In today’s pop-culture vernacular, to be “woke” means being conscious of racial discrimination in society and other forms of oppression and injustice. Being “woke” or to “stay woke,” dates back to the 1940s, according to linguist and lexicographer Tony Thorne. He says these terms were in common usage on the streets in black communities and in the black youth culture. From there, we first see the phrase used in the 1971 play “Garvey Lives!”, where one of the characters says, “I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon’ stay woke. And I’m gon’ help him wake up other black folk.” Wokeness then entered more prominently into popular culture in 2008 thanks to singer Erykah Badu who used the phrase “I stay woke” in the song Master Teacher. Here are some of her lyrics:
Even if yo baby ain’t got no money
To support ya baby, you
(I stay woke)
Even when the preacher tell you some lies
And cheatin’ on ya mama, you stay woke
(I stay woke)
Even though you go through struggle and strife
To keep a healthy life, I stay woke
(I stay woke)
Everybody knows a black or a white there’s
Creatures in every shape and size
(I stay woke)
“Stay woke” has since become a catch phrase in parts of the black community for those who were self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm and striving for something better. But stay woke and woke became part of an even wider discussion in 2014, immediately following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The word woke became entwined with the Black Lives Matter movement; instead of just being a word that signaled awareness of injustice or racial tension, it became a word of action. Activists were woke and called on others to stay woke.
Like many other terms from black culture that have been taken into the mainstream, woke is gaining broader uses. It’s now seeing use as an adjective to refer to places where woke people commune: woke Twitter has very recently taken off as the shorthand for describing social-media activists. The broader uses of woke are still very much in flux, according to the online dictionary site, Merriam-Webster.
In light of the demand that individuals in American society be woke, it is good to consider what the Word of God has to say on the matter, for there is not a single issue in a person’s life that has not been anticipated and commented upon by Almighty God. The Bible, “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12-13).
When the Scriptures are consulted, the discovery is made, with all due respect to Ms. Badu, of the first two woke people in all of humanity. Their discovery of wokeness, or self-awareness, is record in the first book of the Bible. A modern amplified reading of the text says,
“So, when the woman [named Eve] saw that the Tree [of the Knowledge of Good and Evil] was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband [whose name was Adam] with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew [because they were now woke] that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Gen. 3:6-7).
When Adam and Eve rebelled against the known will of God not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, there were three immediate results.
First, Adam and Eve woke and understood there was evil in the world. Scripturally, evil may be defined as injurious behavior to self or others. A quick look at the news at any given hour of the day, combined with one’s own experiences in life, confirms there is evil in the world.
Much of the evil in American society today is perpetrated by those who profess to be concerned about racial injustice and other forms of discrimination. As a result, the Antifa and BLM movements promote reverse racial discrimination. They enflame the passions of constituents to commit unspeakable crimes of terror and torment that does not stop until local communities are destroyed by fire, businesses are ruined, and people are left homeless and destitute—except the leaders, of course. Like Satan, they slither off to live in their mansions and enjoy their stolen property, jewelry, and cash. It is all justified because they are woke. One day, if God is merciful, the Holy Spirit will come and illuminate the minds of individuals to be woke again, but this time to the evil masquerading in wokeness.
Second, Adam and Eve woke to the fact that God is a God of truth. The Lord had warned the couple that if they became woke, if they disobeyed Him, they would die. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they became woke, and they died the death of the wicked.
In contrast to being woke to evil and its consequence, the Bible exhorts people to awaken to salvation, and righteousness. “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11-12). “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor 15:34).
Third, Adam and Eve woke to the point they came to comprehend that despite evil in the world, despite their own transgression, God was a God of mercy and compassion. The Bible says that after the Lord passed judgment on Adam, Eve, and the serpent, after the couple was expelled from the Garden of Eden, the Lord took pity on them and covered them. “Also, for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Where sin abounded due to being woke, grace did much more abound. Blood was shed. Clothing was made. And Adam and Eve were covered with a sacrifice provided by the Lord God.
The atoning garments God gave to Adam and Eve are offered to all through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. If those in Antifa and the BLM movements, if liberal, woke Twitter and other promoters of social justice want to be truly woke, come to Christ. Accept His blood atonement. Then, the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. There will be no more need for reverse racial injustice. There will be no more need for the hatred, hostility, anger, and wanton destruction of property and lives. Awake to righteous and be truly woke.