“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” If you heard someone shouting that, you’d probably laugh, thinking they were either listening to a famous little chicken we know, or they were hallucinating. You’d simply know better than to believe something so blatantly untrue. You wouldn’t fall for it, and you’d know better than to be a fool, right? But, yet the Bible says we can all be fools when it comes to certain things…. incorrect assumptions about relationships, business decisions, and many of life’s choices.
Many years ago in the 70’s, my husband and I invested in a worm farm. I know…. it sounds silly, but the idea was particularly attractive being that you could set it up indoors, and we lived on a city lot in a suburb of Chicago. How perfect! So, we proceeded to visit the impressive corporate office of the company which, by the way, had been previously featured on a well-known, morning TV show. The management greeted us, all decked out in duds like models out of GQ magazine. They appeared to be professional and knowledgeable, as they carefully explained all the future uses of worms in dog food, gardening, fishing, conversion to flour for baking (yes, worms are 98% protein), landfill management, and an assortment of other potential money-making opportunities. So, eventually we coughed up the money (thousands), bought all the necessary equipment, learned how to care for the slimy, little creatures, and rented an office space. All seemed to go along nicely for a few weeks. The worms were growing and multplying like rabbits, and the so-called potential customers were in the queue. Yes sir, any day now we’ll be rolling in dough and living the high life.
Now….fast forward a few weeks. Of course, worms need to have vittles to eat, and they require a specific type of bedding. So, one day I drove to the corporate office to get resupplied for the first time since the start of our lucrative adventure. Oddly, as I approached the building, there weren’t any cars in the large parking lot. No lights were on in the building. There were chains on the front doors. Not good, huh? Much to my surprise, the shifty 3-piece suits had taken off with our (and others’) money. The whole kit and caboodle had run off with our dream, and fled to somewhere on the globe. Later, we found out that the government had attemped to catch them as they conducted other scams around the country, with absolutely no success. (The con men are probably somewhere on a beach now, laughing their swimming trunks off, and sipping Bloody Marys.) Anyway, we were fools. In the beginning, we made a business decision based on the way things seemed, instead of checking the company out thoroughly before investing. We were motivated by the lustful belief that if we could get rich quickly, then life would be grand. We looked at the way things appeared to be, and followed our lust for more money (and we were doing financially well at that point, but wanted more anyway). Obviously, that failed attempt at wealth didn’t literally kill us, but it did lead to unnecessary financial strain for awhile, and could have led to complete ruin had we gotten more deeply suckered.
We weren’t believers at the time, which makes the story sound more plausible, but still our lust-hungry hearts will deceive us to this day, so we have to be careful…..and so do you. In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon warns us many times over about not becoming fools, but instead, using God’s wisdom in life’s circumstances. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t referring to cases like the falling sky where we know common sense says it isn’t true. We are warned about instances in which we think something which is bad for us is a good idea, or our perception is faulty, or our feelings give way to incorrect assumptions, or our pride rules us. The writer warns us that these things could actually be our undoing. You may be familiar with Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (ruin).” The Hebrew root word for “right” in this verse literally means, “straight or level”, but in the figurative sense it means, “pleasant or seemingly good”. To paraphrase, this would say, “There is a deceptive path that a man will take based on his feelings or human logic, but in the end it may lead to his ruin.” This proverb has spiritual implications for sure. For instance, I think of Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve made a decision based on the way things seemed. Even though God had given them Nirvana, they still felt as though He had thrown them under the bus, because He hadn’t created them to know all that HE knows. I’m sure they entertained the idea that if they did have that kind of power, they could be like God, and enjoy the benefit of having control. Their decision changed the course of human history. Evil and sin entered the world, and has deceived us into believing that we can interpret life independently of God. We often make decisions based on the belief that God has withheld something from us, therefore we need to sit in His seat. As a result of our ongoing rebellion, Proverbs soundly warns us that if someone decides to take the road apart from the sound wisdom of God, that person is a fool. Nevertheless, we go through much of life being guided by this feeling-based principle. The warning against being foolish can apply not only to spiritual issues, but to everyday matters, i.e. moral, relational, business, financial, or general decisions about life. How many times do we make decisions based on how it feels, apart from any mind toward gaining wisdom from above?
