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Entries in Expectations (1)


Children of Wisdom or Folly?

Today we will be in Luke 7: 29-34.  Here we see that the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus were very different in some ways.  Of course they were similar in others ways.  They both preached repentance in light of the coming Kingdom.  But they did so in two very different ways.  Perhaps this is part of why John had doubts when he was in prison.  Either way, Jesus draws on the book of Proverbs as He challenges the people about their response to John’s ministry and His.

The Bible uses a literary device called personification.  It is when you take an abstract concept and speak about it as if it were a person.  Thus in Proverbs 8, Solomon speaks of wisdom as a woman who is a teacher calling out to men to come and learn.  The reason Solomon does this becomes clearer as you look at another woman in Proverbs 7.  This woman is an immoral, seductress who tries to allure men into her bed.  Solomon warns that no matter how much it appeals to your flesh it will lead to death in the end.

Now I know that some get stuck on the way that everything is couched in terms to protect men from immoral women.  The truth is that the opposite is true as well.  Young women are hearing the voice of the immoral man calling to her to join him in sexual immorality.  These opposing voices in life are appealing to two very different parts of our nature.  Immorality appeals to the urges of our flesh, whereas Wisdom appeals to our mind.

In today’s passage Jesus uses this personification of wisdom and takes it one step further.  Those who listen to the voice of immorality or wisdom become children of the same.  They head down a path of learning and growing in immorality or wisdom.  Let’s look into it.

The Response to John & Jesus

Last week Jesus detailed why the people went out to the Jordan River to hear John.  It was because he body proclaimed the Truth as a true prophet of God.  Now Luke steps back from the narrative and points out the responses of those who heard John and Jesus.  Some of them received John and Jesus.  Notice that after Jesus healed and taught then the people “justified God.”  Now if it is God justifying us it means that He is doing something to us that we lack.  But when men “justify” God it is not the same meaning.  God is justified whether or not any men recognize it or declare it.  Thus it takes on the meaning that is closer to recognition.  We don’t make God any more just, but we can publically declare that He is.  Luke ties this public reception of what Jesus had said and done to the fact that they had earlier received John the Baptist by being baptized for repentance.  This makes sense because John was pointing people to Jesus.  Here we see Jesus publically affirming John and the ministry that he did.

It is humorous to see Luke point out that “even tax collectors” were justifying God.  Now tax collectors in those days were in a strange place.  They were definitely well to do and not hurting financially.  But they had to sell out their people in order to be so.  Thus tax collectors have no monetary problems, but have major social problems.  They are outcasts.  There is something about being shut out whether financially or socially that helps us to hear the message of God.  Now this brings up the Pharisees and the Lawyers.  This group despised the tax collectors and saw them as the lowest of the low. 

This sets up a powerful contrast of the average people, and even the lowest, embracing John and Jesus, while the rulers, leaders and well to do rejecting them.  The “unworthy” of society recognize the truth while the “worthy” do not recognize it and even persecute it.  The same is true today.  Do you spend your time trying to fit in with the “worthy” of society?  Or, do you trust God to be the one who declares your true “worth.”

So Luke paints a picture of a large number of people rejoicing and praising God for Jesus.  Yet, in the midst of this is a group that refuses to rejoice and, in fact, despise Jesus.  They didn’t need wisdom from Jesus because they believed they already possessed it.  The first step of wisdom is to recognize that before God your “wisdom” is folly or foolishness.  Even though they had received wisdom from God through Moses, they did not handle it with humility.  Instead in great pride they used it to stand against the truth.  Luke ties this to the fact that they refused to be baptized by John.  They rejected John and now they reject Jesus, in the same way that the regular people embraced John and Jesus.  Now this is an important point because Jesus is moving to make a point about the thinking that the Pharisees and Lawyers used to reject Him.

The Folly of Their Thinking

Now ultimately, many of those who were praising Jesus now, would turn away from Him when He chooses to go to the cross.  There is something about God choosing suffering that causes mankind to shrink back in horror and disgust.  Thus Jesus employs another metaphor from their everyday life.  “To what shall I compare this generation?”  This picture that Jesus describes is one the people would have been very family with.  Going to the marketplace is a large part of their lives.  They all could relate to being children with their parents at the marketplace, and then later being the parents bringing their children with them to the market place.  Kids grow tired of adult things quickly.  Thus the kids would gather together and play games while the adults did the shopping.  Now it is clear that in those days it was common for the kids to play imaginary games in which they would act out funerals or festivals.  The key to this is that the kids are playing imaginary games while the parents are involved in reality.

This leads us to his first point.  The kids in the story encounter an adult and want Him to join in their imaginary games.  Now though an adult might do this for a short time out of love for the kids, the adult must refuse to play all the time.  They have real things to deal with.  The kids here are those who rejected John and Jesus.  They expected God to do what they wanted.  However, John and Jesus (like adults) refused to play along with their imaginary solutions.  Jesus came to do adult work, not play imaginary games with us.  Do we do this at all today?  Do we as a generation, like little kids, demand that God, who is the “adult,” play with us in our imaginary world and solutions?  Do we demand that God do what we think He should rather than recognizing who He is and stop playing?  God is no dog to jump through the hoops that we would put before Him.  It is we who should humble ourselves and come to the teacher to learn, not the other way around.

The next problem was that their judgments were biased in their own favor.  Jesus points this out by noting the big difference between Him and John.  John was a recluse who was the epitome of self-denial.  When he did come out of the wilderness to interact with people, he was still isolated from the people.  Rather than joining in with them in life, he challenged them to change.  On the other side, Jesus was always around people, eating and drinking with them in their homes.  Now keep in mind that both are from God and speak the Truth.  But, their methods are very different.  The Pharisees and Lawyers rejected John because he was so detached from them and their ways that they claimed he was demon possessed.  Look at him with his wild hair, feeding off the land, out in the wilderness.  He must be possessed.  Of course, John wasn’t demon possessed.  He spoke clearly, intelligibly, didn’t cut himself, or attack people.  Their judgments were biased in favor of the outcome they wanted.  John’s message was unappealing to them and so they judged his life to be of the devil.  However, Jesus did not come this way.  He was the opposite.  He had no problem associating with people and eating with them in their homes.  Yet, he also associated with sinners.  Again the Pharisees reasoned that he must be a glutton, drunkard, and a friend of sinners (aka “a sinner too”).  Now God has sent them both with two very different attempts to draw them to His wisdom and they reject both.  In fact they had been doing this for centuries.  When you look at the lives of the prophets, you see that they represented many different varied lives.  But they all had the same message for the people.  God in His mercy has sent many people with various personalities and lives.  But they all contain the same message.  If we are so set in our ways and thinking that nothing God says or does can get through to us, then we are in the most pitiful circumstances.

Jesus ends with the statement, “Wisdom is justified by all her children.”  Here we have the same issue as before.  Wisdom is not made to be right by us.  Rather the fact that it has people who respond to it and embrace it like a little child, justifies it against those who reject it.  Which do you choose:  the seductive allure of immorality, or the promise of Wisdom?  Which do you choose: the joys of the immoral bed or the fruits of a classroom?  Our flesh pulls powerfully towards immorality.  But know this.  If you choose that path you then become a child of it and will only grow to know the depths of it.  And, the depths of it are called death.  No one will be able to tell God that He can’t expect them to believe because of lack of evidence.  He will only need to point to the countless millions who did believe.  Wisdom is justified by all her children.  Choose wisdom today!

Wisdom or Folly Audio