one else is qualified to speak into their lives. Fools even end up treating God as an unwelcome intruder. Who does God think he is, suggesting that we might need to modify our lives? The heart of modern atheism is often prideful unteachability.
As you may know, Janice and I have been do a series in our Light Magazine column on Dostoevsky.
All of his books deal with wisdom and foolishness.
In Dostoevsky’s novels, two kinds of fools appear again and again: first-year university students and the highly educated. Both are easily tempted to become know-it-alls. First year students are easily tempted to act like experts. Highly educated people can become jaded and cynical about truth, similar to Pontius Pilate’s comment ‘what is truth?’ As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8:1, knowledge puffs up. Even Bible knowledge, if done primarily as information transfer, can make us arrogant and foolishly unteachable. What a delight when you meet a highly educated person who still has childlike humility and teachability, who is not wise in their own eyes. I know such people at All Saints.
Our latest article is on Dostoevsky’s book the Possessed which deals with foolishness 92 times. It memorably states: “Even fools are by genuine sorrow turned into wise men, also only for a short time of course.”
Bishop Peter and I spoke this week about how suffering can potentially make us more teachable and wise. Our addictions are often ways of hiding from our pain. Teachability is about facing our suffering and not wasting it. Where are you and your family suffering as we enter 2023? Where do you need to stop foolishly hiding? Where do you need to change, to more fully surrender to God’s will?
Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” In the 12th of the 12 steps in AA, prayer, based on Colossians 1, is defined as seeking for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out. God’s will is the way of wisdom. God’s Spirit gives us the power to keep our definite decisions for 2023. Wisdom is ultimately all about surrender of our will. Here’s a prayer that I wrote in the 24 hour prayer vigil at the BC Christian Ashram: “Dear Jesus, I surrender all to you. I surrender my very self to you. I surrender my fears, my failings, my disappointments, my hope, my resentments to you, to your Kingdom purposes. Have your own way, Lord. Have your own way. You are the potter. I am the clay. Amen.”
Let us pray: I invite you if you know to say the serenity prayer with me.
1. “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.
2. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
3. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!
4. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
5. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
6. Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.
7. Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
8. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.
9. Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
10. Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.
11. As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
12. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
Proverbs 26:1-12 NIV