Intellect; May 10, 2018

Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

Intellect alone will not get you to God. That’s not to say we aren’t to use the minds God has given us, but it is to say that those who take pride in and depend on their intellect are going to have a hard time finding Him. Just yesterday I was talking with one of our members who is a school teacher, and he was telling me about a couple he had met. They were both retired pharmacists, and so qualified as fairly highly educated. The wife’s parents had been dedicated Christians, and she was pleased that our member was one, but they said, “We are agnostic.” Our member commented that “Intelligentsia have a hard time being Christian.” (The Japanese use “intelli” to refer to such people, as an abbreviation of “intelligentsia.”) We spent some time talking about the irony and tragedy of that. He and I are both in the top 1% of the world’s population in terms of formal education, but thankfully we have avoided that trap. The attitude expressed by the couple is essentially a worship of intellect, reinforced by a feeling of superiority because they have it. That is simply one of the more subtle forms of idolatry, and it’s all the more pernicious because it’s not obvious that’s what it is. Sadly, even theologians can fall into that trap, leaving the simple truths of the Gospel in their pursuit of “deeper knowledge.” That was a problem even in the 1st Century, and such people were called Gnostics, from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. Paul wrote extensively against such teaching, and John turned the very terms the Gnostics used right around and applied them to Christ, in the first chapter of his Gospel. Intellect is not bad, but when it is relied on and coupled with pride it can be a horrible trap.

I come from a very intellectual, educated family. My father earned his PhD at 23, and I’ve lost count of how many advanced degrees there are among my immediate relatives. Even both my grandmothers were college graduates, which was rare at the end of the 19th Century when they were in school. With that kind of background, school work was generally pretty easy for me, and I was snared by the trap of pride, partially as a defense because of my lack of athletic ability. God was more than gracious to me, drawing me back to Himself in genuine repentance when I was already a married father, but it was actually only a few years ago when it finally got through to me that God’s smart and I’m not. I had always thought of it in terms of “God’s much smarter than I am,” but that still leaves room for my “smarts.” As I started out saying, I am to make full use of the mind God has given me, but I’ve got to realize my intellect doesn’t even get into the room, so to speak, when it comes to God. As Jesus says here, God reveals Himself to those who come to Him as little children, not in the pride of what they can discover with their superior intellects. I have been blessed in the IQ department, but I must never let that come between me and God, or even between me and other people. We are all equally valuable in God’s sight, regardless of how differently gifted we might be.

Father, thank You for Your grace to me on so many levels. Thank You for what You enabled me to do yesterday, for the mind to grasp what needed to be done and the skill to follow through and do it. I ask for Your guidance today, not only as I continue that project this afternoon but also as I prepare sermon notes now and then go teach my Speech Therapy students. May I make the full use that You intend of all that You have placed in me, in full submission and obedience to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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