Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 3, 2017


The biggest fool in town


        A nephew surprised me by saying, “When you have time I would like to talk to you man to man.” I gladly made the time. He wanted my advice about a job he had been offered. We discussed at length the pros and cons of the offer.

        I was impressed. First, that he thought I might be wise enough to offer him wise counsel, but more importantly, that he was wise enough to seek the counsel of his elders. I learned from my Zambian friend Alfred Kalembo that reverence for elders is common in African cultures. Younger people will sometimes lie prostrate at the feet of their elders to show respect.

The assumption is that the old are wise. That, of course, is not always the case; nor does it relieve elders from the obligation to live so they are worthy of respect. Assuming the elders have earned respect, the tradition of youth deferring to them is commendable.

        Old people can, of course, be unwise and mean-spirited. If that happens, then such elders do not deserve respect. They are to be pitied for instead of becoming old and wise, they have become old fools. Still, the biggest fool in town is always the person who knows everything and never needs counsel from anyone. This is the arrogant person who has answers for every question, the guy who can talk the horns off a Billy goat.

        I tried not to give my nephew “answers.” Instead I encouraged him to believe that he could reason things out and make the right decision. I told him I was confident that God would help him choose wisely.

In conversations with people who are seeking advice, I try to remember that I am not the source of wisdom; God is that source. This is what the Bible teaches. James, for example, says it plainly: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

        Who does not lack wisdom? Even if we have some, there is room for more. Only the fool who thinks himself the smartest person in town will conclude he has no need to ask God for wisdom. To gain wisdom from God we must believe that he will give it and that we can receive it. That is a matter of faith. So wise is the one, young or old, who believes that God will provide guidance to those who ask him for it.

        A popular source of knowledge these days is an electronic gadget that will talk to you. Called “Echo,” this cute little gadget houses the voice of “Alexa.” You can ask Alexa to do things for you, like turn on a light or play a song from your music library. Alexa will look up information for you. But though Alexa may be helpful, there is one thing she cannot do. She cannot provide you with wisdom; she can only give you knowledge. And it is knowledge without wisdom that makes the biggest fool in town assume that he knows everything.

        Fortunately, we have someone to whom we may turn who is always a greater source of help than a voice in a box on a night table. Alexa is cute and dispensable. God is awesome and indispensable. Alexa is transitory; God is eternal.

        Wise is the person, whatever the age, who has learned that the best source of wisdom is the God whose voice is heard in the heart of those who turn to him for guidance. + + +