- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently by the Rev. James E. Baucom Jr. at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church.

The foundation of true wisdom is awareness of who we are in relationship to God. Those who instead measure themselves by others are easily influenced into paths that do not honor God. This false comparison leads to greed, a worldly trap that produces a life of sinful distance from God.

If asked what might be considered the opposite of wisdom, most persons would probably answer: “stupidity,” or the lack of knowledge. According the words of Solomon, though, wisdom versus stupidity is a false dichotomy. In [Proverbs 1] verse 7, we are told that wisdom is not the possession of knowledge, but the “fear of God,” a posture of humility and teachability before the Almighty.

What makes us unteachable is greed, which results from comparing ourselves to others instead of measuring ourselves only by the divine yardstick of God’s holiness. In verse 19, Solomon tells us that the unwise person is the one who is greedy for gain, which takes away the life of its possessors. Life’s true dichotomy is not wisdom versus stupidity, but wisdom versus greed, or the “fear of God” versus the fear of man.

Many are unteachable because they compare themselves and their life accomplishments to others. They desire to be wealthier, more famous, more powerful and more successful than those around them, the essence of greed.

I can think of at least nine questions that could indicate whether you might be unteachable:

1) Whenever someone speaks, do you look first for what they are saying that you disagree with?

2) Do you feel a need to speak to every issue, whether you actually speak or not?

3) As you listen to someone speak, do you really hear what they are saying or do you begin to think about your response?

4) Do you feel defensive whenever a position is presented counter to your own or whenever your position is challenged? …

7) Do you find it difficult to give things away?

8) Do you employ cutting, sarcastic humor as a way of establishing your dominance?

9) Do you wake up in the morning approaching the new day with dread rather than see it as an adventure?

Solomon teaches us that such greed is a worldly trap. In verses 17 and 18, he offers, “For in vain is the net baited while the bird is looking on; yet they lie in wait … for their own lives.”

We are the birdbrains in Solomon’s illustration, of course. Although we see clearly that the trap of greed is being set for us, we desire the bait so intensely that we wantonly fly into the net. Measuring ourselves against others instead of by the holiness of God as revealed in His infallible word, the Bible, and His perfect revelation, Jesus Christ, we are snared by our own greed and rendered unteachable. Even God himself has nothing new to show us. We have become our own gods.

The amazing truth of this revelation is that it exposes the religious as well as the irreligious. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the birdbrains who took the bait most often, measuring themselves by a human set of legalisms and against the other religious persons of their day. The apostle Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus showed him that he, a Pharisee, was “chief among sinners” and rendered him teachable again.

Persons of great faith do not measure themselves or their righteousness against other believers, but against the holiness of God to which they can never stack up. …

We live in a culture that arrogantly displays the slogan: “No Fear,” then lives in fear of just about everything, from cancer to terrorism to rejection.

Oswald Chambers once preached, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

The truly wise person measures him- or herself against God and His word rather than against others. … The fear of the Lord really is the beginning of wisdom, and greed the end of freedom.

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