Human Wisdom vs. the True Faith: Proverbs 9:12-18, especially vs. 12: “My son, if you become wise in yourself, you shall also be wise toward your neighbor; but if you prove to be evil, you alone will go through troubles.” The Book of Proverbs, written in traditional Hebrew style, instructs by means of contrasting images: “be wise” versus “be evil” (vs. 12), straying from one’s “farming” into “a waterless desert” (vs. 15). As we begin to explore these contrasts, bear in mind that only a few phrases from today’s passage appear in the common English translations based ib the Masoretic text. What a blessing it is to receive these teachings from the Septuagint text of our Orthodox Old Testament!
We are struck by how accurately these verses address our situation in this third millennium in Christ. During the twentieth century a host of ideologies hurled men and machines into a demonic blitz of banners and bloodshed, much as our Lord cautions in these verses. Saint Nikolai of Zicha echoes the alert, warning that the “atheists want to shatter the vigil light of your soul. The heretics want to fill your vigil light with water in place of oil. The fainthearted believers grant you the freedom to maintain your vigil light as you wish, but they do not wish to see it lit. Those are the three wicked winds which have attacked your soul in these times. May the Almighty bless you, that you may be blessed and strong” (Struggle for Faith, p. 7).
The Lord of history permits mad, self-assured men to thrust violence and trauma into our lives, based on futile schemes devised by those who “support [themselves] with lies” (vs. 13). Fascism, communism, and jihadist Islam all disclose the presence of evil on a global scale. We see what happens when peoples and nations turn aside to pursue a warped vision – they follow “a woman . . . without discernment and overbold; [who] has no sense of shame” (vs. 16).
We see economic and political systems engaging in titanic struggles to prove their superiority. In truth, however, none has ever solved poverty, hatred, and starvation, nor relieved chaos. In the end, human solutions only worsen our lives. Man-made systems may dole out food and superficial necessities, but they leave people empty and “without discernment” (vs. 16).
Now a new millennium has brought mankind “through a waterless desert, a land assigned to drought . . . [where man] gathers barrenness with his hands” (vs. 15). Pray that the word of God teaches us a better way to live! God gives the nations “over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom 1:28). Throughout history, God has affirmed the words written by Archimandrite Justin Popovich: “The Lord Jesus is the Truth and the Way. If one deviates from divine-human methodology, he inevitably also deviates from divine- human ideology, and deviates from the God-man Christ” (Struggle for Faith, p. 134).
Let us not despair, however. During the last century Orthodox Christianity emerged as a global presence on every continent, even as much of the Christian world was collapsing into humanism or worse. Many of our modern substitutes for Christianity indeed confirm what the Prophet Jeremiah taught centuries ago: “Cursed is the man who puts his hope in man . . . and withdraws in his heart from the Lord” (Jer 17:1).
Popovich continues, “After the rationalistic enlightenment of the eighteenth century and the myopic positivism of the nineteenth century, nothing remained for European humanism but to collapse” (p. 139). The true faith, bearing the message of the undivided Trinity, continues to present the God-man – the One who is eternally new. Let us run with all speed from the woman “who has no sense of shame” and come humbly to Him who calls us! Let us embrace the feet of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, cleansing our souls that He may manifest Himself in every aspect of our lives.
O Lord, may I complete the remaining time of my life in peace and repentance! – Litany of Supplication, Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom