Wisdom // Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

I (Brian) got the chance to fill in as a guest speaker recently  at First Christian Church in Fort Myers, FL.  The teaching was on Proverbs 14:15

Only simpletons believe everything they’re told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.

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Transcript

  • Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright // Bob Marley
  • Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life // Steve Jobs
  • And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate // Taylor Swift
  • Do or do not. There is no try // Yoda
  • Let it be. Let it be. Speaking words of wisdom; let it be // Paul McCartney
  • I pity ‘da fool // Mr. T

WISDOM comes from a variety of sources.  In Genesis we read that our world was CREATED.  From nothing, God created everything, including the way the world was to work.  He took chaos and gave order to it; there is a given-ness to how things work best.

Proverbs 3:19 (NLT)  By wisdom the LORD founded the earth; by understanding he created the heavens.

Proverbs 8:22 (NLT)  The LORD formed me (WISDOM) from the beginning, before he created anything else. (slide 15)

Romans 1:20 (NLT)  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.

That’s why we can see wisdom from a variety of people and sources.  It’s built in our DNA, in all of us, there is a natural instinct/attraction to wisdom.

There is a physical component to this wisdom. If we eat McDonald’s every night for dinner, wisdom tells us, we are doing to die early, but if we eat wisely, we will have a longer life.

There is a moral component to wisdom.  We know that if we constantly put the individual’s happiness above the community’s happiness, there will be a social break down to society.

And there is a spiritual component to wisdom.  That if we put our identity and hope in anything more than God, we will psychologically struggle.

There is a given-ness about the world, and if we try to live another way, then we are fools, and bad things are going to happen to us.

But, not only are we told in the Bible that the the world was CREATED, with order and a wisdom, but that the world has FALLEN.  Sin and evil have broken the world, and so matter what we do, or how hard we try, or how wise we are, at times, bad things are going to happen.

We must see that this is a fallen world.  No matter how hard you try to raise your children right, they might still through a tantrum in the fellowship hall of the church that ends with your wife being smacked in the face by said child (true story).

Job’s friends … they understood that the world was created, but not that it was fallen.  They were moralist, they thought that if you lived right, life would go well.  They missed the basic theology of the creation AND the fall, and if we do this while reading the Proverbs, we’re in trouble.  We’ll only end up disillusioned and disappointed when things don’t go as expected.

So this morning, as we talk about some specific words of Wisdom from Proverbs, let’s be sure not to turn this into a to-do list of good behavior.

1: because I don’t know if you’ve actually read Proverbs, but it’s a pretty impossible list.  Only one person who has ever lived has utilized the wisdom in Proverbs perfectly, and that’s my wife Karen (I mean Jesus)

2: No to-do list can ever cover every situation of life.  Proverbs is there to teach us Wisdom; how to think, how to use our brains.

Proverbs meant to be read in community, working through the book, piece by piece, bit bit and discussing as a group.  That’s why on the bulletin I’ve not given any bullet points, but a few discussion questions for you to take home, and discuss with your smaller community, whether it be your family, a discipleship relationship you’re in, or a small group.

The wisdom writings (James, Ecc., Job, Proverbs) of the Bible are much more than dictated moral code; They form a prescription for loving other people, and bringing us into step with God’s ways, in God’s world.

Are we clear?  We got that?  OK Good.

 For the last 3-weeks, we’ve been talking about Wisdom.  But this morning, I thought, we’d go another direction.  We’re going to look at the F-WORD.

FOOLISHNESS

I have to use the word FOOLISH this morning, because my 4-yr old Emery somewhere has picked up that the word STUPID is a bad word.  So I could literally drop the real F-bomb, the king of all bad words, and she wouldn’t say a thing, but if anyone ever utters the word STUPID in our home… plan on being called out and demoralized.

Sometimes, to understand lady Wisdom, we need to look at her antithesis.  And so the Proverb I’ve pulled out to do just that this morning is Proverbs 14:15 …

Only simpletons believe everything they’re told!  The prudent carefully consider their steps.

And I realize there are some already going, but that didn’t include the words fool or foolishness.  Hang with me this morning, we’ll get to that, because we’re going to look:

  • What a fool is.
  • What kinds of fools there are.
  • How to be a fool no more.

What is a fool? 

A fool is someone who is seriously out of touch with reality … WHO … should know better. 

