WORLDLY WISDOM is what more or less all of us have been living by since the Stone Age. It is best exemplified by such homely utterances as "You've got your own life to lead," "Business is business," "Charity begins at home," "Don't get involved," "God helps those who help themselves," "Safety first," and so forth.

Although this wisdom can lead on occasion to ruthlessness and indifference, it is by no means incompatible with niceness, as the life of anyone apt to read (or write) a book like this bears witness. We can be basically interested in nothing so much as old number one and still give generously to the American Cancer Society, be on the Board of Deacons, run for town office, and have a soft spot in our hearts for children and animals.

It is in contrast to all this that what Saint Paul calls "the foolishness of God" looks so foolish. Inspection stickers used to have printed on the back "Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own." That is worldly wisdom in a nutshell.

What God says, on the other hand, is "The life you save is the life you lose." In other words, the life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself, and only a life given away for love's sake is a life worth living. To bring his point home, God shows us a man who gave his life away to the extent of dying a national disgrace without a penny in the bank or a friend to his name. In terms of human wisdom, he was a perfect fool. And if you think you can follow him without making something like the same kind of a fool of yourself, you are laboring under not a cross, but a delusion.

There are two kinds of fools in the world: damned fools and what Saint Paul calls "fools for Christ's sake" (1 Corinthians 4:10).

-Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

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