There is not nearly enough foolishness coming from pulpits today.
As I survey the church landscape and listen to sermons preached from today’s most popular pastors, I am struck by the fact that there is far too much wisdom being preached and hardly any folly. So many sermons are far too wise and way too practical. What is needed today is a whole hog embracing and proclaiming of foolishness.
So many sermons today provide all sorts of wise principles, tips, tricks, and techniques you can apply to your life in order to deliver yourself from the many challenges plaguing 21st Century, middle-class suburbanites. Are your kids misbehaving? Are you swimming in debt? Has the romance in your marriage fizzled out? Are you feeling unfulfilled in your career? No problem. All you need to do is head over to the local mega-church and you’ll be given a list of five easy principles you can apply today that will teach your little brats how to toe the line, cause the balance in your 401k to multiply exponentially, spice things up in the bedroom, and help you find purpose and significance in your life. As an added bonus, you will be assured by the pastors delivering these wise and practical sermons that by religiously applying all these principles—God Himself will smile down from heaven and reward your obedience with both earthly and heavenly blessings.
These types of messages make a lot of practical sense and their wise advice produces measurable results in people’s lives. The pastors who put these sermons together have learned how to maximize the wisdom they’re offering, while carefully removing all traces of foolishness. But has anyone ever considered this is what makes these pastors so dangerous?
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:2 (NIV):
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The world in its wisdom teaches us that our problems are caused by a lack of knowledge. If you’re having challenges in your life, then all you need to do is fill in the gaps in your education, apply the proper principles to your life, and then your problems will disappear. But the message of the cross teaches us that all the challenges we face in our lives from disobedient children, to mountains of consumer debt, to loveless marriages, and feelings of purposelessness, are caused by mankind’s sinful rebellion against our loving and kind Creator.
The world in its wisdom teaches that we can save ourselves by sheer determination and obedience to the laws that govern the universe. While the message of the cross says there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do to save yourself. The tragedy is, so many Christian churches today are not preaching the foolishness of the cross. Instead they are preaching nothing but the wisdom of the world.
Paul said to the church of Corinth, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” But far too many pastors today are in effect saying they’ve resolved to know and preach everything except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Seeking to win the acclaim of the world, they’ve shelved the story of the virgin born Son of God, who for our sin and for our salvation was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried, then on the third day rose bodily from the grave.
These pastors might mention Jesus dying and rising once in a blue moon. But sadly the message of the cross has practically no bearing and no place whatsoever in the messages they preach week in and week out. One could argue that these pastors have become so earthly minded that they’re of no heavenly good.
This is why I’m taking my stand for folly on April Fools’ Day, making an impassioned plea to every pastor who claims Jesus is Lord: Brothers, please forsake the wisdom of the world with its practical tips for successful living and resolve to preach nothing except the foolishness of the cross, not just on Easter Sunday, but EVERY Sunday.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη σοι,