And so if my 4-year old Emery does something foolish like shove an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet, we wouldn’t call her a fool because she doesn’t know any better (although she’s used her get out of jail free card for that one).  But, if my oldest Kennedy (who turned 13 today) were to do the same thing, we would call her a fool because she should know better.

The Bible talks about a variety of kinds of fools.  I’m not great with my Hebrew, but, I’m pretty good with my Google, and so through commentaries I’ve learned that there are three types of fools talked about in Proverbs.  Most of us are pretty good at spotting the fools in the “other” variety, but never think of our own as foolish.  But the fact is, each of these types of fools are out of touch with reality.

Stubborn or Obstinate fool.

Proverbs 15:5

A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

These fools can’t take criticism; they shrug it off.  They are opinionated.  They are only willing to do things one-way, very inflexible.

Ruthless Fool, or Scorning fool, frequently in Proverbs we see these fools referred to as Mockers or Scoffers.

Often these fools, don’t even look like fools to us at all.  They look incredibly savvy.  They are very smart with money, relationships.  But be careful, they are only in the relationship for how it benefits them.  They can be exploitive and drop you like a hot potato when they no longer need you.  While the obstinate fool ignored criticism, the ruthless fool seeks revenge when criticized.

Prov. 9:7 // Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return.

The Ruthless fool loves practicality.  Everything needs to PAY OFF for them.  A high percentage of people who are successful in business, the arts, politics, even at times the church are these types of fools because of their ruthlessness.

But in the end they are fools, because we need relationships, and these fools sacrifice relationships to get ahead.

Lastly, what we’ll look at for our time today, is the 3rd kind of fool in Proverbs, and that’s the Simple Fool, or as our verse today translates the “Simpletons”.

Let me be clear, not all simple people are simpletons.  I’m from a small town in Indiana, where life is a little slower, where simple farmer’s like my grandparents moved to carve out a simpler way of life.  Living a simple-unsophisticated life isn’t the problem, these may be the wisest people of all; this Proverb is speaking to being SIMPLE-MINDED.

To be so unformed intellectually so that you can’t discern between good and bad ideas.

And/Or

To be so unformed psychologically (so unsure of your identity, or have such a high need to be cool or fit in) that you can’t discern between good and bad leaders.

Simple fools are easily lead; they are influenced easily like children who haven’t grown up. They like the spectacular. The most dramatic.  They aren’t moved by the best arguments, but by the most forceful, dramatic or sensational, or best presented.  If it sounds good, and they want it to be true, they believe it.  If others are enthusiastic, they get excited.  If a perceived authority says it, then they trust completely without evidence. If a simple fool is criticized, they are devastated.

Simpletons tend to not stick at things; there is no long obedience in the same direction.  When simple fools become Christians, they often jump from church to church.  They look around constantly for someone who is going to impart some easy knowledge to them, or wow them with the best show.

Remember these guys?  (Jim and Tammy Fay)

Ever heard of this guy?  (Creflo Dollar, $65M Airplane)

And listen, I put myself into this simple fool group.  Recently, I was even swindled by one of the Elders here at First Christian Church.  That’s right, a wolf right here in our very midst.  Where is Brandon Scribner?

My kids have wanted a cat for a long time, but I’m allergic to cats, and even more, I think cats are from Satan.  We have a big 100-pound chocolate lab at home … if a cat ever grew that large, you know what it would do?  Kill you!  Think about it, every cat that is in fact big enough to kill us, does in fact try to do so.  Tigers.  Lions.  Panthers.  Even the smaller ones like bobcats are going to mess you up if given the chance.  Point is, I’m not a fan of the felines.  But I finally gave in, and said they could get a grown cat, keep it outside, maybe it would keep away other varmints.  So I call my “friend” Brandon Scribner, respected Elder of this church, who is the manager at Lee County Animal Control, he says come on in, we’re overloaded with cats.  We get there, he shows us a nice feral cat or two to keep outside, the kids seem moderately enthused.  Before you know it, he’s got me in some back room, showing me a momma cat and a bunch of kittens, telling me … man, this is the way to go … you won’t have to do any of the work, the momma cat does everything, and your kids will love you for having kittens to play with.  Once they are a little older, you simply bring them back, and you’ve made your kids happy, and helped us out by fostering these cats, and again, let me remind you the momma cat does everything, no work at all.

