Future Imperfect–Ecclesiastes 7:19-20

I think I can finally talk about it. The pain is not so fresh and so acute that I can now confront it and share my feelings with you. You see, as I mentioned elsewhere, my church’s pastor recently quit. We could say something less abrupt: He resigned. He followed God’s call to another work. But in the end, he quit.

That isn’t the painful thing, the thing I’ve been avoiding. Instead, I can now confess that my recently departed pastor was not perfect. There, I said it. He had flaws. Yes, he had many terrific qualities, but he had some negative ones as well. My guess is that if I’d worked directly for him on the staff, I’d know even more of those flaws. That’s where my mind goes this morning as I continue through Ecclesiastes.

Wisdom makes the wise person stronger
than ten rulers of a city.
There is certainly no one righteous on the earth
who does good and never sins.

Ecclesiastes 7:19-20

As I read these two proverbs in chapter 7, I’m inclined at first to think that they were simply leftovers from the list that populated 7:1-13. I’m also inclined to take them as separate and largely unrelated nuggets of wisdom. But as I reflect on my former pastor, I recognize that they belong right where they are and they speak to each other.

Over the last several entries, we’ve looked at how a person can walk a path of moderation between wickedness and self-righteousness. Here, Koheleth seems to be giving us some practical advice for living in a world that is between those two extremes. Let’s imagine my new pastor, whoever he might be.

Let’s say the church searches high and low, eventually calling Casper Clodfelter to serve in our pulpit. When he first arrives at the church, everybody will be swooning over Casper. We’ll want to invite him to go swimming to watch him walk on water. It’ll be ridiculous.

But then we’ll recognize that Casper has some horrible trait that we didn’t screen out in the search process: he doesn’t recycle, he’s a pre-trib, amillennialist, he pronounces “Haggai” strangely, or he occasionally yells at his kids. In short, we’ll discover that Pastor Clodfelter is, like us, a human being, fitting neatly into that description in Ecclesiastes 7:20.

Then will the wailing and despair begin. We’ve hired a mere human. There is, of course, hope. Wisdom–and for the Christian that includes the leading by the Holy Spirit–cannot make this person perfect, at least not in the time span we have available, but it can make him better. It can make him, if he started out as a wise man and thus a decent piece of material, a stronger one, “stronger than ten rulers of a city.”

One of the annoying things about my former pastor and my future, currently unknown, pastor is that he’s a great deal like me. He’s not perfect. He can’t be perfect this side of death. And that’s me as well. Try as I might, I cannot avoid sin completely. Despite my best efforts, I cannot pursue my best efforts–weird, eh?

But the hope here lies in the possibility afforded by wisdom, the beginning of which is the fear of God. Neither my pastor nor I can hope to be perfect, but if I stay plugged in to the Spirit, if I take the pursuit of wisdom seriously, then I can hope to be a bit closer to that standard tomorrow than I am today. And happily, that’s what God calls us to do.

Reading of the Will

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

I have a confession to make. I grew up in a fairly affluent family. We weren’t Bezos and Buffet rich, but we were doing quite well. My father owned a bank, back in the day when local banks still existed and served small towns and neighborhoods. With an incredible gift for reading people and knowing who would and would not repay a loan, he made that bank, and our family, prosper.

I have another confession to make. When I was a young adult, struggling to get my feet under me financially, I used to take solace in the idea that “One of these days, I’ll get that inheritance from my parents and everything will be set right.”

Today, nearly forty years later, I haven’t received that inheritance. As steward of my mother’s finances, I have a pretty clear idea of what it might be. When I look at my own finances and then at that probable inheritance, I’m not as excited as I used to be. I’m not saying that I won’t cash the check, but that dollar amount helps to prove the truth of today’s passage from Ecclesiastes:

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance
and an advantage to those who see the sun,
because wisdom is protection as silver is protection;
but the advantage of knowledge
is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

Better than Cash

For once, Koheleth understated his point. Wisdom is not “as good as an inheritance.” It’s better. Because of the lessons I learned from my father, I’ve done well in the financial realm. Wisdom can help a person earn their own money–and other good things–but money cannot buy wisdom.

