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The Idolization of Intelligence

The greatest man I ever knew had an IQ of about 55. My Uncle Jeff had Down Syndrome, and he could never have had a philosophical conversation about the meaning of life. He could have told you all about Tom Landry and his Dallas Cowboys, though. There's no way he would have been able to solve an algebraic equation, but he could have told you all about the TV show HeeHaw. He couldn't have been able to process complex ideas, but he could tell you why Coca-Cola was the best drink ever made. He had none of the markers of "intelligence" we deem important in our society, but he loved Jesus, and he loved you. 

His love was simple and pure. He didn't complicate his love with intrusive thoughts or overthinking. He never sat around worried what others thought about him. He just loved you. He wanted to talk to you and give you a hug. "All-right!" was a favorite word when he was excited. His sense of humor was unmatched. If you asked him if he was ready to go, he would say, "I was born ready! And naked!" He's been gone for about two and a half years, and now he square-dances with Jesus on streets of gold.

In western culture, the emphasis put on intelligence permeates every aspect of our lives. We use "stupid" and "retarded" as slurs and insults. We assert dominance over those we deem inferior on the basis of intellectual prowess. 

The emphasis in education on testing--proving knowledge--leads many students to think they are inferior because they lack intelligence. Parents want their children to be identified as gifted and talented, put in advanced classes, perform on the SAT's and ACT's, get into certain universities, etc. Parental and societal pressure to perform and be the best are at an all-time high  

Let's go ahead and get some definitions out of the way. Intelligence refers to the ability to acquire, and your intelligence quotient is your ability to use logic and reason in problem solving. When we refer to knowledge, that's generally how much information a person has stored inside of their brain, and their ability to retrieve it in meaningful ways. Many people use these two terms interchangeably, or they don't see a difference in the two at all. 

We idolize intelligence, as if our pursuit of knowledge leads us to Christ. Proverbs 2:6 tells us that,"the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."

I'm not saying that education is not important. Of course it is. I've been a teacher for 20 years, and I've encouraged thousands of kids to pursue higher education. I'm also not saying that a degree isn't important in your financial success, because it is. 

What I am asking is why are we putting so much energy into intelligence and not into character? When are we going to start emphasizing being Christ-like? An emphasis on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control? Are these things beneath intelligence on the hierarchy of traits? 


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