“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church while making a sensitive request. The church in Jerusalem was in a desperate financial situation, and Paul was asking the Corinthians to set aside a special offering for them. Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to give up their own limited resources—the early Christians were not a wealthy group—to assist a group of people they never met.
Even more, the Jerusalem Christians were mostly Jewish, and the Corinthian church was largely gentile. These two ethnic groups didn’t typically get along well, as the book of Acts attests.
When Paul told the Romans about the offering, he admitted he wasn’t even sure the Jewish Christians would accept gentile money (Romans 15:31). And even if the Corinthians did give and the Jerusalem church did accept the money, Paul was a controversial figure who would be traveling into a city where he was not particularly welcomed with a large sum of cash. Paul’s plan here doesn’t seem particularly well-thought-out.
If Paul came to one of our churches today to make a similar request, we’d probably tell him to use some common sense and drop the offering. We don’t want to give it, they don’t want to take it, and there’s a significant chance it will get you arrested or worse.
That’s assuming, of course, we would be willing to give to the poor in Jerusalem. We might also challenge him on that, and ask him why they can’t support themselves. Could they be making better financial decisions? Can’t they pick up some extra hours at work? If we give them money now, won’t that just enable them and start an endless cycle?
No worldly wisdom
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Paul knew something that we would be forgetting—when God gives you something to do, you do it.
Paul was convinced God had told him to take up this offering, and no human reasoning, no amount of “common sense” was going to make him do otherwise. Paul was ready to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” When God speaks, there’s no “yes, but” for any reason. No matter how illogical or impractical it may seem, no matter how much it might not make sense according to worldly wisdom, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Not “reason”; not “common sense.” Christ.
Those of us who live under the authority of Scripture have similar charges from God—to proclaim the Good News, to live a holy life, to provide for the poor, to seek peace. When we say “if we give money to the poor, then they won’t work” or “if we call this a sin, people won’t like us,” we’re putting human wisdom and arguments above the wisdom of God. When people submit themselves to the lordship of Christ, they forfeit their right to say “yes, but ….” Christian discipleship is all-encompassing, and it has no room for worldly wisdom.
I’m a hypocrite as I’m writing this. When Jesus says to “turn the other cheek” to one who has struck me, my first thought is “That’s impractical.” When I read in Deuteronomy that “there need be no poor among you,” I think to myself, “That’s too idealistic.” When Paul instructs us in Colossians to “rid yourselves of … anger” I pretend my anger actually is justified and acceptable. The list of commands from God that I ignore goes on and on.
I pray we as Christians would be more like Paul, who knew human logic and arguments have no standing before the word of God. I pray we would be people who do as God commands, rather than tell God why his plan needs adjustment.
When we make decisions, may we do so according to God’s wisdom. If he tells us to give to the poor, he probably knows what he’s talking about. If God tells us to be unified in respectful and loving fellowship with one another, it’s probably possible. If God commands us to take an offering from one hesitant church to another along a long, dangerous path, he’ll see us through it.
He’s God, after all. We aren’t.
Jake Raabe is a student at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas and a writer. Follow him on his Facebook page.