The Foolishness of God

We ascribe to God as many accolades and words of praise as we can manage. We speak of Him as a sovereign Lord, as the Creator, as one with whom there is no comparison. He is high and lifted up. He is the One who was, who is, and who is to come. There is nothing outside of the dominion of our God. He is all powerful, all knowing, and always present. There has never been a place or a time God was unaware of. Yet today, we are not going to speak about any of that. We are not going to focus on His bold and mighty acts of power and wonder. Our gathering here is not about the awe and majesty of our Creator, not at this moment anyway. No, this day we are driven to something else entirely. Still, it is something which gets close to us, something extremely important to our everyday lives. Today we are not going to focus on God’s strength or wisdom but His foolishness, His weakness, His lowly work. Now, in many ways the foolishness of God is the heart of our faith. It is the core of our trust and confidence, for if we were to summarize God’s great foolish action, there could be no better symbol of it than the cross.

Christians wear crosses as jewelry, they hang them on their walls, and, of course, decorate their churches with them. They even get tattooed on various body parts and have become so pervasive we do not think about this central symbol all that much. But it is without a doubt a mark of the foolishness of our God. Saint Paul says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” The world laughs at your cross. To those outside of the faith it is not a symbol of strength and power but of weakness and shame. Yet, it remains for us a clarion call to battle, to make a firm stand against the rulers of this age. After all, God says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” This foolish thing, this lowly word of the cross will not quietly give way to the wisdom and power of this age. No, there will be a fight, for here is the culmination of the enmity between the offspring of the woman and the serpent.

The temptation is always to push aside this foolish work. Perhaps you acknowledge it, you give some nominal nod towards its presence, but then you quickly move on to the stuff that really matters. Our world is quick to remind us how what really matters are acts of injustice, senseless violence, and environmental catastrophe. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are political battles which demand our attention. And the people of God are a powerful force if correctly motivated and mobilized. We have a duty to impress a Christian world-view on our age, to care about the decaying morality of our culture. There is wisdom and strength in us banding together to leave a mark on our society. We are encouraged to leave the foolish things alone and focus on what is practical, what is impactful in the real world.

But the apostle Paul does not give us that leeway. He does not buy-in to the wisdom of our age. He remains unshaken in his resolve. He says, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” This is the heart of our faith. Here we discover exactly what we are supposed to be about. We preach Christ crucified… period.

While the foolishness of God is an unyielding attack on the priorities and wisdom of our age, it begins as a ruthless attack on ourselves. The cross stands before you. The crucifixion of the Son of God is proclaimed into your ears. The fruits of this great act are poured over your heads and place into your mouths. As this happens, you are under attack. All you would hold on to as a source of hope, strength, and wisdom, the things of your own making, your own doing, your own accomplishments, the cross destroys them. It robs you of your own glory. If there is even one part of your life not twisted by sin, one area you could say, “Here I have finally overcome and have something of myself which is pure and upright, holy and righteous,” then what is the cross for? Why did Jesus bleed? Why did He die?

No, every idol of your own making, every accomplishment you hold on to as a source of confidence and assurance is under attack by the foolish working of our God. The things you look toward for security, identity, and meaning stand in opposition to the will of God. If you find your security in the works of your hands, in financial stability, or your particular vocation, if you trust ultimately in your own reason, in your cleverness and creativity as the source of assurance and hope, it is all obliterated by God. All your very best things are found to be lacking. They all fall short of the glory of God, of the demands of the Father. The good you seek to do, you do not see all the way through, and the evil you know you should avoid, it is the very thing you return to over and again. Your works, no matter how beautiful and good, are never enough. But we want them to be, do we not? We would like them to be enough. But they are shown for what they really are, and not by the blinding light of God’s power and majesty, or in a moment of awe and terror. No, your very best works are undone by foolishness and weakness, undone by the cross.

The foolishness of God is an attack on the glory of mankind. But at the very same time, it is undoing our own works and giving true hope, life, and salvation. The foolishness of the cross is the end of your work and the fulfillment of the entirety of your salvation for you in Christ alone. As the Son of God Himself cries out from the cross, “It is finished.” Your salvation is finished. The work is done. This foolish work of God, this weak and lowly moment, this agonizing death is your life. This is your forgiveness. This alone is your hope and joy.

So, Paul reminds us that when we stand before our God, when we are personally confronted by the powerful, high, and lifted-up majesty of the almighty Creator of all things, it will be abundantly clear how you have nothing within yourself to boast in; no cleverness, no work, no wisdom to offer. He says, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” It is not ourselves we can boast in. Rather, we boast in the foolishness of our God.

The cross is what the Church is about. The cross is what we are all about, not morality, ethics, politics, or social justice. No, we preach Christ crucified. And in this preaching, we find God’s foolishness seems to know no bounds. For the foolishness which saved us is the foolishness that binds us together. God’s love, His foolish gifts of forgiveness and redemption get ahold of you in the cross. You are baptized into our Lord’s death, into the cross itself. You then become the foolishness of God in this place. You are marked by the cross, live under the cross, and bear the cross into the world. Together we learn, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”