There’s a scene near the end of the first Jurassic Park movie, where the dinosaur park’s gamekeeper, played by British actor Robert Peck, is hunting the escaped velociraptors.
One of them outflanks him and ambushes him before he can take a shot. His last words before getting eaten are, “Clever girl.”
We tend to admire cleverness, even when it results in dire consequences for the recipient.
Sometimes, cleverness is employed in a dishonest way, yet it still accomplishes what the clever person wants. But cleverness is not the same as wisdom, a virtue highly lauded in Scripture.
There are plenty of examples of cleverness in the Bible.
Probably the first example is Satan’s deception of Eve. In the guise of a “serpent”, a metaphor for the evil one, he asks, “Did God really say, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden…?"
Eve replies that that is exactly what God said. Satan responds, “You surely will not die…for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will like God, knowing good and evil.”
So the temptation to be as powerful and all-knowing as God impels Eve to disobey God and convince Adam to do the same.
The action is known as “The Fall”, the beginning of all human sin.
Another example of cleverness with deadly results comes in the Book of Judges.
The Gileadites are at war with the men of Ephraim. The Gileadites prevail in battle and capture the fords of the Jordan river to prevent the escape of the scattered Ephraimites.
But because both peoples are Israelites, they are hard to distinguish from one another.
Some clever person recalled that Ephraimites had difficulty pronouncing the word “shibboleth” [an ear of grain] — in their dialect they said “sibboleth.”
So when anyone approached a ford of the Jordan, the Gileadite soldiers asked them to say “shibboleth”.
If they failed the test, they were killed. Judges 12:6 says, “Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.”
Apparently, American soldiers used the same method to distinguish Japanese from Filipinos in the Second World War — the test word was “lollapalooza,” a word Japanese had great difficulty pronouncing correctly.
Laban was the father of two daughters, the comely Rachel and her older sister Leah, “weak in the eyes”, i.e. crossed-eyed. Jacob laboured seven years to win the hand of Rachel.
But on the wedding night, Laban sends in Leah disguised under the wedding veils.
Scripture says, “And in the morning, there was Leah!” Jacob is incensed but Laban says, “Look, I couldn’t marry off the younger one before the older — work for me another seven years and you can have both.
Jacob is exasperated but grudgingly gives in, duped by his father-in-law’s cleverness.
Jesus was regularly tested by clever lawyers of the ruling clique.
One of them asked if it was proper to pay the hated Roman head tax. Jesus recognized it as a ruse to discredit him. If he said “no” he could be accused of rebelling against Roman law.
If he said yes, they could accuse him of toadying up to the Romans.
So he said, “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” His clever answer amazed them and all who were watching.
There are many clever people in this world. Some of them have grown fabulously wealthy through their cleverness or have acquired great power and influence.
Sometimes, however, cleverness leads to pride, the kind of pride that says, “Look at all I have achieved, all on my own merits.
I have wealth, fame, and the admiration of millions. I don’t need God.” Yet Jesus himself said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his own soul?”
Cleverness alone will not save you. But those who are wise acknowledge their innate moral frailty, and put their trust in God alone.
Better humility with wisdom than cleverness.
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