Does God Want You Weak Or Strong?
In the Bible, not least Proverbs, humility is promoted as a virtue. Part of that humility involves recognizing the greatness of God and his authority and control over the world. We are dependent on God and should recognize this basic fact.
And yet, ideas have a way of becoming deformed if outside a proper context.
In the first temptation recorded at the beginning of history (Genesis 3), the essential lie that is told is that all reality is a conspiracy to stunt human development. The serpent possessed by a spirit that is later identified in the Bible (Revelation 12:9-10) as “Satan” and “the Devil” started earning his name by lying about God.
(“Devil” is an English version of a Greek word that means “traducer” or “slanderer,” and Satan is a ancient Syrian word with basically the same meaning. Thus, he is called “the accuser of the brothers.”)
The serpent first suggested that God had prohibited humanity from eating from any tree in his garden where he had placed them (Genesis 3:1). Then he alleged that God had prohibited one tree solely because eating from that tree would make them wise “like God.” While the creation story shows God making humanity in God’s image to rule over creation, Satan posited that God had NOT made them godlike and that he had lied to them to PREVENT them from achieving that outcome.
Satan basically presented a picture of cosmic paranoia where everything our first ancestors had been given by God was designed to keep them down. The only way out was to eat from the forbidden tree (though there was no explanation why God would leave an exit door for them). Disobedience was a path to freedom.
That was the opposite of the truth. Adam and Eve were following an entirely scripted path that led to slavery, weakness, and poverty. The wisdom that was represented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was something that God wanted to give humanity when they were ready. When Solomon asked for it, God was happy he asked and happy to give it to him. (Notice, in requesting wisdom, Solomon says he needs it to be king “that I may discern between good and evil” [1 Kings 3:9].)
This story is all too common. People believe that God’s guidance is designed to frustrate their happiness and weaken them, when it is really the way of strength. Teens believe their parents want to spoil their happiness when often parents realize their sons and daughters on risking real and irrevocable unhappiness by pursuing “fun” without thinking of the consequences. Spouses who have suddenly realized life isn’t quite the fantasy they imagined it was supposed to be sometimes try a “do over” that leaves them and others worse off than before. It is practically a cliché in modern society. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
While dependency on God is obviously important to avoiding the cliché of trying to find empowerment through liberation from Him, keep in mind the irony of the situation. While God is a generous benefactor (James 1:5) who deserves our gratitude and wants us to ask him for what we want, he did not create us primarily to ask him for things. He made us stronger than we give Him credit for.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:26–28 ESV).
God created us to DO THINGS and to become kings of the world. His wisdom is for our EMPOWERMENT.
Thus, Solomon quotes the personified Lady Wisdom and her offer of strength:
“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.
“By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness…
“And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:12–18, 32-36 ESV).
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Mark Horne has been studying the intersection of ethics and the economy since high school. He was raised in Liberia, West Africa and Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, as well as on the Atlantic coast of Florida. He graduated from Houghton College in 1989 and from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1998. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and has pastored churches in Washington state and Oklahoma, as well as serving as an assistant pastor in St. Louis.