Penny and I watched a scruffy-looking man about our age sitting at an outside table at QuikTrip recently. He had a square of cardboard and a Sharpie on the table, and seemed to penning something like “Homeless Vet. Anything Helps. God Bless!”

Lest I seem callous, I have no idea of this man’s story or what set him to standing on street corners, asking for handouts. I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and theorize that he does not have a huge inheritance parked in a brokerage account.

Did this man receive a heritage of wisdom from his parents, his broader family, a church, or a community? Perhaps, but somehow it doesn’t seem to have stuck.

The person with a rich store of wisdom, even when times get tough, will tend to find a way to make the best of things. The one who simply has money showered on them will often run through it pretty quickly. Witness the lottery winners who wind up either broke or having otherwise ruined their lives.

Wisdom is a thing that, like money, can be squandered, but unlike money, it needn’t be lost. Let’s imagine that I have a pile of money and a horde of wisdom to boot. If I somehow lose the money, the wisdom should still be available to help me recover.

Getting in Tune

One of the reasons why wisdom is better than an inheritance is that with wisdom we can see that money is a useful but limited thing. There are, of course, many things that money can’t buy, and when we don’t have the wisdom to rightly view our wealth, we’ll tend to just want more and more.

Another reason wisdom is better than an inheritance is that I have very little control over the size or availability of an inheritance. The poorest member of the poorest family can still pursue wisdom.

Rather than chasing that pile of found money, we should spend our energy chasing a pile of wisdom. With it, we’ll find that we get everything we need and more.

A Hard Tune to Hear

Ecclesiastes 7:5-6

Let me play a song for you. Here are some of the lyrics:

We have to conceive it on the inside before we’re ever going to receive it on the outside. . . . You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must make increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass.

Okay, it’s hard to imagine those words to a tune, but they are a sort of song, mentioned in today’s text.

It is better to listen to rebuke from a wise person
than to listen to the song of fools,
for like the crackling of burning thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of the fool.
This too is futile.

Ecclesiastes 7:5-6

Prosperity Foolishness

If you didn’t recognize the words of the “song of fools” above, they came from a book by Joel Osteen, a man who guides his church to pledge their allegiance to the Bible just before he preaches a message that directly contradicts the plain meaning of the Word.

Without belaboring the foolishness of the Osteen passage above, let’s just consider which of these biblical figures conceived in their heart what they later received: Abraham or Moses? Gideon or Samson? Peter or Paul? I could go on, but you get the picture. When we’re limited to receiving only what we can conceive, then we’ll never see the best from “him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

What if Simon Peter had read a copy of Joel’s book before Jesus came strolling down the shores of Galilee? He might have envisioned himself as the greatest fisherman on the lake. He might have conceived piles of fish and a fleet of boats. He might have imagined scores of employees. And we would have never heard of him.

The Wise Rebuke

Do we think that Simon Peter ever sat there in a quiet moment in the boat and dreamed of helping to feed 5,000 people? Did he envision healing his mother-in-law? Did he conceive in his mind the Transfiguration or the vision on the rooftop or bringing the gospel–what gospel?–to Gentiles? These were all things that were “beyond all that we ask or think.”

But in the course of experiencing all those things, Simon had to hear some unwanted words:

  • Truly I tell you, a rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times.–John 13:38
  • So, couldn’t you stay awake with me one hour?–Matthew 26:40
  • Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.–Matthew 16:23

If Simon had not opened himself to the things that were beyond all he could ask or think, if he had not gone beyond the song of fools, then he would have remained forever Simon and never Peter. The rebuke of the wise made him a rock on which Christ could establish his church.

Getting in Tune

And so the question that I need to ask myself today and that you should ask yourself is, what words to you heed most readily? Do you welcome the rebuke of the wise, or do you sing along to the song of fools.

The song of fools is much more pleasing to the ear. It will tell you that you should have all those possessions and liberties that you really want. It’ll assure you that you’re just great the way you are.

The rebuke of the wise hurts. It tells us that we aren’t “all that.” It points out our vanities and selfishness. It grates on the ear in a way that the smooth sound of the fool’s song doesn’t.

But only those rebukes will help us to grow to be more like Jesus. I surely don’t have to tell you what the song of the fool will help you grow toward.

