I'd Rather Believe Lies, Thank You
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice. At the head of the noisy streets she cries out, at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple people, will you love being uninformed? How long will mockers delight in their mocking and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:20-22)
The Book of Proverbs often portrays Wisdom as a Lady, a Guide who is willing to lead anyone who listens to her to a prosperous, virtuous life. The problem is that so many people prefer folly over wisdom, lies over knowledge.
If that sounds unlikely, consider Alan Jacobs’ book How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. Jacobs argues that there are strong biases that derail human thinking; all of us have tendencies to accept error rather than truth if the falsehoods meet our needs for approval or security.
One bias is the pressure to agree with our tribe – our in-group – even if we think they might be mistaken, because disagreeing would risk losing those relationships. Jacobs shares the stories of two women – Megan Roper, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, and Leah Libresco, who was raised in a secular, anti-religious home. Both women were slow to question their communities because of the risk of rejection. Only when each woman found new communities of people who welcomed them independently of their views were they free to explore new ideas (Roper eventually left the Christian faith, while Libresco converted to Christianity).
Another bias is the tendency to dislike – or outright detest – the views of the opposite tribe, the out-group. Modern American politics is a case study, as many Americans hate their political opponents even more than they like their political allies. (Astonishingly, during the 2016 presidential election Hillary Clinton had a net –13% favorability rating and Donald Trump had a net –21%.) Under these conditions, it is much easier to believe lies about your opponent and harder to admit fault in your favored candidate.
The possibility of making mistakes does not mean that we should remain perpetually undecided on significant issues. But it does mean that gaining wisdom is an ongoing journey, and we should heed Lady Wisdom’s warning not to settle for lies. It takes courage to sometimes disagree with our friends, humility to admit when we are wrong, and diligence to keep fighting through all the of the deceptions around us toward a greater understanding of the truth.
The good news is, through Jesus we have been given a special freedom to think clearly. This is because the gospel frees us – to the degree we believe it – from the pressures of conforming to our tribe or rejecting our enemy’s tribe. Instead, we find our worth in Christ’s love for us, not in agreeing with everything our friends say; we find our security in his resurrection from the dead, not in destroying our opponents in every debate. And we are free to seek truth in Scripture and in every other area of human life, because all truth is God’s truth.
So today, listen to Lady Wisdom. Before reacting with quick agreement or quick judgment, take a minute to think things over. Ask for God’s Spirit to help you discern the truth, and rest in the knowledge that God is for you on your journey to wisdom.
Father, thank you for promising your wisdom to those who come to your Word with open hearts. Today protect me from folly, lead me to your truth, and fill me with your hope as I serve you today. Amen.