Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

January 28, 2007


Wise principles for living help us live life to the fullest


      Life is best lived by people who live by wise principles. Ten, for some reason, seems a good number. Dave Letterman has become rather famous for his lists of ten, though most are more funny than wise.

          Thomas Jefferson had his list of ten observations for practical living. He was obviously a wise man and some his principles are cherished today by common people in every land.  Here is his list:

1.       Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

2.     Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

3.     Never spend your money before you have it.

4.     Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.

5.     Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.

6.     We never repent of having eaten too little.

7.     Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

8.     How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

9.     Take things always by their smooth handle.

10.   When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

          Not to be outdone, Abraham Lincoln is said to have left us his own list of ten observations. Few presidents have been admired more than Lincoln. In an address to a joint session of Congress on February 12, 1959, Carl Sandburg said of Lincoln:

          “Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.”

          Compare the wisdom of Lincoln with that of Jefferson:

1.       You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

2.     You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

3.     You cannot help small men up by tearing big men down.

4.     You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

5.     You cannot help the wage-earner up by pulling the wage-payer down.

6.     You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

7.     You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

8.     You cannot establish sound social security on borrowed money.

9.     You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.

10.  You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

          Before you decide which set of ten principles you like best, I should tell you that scholars agree the above list was erroneously attributed to Lincoln. Actually one hardly needs the help of Lincoln scholars to perceive that Honest Abe was not the author of these ten points. Neither the language nor the thoughts seem worthy of Lincoln’s great mind and spirit.

          Great and famous people can sometimes offer us great wisdom for living. That is why we study the lives and ideals of significant men and women whose examples we admire.

But in our search for wise principles for living, we should not neglect the list Moses brought down from the mountain. His list offered about as much wisdom as you can find anywhere for wise and practical living. They are not points, observations, or suggestions. They are simply commandments, ten of them. + + +