What advantage has a wise man over a fool? What does a poor man gain by knowing how to conduct himself before others? Ecclesiastes 6, verse 8.
This is probably going to be the weirdest comparison I have ever made but, you know, sometimes it simply works. Strange as it will initially sound, I can think of no better (or more timely) analogy for today’s Ecclesiastical verse.
Last night’s entertainment at Chez Terry was “The Full Monty.” If you have never seen it, the film is a 1997 English movie about six unemployed Sheffield steelworkers who decide to earn some money by stripping. The main character sees a bunch of women standing outside a Chippendale dancing show and decides the locals can do even better because they’d be willing to go all the way or, in a colloquial term, go ‘the full monty.’
I’ll pause while you get that ‘what the heck is Dave thinking’ thought cleared out of your head. Trust me: we’re going someplace with this.
Ok, let’s get a few things on the table. The movie is a comedy but, as you might imagine, there are some heavier undertones. Contained in the movie are many, many profane words, themes about suicide, depression, homosexuality, vice and the consequences of divorce and economic calamity. The movie is actually a story, though, of fall and redemption, of regaining confidence by going out on a limb. It’s a story about regaining one’s dignity after living through some pretty hard times, yes, even regaining one’s dignity by going all the way naked in front of a crowd of 400 screaming Yorkshire women.
What advantage has a wise man over a fool and what does a poor man gain by knowing how to conduct himself before others (especially when the plot revolves around nude dancing)? Ask the six guys who stripped in the movie. Better yet, ask me.
After all, I’ve made a fool of myself plenty of times. Ask many people who know me and they’ll probably tell you that if you are looking for somebody to ‘go there,’ he’s usually me. I was voted class clown of my graduating class. Yes, I have gone streaking. There are bars all over four continents that have seen me in rare form. I’m the guy who has stepped out, over-spoken, performed audaciously, and gone over the top more times than I can even count now. I’ve been known to make a fool of myself. I write these things with a Cheshire cat grin on my face because some of them were fun memories. Some are bittersweet, and some still bring hurt.
Most, however, leave me feeling like a fool. It’s hard to take a fool seriously, especially one who is willing to go ‘the full monty’ for no good reason. At least the guys in the movie had a reason: I wish I could say I was as noble. In a twisted sort of way, I see that one of the reasons why I’ve done some of the crazy things I’ve done is because, like yesterday’s verse said, I’ve been unsatisfied. What fills me up? Praise, the spotlight, the center of attention, adulation: there’s never enough stage for me to stand on. Though some of my most successful moments at work or at home have been when I’ve worked behind the scenes, I adore the spotlight and adore the sound of applause. I adore the feeling of being in control, of feeling important, of feeling valued and needed.
If you are like that and you aren’t careful, you may be walking around in the full monty and not even realize it. Pride goeth before the fall, or so the verse once said. People can see through veneer and that emperor’s new clothes really do leave him naked. What does a poor man gain by knowing how to conduct himself before others? Perhaps the better question would be ‘does the poor man know he’s bringing shame on God when he doesn’t conduct himself well?’
Yep. That’s me. Full monty out in public and when I stopped to look at the audience I found out nobody was paying attention and the bar was actually a seedy dive. Fool. If you want to see the fool on stage dancing naked beside me, stop to take a look in that mirror stage left. I mean, my foolishness is pretty bad. How does yours look?
For us, just like the naked guys in the movie last night, there is dignity to be found by knowing how to conduct one’s self. The unemployed men in the movie found their self-respect again by doing something totally outrageous. I think there’s another way too, and it’s equally outrageous.
Have a little faith.
To our world, believing in this supernatural, all-loving, all-forgiving Savior God is outrageous, illogical, and dangerous. We go against the grain when we get down with the Almighty. In the eyes of the audience that is looking for a good time distraction, we are the ones who have lost our minds and gone outrageous. But think about it. If you want to let go of your problems, you have to lay them out bare. If you want to start over, sometimes you need to get back to basics. If you want to be trustworthy, honest, and able, sometimes you have to be exposed. In all these things, you’re going to God to bare your soul, to get back to the basics of love and life, and to expose your innermost self. We take nothing with us when we die; we are as naked as when we are born. Why not expose ourselves to him while we’re living, while there’s still time to make a change? When we do that, He restores. He always restores. When we do that, we are like the wise man observing the fool we once were.
Standing naked on stage never felt so good. The audience isn’t laughing: they’re cheering.
If you live near by me in North Texas and you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to hit me up and borrow it. My wife, son, mother and I all sat watching the movie and we really enjoyed ourselves. We needed the laugh, and we needed the enjoyment. Please understand: I have ZERO desire to parade naked around the house, the neighborhood, or at Johnny’s Icehouse pub down the street. But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes. It took much more to buy me and you back from things much worse than overcoming simple shame.