Wisdom vs Faith

I have, in little bites and small portions, ingested elements of the Materialist’s false worldview.  In the smorgasbord of worldviews, cultural perspectives, and alternative philosophies of life, it was bound to happen that a little bit of savory error would find its way onto my plate.  Without ever having meant to, and in spite of my best efforts to avoid it, I’ve swallowed some spiritual junk food.

This particular bit of junk food manifests as a dichotomy between two streams of scriptural thought.  It makes it so that, in my mind, you have “acting in faith” on the one hand, and “behaving wisely” on the other.  This supposed duality has been put in my head by my western materialist culture. Even though I strive to rid myself of “sloppy logic”, and divest my mind from worldly perceptions, they still get in.  I must stand ever vigilant, and subject my thought life to the approval of a body of believers.  Otherwise, I may never know that my mind is compromised, and my thinking confused.

As it turns out, I have pitted “reason” against faith, in a way which my materialist culture would surely be proud.  The irony here is not that a Christian should find that his worldview is not completely biblical, but that I have used the bible, against myself, to confuse myself further, in a way which is entirely anti-biblical.  The scripture is, sometimes, an unwieldy sword, especially in the hands of a novice.  Other times, believers who have shown themselves to be able “rightly divide the word of truth” make simple category errors, which lead to doctrinal problems.  Still, and this is where I’ve fallen this time, at other times we simply smuggle into the interpretation, ideas which are nothing but pagan.

In philosophy this kind of thinking is sometimes called a “false dilemma” or “false dichotomy”.  In his publication, “The Word Turned Upside Down” analytic philospher John Searle who called it an incorrect assumption that produces false dichotomies.

It is the godless world which wants me to think that faith must be pitted against reason. The “free thinker” (which is code for pagan or atheist, by the way) attempts to persuade  even the elect if possible that he owns Reason, that all faith is blind faith, and only the materialists are able to see the world for how it really is.  I have spent many years learning Christian Apologetics in order to refute and defeat those very claims, and yet I haven’t even rooted it out of my own thoughts completely.

Physician, heal thyself!  Go right on ahead, and pull that log out of your eye socket!

I realized my logical error when I was discussing with Dino the apparent paradox in the following scriptures.  My thesis was simple, “The scripture seems to indicate that two different, equal and opposite, instructions are equally valid.  One is even on the level of a command”  One of the instructions is found in Proverbs 13:22, which says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”  The lesson here is that a wise person, who does what is right, will make good investments and be able to leave a sizable fortune to his forbears.  Some bible teachers will undoubtedly use this verse to show that Christians have a moral duty to store away goods for retirement or a rainy day.  If not a moral duty, then it is at least a highly endorsed action of the virtuous wise.  They sometimes call this “stewardship”, and it is always presented as “wisdom”.

The problem is, I was looking at wisdom as if it is a hedge against chaos.  My version of wisdom, would keep me safely out of the hands of a God who could ruin me.  My version of wisdom, meant never having to lean on God.

On the other hand, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus seems to indicate to his disciples that they should not “worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Taken at its basest and laziest interpretation, Jesus, (quite possibly the worst financial planner in the history of ever) appears to tell his disciples in essence “M’eh, investing is for chumps.  Thinking about the future has no value”.  Unfortunately, some new to the faith or those unfamiliar with the full council of scripture, will take it to mean just that.  For shame!  This puts a black eye on the glorious name of Messiah Jesus.  At its best, Jesus is calling believers to place their faith in His ability to make provision for their daily needs; and encouraging them to not lose heart when things aren’t going just how they’d like.  Still, this is a far cry from the Proverb’s admonition to go about “storing up an inheritance for your grandchildren”.  If the first view is taken, some might suppose that a faith in Jesus is irresponsible, reckless even.  If the second view is taken, some might suppose that Christians need not take care to make wise financial decisions.  Choosing not to worry about the future, for Christ’s sake, is taught as “faith”.

The problem was I was looking at faith as a catch all.  Faith would bail me out if I acted irresponsibly.  Faith would catch me from falling into the traps I’d set for myself, by acting foolishly in the past.  Faith meant I could be lazy.  It meant, God would overlook my lack of effort, hard work, and industry.

So, now we find ourselves between the horns of the dilemma.  On the surface, these two far flung tenets never get any nearer to each other.  They mutually exclude one another.  Without some hermeneutical contortion, these two ideas will never shake hands.  My mind would bounce back and forth, wondering what direction to take.  Should I move forward in faith, or should I

Rock, meet hard place.

For me, these two scripture passage illustrate the need for wisdom.  I realized recently that I had created these false categories, where there are none.  It was either Faith or Wisdom.  Whereas traditional bible interpreters, ones better skilled and stronger minded than myself, would have never erected a wall of partition.  I separated into two distinct categories, what should have remained a singularity.  It is not Faith vs. Wisdom.  It is faithful wisdom, and wise faithfulness!

I firmly avow that, if Christians will first get our heads right concerning proper reasoning, I am confident that many examples of apparent incongruity within the scripture will vanish.  Some may always be with us.  There is a fair amount of unsettledness we must learn to live with.  I have satisfied myself, as one groping in the dark, to dwell in the uncertainty of not perfectly knowing every facet of life.  Sometimes we must simply live in the harried middle, the land of dissonant in-betweens.  We can camp their, but we cannot put down foundations.  Sometimes the only habitable lodging is disparate tent.  Thankfully, this is not one of those times.

I have personally reconciled these two paradoxical bible instructions, by first realizing my logical errors, then re-reading God’s word through the eyes of my new insight.  I saw things much more clearly, and all the foggy mists of paradox evaporated.  God is honored when we act in faith.  It is wise to act in faith, no matter how dangerous the optics may look.  I am not here advocating faith for faith’s sake, and I readily admit that we can place our faith in things which cannot come through (such as lotto tickets, irresponsible cousins, the transmission on our ’87 Dodge)  But, the Lord can be trusted, because when God leads us he also takes responsibility to bring about a good result.

It takes knowing the Lord, and the collected years of life experience with Him, to follow where He leads.  Sometimes it takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what is wise.  Sometimes, the only recourse for the learned doctor, is to raise holy hands to God in humble supplication.

Just like it is wise to act in faith, it is also faithful to act in wisdom.  It is an act of faith to store up for the future, because we do not know the return on our investment.  It is an act of faith to give to God’s kingdom, for His work, knowing we cannot manage the outcomes.  We are told not to be like the lazy and wicked servant, who refused to take what God had given him and use it to grow the Lord’s bounty.  It is wicked to bury our “talents” in the ground, especially when God gave them to us so that we might use them for the advancement of His kingdom.