I don’t want to be an idiot

The talk I gave this morning to a group of students was called, “I don’t want to be an idiot.”

The title is the mantra I lived by for years after becoming a Christian… I read and studied, not because I like academics, but simply because I really didn’t want to be stupid.

I gave three things I have learned over the years to the group as things to watch out for if you don’t want to be an idiot.

1. There are two sides to every story.

Proverbs says that “The first to present his case seems right…” We all know that there are two sides to ever story, but few of us actually have the restraint to withhold judgment or to remain intellectually humble when all we’ve heard is one side of a case. The second flows from the first…

2. Study!!

We need to pursue knowledge the way that we pursue “silver and gold.” Now, not many of us are after silver and gold literally, but if we studied the way that we focus on fashion, fun and friends we’d all be a lot smarter, wiser and better able to glorify God. There need to be more Christian lawyers, movie makers, professors and philosophers. We need to encourage young Christians to learn… not simply give them one-liners to throw around as a substitute to knowledge.

3. Beware of Religious Arguments.

We have our defenses up with people who believe differently than us. It is the arguments that come from those on our side or seem to share our religious values that we fall for the easiest. If we don’t want to be idiots, we need to learn to spot bad religious arguments.

There are the ones of motive, such as Satan tempting Jesus in the desert with scripture passages. There are always people who will sound persuasive, but have bad motives or intentions.

There are the ones of zeal without knowledge, such as Peter and the disciples when they were passionate yet still got things wrong (Peter saying that Jesus shouldn’t suffer and die… the disciples who wanted to call down fire on an arrogant city etc.) We often fall victim to bad arguments simply because they come from passionate or well meaning people. We need to be committed to truth more than charisma if we don’t want to play the fool.

Lastly, there are the ones of pride, such as the Pharisees who made religion about themselves more than truth. Pride is deceptive because it echoes truth, but distorts the purpose. Jesus didn’t come to win, but to save. Anyone who is focused on winning rather than saving, tearing down rather than building up, destroying rather than reconciling, triumphing rather than coaching is giving a bad religious argument. In addition, any religious leader who is more focused on controlling than educating is someone to be avoided. If we don’t want to be an idiot we need to be discerning about the heart and purposes of those whom we follow.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that what the world needs is well thought out and well reasoned Christians. Maybe this has always been the case… maybe the reason knowledge and wisdom dominate the pages of the Book of Proverbs is because gravity always pulls toward folly and only through intentionality and focus will followers of God rise to the wisdom and maturity that is necessary to honor God and win the respect of outsiders.



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