The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
I sometimes wonder if the church has been too focused on the first part of this verse, and completely ignored the second. Preachers like me are often very good and kindling the “fear of the LORD” in the course of leading folks to simplistic platitudes and proverbs. In the pulpit we are masters at sharing just enough information to make a point (after all, we don’t have time to go deep) and to start the process of thinking for those who listen to us, but rarely do we exhort folks to learn more in a disciplined way, leading to wisdom.
I raise this concern for I regularly find myself in conversations with people who somehow seem to think that quoting a couple of verses in support of a pet issue is enough. These are good people who are trying to be faithful, but somewhere along the way that have developed the belief that knowing a few facts about the Bible is an adequate basis for making a faithful decision about the stuff of life. When encouraged to dig deeper, to engage in serious study, to use modern methods of exegesis, they beg off, suggesting that they know enough, or that they are “not deep” and couldn’t understand these things. Frankly, I often get a sense that they want to wallow in their opinion and not be challenged by the possibility that there might be other ways of understanding their issue.
Have we become a fool factory, or are we challenging people to embrace wisdom and discipline in life? Do we sell our folks short, thinking that the beginning of knowledge is the most that we can ask for, and creating a climate that rejects the intellectual rigor and study that is required for seeking God’s truth? Should churches be spiritual kindergartens for adults, or should every congregation in fact be a seminary charged with preparing people to carry out their calling in the world, a charge that requires active learning?
How would the modern American church look different if we truly embraced Provervs 1:7?