The Green Grass Grows

Ecclesiastes 6:6-9

I can’t write too much today. There’s a lot to do. I have to mow the grass, especially after that big soaking rain we had a few days ago. Before I do that, I need to air up that leaky tire on the mower. I really should repair the tire, but that would involve getting a jack and a lug wrench and all my tire repair supplies. Frankly, as slow as the leak is, it’s easier just to switch on the air compressor and top off the tire.

To properly groom the yard, I need to use my rider, a push mower, and a weed-eater. The problem I had last week was that the weed-eater wouldn’t run reliably. It started, ran for a few seconds, and then died. I’m guessing I have some sort of fuel problem, but I’m an English teacher rather than a small-engine mechanic.

The sad irony of all these tasks is that they don’t have any sort of permanence. The grass will need to be mowed again next week and every week until probably October, and my equipment can be counted on to require maintenance or replacement. It’s endless, which is what Solomon pointed to:

And if a person lives a thousand years twice, but does not experience happiness, do not both go to the same place?
All of a person’s labor is for his stomach,
yet the appetite is never satisfied.
What advantage then does the wise person have over the fool? What advantage is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

Ecclesiastes 6:6-9

It’s Just Gonna Grow Again

Why do we work? According to Ecclesiastes, all of our “labor is for the stomach.” Obviously I don’t literally eat all of my labor’s products, but basically I work in order to consume in various ways. And when I give away some of my income, I’m providing for someone else’s stomach.

I eat and eat or consume and consume, and is the appetite ever killed off? Not at all. Wisdom might mean that I can more efficiently or effectively labor and therefore have more to consume. That’s the economic idea behind getting a good education. You go to school so that you can get a better job and then consume more. But whether someone has a little or a lot, they almost universally want more. The appetite is never satisfied.

Getting in Tune

So does all of this mean that we should stop mowing the grass and drop out of school? Should we cease to work and shun wisdom? I don’t think that’s the message to take from this passage. But if we think that we’re going to achieve some sort of permanent bliss by working hard and acquiring knowledge, we’re deceiving ourselves.

Wealth and wisdom are virtues, but they are not ends in themselves. If my work and my learning do not lead me to happiness, then I might as well be poor and stupid. In fact, I might be better off poor and stupid, since I won’t have as much to lose or as much awareness of my unhappiness.

Of course then we get into the nature of happiness, but that’s a matter for another day.

Solvent as Sears?

Ecclesiastes 4:13-14

My mother’s first job was with Sears and Roebuck. She worked in the catalog department in the huge warehouse and store that used to stand just east of Kansas City’s downtown. Her favorite tale of those times is handling a return of some chickens that had died in transit. Sears doesn’t issue a catalog anymore. They don’t sell chickens or much of anything these days.

But there was a time when they were the big roosters in the retail barnyard. The slogan, “Solid as Sears,” was not a punchline in those days. Fifty years ago they were the biggest retailer in the world. Today, much diminished even after merging with another former giant, K-Mart, they’ve sold off most of their brand assets like Craftsman and Kenmore, and seem to be circling the drain. The question is when, not if, they will eventually collapse completely.

Since we don’t have kings these days, we can maybe apply Solomon’s ideas to companies–or maybe to ourselves.

Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings. For he came from prison to be king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom.

Ecclesiastes 4:13-14

Multi-Variable Math

It’s interesting to me that this text introduces three variables. He might have said it’s better to be poor and young than rich and old. Instead, he throws in that wisdom variable. Is it better to be a wise old king than a poor wise youth? I’m not sure, but clearly your wealth and position won’t help you if you are a fool.

Is it better to be young than old, all other things being equal? I think I’d opt for that, although I’m not sure Solomon would agree. Is it better to be rich than poor? We needn’t dignify that question with an answer. Clearly it is better to be wise than foolish. It’s the combination of these things that makes this passage a little tricky.

No Fool Like an Old Fool

Sears seems to have behaved foolishly, or maybe they’re just going the way that companies go after a 125 years. And what about people? Is it natural for people to become foolish, utterly stuck in their ways and resting on whatever success and position they have accrued over their lives? It certainly seems common, but there’s no reason to believe it to be natural.

