The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10, ESV).
Ancient Greece had a maxim, “Know Thyself” most famously attributed to the philosopher Socrates. This aphorism serves a great and worthy purpose of encouraging self-examination. How often do we stop and reflect on our own nature? Not just asking, who and what we are, but truly trying to know ones personal faults and then seeking to improve, learn, and grow. Philosophy, philo meaning love and sophos meaning wisdom, is the love of wisdom and the seeking of truth. I attribute a great deal to philosophy and would defend her ideals as much as liberty and freedom, but I submit to you that as Christians we are called to first submit to God and His wisdom.
More Than Self-Care
Fearing the Lord in an age of fear and distrust of authority is not an easy sale for Millennials (my generation), Gen Z, and Gen Alpha who are sincerely seeking to make a difference; “our” maxim being “Change the World.” Our youthfulness and wishful thinking is far too often excused as merely laziness, naiveness, and narcissism; a fair criticism but hardly the whole picture of several generations being swept under a complex globalized world that has rapidly materialized more wealth, more goods, and more services than all of human history combined while simultaneously fragmenting “old” methods, standards, traditions, and opportunities. But let’s step away from the cultural and the political towards the Scriptural and Christ Centeredness.
Within the context of fearing the Lord, yir’ah, is a form of piety, respect, or reverence for God. John Gill’s, English pastor and theologian, explains that the converted state is a state of wisdom, a place of recognition of the Most High God and the active working of grace. Christ says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Abiding, menō , a place in which the person is to be kept or to remain. That place is a place of salvation by which only though faith and grace can one be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), but also that place is a place of wisdom that arises from that saving grace and faith. A working grace, a working faith that continues past the state of salvation. Our works matter in the eyes of God, for faith is active (James 2:14-26). Grace never ceases once salvation is accomplished (Romans 5:20-21) meaning a true believer seeks God and seeks to obey His command over their lives even when the Christian will falter, run, and even fall away for a time. Yet those of the vine will remain on the vine and Christ the Shepherd always brings His sheep back to the flock.
Today the term “self care” i.e. a place of spiritual, mental, and physical health focused entirely on ones well-being, is a central tenet of the age. Granted a great deal of narcissism can quickly overtake a person who focuses so much on themselves and never others; a place of complete aversion to hardship or sacrifice or pain is the roots of hedonism. However, ignoring your wellbeing is equally problematic when taken to the extreme of Asceticism which is also unbiblical. God cares about all of His creation. He desires goodness and wellness over them. Christianity needs to refrain from going to extremes when God condones a time for work and a time for rest. One of my favorite examples comes from the Prophet Elijah in Chapter 19 of 1 Kings verses 1-8:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
Over and over again in the Bible the people of the Lord in the Old and New Testament are sinners and saints who fail completely on their own, yet find success in their complete reliance on God. Saint Paul states clearly concerning “a thorn in his flesh” that:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Do not ever feel “bad” when you need to rest and to take some time to “decompress” from the world and life’s situations. Know the difference between laziness and weakness, purposely forgoing for selfish reasons and a needed time to sleep or focus in preparation. Death is always with us from the moment of conception til the moment we die. The human body is eventually weakened to the point of death. There is no escaping our weakened estate. While the world ignores reality, Christians must learn to find joy in their weakness and eventual death.
Everything I have explained to you is a place of God’s wisdom, not my own. God’s word is a place of refuge, of hope, and of ultimate good. It is the responsibility of the Church to help all “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6: 33) or to say it differently, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” which the Church is equipped to do. All of which is not “up to us” that is to say Christian’s are not capable of doing the work without the grace of God by which wisdom is birthed.
If Christ is not seeking sinners, humanity is doomed. And if the Church is not speaking to sinners then it has failed the Great Commission. There will always be issues that the Church must uphold and push back against, but no person is without sin nor should go without the hope of Christ and that means having a church full of saints and sinners. And having them over for dinner or going to them whenever and wherever in need. Love, Christ said, love God and love your neighbor as yourself are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).
Knowing thy self will never be accomplished to its fullest extent without first knowing God. He will take you to the deepest and hardest of places but for your good and for His glory.
To my generation and the generations after me, if you want to change the world, then seek after God, His wisdom, and His kingdom first and foremost. Never allow differences to get in between you and that person at the sake of forgoing the Gospel which includes loving your neighbor. Christ died so that we may live! Do not mistake His sacrifice for a life without a true cause. Seek Him, Fear Him, and See Him work in your life and the lives of others. But also know, the God loves you and takes you wherever you are at in life. No person in all of human history has ever been “too dirty” or “too unclean” to be made anew. To be forgiven. To be loved. To be recognized as worthy. Christ can redeem all souls. Lastly, you can go forth in life sick and tired and broken and even get lost on your way, but like Elijah, Christ will find you and feed you and care for you without chastisement. Never fear your weakness. Know that your weakness was never the problem. All are weak, none are strong. The problem was and remains the placement of our weakness in relation to our reliance for the strength we seek. Placed properly in God first and you will be in the highest of strong towers. Seek His refuge, Know His Wisdom, and have His love pour over you like the finest oils and perfumes.
May God Bless You and Keep You Now and Forever. Amen.