An Intelligent Man

Have you ever watched a chess match? They can go on for hours! There’s not very much action, not much excitement to hold your attention. The best chess players have their moves planned way ahead and have a good idea where their opponent is going to move.

I was in Winnipeg a number of years ago and while kicking around downtown at Eaton Place I found a giant, walk-on chess board in the basement. I watched various people compete against one another and decided that this might be a fun experience so I challenged a young man who was also waiting to play. After a couple of moves it was obvious that I was way out of my league and I resigned the game.

It takes real skill to master the game of chess. It takes a certain amount of strategy, reasoning ability, critical thinking. Studies show that IQ will improve significantly in children if they begin playing chess in as little as 18 weeks before they’re tested. You might say that chess players have a certain amount of intelligence.

A group, running a website called SuperScholar, ranked the 30 of the smartest people in the world still living today. Their IQ’s were all close to 200 (with some over that). A lot of the list consisted of mathematicians, physicists, and chess players! The man at the top of the list is the English astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. His story is actually quite amazing. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21. Because of this disease he has to speak through a computer generated voice and spends most of his time in a wheelchair.

I was reading the account of Paul’s first missionary journey and I stumbled onto a phrase that caught my attention. Paul and his team had traveled across the island of Cyprus and came to a town call Paphos. In Paphos a high ranking government official had heard about Paul’s journey and message and desired to hear more. The Bible describes Sergius Paulus (the government official) as “an intelligent man” (Acts 13:7). I don’t know if the Bible describes anyone else in these words.

The dictionary defines intelligence as “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”. It’s a simple definition and certainly the list of 30 smart people fit the definition. Isn’t there something missing though? Francis Chan said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” So what really matters?

Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). This is the foundational measure that is missing in that top 30 list. As far as I can tell, there may be none of the top 30 that have a fear (fear meaning respect) of God! Intelligence is good. Intelligence with the foundation of being God-fearing is better.

Paul and his team did go see the “intelligent” government official and even though there was strong opposition to the message the man believed, “astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). How about you? Would you consider yourself intelligent? The fear of the Lord is foundational.

Chess anyone?