From an early age, we are urged to do the right things. Stay in school. Work hard. Don’t do drugs. Save for retirement. Maintain a financial reserve. Floss. We’re admonished that if we do all of these things, then we will enjoy success. By and large, that advice is solid.

What a shame then that people follow that advice, attain a position of influence and respect, accumulate sufficient financial status to not worry, and then cease to listen to anyone around them. Such people wind up losing their influence and believing that their assets will render them important. If it doesn’t work for a king, it won’t work for mere commoners.

Getting in Tune

Most people who read this are not millennials. You’re mostly O4Cs (Over 40 Christians), and many of you have done a lot of the things that were impressed upon you over the years. Perhaps you have a secure job, good benefits, money in the bank, and all your own teeth. Congratulations.

Now that you have arrived or can at least see the destination to which you’re en route, don’t stop listening to wise counsel, especially the counsel of God. Solomon urges us to be wise, suggesting that whatever we have gained over the years, even to a crown, will likely be squandered if we’re not heeding warnings any longer.

Today, Sears stock is selling for $.29 a share. In 2005 if was over $50. Be glad if that wasn’t in your 401K.

Fame Like a Mist–Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise person dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind.–Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

The grounds of Mt. Washington Cemetery are littered with stones. Maybe I shouldn’t say “littered,” since that suggests that the stones are placed randomly and without good purpose. Instead, you’ll see stones in (mostly) neat rows, all placed to mark the burial spot of somebody. Having spent three summers in my youth working on those grounds and then visiting it numerous times because of my family buried there, I’m quite familiar with those stones.

When you walk the area near my family’s plot, you’ll see several impressive structures. One, marked “Byrd,” looks like a miniature version of Athens’ Parthenon. Another, over the hill, seems like a good-sized Medieval church perched on a hillside. No one, seeing these two mausoleums (mausolea?) would doubt that the people interred there came from families with a huge amount of money. The Byrds were involved in a thriving retail business a hundred years back. The one over the hill belongs to William Rockhill Nelson, founder of The Kansas City Star.

What we can’t tell by looking at these grave markers is the relative wisdom and foolishness of the people commemorated there. When we throw out the extraordinary burial sites, we’ll find thousands of slabs of granite and marble that all look remarkably similar. They’ll have names and dates etched onto them. Some are larger and some are smaller, but in the end they’re all pretty similar.

Walk along those grounds thoughtfully. A couple of notions might strike your mind. First, the vast majority of these people are as utterly anonymous as the vast majority of people you encounter at the grocery store. Second, you can tell even less about these people here than you can typically tell about the ones at the grocery.

Have you ever thought that you could distinguish the wise and the fool as you browse the canned-goods aisle? I have. I’m sure I can’t do it with 100% accuracy, but I have fair confidence in many of these determinations. On the other hand, the people under the headstones are pretty much leveled.

Nobody etches “Fool” or “Terrible Mother” or “Spendthrift” or “Lazy” or “Easily Deceived” on the headstone of their family. The markers of veterans rarely differentiate between the hero and the coward. Instead, in death, everyone is a “Beloved mother and grandmother” or a “PFC, US ARMY, WORLD WAR II.”

So here’s the bottom line. Unless your wisdom or foolishness exists far out on the edges of the bell curve, it’s not likely to be remembered after your funeral flowers wilt. The things that seem so important to us today, will seem exceptionally small down the road. So again, even wisdom, which the Bible repeatedly urges us to pursue, will become a futile thing in the end–at least “under the sun.”

 

The Old Fool–Ecclesiastes 2:12-15

“There’s no fool like an old fool,” an old saying goes. In the past, I heard that and simply thought of it as a way for young people to get their digs in against old people: “Hey look, I can call them old and fool at the same time!” Of course, that was when I was younger and wanted to get my digs in against old people.

Older now, I’d like to spend some time thinking about a fool who is roughly my age, not terribly old or terribly young. “Jack” is single after bungling through his marriage to a much less foolish woman. He has pretty effectively alienated his only child, and his ex-wife would like to ignore him. Jack, after bottoming out financially a few years ago, went to live with his mother. I don’t care how wise or foolish you are, living with your mother in your 50s sounds terrible. (Having your mother come live with you sounds problematic as well, but that’s another matter.) Now Jack’s mother has died, so he is left with the awkwardness of a home that he can’t afford and that technically belongs to him and his two brothers.

