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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Wisdom and Fear | Wisdom Series

The fear of the LORD is
the beginning of wisdom
Psalm 111:10

 

‘Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream’, said W. C. Fields. This quote, replicated on T shirts, in music lyrics, and in management books appeals to our sense of non-conformist individuality. The reality, however, is that most of us want to belong and win approval. We fear the consequences of challenging toxic organisational cultures, disagreeing with accepted workplace wisdom, or of showing any weakness. To go against the flow – to be distinctive in God-honouring ways – takes courage.

The psalmist emphasises that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This godly fear is not to be placed alongside our fears of the opinions and actions of our colleagues but to take precedence over them. Paul puts it more starkly: ‘If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ’ (Galatians 1:10).

Biblical wisdom is not merely intellectual capacity, but is linked with discipline and discernment, shrewdness and skill; it produces a certain kind of character and demonstrates itself in particular types of actions. It is profoundly countercultural. In order to live, we are called to die; the first shall be last; giving away opens the door to being entrusted with much (Luke 6:38). And in our relationships we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Supremely, God’s wisdom, which looks foolish and weak in the world’s eyes, is shown in the cross: ‘The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:25).

The phrase ‘fear of the LORD (Yahweh)’ uses the covenantal name of God to imply a committed relationship of reverence and awe. If we allow the culture of our workplaces and the time pressures we experience to squeeze the fear of God out of our ‘wisdom’, it is in danger of becoming practical atheism where our responses to situations are not distinguishable from those of our non-believing colleagues.

If the culture of heaven is to impact our homes, workplaces, and neighbourhoods, then it will do so through those whose thoughts and actions are shaped by reverence for the Lord.

Bev Shepherd

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