We live in times of great ingenuity. We have a lot of clever smarts. We have been to the moon and back. Our computers never cease to amaze, as we make them smaller and more powerful. We peer into outer space and see further than ever. And then we look ever deeper into inner space, doing microsurgery and studying the human genome.
And yet, though technological giants, we are moral midgets. Though able to solve enormous technical problems, we cannot even figure how to stay faithful to our commitments, or keep our families together. 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 rise as monuments to our wealth and skill. But inside, these houses are not homes, and they are often filled with division, divorce, and sterility.
For all our wealth there is little wisdom; for all our power there is little prudence.
From an eternal perspective our smarts amount to the building of sandcastles that are sure to wash away. Ultimately they cannot stand any more than we can.
Scripture warns of the human tendency to maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum. We are smart, but ultimately about the wrong things. Our priorities are wrong:
- “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 human beings tend to get the smartest about the least important things, and are foolishly forgetful about the things that matter most and eternally. Yes, we maximize the minimum, and minimize the maximum. There are some who know everything there is to know about the game of football, or who is 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 given over to football, TV, and politics, but there is no time to pray.
Well you get the point. We are smart, but about the wrong or fleeting things. Meanwhile we remain foolishly out of touch with the things that matter to God and that last unto life eternal.
Somehow I thought of this when the following commercial appeared in my YouTube queue. It illustrates our capacity to be ingenious about things that don’t matter. It features men who know everything about beer and have developed every talent imaginable about it.
To be sure, I have nothing against beer in moderation. But allow the beer to represent this world. And thus we see humorously illustrated our tendency and capacity to become VERY talented in so far as worldly things go. 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?