Daily Proverbial, from Ecclesiastes, 29 November 2012

Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness— and the fool multiplies words. Ecclesiastes 10, verses 12 – 14.

I was surfing the web last night and watched a disturbing presentation. It was a sales pitch to sell a survivalist course, and while it was only narrated black text on a white background, I found it to be graphic and unsettling. No, I won’t share the link here; I’m not into spreading that kind of hype. And there wasn’t a hit of profanity or filth in the thing. But the message was stark and unforgiving: the US financial system is collapsing and chaos, martial law, famine, and worse are looming in the next few months. The kind of disorder that will result from the US defaulting on its debt has never been seen here before. The video talked about how the government is quietly preparing for martial law and massive civil unrest if the US defaults, which seems more and more likely. Naturally, they were using fear to get you to buy their guide (I didn’t) but the whole thing left me feeling quite uneasy, questioning whether I was one of the people prepared to survive if things ever get bad.

So tell me, my friend, by talking about this presentation, am I a fool consumed by his own lips, a wise man who is gracious, or something else? I mean, yesterday’s writing was about being prepared, about practicing to charm the snake. Today’s talks about how garrulous fools (like me?) ramble on and on and make themselves look stupid (as well as detracting from God and wasting your time). Yet is it a foolish thing to talk about these uncomfortable matters of chaos, survival, and outcome? Or should I ignore the website as just another crank attempt by someone with a little too much time on their hands (along with the motivation to get rich)?

Answer: yes to both.

The overriding theme of chapter 10 (so far) is mocking foolishness. Each of the verses we’ve talked about has mocked foolishness even as they contrast it with how we need God. The chapter uses several different examples – dead flies in perfume, the foolish ruler, the dull axe, and the snake charmer to name a few – to paint vivid pictures of what foolishness looks like. Verses 12 through 14 are no different. Anything apart from God, whether it’s my daydreaming about what I could do with that Powerball money or my evil thoughts about that woman who works a few cubes over from me, or whether it’s your scheming to get back at that guy who did you wrong, anything apart from God is sin. The Ecclesiastes extension of that truth is that anything apart from God is also foolishness. Logically speaking, that means sin is foolishness, and foolishness is sin.

And let’s keep it real here: our world is full of foolishness. The US spends half a billion dollars this week on that lottery. California votes itself higher taxes when the economy there is already in the toilet. We pay $300 cash per month for cell phone bills but we charge groceries on a credit card and we can’t pay our mortgages. Five people drive into an intersection to turn when the stoplight turns red. Somewhere (actually in many somewhere’s) two married people hop in the sack with people other than their spouses. Children tell their parents “no.” Do I need to keep on going? Our American nation is full of foolishness. Go overseas, where good land sits idle while millions starve and you’ll see plenty of foolishness there too.

All those things start with words because words mean things. God spoke all creation into existence. Words will get you married, arrested, acquitted, into the military, in trouble or exonerated. Fools multiply their words if only to hear themselves talk. Over-talking (or over-writing) can be a sin, especially if it doesn’t expand on a point, or contribute to understanding. If I beleaguer a point, I’m sinning; when I beleaguer a point, I’m foolish. Imagine that.

Don’t just imagine it, though: live it. Put it into action today by remembering it, then adjusting accordingly. To that end, I’ve been enough of a fool. I don’t want to be a fool anymore. Let the words speak from themselves because I hope God uses them to speak to your heart. That, more than any dire warning, is how we prepare for calamities.

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