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How to be a wise-guy

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sermon for the eighth Sunday after Trinity

Many Christians find it very uncomfortable sharing their faith with others. Perhaps you are one of them. One of the most common reasons why people find it so difficult is that they feel that they don’t know enough so as to answer the questions people put to them. Perhaps you understand where they are coming from. Perhaps you envy Solomon who seems to be able to answer every question that the Queen of Sheba puts to him.

Why do we envy Solomon so?

[PAUSE]

We do get a bit of a rush when we know the right answer and give it in a way that people understand. There’s something rather satisfying about putting people right with facts and answering hard questions. The trouble, as you can already tell, this leads us into a particular sin known as intellectual pride.

What if we really could answer every question put to us?

Well, then we would have to be God. Even Solomon can’t have all the answers. If he did then how do we account for his many hundreds of wives and concubines? If he had all the answers to all questions then how could he fall so far from God?

The invulnerability that knowing the answer gives us is a false certainty. St Paul declares it very well when he tells us that knowledge puffs up but love builds up. Just knowing leads us astray. We can see this in how the great intellectual institutions have fallen away into heresy. One very prestigious British university have given an honorary doctorate to a woman who has, more than most, tried to rid the Church of people who hold to the traditional faith once given to the saints. Many universities now are secular institutions in which religion is studied as a thing that happens or as a peculiarity of backward thinking rather than engaging on a quest for truth within Christian Doctrine that used to be the case.

It seems that Solomon’s example has not been learned by many of today’s academics.

[PAUSE]

Love builds up, and this means love of God. All things start with God and if they don’t then there is something amiss. Once we start treating God as a thing to put into a test-tube, then we have gone wrong. Academic study is fine and noble, but it is not the basis on which we build our faith. This is the difference between wisdom and knowledge.

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. As Solomon himself says

For the very true beginning of her is the desire of discipline; and the care of discipline is love; And love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption; And incorruption maketh us near unto God: Therefore the desire of wisdom bringeth to a kingdom.

Just because Solomon goes astray doesn’t mean that he stops telling the truth. And this is the key difference between wisdom and knowledge.

Knowledge waves its hand in the air like an overeager schoolboy shouting, “I know! I know!” very loudly. Yet often Knowledge will not admit that he doesn’t know and blusters only half-truths to hide that he doesn’t know.

Wisdom sits quietly, listening and taking notes. Wisdom struggles with what she doesn’t know but is committed to the truth. When she doesn’t know the answer she will say so firmly and seek the answer sitting at the feet of her Creator in love of Him.

[PAUSE]

There is nothing wrong with not knowing the answer to a complicated question. The only questions every Christian needs to be able to answer honestly are “Do you love the Lord Your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength?” and “Do you love your neighbour as yourself?” The wise Christian will say “no!” to both of these.

And then the wise Christian will say, “but it is my firm intention to learn to do so better with the help of God Who I long for.” And then the wise Christian will go about building his house on the rock that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. That's how we share our faith most effectively. It is hard being wise, but better for your immortal soul than being a know-all.

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