You are still no more intelligent than the others. Don’t you understand?
When Peter asks for an explanation about “the blind leading the blind” (See Day 138), Jesus questions Peter’s intelligence. He implies that he wishes Peter were more intelligent, more perceptive.
Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” It is often said that if you want to be a good Christian, or a good church member, you have to check your brain at the door. Not according to Jesus. He doesn’t want blind, mindless obedience. He wants reasoned, enlightened commitment. He wants us to follow him with our brains fully engaged. He wants intelligent followers.
This is indeed music to my ears. Jesus actually appreciates intelligence! Good news for me. I’ve always been a “smart girl”. I’ve heard that phrase many, many times over the years. Actually, I used to belong to Mensa, an organization for people who have high IQs. Smart people.
When I was young I agreed with Marx. I used to think that faith was for the feeble minded. I often wished that I could just turn off my thoughts and submit to all that doctrine that people over the years tried so hard to instill into me, but it wasn’t until I had my own spiritual experience that I was able to commit to living the faith-based life. After my first transcendent experience I was finally able to calm my mind, pack away my doubts, and fully trust in God. Religion and intellectualism are highly compatible, and Jesus affirms it right here in this scripture. He says, in fact, that intelligence is necessary.
Actually, intelligence was always affirmed throughout the Old Testament. The Book of Proverbs is full of scriptures praising intelligence:
- Intelligent people talk sense, but stupid people need to be punished. The wise get all the knowledge they can, but when fools speak, trouble is not far off. (Proverbs 10:13-14).
- It is foolish to enjoy doing wrong. Intelligent people take pleasure in wisdom. (Proverbs 10:23).
- If you are intelligent, you will be praised; if you are stupid, people will look down on you. (Proverbs 12:8).
- The teachings of the wise are a fountain of life; they will help you escape when your life is in danger. Intelligence wins respect, but those who can’t be trusted are on the road to ruin. Sensible people always think before they act, but stupid people advertise their ignorance. (Proverbs 13:14-16).
- Wisdom is in every thought of intelligent people; fools know nothing about wisdom. (Proverbs 14:33).
- · Intelligent people want to learn, but stupid people are satisfied with ignorance. (Proverbs 15:14).
- Wisdom is a fountain of life to the wise, but trying to educate stupid people is a waste of time. Intelligent people think before they speak; what they say is then more persuasive. (Proverbs 16:22-23).
- An intelligent person learns more from one rebuke than a fool learns from being beaten a hundred times. (Proverbs 17:10).
- An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions. (Proverbs 17:24).
- Intelligent people are always eager and ready to learn. (Proverbs 18:15).
- Young people who obey the law are intelligent. Those who make friends with good-for-nothings are a disgrace to their parents. (Proverbs 28:7).
I have learned to appreciate being a “smart girl,” but I’m very much aware that intelligence, like youth, is fleeting. There’s dementia in my family and I’ve seen what it looks like when intelligence starts slipping away. That’s one reason why I’m writing this blog. I want to use my intelligence to explore Jesus and his true agenda. I also want to share a little bit about who I am and what I’ve learned over the years before it’s too late. Before the dementia sets in and my brain turns to mush. I’m trusting in God that it won’t happen, but you never know what tomorrow will bring.
I want to know as much about God as it’s possible to know. I want to know Jesus, the one whom I have chosen to follow because I believe he reveals a lot about God. I don’t want to know Jesus in a superficial way. I want to understand everything that he wanted to teach humanity. I want to receive everything God wants to tell me through Jesus, because I believe that he is “the way, the truth, and the life”. I cling to this knowledge like a drowning person clings to a life raft. I’m obsessed with knowledge about God like that crazy Russian woman Irina Spalko in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” She was obsessed with tapping into the knowledge of a bunch of crystal-headed aliens. Like her, I want to know as much as I can, even if my brain short-circuits and my eyeballs catch fire and my head explodes like hers did. That would be OK with me. Let the fire of God consume my head. I will go out in a blaze of glory like Elijah. Actually it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Scripture tells us that too much of God can be fatal. I remember this story from Exodus:
Then Moses requested, “Please, let me see the dazzling light of your presence.” The Lord answered, “I will make all my splendor pass before you and in your presence I will pronounce my sacred name. I am the Lord, and I show compassion and pity on those I choose. I will not let you see my face, because no one can see me and stay alive, (Exodus 33:18-20).
Seriously, I don’t think God would let my head explode. But I relate to Irina’s passion for knowledge. I want to see God and to know his will for humanity. I want to take off the blinders and ask the difficult questions. I want to share whatever I come up with, right or wrong, regardless of the consequences. I want to encourage other people to think for themselves and not just mindlessly repeat what they have been told. I don’t want to persuade anyone to think about things like I do. I want them to think for themselves. I want the whole world to apply their intelligence to the Gospel, and then honestly share what they learn. Then when we put all the pieces together we will all know even more. We will all be that much more informed about how to be good citizens in the Kingdom of God.
And I’m so grateful that I live in a place and time where freedom of speech is protected. I can say whatever I want and no one can stop me. It may result in social ostracism or whatever else, but it’s worth it. I will take the risk because I need to know, I need to speak in my own way, I need to share my thoughts, and I need to liberate others to do the same.
So I think it’s appropriate to end with some words of wisdom from my heart to yours. I received it through prayer. It’s one of my favorites, from God to me and from me to you:
If you are strong you need to learn to be gentle, and if you are smart you need to learn to be kind.
What does this scripture say to you?