School this Fool

I go through violent withdrawal after football season.  Trauma begins when I tune in to CBS or Fox on Sunday afternoon only to find cameras fixated on professional basketball or golf.  So it was with great joy that I received an assignment from a football coach who wanted me to find problems with his team’s offense.  “I need quality control,” he began. “You know football.  I need you to be another pair of eyes on the field.”

Consultation, an external overview of an organization’s practices, is a booming business.  Companies concerned with corruption or improvement hire firms whose task it is to provide unbiased observation.  Auditors oversee bank business.  Independent examinations maintain compliance for tax attorneys.  Newspapers have ombudsmen to scrutinize the news.  Patients get “a second opinion” after one doctor’s diagnosis.  TSA personnel scour baggage and “wand” passengers prior to airline departures.  Quality control in manufacturing can be seen attached to purchases from department stores: “this garment checked by inspector #9.”  Diamonds are appraised.  Homework is graded.  Inventories are inspected.  Oversight is culturally woven in our eyesight.

But we cry “Who are you to tell me?!”  We hate outside authority in our personal lives.  Americans tend to agree with our country’s first flag: a snake was segmented into thirteen colonies with the caption “Don’t tread on me!”  Yet our national hypocrisy is clear when we believe the latest chatter from Oprah or listen to a Hollywood actor’s political views.

Authority upon which middlebrow culture rested is gone, replaced by celebrity.  Criticism, once a profession with gatekeepers, is now the enthusiastic avocation of anyone with an Internet connection, and authority is bestowed by sales figures, not deans of culture. . . . Technology has trumped teleology, and when we feel the need to assuage our feelings of cultural inferiority, we don’t buy 50 feet of books.  We buy an iPod.  We are keen to signal our mastery of information, which has replaced knowledge as our cultural currency, and the idea of mastering the Western canon seems quaint in an age that publishes books with titles such as How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read.[1]

Leo Tolstoy is famously credited with bridging the need for authority and the desire for individual autonomy: “everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.”  No wonder Paul and Peter both prayed for and commanded “growing in the knowledge of Christ.”[2] As Christians we focus our need for outside assessment on inside conformity to Jesus.[3] This is what theologians refer to as “progressive sanctification.”  To tag current educational commercials, “The more we know, the more we grow.”

Biblical knowledge should produce personal discipline arising from revelation.[4] “Discipline” (NIV) gives instruction[5], supervision[6], and correction.[7] Discipline is marked by chastening or warning.  Far from static, this is an action word—work hard won, a quality of character.  It is used frequently with correction or reproof.[8] Discipline has a verbal rather than physical persuasion—an appeal to reason.  The wise believer applies discipline to himself, having learned a lesson.[9] Discipline must not be taken lightly, nor does it come easily.

Discipline beckons;[10] she never coerces or drags the person in, kicking and screaming.  Most susceptible to being undisciplined are those whom Scripture terms “simple” (NIV).  The Hebrew word—sounding very much like “petty” in English—means wide open to influences, whether “good or bad.”  “Simpletons” acquire the label from something which is wide or open, spacious, vast and abundant in capacity.  They literally “fall into trouble!”  Simple ones have a way of finding distress since they are quite indiscriminating “shoppers” in the marketplace of life.

Proverbs 9:13 labels them as “silly” being devoid of knowledge.  A few verses later, Solomon maintains the undisciplined lack judgment, sanctified savvy; they are unable to see through the facade of spoiled merchandise (9:16).  Standing on the corners of “Choice” and “Decision” the simpleton is unable to make up his mind.[11] Is there hope for the undisciplined?  Unlike other words for “fool” in Proverbs, this individual has the potential of being reached for the good.  Invasion and saturation of The Word softens his heart.  Persistent, consistent teaching will school this fool.[12]

A “need to know” was the reason Daniel Boorstin, claimed “Man the Discoverer” as his hero.[13] Humans’ insatiable urges are likened to what Coach Vince Lombardi taught his players about winning: “You must have a flaming desire to win.  It’s got to dominate all your waking hours.  It can’t ever wane.  It’s got to glow in you all the time.”[14] Proverbs 19:2 weds passion with knowledge.  Our need for an outside source of truth cannot come from consultation companies or celebrity opinion.  We need external Truth—the revelation of Scripture—to capture our internal territory.  We need The Spirit’s quality control to channel our passions.  Internal conformity to Eternal authority—herein is discipline.

[1] Christine Rosen. 2008. “When Books Were Great.” The Weekly Standard 22 December 2008, p. 34.

[2] Ephesians 1:17-18; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-10; 2 Peter 3:18; see 1 Peter 2:2

[3] Romans 8:29; see John 5:39; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:23.

[4] Deuteronomy 4:35-36; 11:2-7; 2 Timothy 3:16.

[5] Proverbs 1:8; 8:10; Ephesians 4:11-16.

[6] Galatians 3:24, 25; 2 Peter 1:5, 6.

[7] Proverbs 3:11,12; see Deuteronomy 8:1-5.

[8] Proverbs 3:11; 23:13.

[9] Proverbs 24:32.

[10] Proverbs 1:22; 8:5; 9:4.

[11] Proverbs 9:6; 14:18; 22:3

[12] Proverbs 19:25; 21:11; 27:12

[13] Daniel J. Boorstin. 1983. The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself. (Random House): xv-xvi. To me, all other histories pale next to Boorstin’s three volumes: The Discoverers, The Creators, The Seekers.  The former librarian of Congress focused on people rather than time periods of history.  Find biblical warrant for the passion of knowledge: Job 26, 28; Proverbs 25:2.

[14] Jerry Kramer, ed. 1970. Lombardi: Winning Is the Only Thing. (Pocket): 86.

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