Jack’s brothers possess the wisdom that he lacks. They’re also, despite a gruff exterior, reasonably nice fellows. They’ve agreed to let Jack live in the house as long as he wants. One of them decided to cover his brother’s housing expenses for a year to be sure he can get his feet under him. Today, Jack attempts to make a living buying and selling old stereo equipment as that year of paid-up expenses runs out. Frankly, I think he’ll have to turn around a lot of speakers and amps to support himself when the year is done.

Jack’s brothers wouldn’t want to trade places with him. They understand the value of making some good decisions along the way, but they have to wonder why he’s not having to pay more for his bad decisions. I’m reminded of this as I read Solomon’s words:

Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the king’s successor be like? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness.

The wise person has eyes in his head,
but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile.–Ecclesiastes 2:12-15

The reality, as Solomon recognized is that “there is an advantage to wisdom over folly,” but we do all end up in the same place. The wise can die young. Fools can live well into their advanced years. And when it’s all over, the wise and the fool will be placed in the same ground.

As much as the Bible promotes wisdom as the ultimate thing to seek, we have to confess that wisdom is only a thing for this life, for “under the sun.” If the fool does not suffer for his foolishness, if the wise does not profit from wisdom, then there’s no real advantage to wisdom, here or hereafter.

On its own, wisdom is of no more value than possessions.

A Sorry State of Wisdom–Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

The electric bill comes in the mail toward the end of a long, hot July. You know that the number on that bill is going to look like the national debt of Costa Rica, and you know that you spent far too much money on fireworks and meat to throw on the grill. As you hold the envelope in your hand, it feels heavier than a couple pieces of paper could possibly be.

I no longer get bills in the mailbox, and I haven’t had a budgetary crisis like that one for many years, but I’ve been to that place, holding that envelope. And what did I do with that beastly thing? I threw it into a pile of other unopened mail. If I didn’t open it, then somehow it wasn’t quite real. If I didn’t open it, then I could pretend that it wasn’t about to be a budget implosion for me.

That scenario is what comes to mind when I read the remainder of Ecclesiastes 1:

I said to myself, “See, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind.
    For with much wisdom is much sorrow;
    as knowledge increases, grief increases. –Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

Wasn’t it Solomon who said so many good things about wisdom? We’re supposed to gather wisdom and make it our constant companion. So what has happened to this guy? How does he go from saying that gaining wisdom should be job one to associating wisdom with sorrow. How is this not a colossal contradiction that once and for all proves that the Bible is just a pile of nonsense that needn’t be taken seriously?

To answer that question, we have to look at Ecclesiastes in a manner quite unlike the piecemeal approach that I’m taking. We have to consider the entire context of the book and then broaden out even more to see the broader context of the book within the canon of scripture.

Would it be painful for the recipient of that inflated electric bill to open the envelope? Of course it would. But is that person better off living in ignorance of the unhappy truth of his debt? Of course not.

Similarly, can it be painful to possess great amounts of wisdom and knowledge? Indeed it can. In fact, just yesterday, my wife and I became aware of some knowledge that brought us pain. And our understanding of God’s wisdom made that knowledge painful when people who didn’t possess that wisdom would have brushed off the information. So wisdom and knowledge bring pain, but are we better off not having those things?

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve opted for knowledge and “wisdom” by listening to the serpent. Their route to knowledge bypassed–in fact ran against–God. Similarly for us, wisdom and knowledge gained in the absence of God are indeed sorrowful “achievements.”

Seeking God’s kingdom first, means placing the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom second or below. Only then can it be a blessing.

Mowing the Wide World

Powell Gardens, outside Kansas City, covers some 970 acres. Tanner, a teenage worker there, set out to mow the whole thing–with a push mower. Perhaps that’s not completely accurate, but yesterday, when Penny and I visited this lovely place for our 37th anniversary, we saw this young man (who might have been named Tanner) mowing a wide border of grass around a large swath of vegetable rows. Given the rain that Kansas City has enjoyed in recent weeks, the grass was thick and tall. Tanner would have plenty of mowing to keep him busy all day.

