Life in the world is seen to require a practical orientation: one must be practical to succeed. Methodical, too, and persistent. Otherwise we risk failure, and that must be avoided at all costs. That's why we run after modern gurus of business, fashion, health and, yes, even religion.
Even Christians, those who claim to follow Jesus as well as those who prefer only to identify themselves as church members, can fall into the mindset of the priority of practical wisdom which, first, is no wisdom at all, and second, isn't ultimately practical.
Why isn't it wisdom? Because all wisdom is from the Lord and leads back to the Lord, and it comes to us when we have decided to make the Lord the priority ‘…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…’
Why isn't it practical? Because all that is practical is included in following the commandments of God, which assure us of receiving everything good that He has in store for us, ‘…and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33 NIV).
So the question for every man or woman, but especially for every Christian, is… Whom do you trust?
Practical wisdom teaches, God helps those who help themselves.
As any worldly proverb, this is both true and false at the same time. These words are not found in scripture, which reveals the mind of Christ. Some say they are, but the Word does not tease us with riddles.
The saying actually comes from Aesop's fable of the wagon driver and Hercules. The wagoner gets stuck in a rut and prays to Hercules to get his wheel out. Hercules appears to him and says, ‘Sluggard, put your shoulder to the wheel, and push! The gods help those who help themselves!’
Yes, this attitude of practical wisdom goes a long way back, and many Christians actually follow Hercules’ doctrine without realising it. Like those described by the psalmist, they claim to be devoted Christians when it is convenient, but ‘when push comes to shove,’ they honor the gods.
Look after me, God, I take shelter in You.
To Yahweh you say, ‘My Lord,
You are my fortune, nothing else but You,’
yet to those pagan deities in the land,
‘My princes, all my pleasure is in you.’
Their idols teem, after these they run…
Psalm 16:1-4a Jerusalem Bible
What should be more natural, and more sympathetically regarded by everyone, than that parents should watch out for their children's welfare, not only when they are under age, but even after they reach adulthood?
Yet how often does this protective attitude stem not from the mind of Christ, but from that other mind, the mindset of practical wisdom? I have seen it again and again, even in my own church, parents leading their children to serve Mammon in place of Christ.
Instead of holding Christ before their offspring, by teaching, by example, by exhortation, by guidance, by love, as the One whom they should not only emulate but follow, they hold up successful businessmen, engineers, politicians, athletes, and even clergymen.
Is it any wonder, then, that the children outstrip their parents in worldliness, as they are only trying to please them? Is it any wonder that they take husbands and wives from among the denizens of this world instead of from the City of God?
There is a scene in the film The Hiding Place, in which Corrie Ten Boom, who was later to become a world renown evangelist, was asked by a Jewish cantor she was hiding in her home during the Nazi occupation, ‘Wasn't marriage ever in the picture for the daughters Ten Boom?’
She replied, ‘Betsy was always sickly, and was told she couldn't bear children, so she didn't marry. Myself, I had a young man, but we didn't marry, because his parents didn't think I was cut out of good enough cloth.’
These are all Christians we are talking about, in 19th century Holland. But the same situation obtains today. In the selection of life partners, husbands or wives, Christian parents are still bent on making a good match for their son or daughter, rather than seeking the will of God.
Putting Christ out of the picture is very unwise. He is not only the unique Mediator between God and man, but also between man and man, and in these particulars, between husband and wife. It is only Christ who can bring them together in truth, and hold them together.
It is not a woman's background, culture, educational level, social status, wealth, intelligence or physical beauty that is getting married to a man's family heritage, prowess, worldly success, ability to provide well, social connexions, possessions, talents or stamina.
No, all these are what they will bring into the marriage in order to complement each other's weaknesses with strengths. They are the resources that God has given them and which they will use to fulfill His will for them. It is not these things that are getting married.
A man and a woman are getting married, nothing else. They are as naked as Adam and Eve were. This is how it is when God is allowed to bring them together. ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body’ (Genesis 2:24 JB).
The alternative, which all too often happens, is what happened to Corrie Ten Boom and her young man, Christian parents restricting the pool of available mates for their children to those who are practical like they are, those who are successful, ‘known entities.’
The justification for this is, ‘We only want to do what's best for him/her. We want to prevent heartbreak and disaster down the road.’ This attitude, though, is not restricted to the practical parents, but to the religious as well. Both, however, are following the same mind, their own.
This post is not especially about the relationships between parents and children, but essentially about trust, the word we see prominently displayed on every piece of United States money, from the humble penny to the hundred dollar bill.
In God We Trust. It's so pervasive, that it's no longer persuasive. Like many another monument of formal Christianity in America—Ten Commandments plaques in court houses, the Pledge of Allegiance to ‘one nation under God’—it too may cave in under secular pressures.
Where it can only truly be written, in our hearts and minds, is all that matters. Will it prevail over the practical and worldly wisdom of success, allowing true liberty, true freedom of choice, to mold not only individual lives but families, churches, and nations?
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ … ‘Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’
John 8:31-32, 36 NKJV