We live in times of great ingenuity; we have a lot of smarts. We’ve been to the moon and back. Our computers can do more and more amazing things, even as we are able to make them smaller and smaller. We can see farther than ever into outer space and look more deeply than ever into “inner space,” doing microsurgery and studying the human genome.
Yet although we have become technological giants, at the same time we’ve become moral midgets. Though able to solve complex technical problems, we can’t figure how to stay faithful to our commitments or keep our families together. The churches that once dominated our skylines are now dwarfed by buildings dedicated to banking, insurance, and other passing worldly affairs.
Our houses, with their great rooms, cathedral ceilings, and granite countertops, are monuments to our wealth. But inside, these houses are not homes; they are often filled with division and sterility.
Despite all our monetary wealth there is little wisdom; despite all our power there is little prudence.
From an eternal perspective our smarts amount to sandcastles on the beach that are sure to be washed away. Ultimately they cannot stand any more than can we.
Scripture warns of the human tendency to maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum. We are smart, but about the wrong things. Our priorities are misguided.
- Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel (Matt 23:22-24).
- But God said to [the rich man who built barns], “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich in what matters to God (Luke 12:20-21).
- For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light (Lk 16:8).
- For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Phil 2:21).
- But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (2 Tim 3:1-5).
- How prosperous Israel is—a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit. But the richer the people get, the more pagan altars they build. The more bountiful their harvests, the more elaborate their pagan pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their pillars (Hosea 10:1-2).
- A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth (Proverbs 17:24).
- They are ingenious in their wickedness (Romans 1:30).
In other words, we humans tend to get smartest about the least important things, and are foolishly forgetful of eternal things—the things that matter most. Yes, we maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum. There are some who know everything there is to know about football, or who’s who in Hollywood or politics, but are at a loss when it comes to the most basic spiritual concepts, biblical stories, or moral teachings. Hours are consumed by sports, television, and politics, but there is no time for prayer.
Well, you get the point. We are smart, but about the wrong things. Meanwhile we remain foolishly out of touch with the things that matter to God and that last unto life eternal.
I thought of all this when I saw the following commercial, which appeared recently in my YouTube queue. It features men who have developed every talent imaginable related to beer.
Now I have nothing against beer in moderation. But allow the beer to represent the things of this world. And thus we see humorously illustrated our tendency and capacity to become very talented in worldly things. But at the end of the day, it’s just beer; it’s just the world, a world that is passing away.
Are we as talented and ingenious about spiritual things?