At the beginning of this New Year, let me offer you a tutorial on foolishness to guide you through the next twelve months. I conjecture that if you get the foolishness part right, every good and perfect thing from above will follow you throughout the coming year.
Tutorial on Foolishness
Read Matthew 25:1-13. The story of ten young women. 5 had enough oil and 5 did not. The bridegroom came during the night. 5 went with him and 5 did not [they had to go and get more oil and missed the opportunity]. The text is all about the foolishness of unpreparedness. In the lingo of the faith, semper paratus, be always ready and always prepared.
Not only did Jesus teach about foolishness, but wise sages, poets, and authors throughout the ages have had some things to say:
A 16th century anonymous person said: “A fool and his money are soon parted.” A lack of financial planning and a lack of good common horse-sense can bring trouble.
Abraham Lincoln once said to a caller at the White House: “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” The fool wears a mask like a court jester which can be seen through.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the 19th century author writes: “Give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself.” There are obviously some dreams and stars that only a fool can reach for.
In a line of verse by Nicolas Desperaux, the 18th century French poet:
“Of all the creatures that creep, swim, or fly,
Peopling the earth, the waters, and the sky,
From Rome to Ireland, Paris to Japan,
I really think the greatest fool is man.”
Moliere quipped in the 17th century: “A learned fool is more foolish than an ignorant one.”
Voltaire, 18th century philosopher, thinker, denier of divine reality, once said: “He who thinks himself wise, O heavens! Is a great fool.”
The Hebrew Scripture offer us gems of wisdom on foolishness:
Psalm 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”
Proverbs 28:26 “He that trustest in his own heart is a fool.”
Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.”
I believe the greatest need we have as ministers and congregational leaders is the need for rigorous spiritual preparation. If we will do our part, God promises to do God’s part. If we work hard to accomplish tasks of goodness and love, then we can rely on God’s grace to do the rest.
You have probably heard that wonderful poem about Footprints in the Sand. When there was only one set of footprints God was carrying you. I do not think that you have heard from the foolish neighbor of Footprints in the Sand, known as just Prints in the Sand:
One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
Those prints are large and round and neat,
But Lord, they are too big for feet.
My child, He said in somber tones,
For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.
You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know.
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you, on your butt!
Because in life, there comes a time,
When men must fight and men must climb,
When men must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.
Whether it be 5 foolish maidens or thousands upon thousands of butt prints in the sand, God loves us and wants us to be prepared to witness the great things that God will do, in spite of us and in spite of our foolishness. I left the male pronouns and nouns in the quoted texts above so that our female readers can delight in the foolishness of what it means to be male.