In part one we introduced the idea that to be truly wise we must understand that there is a pattern (Creation), but that there is also not a pattern (Fall), but there is a pattern (Redemption). We focused on Creation and the patterns that exist because of Creation. These include natural patterns, relational patterns, and spiritual patterns. You are a fool if you do not recognize and live from these patterns. For example if you jump off a building without a parachute you are a fool. If you pursue the adulterous woman you are a fool. If you choose to not trust God you are a fool.
But to be wise also means that we understand that the Fall of man and the introduction of sin into the world has hidden these patterns. Life has become a meaningless vapor (Ecclesiastes). Even though there are patterns to this life, often these patterns do not hold true, because of sin. This is why, as Christians, we cannot simply quote proverbs to each other as if they are laws with no exceptions. We must understand that the complexities of life brought on by the Fall, have made it so that these patterns often remain hidden.
For example, Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Many Christian parents have claimed this verse and been quoted this verse as they watch their young adult children walk away from the church. They believe that this is a promise that guarantees that their child will come back to the faith.
But this is not a promise. It is one proverb in a sea of wisdom literature. And sin makes it so that a child can depart from the “way he should go” and never return.
Take also the example concerning the poor that we mentioned in a sermon a few weeks ago. Proverbs 13:21 says “Poverty pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” This is a pattern. Sinners receive poverty and the righteous receive prosperity. This always happens, right? Wrong. Proverbs 13:23 says “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.”
You see the pattern says that sinners are poor. But the hidden patterns of the Fall say that a person may be poor because of injustice. Because of the sin of someone else. The hidden pattern says that the righteous can be poor and the sinner can be rich. Here’s how Ecclesiastes puts it (8:14) “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.”
You see you are a fool if you fail to see that both Creation and Fall are realities. That there are patterns but also those patterns are often hidden by sin. When we live only from the Creation side alone, expecting all patterns to always hold up, we become Moralists. We become judgmental and oppressive. There cannot be exceptions and so we see a poor person and assume they are sinful. Or we see a prodigal son and assume the parent did not “train up their child.”
We become God. And thus a fool.
When we live from the Fall side alone, expecting no patterns and seeing everything as simply meaningless, we become Relativists. There are no moral absolutes. Everything is random. Do whatever you want.
Here too we become our own God. And thus a fool.
There is a third way. There are patterns. There are no patterns. There is a deeper pattern. And this pattern is a person.