Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Do We Really Know Better?

In way ways do we live a better life that those in the past? In what ways did they live a better life?

Popular Translation

6 We tell old people about God’s wisdom. His wisdom is different than the wisdom the world and its dying leaders claims to have. 7 We talk about God’s wisdom, which can be mysterious. God kept his wisdom hidden from the beginning of time until he could give us glory. 8 None of today’s leaders know about God’s wisdom. If they did know, they wouldn’t have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 It’s just like the Bible tells us,

Our eyes didn’t see, our ears didn’t hear and our hearts didn’t understand all the things God prepared for those who love him.

10 But, God revealed his wisdom through his Spirit. The Spirit knows everything, even the deepest secrets in God himself.

Literal Translation

6 We speak a WISDOM to the aged, but not a WISDOM of this age, but not to the rulers of this age, the (rulers) passing away. 7 We speak of the WISDOM of God, in mystery, having been concealed, which God preordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew. For, if they knew, they would not have crucified the LORD of glory. 9 But, just as it is written,

What eye did not see,
and ear (did) not hear,
and the heart of man did not ascend,
what God prepared for the (people) loving him.

10 But God revealed (this) through the Spirit. For, the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

2:6-7 “We speak of a WISDOM...” Wisdom was the highest virtue in the greater Greek society at the time of St. Paul. In an elder oriented culture found in ancient times, the aged passed along their experience-gained wisdom to the younger generation. (The mere fact the aged survived in an era where half the population died before their sixteenth birthday proved their insight in life.) In addition, rulers were to aspire (or at least pay lip service) to Plato’s ideal leader, the philosopher king, the wise ruler. St. Paul undercut this “earned” wisdom with revealed wisdom, that which God gave directly to people. In this sense, Paul equated wisdom with the activity of God among believers (specifically a Jewish notion); in doing so, Paul equated the wisdom of God with Jesus the Christ. For Paul, then, wisdom was a divine dynamic found in relationships not a secret piece of gnostic information that was shared with adherents with the chosen few.

2:9 This verse is not found in any Scripture.

2:10 One can only recognize the true wisdom of God, his Christ, through the work of the Spirit.

Sometimes, we post-moderns are swept up in our own hubris. We think we live in a golden time, or, at least an enlightened time. “If people in the past only knew what we know,” the logic goes, “they would have (fill in the blank).” The past was blind, but now we can see. We are so much wiser than they were, based upon our knowledge. We could never make the mistakes they made. We’re superior.

Of course, such prejudice is pure hubris. We might know more, but we are still blind, because we are ignorant of so much more. A truly wise person is humbled by the fact that the more he knows, the more he realizes what he doesn’t know. He also realizes that contemporary knowledge does not automatically leads to a better life, either ethically or spiritually or psychologically. What we know does not make us better people.

In these short verses to the community at Corinth, St. Paul implicitly gave them that message. Information, even spiritual gnosis, along with spiritual charisms, does not make them superior people. In fact, Paul explicitly undercut any such argument by shifting to a Jewish notion of wisdom. The wisdom of the Living God could only be gleaned from his activity in the world. His ultimate revelation, his highest level of activity in the world was found in the presence, life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the WISDOM of God. This was the WISDOM Paul proclaimed to the community, to the elderly, even to the leaders of the age. Opposed to this dynamic revelation, the wisdom of the Greek age was found in whatever special knowledge they claimed to have. But that self-centered “wisdom” blinded them to the presence of God found in Christ Jesus. If the contemporaries of Jesus would have seen God’s WISDOM (the true identity of the Christ), they would not have crucified him. But, how can they, or anyone, behold God’s WISDOM? That insight is the activity of the Spirit which knows all things, even the depths of the divine.

If we can claim any sense of superiority, such an attitude must be found on our knees. When we are humble, when we trust in God, when we say “Yes” to the Spirit, then we can clearly see what God is doing in our lives, and, indeed, throughout history. That is a wisdom not found in the tetrabytes of information we might possess at our finger tips, but in a relationship with the Living God, the God that is present and active in our lives.

How does faith humble you? How does faith let you see beyond the horizons of ego and pride?