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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Labels Aren't Reliable

Don't judge wine by its label,
   or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor.
Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with—
   the splitting headache, the queasy stomach.
(Proverbs 23:31-32)

I am not a connoisseur of wine, so I know very little about what makes a good bottle of wine.  You could show me one bottle right after another, and I would probably do what anyone who knows wine would cringe at - I'd pick it by the pretty label or the nice bottle!  The one who consumes the product in the bottle is the one who knows it best!  

This passage speaks a lot more to me, though.  I think we do a whole lot of "label" reading, even a little look inside, then come to the conclusion that whatever we are examining looks good.  It isn't until we have consumed it fully (or it has consumed us) that we understand just how lousy the thing was!  We are left with a really bad taste from the experience of "consuming" what it was we were judging by nothing more than a label or pretty facade!

I am a "label reader" - I confess it!  I look at the outside of the box of cereal, the outside of the can of tomatoes, the outside of the non-dairy creamer.  Sometimes, okay, quite often, I have been very disappointed by what "appeared" to look good on the outside, but once I got into it, I was faced with something entirely different from what it appeared to be on the label.

I think that is the meaning of our passage today - we often think it is okay to entertain certain ideas, simply because they were labeled "Christian".  For example, we might believe that old adage, "God only helps those who help themselves."  In truth, if you were to look at the origin of that saying, you would find it comes from one of Aesop's Fables!  It actually reads, "The gods help them that help themselves."  Did you catch that?  The "gods" - not God!  The phrase was coined by Benjamin Franklin later in his writings "Poor Richards Almanac".  What most don't know about Mr. Franklin was that he was a firm believer in the idea that if man could not help himself, then man was hopeless.

Here's what the Bible says about helping ourselves:

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. (Proverbs 28:26)

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh
   and whose heart turns away from the LORD.  That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
(Jeremiah 17:5-6)

So, the adage doesn't hold up under investigation!  Those that actually find that they spend their efforts on what they can accomplish find themselves labeled a completely different way than they might have imagined - fools!  To draw our strength from what we can accomplish is a foolish thing.  We are not able to do all things!  Only God is able to do that!

We need to be wise about the "labels" we believe.  We cannot simply accept them as "fact" because someone we admire wears the label.  We must become wise to the "influence" that the "label" makes in our lives.  Just as wine may produce a "buzz" and leave us feeling pretty poorly the next day, believing a wrong belief can mess us up!  Don't become consumers until you become wise to what the Word of God teaches about what the "label" really affords!