Feeling "Too Stupid to be Human"
Feeling "Too Stupid to be Human"
“I am too stupid to be human”—those words don’t sound like they come from Proverbs, do they? Proverbs is all about becoming wise, and that we can become wise. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” after all, and none of us want to be someone who doesn’t have this fear of the Lord. As Proverbs 4 urges us, “Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.”
But it feels so difficult to become wise—at times we do feel “too stupid to be human.” And grasping God, too, sometimes feels so confusing and difficult. There is a limit to human understanding. And guess what, there's a chapter in Proverbs about the limits of human understanding as well! This is Proverbs 30.
Maybe that’s why Proverbs sometimes feels like a hard book. Most of Proverbs seems to gloss over this difficulty. If you’ve ever been struggling with something in life and someone tried to comfort you with a Christian cliché—“just have faith” or something similar—you know how cold true statements can feel. Unlike Ecclesiastes or Job, Proverbs often makes us feel like we should understand everything. It makes us feel life has easy to understand “rules” and that if we just sort out the patterns we will be as wise as Solomon.
But turn the page to Proverbs 30. As humans we can get wisdom, but we can also humble ourselves in the face of the incomprehensibility of God. We can observe the patterns of life on the earth—comparing the ant to the sluggard and so on—but we can also marvel at the mystery of how nature unfolds.
Here in this chapter speaks Agur, an otherwise unknown wise man who does not appear to be a king like other authors of Proverbs. He starts off sounding very much like the book of Job. “Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth?" He brings us face-to-face with the limits of wisdom. It's not us who did this. In Job too, God confronts Job to show him how little he understands: “Surely you know!”
And yet, because Agur asks "who” rather than “how do you know,” he reveals that life is not a hopeless mystery. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and human wisdom comes in and through relationship with another “who”—with God.
In other words, the end of Proverbs repeats where the book starts. It's a relationship with God that will put our lack of understanding into context. It will give us a firm foundation in a world that seems to toss and turn. It gives us a starting point to seek truth.
Agur makes it very clear he know what the answer to his question of “who” is. " Agur says, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him,” echoing the words of 2 Samuel 22:31 which David repeats in many of his Psalms. The Lord, who was so faithful to his people Israel, is the God who both gathers the wind in his fists and surrounds his people like a shield.
It is possible for humans to live in relationship with him. And as a result, we can both stand in awe and wonder at the incomprehensibility and mystery of the world, humble ourselves in the limits of our knowledge, and also know that there is a firm foundation to build the wisdom we need to continually grow in.
To find out more about Agur's awe and wonder at the world around him, stay tuned for the next issue of this newsletter! The whole chapter of Proverbs 30 is fascinating.
Proverbs 30: 1-6
“The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.
The man declares, I am weary, O God;
I am weary, O God, and worn out.
Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name,and what is his son's name?
Surely you know!
Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”
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In case you missed it, I recently published a piece about Elon Musk and visions of the future in the Reformed Perspective
I also published a short history piece about the history of the churches in Edmonton that I grew up in, for Edmonton City as Museum