Sophistication: The Original Sin

Today’s readings made me think of how sophisticated we humans are. That’s not meant to be a compliment. Most of us use the term “sophisticated” with a positive connotation. But if you look the term up in the dictionary it has many definitions. The one we usually think of is this:

“worldly-wise; not naïve.” We associate it with socialites, politicians, lawyers, even journalists. We respect people who are sophisticated.

But we should read all the definitions to realize how much like the people in today’s readings we really are.

In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, through Moses, God reminds people how simple his commandments are. But he also knows how sophisticated his people have become. So he warns us:

“You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments just as I lay them down for you. Keep them and other peoples will admire your wisdom and prudence.”

Then in the Gospel, Jesus responds to the sophisticated Pharisees who challenge his disciples for not following Jewish laws of cleanliness:

“Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean,” he says. “It is the things that come out of someone that make that person unclean. For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.”

Jesus does a good job there summarizing what the beautifully simple 10 commandments warn against. He also gives a good definition of sophistication’s bad connotations. The term is defined by as both an adjective and a verb.

First the adjective:

“mixed with a foreign substance, impure; no longer simple or natural.”

Now the verb:

“To make less natural, simple, or ingenuous; make worldly-wise. To alter; pervert; to sophisticate a meaning beyond recognition.

I think too often we all resemble that remark. Let’s pray for wisdom and prudence to overcome our sophistication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *