I lived four years in a foreign country. When you interact with a different culture you naturally observe the traditions, beliefs and habits – as well as reflect on your own. Most everyone there rides a motorcycle. The streets are full of cars and in every free space, weaving between cars and buggies and ox-carts are motorcycles. In talking to people I learned that the appropriate question was not if one had had a motorcycle accident, but how many accidents one had had! Along those same lines, most everyone has a large scar on the inside of their right calf from where they have burned themselves on the exhaust pipe.
What caught me by surprise was the first time my neighbor came over after having burned herself. She was in her fifties and had burned her leg many times. The burn was large, at least 6″ long. But it was white. And gooey. Completely confused, I asked her about her burn and she said “It is toothpaste”. Being still new to the language I thought surely I had misunderstood her. So to clarify I asked again. Toothpaste. I made the motion as though I were brushing my teeth and she nodded. Yes, I had understood correctly. I came to understand through observance and asking my language teacher that yes, this culture used toothpaste to heal burns. I googled it and there are mixed reviews according to Americans…but the point is that it is certainly not common practice in the US, while it is common practice there.
So much of who we are and what we do is a product of our culture and the things that have been passed down from generations before. I learned much about myself and about the nature of humanity over those four years. And I learned to be thoughtful about random things, habitual things and cultural things that I do. The Scripture says:
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless’.”
– 1 Cor 3.19-20
Now, to you and me it might sound foolish to put toothpaste on a burn. Google says that it can irritate it and even make it worse. But a country of hundreds of millions of people believes this to be helpful. And Paul says that the fullness of the wisdom of the world is foolishness before God. To God, it could be, that we are all putting toothpaste on our burns.
But we have insight into the wisdom of God:
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE. Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
– 1 Cor 1.18-25
We have the wisdom of God at our fingertips, written down in the Scriptures. The Gospel of Jesus: His life, death, burial and resurrection offer us fullness of life here on Earth and eternity with Him. Let us put away our toothpaste. Let us check our daily habits against the Scripture. Let us cling to the wisdom of God, and allow Him to establish our ways and our thoughts and abide in Him.