LIAR!  I was a simpleton and believed him.  Now we got this mess (slide/picture of cats), they stink up the lanai, they’ve had all kinds of vet appointments, cage has to be cleaned everyday, and of course my kids love them all, and want to keep them all.

Not sure if you can see the screen or not, but how many remember this little Facebook thing going around last September.  Some of you are acting innocent, but I saw this shared a LOT by many of you sitting here.  Of course this was yet another FB hoax that many simple fools believed.

In the information explosion that we live in now, it’s so easy for the simple fool to latch on to whatever point of view or argument that supports their current point of view, or seems the most exciting or sensational.

One article I read by Brett McCracken entitled “Facts are a Horrid Thing” said this:

Part of the speed with which the post-facts, post-truth world has come upon us has to do with the Internet. The infinite and indistinguishable glut of opinions, facts, spin and commentary online has a numbing effect that, in the end, leaves everyone less certain about everything.  If one can Google to find facts to back up any position they might take on a contested issue (and they can), then clearly “facts” have ceased to mean anything.

Just this week I saw hoaxes that a woman got pregnant by a flu shot, that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was giving away millions of dollars if I’d copy and paste a message, and that Donald Trump had won the republican nomination for President.

Earlier this month the satirical news site the “Science Post” published a block of “lorem ipsum” text under a frightening headline:

“Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.”

Nearly 46,000 people shared the post, some of them quite earnestly.

According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words people are more willing to BELIEVE and SHARE an article than to actually read it.   And so what happens then is we believe things, we form opinions based on a summary of a summary of a summary …

A summary, of a summary, of a summary, with twisted facts … hum … doesn’t that sound a little like church gossip?

And I know a few of you sitting here are feeling really self-righteousness right about now, because you stay off Facebook and Social Media or the Internet … maybe you even stay off of the Cable “news” outlets who follow this same trend of opinion and selective usage of fact; But if you’re a part of our society, you are being impacted by this disturbing post-fact, and post-truth, believe anything culture.

And you may say, Brian, what does it really matter.  So what if I believe that the new Finding Dory movie features a transgendered stingray?  (it doesn’t btw)

Being so gullible hurts out ability to share the gospel with others because we look like we will believe anything, so our claims to some special Good News looks like nothing more than sharing a post we haven’t even read.

But even more important is that in our post-modern society, where truth is relative, we can easily slide into thinking it doesn’t really matter what you believe.

Jesus says I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life, no one comes to the Father except through me. He doesn’t say go to heaven for being a good person.  He doesn’t say the goal of life is to be happy.  He doesn’t say there are many paths to salvation.  There is but one Way, Truth and Life … and when we are simple fools, who believe everything we hear, we run the risk of being fooled away from the truth of the gospel.

Paul wrote about this to the Galatians when he says …

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.  You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. (Ga 1:6–7 NLT).

So how do we deal with this information overload?  How to be avoid being fooled?  Let’s go back to our Proverb for Wisdom.

Simpletons believe everything they’re told, BUT the PRUDENT (sensible, judicious, well advised, wise) CAREFULLY CONSIDER THEIR STEPS. 

This past week, we headed north to visit family in Indiana, and on our way, we stopped over for a few days in Gatlinburg to do some hiking and take in the beauty of God’s creation that wasn’t palm trees and beaches, although we’re always glad to get home to those.  As we embarked on a 3 mile hike up the mountain to see Rainbow falls, that took WAY longer than we expected, I couldn’t help but think of this verse.  As we climbed the mountain, we had to carefully consider our steps.  The terrain was rough.  The rocks were slippery.  I’m clumsy anyway, so it seemed like I was stubbing my toe or tripping every other step… But as we continued to climb, I became wiser and more careful as we considered the next step and we eventually made it to this beautiful waterfall.

On our hike, some of our non-prudent steps weren’t a big deal, just a little trip, some bumps and bruises, one of which resulted in our 4-year old ending up covered in mud, and she hates being dirty (drama).  But no big deal, the bump and bruises that would quickly heal.

Some wrong steps are a little more troublesome.  The pain a little more severe, and longer lasting.  Like believing a network marketing scheme, or believing you should take out a mortgage that you can’t afford.

But there were some other foolish steps, had we taken, could have resulted in much much worse, including at a few points along the hike falling to our death off the side of a cliff.

A wise believer must be prudent, must be careful, must consider their steps wisely.  When I teach, I don’t want people to believe me, I want them to believe the Bible, and I know pastor Gary feels this same way.  No 30-minute summary on Sunday morning can ever substitute for prudent and careful time in God’s written word.