As a counselor for many years, I saw my share of individuals who were seeking to discern God’s will for decisions they’d need to make. I admit it certainly wasn’t always clear. However, there are a few general guidelines we can follow which definitely help the process ….at least to find peace about going on a straight path which honors God and can give us direction:
** We have to start at the beginning, as it’s stated in the over-arching theme of Proverbs, in 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” The foundation of wisdom is being in right relationship with God. How can we expect to gain insight and knowledge to live life if we have no relationship with Him? Knowing God is the very essence of understanding what is wise. Apart from Him, we have a distorted view of life and its purposes. Wisdom is applied knowledge, so knowledge must come first, and we can’t know the nature and character of God unless we have a relationship. Pure and simple. Those who have no relationship with Him will trust in themselves to interpret what is right and wrong, using their emotions to guide their decisions. Those who have listened to God through His word, know how He has guided and directed His people through the course of history. He is unchangeable. The trust He has demonstrated in the past is the same trust we can depend on today, and we can’t know what trust looks like unless we’re familiar with how it has been fleshed out over time. That’s how we get to know someone. If we don’t know God’s Word through reading and studying, then our “relationship” with Him is based on conjecture, not reality. The Bible is how He speaks to us. If you’ve done all the talking, and you haven’t listened, then no wonder you may feel God is distant and silent. The fool is one who listens to his own voice.
** Next, talk to God through prayer. Tell Him your concerns and confusion about the upcoming decision, express to Him your fears, ask Him for insight and guidance. Our prayer doesn’t inform God as though He’s clueless. He already knows what we need and desire. God loves for us to seek His ear through prayer because it communicates our acknowledgment of His position as our Heavenly Father. It demonstrates a humble attitude to Him where we’re willing to bend our knee to the One who has formed us and who holds creation. The fool is one who thinks they can go it alone. Their pride speaks lies to them of being independent, and to subordinate themselves to a holy God would be wholly unthinkable. We are cautioned, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
** Seek the counsel of a few wise people. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20). However, beware that it only serves to confuse matters when we look to get the advice of too many. Often, I think we want to bend someone’s ear for advice because we look for an answer that feels more suitable to us; a solution that won’t require as much faith or trust. It’s scary to think that the answer may not be as clear as we’d like, so we hunt around until we find the “easy button”. I’ve seen too many people who bounce around for advice as they look for instruction or opinion. In those instances, the issue isn’t really that they want good advice; the real issue is they fear making a mistake. When this is the case, their time would be better spent on confessing their lack of trust that God will ultimately take care of them, regardless as to the outcome. The fool is one who doesn’t receive and act on advice from godly people.
** Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and keep you disciplined. He is alive and well as He lives in you. Ask Him to make you aware when the answer to a decision is in front of you. Manytimes, we probably know the wise thing to do, but are clouded and influenced by our emotions, or other’s opinions. The Spirit is your internal counselor, as Jesus described in John 14-16. Don’t underestimate His importance. Jesus paid a high price so that you could have free sessions any time you want…. what a privilege. The fool is one who turns a deaf ear to Him.
Believer, we’ve been given so many avenues to make our paths straight when we have to resolve difficult decisions in life. Turn Around and see the resources God has provided, leading us to stray from foolishness and live to wisdom. He never encourages us to do anything that He hasn’t already given us the means to accomplish. Bear in mind these are only guidelines to keep in mind. This is NOT a list to follow in order to avoid pain. It is intended to help you as a resource for walking a level path. It is NOT insurance for a comfortable outcome, but rather a measure of your regard and respect for the wisdom of God to move you to the next step in your journey.
My next post will be a follow-up to address what God could be doing when you’ve followed God’s road to wisdom in making a decision, and things still get bumpy. Stay tuned!!
(By the way, my father’s vegetable garden was the envy of his neighbors in the 70’s. Somehow, millions of worms migrated 850 miles to the red dirt of Mechanicsville, Virginia. That’s a whole ‘nother story…. perhaps when I write a future post about idiots who buy a worm ranch.)