Leaven – The Smartest Person in the Room
By: Date: August 5, 2019 Categories: Uncategorized
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un

My prophet friend Gary told me, “Your biggest obstacle in life is being too smart for your own good.” 

I accept him as an elder and teacher. I’ve made it my habit to take note of what he says, but his blunt statement left me blind-sided. I want to agree with him about being a smart person, but have a hard time seeing it as a liability. It seems, however, that there is research to back him up. 

A 2017 report in Journal of Applied Psychology looked at 379 mid-level managers from eleven corporations to compare raw intelligence (IQ score) with perceived leadership effectiveness. The data showed a U-shaped curve in which effectiveness improved with intelligence up to IQ=120, or 20% higher score than average, but managers with IQ scores of 128 or more engaged in less effective leadership methods.

Paul was a very smart man, but had his share of leadership difficulties. Let’s use two versions of Corinthians 8 to pull out some help with this:

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.

1 Cor. 8:1-2, NKJV

Knowledge puffs up, like leaven or yeast makes dough rise when we make bread. A little yeast is enough – too much spoils the batch. Jews used leaven to represent hidden rebellion when we think we know better than God. 

Jesus warned his disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees. They had the Law, but added many “improvements” over time. They were considered the most correct or righteous person in the room most everywhere they went. Paul adds,

In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.

1 Cor. 8:7, The Message

The Message paraphrase adds sense to this that is not in the original language, but it’s helpful nonetheless. Paul makes a difference between worldly knowledge about the meat they were discussing, and understanding how to live together in a community of faith. If a certain kind of meat causes a problem of faith for others, he says not to eat it. 

Today we could compare this to elders in the church drinking alcoholic beverages. If the church youth sees me drinking wine at dinner, they may think they can drink at a party. My liberty to have a glass of wine could become the downfall of a young person who does not know the difference between one glass and a six-pack.

As believers, the Smartest Person in the Room is God, the Holy Spirit, who dispenses different gifts to each of us. Together, we have more resource than any one alone has. 

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 

-Philippians 2, NKJV

Judas Iscariot was undoubtedly the Smartest Person in the Room. He was the only “real Jew” among the twelve, being from Judah, not Galilee. He was also bright enough to understand that Jesus planned to die at the hands of the Chief Priests and Romans. There would be no Kingdom if their king was dead. Although we know Satan motivated him to betray Jesus, It seems that he felt he was the only one there who knew what was going on. 

Consider that Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un both say publicly that they are geniuses.

Point taken, Gary.