I originally wrote this under the title of intellect. I will try to combine both. Those people who have an ease in learning quickly seem to go farther in school. The US Army saw in me that capacity (although I always got a “B” in ROTC, lowering my overall grade-point average). They singled me out to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). After getting a very high score, they encouraged me to go to graduate school and allowed me to delay my entry into the army. During that delay, I met my wife. I finished my formal education with a master’s degree in chemical engineering, but I’ve never stopped learning.
I was afraid of this topic. It’s the greatest source of sin in my life. I have the words of my mother that I could blame, “God gave you your mind, so go out and use it.” But for those who have any ‘gift’, it’s too easy to rely on what God gave us, instead of relying on God. It’s a slippery slope. God gave me a great mind. One teacher in high school said that there was a genius in the classroom. His IQ rating is off the charts. But he’s not the number one student in the class, because he’s lazy. He then stared at me and gave me a mean look. I never got the IQ results, so I can’t confirm the ‘off the chart’ hyperbole. My greatest sin, “Hey, God, thanks for being there when I was in trouble, but the seas are calm. I got this…” I did not put God first with the small stuff, so how can God rely upon me with the big stuff. I always prayed. I always studied God’s word and trusted in His guidance. I just was too busy relying on my own steam, relying on the brain God had gifted me.
I’m not alone. Think of Solomon. In 1 Kings 1, David makes Solomon king. In 1 Kings 2, Solomon establishes himself as king. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon asks for wisdom. His wisdom is demonstrated in the next few chapters. God’s worldly blessings are also demonstrated. Then, we come to 1 Kings 11. Solomon had many wives. He had 700 wives of royal birth from all the surrounding nations and 300 concubines. Verse two of that chapter says that many were from the tribes that God had said not to intermarry, for the people would then start worshipping other gods. So, Solomon relied upon his wisdom, proven in chapter 3 as a gift from God, instead of relying upon God. The wisest man of all time was S-T-U-P-I-D. This isn’t a treatise against women. It’s a warning that when God gives you a great gift, you are to treat that gift in such a way that it praises God. If not, you’ll find yourself forgetting God until times get rough.
No one knows the true origin of the following poem. The John F. Kennedy version carried a story of the poem being on a slip of paper in a guardhouse on Gibraltor. Others attribute it to Rudyard Kipling, Francis Quarles or an unknown soldier of Marlborough.
“In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.”
I’ve often quoted one version or another on Memorial Day. Once, I was the liturgist the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. (Funny how God works.) The preacher was pandering a local judge who had left the church when he moved to the county seat (near the courthouse). The judge visited the church during a family reunion. The preacher was trying to get money or a permanent return to the church of his birth. He talked about Memorial Day being a day for reunions, returning to their roots, picnics, the beginning of summer, etc. I was to follow these announcements with the next thing in the bulletin (a prayer, I think). I quoted the poem. The congregation erupted in applause followed by the veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War slowly rising, coming to attention, and saluting the flag that a group of veterans had brought into the sanctuary. The very liberal preacher was not pleased. I can’t remember, but I think that was the last time that I was ever asked to be liturgist.
But we treat God this way all the time in our lives. We rely upon Him for salvation, but when things look smooth, we shove God into the co-pilot role and then we proceed to ruin our lives.
We abuse the great gift that God has granted us. If it’s money, we buy things to show others that we had the money to spend on something that was either overpriced (a luxury car) or trivial (a TV that covers an entire wall of the house).
Being an introvert, it was easy to fall into the Mark Twain mode of keeping my mouth shut and having people think me a fool instead of opening my mouth and removing all doubt. Yet, I would sometimes wonder if I’m going to go into a meeting and find someone that I could talk with on an intellectual level. Almost always, the people who talked the most had never heard the quote from Mark Twain, but they should have heeded it. Often, I would be in the meeting to take notes for my boss, but I’d wonder why I was a bottom feeder in this shark tank of fools. Yet, God allowed them to be bosses and me to be the servant. Again, who is really in charge?
My wife once had a discussion with an atheist who relied upon their superior (in their mind) intellect to decide what was right and what was wrong. My wife asked what will happen when they get dementia. There was no answer. Judges 21:25 says that “in those days, Israel had no king and the people did as they saw fit.” It is stated elsewhere in Judges and summarizes the entire book. The people did their own thing. Invaders conquered them. A judge came along. In time, the people went back to doing their own thing again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
On the lighter side, my brother-in-law (sister’s husband) was teaching class one day and the concept of ‘stupid’ versus ‘ignorant’ was raised. My brother-in-law tried to explain that a boy in class was ignorant of various subjects and he needed to learn. The boy started crying, “You called me STUPID.” While my sister’s husband again explained the difference in the two words, the principal came into the room. The boy told the principal that the teacher had called him STUPID. The principal made the same argument as my brother-in-law. The boy, with tears rolling down his face said, “You’re calling me STUPID, too!” At this point, the principal and teacher looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Was he ignorant or was he really stupid as well? Since this was years ago, the boy is now fully grown. I wonder if he is a CEO of a company somewhere?
