Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Blue Collar Theology: West Virginians Value Common Sense

West Virginians value common sense. I was talking to a guy the other day who told me that common sense comes from fear and respect. He was right on. I immediately thought of an illustration.

Learning to drive a car requires a lot of common sense. It can’t be all about following the rules. The rules will keep you safe most of the time. But what about those situations the rules do not cover? Or what about those times when you need to ignore a rule? The rules cannot possibly cover all situations. Sometimes you just have to know what is best to do because the rules do not always fit. That is why common sense is so important when driving.

Common sense when driving starts with respect and fear: Respect for what your own car and everyone else’s cars are capable of, and fear for what might happen if you make a mistake. This fear and respect makes the driver constantly aware of the power that surrounds him or her. It keeps the driving thinking in ways that are concerned for what is best in any given situation. It takes one beyond the rules. It makes one concerned for others, for the well-being of those in one’s own car and in the cars outside. It makes one careful and cautious. As our common sense gets stronger, we become better drivers. We can get to the place where fear, the respect, and the common sense that it provides enable us to enjoy driving. We get good at it. Far from producing terror and paranoia, driving usually becomes safe and enjoyable when we have the proper fear and respect. However, mistakes happen when we our common sense fails, when we get lulled out of a fear and respect. We get careless, and suddenly, we are unprepared for whatever suddenly happens in front of and around us.

We know that common sense is related to wisdom, almost like a subset of wisdom. Both deal with knowing what best fits a given situation when the rules are inadequate to provide guidance.

Just like common sense, spiritual wisdom also starts with fear and respect. The Bible’s wisdom books tell us that:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33 ESV)

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ (Job 28:28 ESV)

Biblical wisdom, like driving a car, requires fear and respect. It requires knowing who God is and how he has and will work in this world. It requires a constant awareness of his presence-- that we live our lives in the presence of an all-powerful, good God, and nothing is hidden from his sight. Those who have this awareness will drive more safely through life, so to speak. They will make better decisions. They will have a road map for navigating life wisely. They will know, more and more as they grow wise and wiser, what best spiritually fits a situation when the rules are just not quite adequate to provide complete guidance. Rather than being the cause of terror and paranoia, this fear and respect is what allows us to live life safely and enjoyably while we are getting where we need to go.. 

There is a lot more to be said about wisdom.  The driving illustration is not perfect, but it helps us understand both what wisdom is and how it can be said to start with the "fear of the Lord."

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