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Common Sense Caning

December 9th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 13-14 (NLT)

13 Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding,
      but those lacking sense will be beaten with a rod.

 14 Wise people treasure knowledge,
      but the babbling of a fool invites disaster.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

In May of 1994, then eighteen year-old American Michael Fay made international headlines.  An American citizen visiting the country of Singapore, Michael got into a little bit of trouble . . . okay, a whole mess of trouble.  The drama began when he was arrested for alleged vandalism.  In the United States, such a seemingly minor offense would probably land a teenager in court and leave them serving a sentence of community service or probation.

In Singapore, not so much.  

Michael Fay was sentenced to four months in jail, a $2,200 fine,  and six strokes of the cane.  That’s right, he was beaten with a wooden cane for vandalism!  The fact that Singapore punishes offenders in such a violent way was not the source of the public outcry; it was that Michael was an American.  After some negotiation from President Clinton, the sentence was reduced to only four strokes of the cane instead of six, but nevertheless, Michael Fay had to face his painful punishment.

At times, one can’t help but wonder about the lack of common sense in our world today.  It reminds me a bit of the old dog we had growing up named Sugarbear who would stand at the end of the driveway by the busy road and watch the cars go by in anticipation of a break in the traffic so she could cross.  Despite our verbal commands, on at least one occasion her carelessness caught up with her and she was sideswiped by a sedan.  Thankfully, she was fine, but the concept that her proximity to the street might put her in danger was foreign.  In the end, she simply lacked sense.

I really hate to make this passage solely about punishment, or else it would seem that I’m advocating a lifestyle of change based off of the fear of retribution for wrongs.  Though necessary and highly effective for little children, for teens and adults the fear of punishment is not a long-term deterrent for negative actions, nor a guarantee of positive behavior.  Besides, if we only strive to do what’s right in order to avoid being reprimanded, then our motivation is all wrong anyway.  The ideal scenario is that we will want to do the right thing for the right reasons.

One who does the right thing for the right reasons is an apt description of one who possesses wisdom.  Just makes sense, doesn’t it? The wise are those who not only embrace the correct actions in life, but understand and walk in the right attitude as well.  Anyone can gain knowledge.  Knowledge is purely factual; wisdom, however, is knowledge applied in the correct attitude and seasoned with common sense.

That being said, though we don’t desire for people to embrace wisdom and common sense in order to avoid punishment, there is a certain ironic justice to life when we detour from the path of wisdom.  Sometimes, when dealing with students who have turned their backs on truth and grace solely for the purpose of stubborn rebellion and self-centered resolve, I can’t help but wonder why they would still choose the hard way.  Attitudes, motives, and intentions aside, the path that God has paved for us just makes more sense. It may be bumpy and it will definitely bring it’s own share of hazards, but all in all, it seems to be more than just the best spiritual choice . . . it is also the best physical choice.

Why?  Because life has a way of “caning” us when we skip out on common sense.  All truth is God’s truth, even when God isn’t accredited for it.  For example, whether or not one believes that the Wright Brothers were the first humans to fly (without dying afterwards), they still acknowledge the validity of airborne travel everytime they board an airplane.  Just because someone happens to do something right for the wrong reasons, it still doesn’t mean that they won’t experience from the natural benefits of the good act. In like manner, there are predictable consequences that come our way when we venture into territory we know to be off the spiritually-beaten path.  

If you’re visiting Singapore, don’t be surprised when you get caned for vandalism  . . . that’s the common sense thing that will happen.  In like manner, understand that life will “beat us with rods” when we run away from common sense.  Suspension for fighting.  Getting fired for being chronically late.  Losing friends when we abuse their trust and don’t keep our word.  The canes have different shapes, but rest assured that they will smack us hard if we ignore the common sense of wisdom.  Wisdom isn’t just the presence of knowledge; it’s the “treasuring” of it.  Treasuring that which is wise and sensical will keep many a cane from finding our backsides.

Those are some physical truths to the nature of the world we live in, but the spiritual principles of godly wisdom take the whole idea to a new plateau of maturity.  We don’t just pursue wisdom and let our understanding produce wise words from our lips to avoid the canings of life; we walk out godly wisdom because we believe it will please the Creator of wisdom and make us resemble Him more and more each day.  

Treasure to gain.  Canes to avoid.  Makes sense in every way imaginable.



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