Intelligence is a tricky subject. Thinking of temperament, the IQ tests were invented by the people who have an NT temperament, thus NTs and NFs do better. Today, they add social elements to the IQ testing so that the other temperaments can have a better footing, not feeling so stupid. Yet, the truly non-intelligent of this world try to bluff their way through. Whenever a friend says, “Hey, I’m smart.” That claim is usually following a statement that was really dumb, and they were compensating. While I have an IQ that was ‘off the charts’, I have said some really dumb, dumb things. I never followed with a protest that I was smart. I was too smart for that.
Since the First Draft
As for the education part of this, my father never had a college education. I was explaining why I was not qualified for a particular job near my birthplace (reference chapter 3 on Family). He blurts out, “That sheepskin of yours proves that you can learn. That’s all the employer is really interested in. You can do that job!” I bowed my head to not make eye contact. I could have done the job. I might have performed better than the person that the employer hired, but when they state only mechanical engineers may apply, I wasn’t going to waste my time. But for my Dad, I applied anyway, and never heard back from them. I wasn’t what they were looking for.
The problem with higher learning and life for that matter is that we make our choices very young. When we get older, our interests change. Now we have a degree that qualifies us for a job that doesn’t interest us anymore. I never got the big bucks that people think of with engineering degrees, but in 1986, my boss saw that my ability to troubleshoot (working as an engineer for the maintenance department) was the best he had ever seen. He told me that he was going to use me to build a maintenance training program and give me all the help I needed. Others stepped in to prevent my promotion, but I did just as the boss asked. I then went to NASA as a technical training wizard. Six years later, and out of work, an engineering company (almost all mechanical engineers with a few electrical engineers for the electrical and control systems) was looking for anybody with an engineering degree that could stand in front of a crowd and teach. I worked for them for 19 years. Did I make wrong career decisions that cost me salary, or did God use my bad choices to place me in the perfect job that used all my education and experience?
I praise You, God, for guiding me on this wild ride.
Luke 7:32-35 (NIV)
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
Jesus is comparing the wisdom of the world in the world view with Godly wisdom.
Luke 11:47 – 51 (NIV)
“Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
In the blessings and woes of Luke 11, Jesus talks about God’s wisdom sending people out who would be persecuted and killed. Why did He do this? He sent that small voice. Look through 1 and 2 Kings, when a king turned the people back toward God, it never lasted. We turn to the strong for guidance, but God sends the weak. Remember 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.)
What did I ever have to gain by being the smartest person in the room? Nothing, not that I was the smartest. When teaching class to people who had an eighth-grade education, I would be often humbled by their wisdom. They’d seen and heard long before I learned about it in class. Whatever we have, whether education or experience, it would not be our possession, if it were not for God.
Luke 10:21 (NIV) At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
Jesus is telling us that the learned men of this world have difficulty in seeing the ways of God. C. S. Lewis stated that children and dogs know what snow is for. Lewis is saying that to understand the ways of God, we need to have that wide-eyed excitement, but not the naiveté of youth. Sometimes when we think too much, our thoughts get in the way. Just look at the arguments at the upper levels of the organized religions of today, arguing on whether God meant it when He said things in scripture. Why? Because with our sinful nature, people try to get away with things. Intellectual people are not immune. They just dream on a grander scale at times.
Do you know your IQ score? Do you think that IQ guarantees success? If not, why does the successful person get ahead? Mark Lowry occasionally says in his comedy routine, “Respect the A-student, for they shall change the world, but also respect the C-student, for one day you will be working for him.”
Was the most intelligent person in your class in school the one with the best grades? If not, why? Was it laziness as I was accused of or was it just poor study habits, since learning was so easy?
What was your favorite subject in school? Was it because that subject was easier to learn than the others (the basic concept of IQ in the first place)? If you said physical education, that was my least favorite. Keep your answers in the academic realm.
When you enjoyed a subject, in school or afterward, did you study it more? If so, if you claim that Jesus is your pilot and you are simply the co-pilot, do you study God’s Word, pray more, and converse with other Christians every day? If not, is Jesus not your favorite subject in the schoolhouse called ‘life’?
In all the other chapters, we could give that ‘blessing’ away, but with the gift of the intellect, the mind, or wisdom, it is hard to shut off that gift and rely upon God. Once dementia sets in, we’ll have to rely upon God, family, or the care giver. How can you turn over your mind to God?
You can’t voluntarily get rid of our intelligence, but are you willing to do work at a lower pay that doesn’t use your education level? Is God calling you to that work? How can you praise God through doing something like this?