Utter Fools

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭21‬-‭23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What did Paul have in mind when he made the statement “Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools”? Perhaps he was referring to a human trait common today, and probably just as prevalent in his times. Consider the following phenomenon. There are people who seem to have developed strange ideas or theories about God and the spiritual world. Their worldviews or thoughts of anything to do with religion, particularly if they are not Christians, can be wild and “off the wall”. They develop a philosophy that seems to fit in with their natural observations of the world around them and the behaviour of people that they come into contact with. They then create their own ideas and propagate them to anyone prepared to listen. Take for example the viewpoint sometimes heard, that all Christians are hypocrites, and therefore the worship of God is a pointless exercise. This is probably based on their observations of a particular church-goer who acts “holier than thou” on a Sunday but who behaves in a very worldly way at other times. But they then extrapolate this to include all who claim to have faith in God, painting them all with the label “hypocrite”. A journey in their minds then continues trying to make sense of why churches exist, developing all sorts of weird theories in the process. More disturbingly, they go on to develop skewed ideas about God, and their self-derived “wisdom” ends up making them “utter fools”. Sadly, modern liberal theologians have attempted to reconcile the views of both the god of this age and the God we worship, coming up with what is to them a wise solution responding to societal pressures around issues including sexuality and marriage, but instead developing foolish ideas that deny Biblical truths.

Such a phenomenon is not just the domain of non-religious people. It can affect, or infect, Christians as well. Paul, in his verses in Romans, was writing to Christians. Can they too acquire the “utter fools” label. How do we avoid thinking up “foolish ideas of what God was like”? As Paul pointed out in an earlier verse in Romans 1, we can find a glimpse of God’s character in the creation around us. But most of what we come to know about God is found in the Bible. His character and attributes just ooze out of every page, every chapter, every verse. The Scriptures have much good advice for those tending towards the foolish end of the wisdom spectrum. Psalm 14:1 relates to what Paul has been writing about, “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” There’s also much truth in Proverbs 3:3, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.” In fact, there’s a whole section in Proverbs 14 devoted to fools and their foolishness. But I love the verse, 1 Corinthians 1:27, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” The Christian faith is counter-cultural to the extent that people in the world around us designate us as being fools, when the opposite is true in God’s Kingdom.

Idolatry can be in many different forms. The conventional view is of statues, effigies of saints, or similar people, long dead and who have perhaps some sort of cult status. Just walk into an old church or cathedral and many will be found. Or an idol can be made out of a living person. Have we not heard expressions such as “He worships the ground she walks on”, an observation of a love-struck teenager? We can also easily make an idol out of our hobbies, TV interests; in fact anything that takes our focus away from God and His ways.

So we pilgrims plod on our way, conscious that it easy to be diverted from the narrow way into boggy and hazardous ground full of pitfalls to lead the unwary Christian into foolishness. We must spend time constantly in God’s Word, learning more and more about Him, and always aware of the need to give Him all our thanks.

Dear Father God. We worship You today, the Source of all we need in this life and the next. We are grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit, constantly nudging us back into keeping to Your ways, day by day. Amen.

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