Have you ever stopped to think about why you believe what you believe? Sometimes we’re scared to give our beliefs much thought, to study through the difficult sections of scripture, because we’re worried we’ll have doubts and question what we believe.

But as Oswald Chambers said …

Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong; it may be a sign that he is thinking.

Be prudent.  Be diligent.  Don’t believe everything you hear.  Before you form an opinion on immigration, read the 92 bible verses about it.  Before talking about the politics of poverty in our country, start with the 2000 bible verses about poverty.

We’re in an election cycle.  What an opportunity practice some prudence with what we believe.  You think these political candidates and their campaign manager aren’t aware of the Social Media statistics I shared earlier?  Do you think they don’t know that MEME’s and Sound Bites shape public opinion?

Generally speaking, most either believe the republicans or democrats.  We think Fox news is either brainwashing or Truth-telling.  There is either right/wrong, good/bad on every political issue … but such reasoning wouldn’t make it through the door of an undergraduate course on logic.  Sometimes not believing everything we hear requires nuanced thinking, which is much more gray that black and white.

We like black and white thinking because it simplifies everything; we don’t have to really comprehend, so we don’t feel the need to be prudent in our thinking.  Black and white thinking allows us to feel intelligent without understanding, and once we feel intelligent, we feel superior.  People who don’t agree with you are just stupid.  Does this sound a little like our current culture?

Disengage your ego from your ideas.  Understand there is much that you don’t understand.  Let’s become experts are recognizing the slants in the news and commentary we come across, whether it be right or left.  Don’t be afraid to read news and websites with opposing views to yours.

Have discussions not debates with those who disagree with you. In a debate we’re trying to win an argument, but in discussion, we’re trying to understand the other persons point of view, and that’s where real learning occurs.  Let’s be able to express the beliefs of those we disagree with so well, that they can agree with our characterizations, even if in the end, we still disagree.  As James says, be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to anger.

Only simpletons believe everything they are told, but the prudent carefully consider their steps.

And so as I close, our natural response is, like, OK, I’m going to work real hard, I’m going to pray, read my Bible and I’m going to get wise.  I’m not going to be a simpleton.  But we can’t reduce it like that.  Everybody is a fool, it’s only a matter of what kind of fool you are.

You can be a ruthless fool, an obstinate fool, or as we’ve been talking about a simple fool.  But there’s one more fool that scripture talks about … God’s fool.  And it’s the way to be a fool no more.

As we’ve seen in past weeks’ wisdom is often personified as a woman who calls out to the simple.

But when Jesus came he had the audacity to take those words away from lady wisdom and put them into his own mouth, and talk like HE is the personification of Wisdom.

Mt 7:24-26 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

How dare Jesus do that?  How dare he speak with such authority as if he IS the actual WISDOM of God?

Paul teaches and expounds upon this idea to the Corinthians …

1 Cor. 1:24–25

Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.  This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

The foolish plan of God that Paul is speaking of is seen most clearly on the Cross.

On the cross we see CREATION, with a moral order and divine law that must be honored.  On the cross we see that we are FALLEN, so incredibly fallen and utterly sinful that Jesus had to die for us.

But there’s a 3rd reality of the cross.  Not just creation.  Not just fall.  But REDEMPTION, at the infinite cost of his own blood.

1 Cor. 3:18-19

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.

 We’re all fools. But the minute you grasp that you have lived your life as a fool, and turn to the cross, you become God’s fool.  You become a part of his upside and backwards wisdom.  That power, recognition and status doesn’t matter.  That God works through pain and suffering and difficulty, in fact that you were saved through pain and suffering.

At that moment, the moment you accept this foolish plan of God, you become a fool as far as the world is concerned for the rest of your life.

Are you willing to do that?  Are you willing to be a fool, to be made truly wise?  You can’t be wise, if you’re not willing to become a fool.

And when I take the foolish power of the cross into my life I’m too humble to be mocker.  I’m too confident to be a simpleton.  Finally, I’m in touch with the ultimate reality.  Finally, I’m wise!

I’m going to go ahead and ask the servers to begin passing our communion emblems this morning.  Let’s remember this truth.  Let’s celebrate the foolish plan of God, to send his son to redeem our foolish ways.  Let’s remember and celebrate the personification of wisdom in Christ Jesus.

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

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