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Knowing When to Shut Your Big Yapper!

December 2nd, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 8 (NLT)

8 The wise are glad to be instructed,
      but babbling fools fall flat on their faces.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Multitasking is the new skill of merit in our culture.  I’ve been known to safely carry on a phone conversation while eating a Beef Meximelt from Taco Bell, looking up information on my computer, transporting my dog to the Vet, and downshifting to avoid a collision . . . oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I was driving a car?  We pride ourselves on the ability to do multiple things at the same time.  This ain’t just simultaneously walking and chewing gum I’m talking about; in our society, one must be poised to face the onslaught of tasks before them with reckless abandon.

Even our children have been victimized by our breakneck lifestyles.  Hey, when fourth graders have three hours of homework a night that they can’t finish because soccer practice went over five minutes, thus intruding into their piano lesson, thus derailing their efforts to log on and check their MySpace, thus hurrying their dinner which consists of a tasteless soy burger inhaled in the backseat of their mom’s minivan, thus worsening their acid reflux and irritating the ulcer they’re developing, thus disrupting the space-time continuum and the very fabric of their family dynamic . . . hey, something’s wrong.  When I was in fourth grade, my biggest worry was over which nostril to pick my nose from.

But one crucial law of life cannot be eclipsed by the obsession to get things done and that is the simple fact that one cannot simultaneously talk and listen.  You may think you can, but it is absolutely necessary to “shut one’s trap” in order to hear what is being said to you.  I experience this phenomenon all the time in youth ministry.  I will be navigating our huge, “retired-school-bus-now-converted-into-church” bus into the parking lot of a hotel or a mall and I will reach for the intercom receiver to give instructions to the students as to what they should do when we arrive.  You can bet your sweet pancakes that every time I attempt to communicate essential information to the group, one or more of them do not get off the bus informed.

Why is this?  Do they hate me?  Do they enjoy being uninformed or misinformed?  Are they diabolically planning my personal demise by systematically dismantling my ministry one event at a time?  Sheeze, I sure hope not.  No, usually their lack of knowledge is nothing more than a reflection of the pesky aforementioned law of life: they simply did not hear me because they did not stop talking long enough to listen.  Thus one or two of them step off the bus and begin meandering aimlessly in circles trying to follow the crowed and figure out what they are supposed to be doing, all because they could not effectively speak and and listen at the same time.  Tragic really . . . and sometimes amusing.

Hence we encounter the proverbial truth of this passage: “the wise are glad to be instructed . . .”  This is a bedrock principle of godly wisdom: if you want it, you’ve got to be willing to learn.  Wisdom doesn’t come through osmosis or magic potions; it comes to those who listen to wise instruction.  Though we can ask God for wisdom, that doesn’t mean that He’s going to simply say, “Poof!  You’re now wise!”  Sure, He may impart some internal rewiring that increases your capacity to make wise decisions and exercise understanding through discernment; but much of the answer to a request for wisdom will come in the form of teaching.  Thus, to become wiser, one must listen to the wisdom imparted to them.

It’s kind of like the time I asked God to make me wealthy so I can do amazing things for those less fortunate and His answer to me came in the form of a book about personal budgeting and financial self-control.  What?!  I asked for money, not information!  Soon, I discovered that God had given me His answer, but it’s effectiveness in my life was contingent upon whether or not I listened to what He was saying.  The jury’s still out on that one.

You’ve got to love the phrasing of the next part of this passage: “but babbling fools fall flat on their faces.” Nice!  This reminds me of several scenes from the the cinematic masterpiece “Tommy Boy” (I think it won an Oscar for Best Picture.)  In this slapstick flick, Chris Farley often trails off into verbal oblivion while David Spade is making fun of him.  (Again, a reference of this movie; not an endorsement.)  Most of the funny parts of the movie center around stupid things that Chris Farley says.  If there ever was an actor who could play the part of a “babbling fool”, it had to be Farley.  “Your brain’s got the shell on it . . . shut up, Richard!”

I hope I haven’t offended your adult tastes with such an immature reference, but as we have learned: “all truth is God’s truth.”  Therefore, to avoid “Farley-esque” foolishness in our lives, we must learn to stop babbling and start listening.  Hey, it takes a lot of people seven years to graduate college . . . yeah, they’re called doctors!  And I digress again, but I hope you get the point.  

We cannot multitask the wisdom of God, thinking we can attain it without learning through listening.  Real wisdom comes to those who are willing to stop talking long enough to hear what God is saying to them. Hey, the good news is that He’s not calling on a “walkie-talkie”; no, His words to us are clearly laid out right there in black and white . . . well, and sometimes red and white.

NOTE TO READER: If you feel confused concerning several statements made in this blog, may I suggest watching the television-version of Tommy Boy for clarification.  Godspeed.



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