Psalm 51: Reductionism

Paul Tripp
Paul Tripp

There's loads of knowledge to be found, but wisdom is rare commodity. Why? Because wisdom is one of sin's first casualties. Sin reduces all of us to fools. You see the empirical evidence of the foolishness of sin on almost every page of Scripture. You see foolishness in full operation in the tragic story of David and Bathsheba. This is why David says, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place."

You read the story of David's sin and you say to yourself, "What was he thinking? Did he really believe that he'd get away with this? Did he completely forget who he was? Did he think that God was going to stand idly by and let this happen?" But David is not some extreme case of foolishness gone wild; you see evidence of the same foolishness in each of our lives daily. The components of the foolishness of sin still corrupt and interrupt our lives again and again. People could say of us again and again, "What was he thinking? What was she thinking?"

What does foolishness look like? Here are four of its most significant aspects.

1. The Foolishness of Self-centeredness. We were created to live for something, someone bigger than ourselves. We were designed to live with, for, and through the Lord. God is meant to be the motivation and hope of everything we do. His pleasure, his honor, and his will are the things for which we are meant to live. But the foolishness of sin really does cause us to reduce our lives down to the size and shape of our lives. Our living has no greater purpose than self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment. Does this sound harsh? Well, ask yourself, why do you ever get impatient with others, why do you ever say things you shouldn't say, why do you get discouraged with your circumstances, why do you give way to anger, or give in to self-pity? The answer is that, like me, you want your own way and when things don't go your way or people are in your way, you lash out in anger or you turn inward in discouragement. Our problem isn't just the difficulties of life in this fallen world, but the foolishness that we bring to them, that causes us to trouble our own trouble.

2. The Foolishness of Self-deception. We're all very good at making ourselves feel good about what God says is bad. We're all very skilled at recasting what we've done, so what was wrong doesn't look so wrong to us. I'll tell myself that I didn't really lash out in anger, no, I was speaking as one of God's prophets. I'll tell myself that that second look wasn't lust, I'm simply a man who enjoys beauty. I'll tell myself that I'm not craving power, I'm just exercising God-given leadership gifts. Foolishness is able to do something dangerous. It's able to look at wrong and see right. Had David been able to see himself with accuracy and if he'd been able to see his sin for what it really was, it's hard to imagine that he would have continued to travel down that pathway.

3. The Foolishness of Self-sufficiency. We all like to think of ourselves as more independently capable than we actually are. We weren't created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble inter-dependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we've got all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources that God has given us. The lie of the Garden was that Adam and Eve could be like God; independent and self-sufficient. We still tend to buy into that lie.

4. The Foolishness of Self-righteousness. Why don't we celebrate grace more? Why aren't we more amazed by the wonderful gifts that are ours as the children of God? Why don't we live with a deep sense of need, coupled with a deep sense of gratitude how each need has been met by God's grace. Well, the answer is clear. You'll never celebrate grace as much as you should when you think you're more righteous than you actually are. Grace is the plea of sinners. Mercy is hope of the wicked. Acceptance is the prayer of those who know that they could never do anything to earn it. But the foolishness of sin makes me righteous in my own eyes. When I tell my stories, I become more the hero than I ever was. I look wiser in my narratives than I could have been. In my view of my history, my choices were better than what they actually were. Often it isn't my sin that keeps me from coming to God. No, it's my righteousness that keeps me from him. Sadly I don't come to him because I don't think I need the grace that can only be found in him. I don't seek the rescue of that grace because I'm right in my own eyes.

Sin really does reduce us all to fools, but happily the story doesn't end there. The One who is the ultimate source of everything that's good, true, trustworthy, right, and wise is also a God of amazing grace. You don't get freed from your foolishness by education or experience. You don't get wisdom by research and analysis. You get wisdom by means of a relationship with the One who is Wisdom. The radical claim of the Bible is that wisdom isn't first a book, or a system, or a set of commands or principles. No, wisdom is a person and his name is Jesus Christ. When you and I are graced into acceptance with him, we're drawn into a personal relationship with Wisdom, and Wisdom begins a life-long process of freeing us from the stronghold that the foolishness of sin has on us. We're freer than we were yesterday, but we aren't yet completely free. Imagine, there will be a day when your every thought, desire, choice, action, and word will be fundamentally wise! Because of Wisdom's grace, that day is coming.

It makes such sense that a repentant man (David) would reflect on his need of wisdom. Sin, in reducing us to fools, causes us to do foolish things, even though we think we're wise. And for this we need more than information, education, and experience. We need exactly what we find in Christ; grace. Wisdom is the product of grace, there is simply nowhere else it can be found. 

Originally published May 03, 2012.