Do not become wise with yourselves. Romans 12:16
Wise – If your biblical orientation is Greek, you will have quite a struggle with this verse. Does it mean that you need to stop thinking, learning, questioning and reflecting? Does it mean that you must strive for the “simple” faith, accepting uncritically whatever is taught? Most people reject this interpretation, but they don’t stop thinking like Greeks. They decide that the verse is about pride. They proclaim that Paul warns us about arrogance and an attitude of self-sufficiency. But the verse doesn’t say, “Do not become proud.” If Paul wished to say that, there was a very nice Greek word available, hubris. No, this verse uses the word phronimos, a word that focuses on how we think. In Greek, it’s about practical sensibility. Negatively, it means self-complacency. In other words, you think you have all the answers.
But Paul isn’t Greek. What do we discover when we think of his statement from a Hebrew perspective? We end up in the Garden.
“And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise.” Wisdom has very little to do with intelligence. From a biblical perspective, from the Hebrew point of view, wisdom is about decision-making. Wisdom (sakal in Hebrew) is a word from moral vocabulary, not intellectual extension. It is about alignment with God’s point of view. It is about what is right, righteous, good and holy. It has nothing to do with IQ, grades or degrees. One can be the world’s greatest scholar, even in the Bible, and still be an utter fool. Wisdom is about who decides what is good and what is evil in your life. What Paul tells us is really pretty simple. Don’t become your own standard of right behavior.
Every man did what was right in his own eyes. This is the biblical equivalent of being a fool. Only God knows what is right. I can listen and obey, or I can decide that the fruit will make me wise and I will be like a god, determining what is good by myself. The world is full of those who have become wise in themselves. They have stopped listening to the outside voice of reason and righteousness. They have turned God off. Now they are following the pathway of the serpent. They will eventually become animals, guided only by their own inner voices. When the metamorphosis is complete, God gives them up. They are no longer human by any biblical standard. In case you didn’t realize it, you should know that the world is de-volving, not evolving. It is slipping inevitably toward animal consciousness and away from being human. Why? Because from a biblical perspective, I am human only insofar as I am in alignment and in conversation with my Creator. I am born to become human. But becoming human is a choice. It is the same choice that the woman faced long ago. It takes wisdom, not intelligence, to make the right choice. It is the choice to be dependent, insufficient and submissive. Wisdom is the choice not to be wise in your own eyes. How are you doing today? Feeling wise?
Topical Index: Do not become wise with yourselves. Romans 12:16