I stood and watched Tanner for a couple of minutes. He shoved his mower into the tall grass. You could hear the engine start to struggle. After a couple of steps, the grass would bunch up and stop the blade, killing the engine. Tanner’s shoulders rose and fell as he drew a heavy breath. Then, without even pulling the mower back to get away from the problem, he began jerking on the starter rope.

When, after several difficult pulls, he succeeded in restarting the mower, he’d repeat this process. As I stood there, I saw him clog and start at least four times, having covered perhaps 15 feet of grass.

I wanted to offer Tanner some advice, suggesting that he only cut a narrow swath with each pass, that he set the wheels to maximum height and then move them to mow it again lower, or at least that he only mow in the direction that threw the cut grass away from the uncut.

Of course all of these strategies would have involved much more walking. Instead, Tanner opted to rely on his own strength and endless pulls on the starter rope. He might still be there this morning, mowing the grass six feet at a go.

Sometimes the best way to do things is a way that makes no sense to us in our flesh. All those things Jesus teaches about turning the other cheek, loving your neighbor, and going the second mile seem to fly in the face of logic. Then try out this instruction from Exodus 23:11-12:

Sow your land for six years and gather its produce. But during the seventh year you are to let it rest and leave it uncultivated, so that the poor among your people may eat from it and the wild animals may consume what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

So God is telling an agricultural people to willingly give up more than 14% of the productivity of their land. You might as well ask Apple to only sell iPhones six years out of seven. When you have a productive asset, you want to use it! But God’s way, perhaps especially when it runs against human sense, is the best way.

I wouldn’t suggest that my mowing advice for Tanner was God’s way, but don’t we all behave like Tanner now and again. We might hear the counsel of God, but we know that our own way is more efficient, more effective. Instead of following God’s plan, we shove our mower into the tall grass and rely on our own strength. Yes, we sometimes get the job done that way, but what other opportunities do we miss when we mow like Tanner?

 

 

The Shocking Truth about Atheism

Hang out with electricians and you might think that a padlock is their favorite tool. Any protocol-following electrician, when shutting off a breaker to safely work on a circuit, will slap a padlock on the box to ensure that some bozo doesn’t come along behind and turn the breaker back on.

The scene might look something like this: “Hey, why doesn’t my bagel toaster work in the office? No worries, I know where the breaker box is. Well there it is–number 13 is tripped. I’ll just turn it back on. (Click.) Who was that screaming?”

While Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, an electrician might amend that to say, at least while at work, that the fear of the current is the beginning of wisdom.

That well known verse is the flipside of Psalm 14:1:

The fool says in his heart, “There’s no God.”

Our electrician friend would adapt that easily enough. The fool says, “There’s no way that this circuit is hot.”  The electrician switched the power off himself and then placed the padlock on to ensure that it stays that way. Only then is he not a fool.

But here’s the deal. Anybody who has worked around electricity for a while knows that you can get away without locking circuits most of the time. You don’t really have to treat every connection as if it were live. That’s just a safety guideline that takes care of matters in the worst case. It’s just like you can ride around in your car without a seatbelt most of the time without a problem.

That’s how it is with ignoring God. People can go through their lives for decades ignoring God and apparently prospering. Read through Psalm 14 for its dismal view of humanity. Not until Psalm 14:5 do we read the key word: “Then.”

Eventually, the fool who says there’s no God will discover the error of that assumption. Eventually. But in the intervening years, that fool can do a lot of damage.

What’s a God-follower to do? We can learn something from electricians. We can start by trying to live every moment of every day as if there truly is a God, as if the wires are hot. Do you already do that? If so, you’re ahead of me. We can also protect ourselves by trying to put locks on situations to avoid danger.

You see, that electrician can avoid danger in two ways. First, he can simply stay away from the system. That’s not his calling. Second, he can practice safe methods, including locking circuits, to keep some bagel-toasting yahoo from shocking him.

The reality is that electricians and Christians sometimes get hurt when they deal with these dangerous things. But the electrician is paid to deal with that danger. The Christian is expected to engage a dangerous world in an effort to set its current right.