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More than a pretty bottle

Every now and again I get set very near a bar in a restaurant. What catches my eye while sitting there is the myriad of beautiful bottles into which those 'adult beverages' have been placed. There are bright blues, dark greens, tall and short bottles. Some carry labels stamped in red melted wax while others display ones with edges of gold. There are even those with little emblems on them. What is within those bottles is not always evident - if I had never been exposed to what a 'bar' serves, I might see those bottles as having something beautiful inside them. I would not know of the biting taste of some of those liquids, or the addictive power contained within. What is within is concealed by the loveliness of the bottle. I cannot ever be aware of the totality of a man by just reading the label he might display, my friends!

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 think we each do a whole lot of "label" reading in our lifetime, even an occasional little look inside, then come to the conclusion that whatever we are examining looks good, or at least 'good enough'. It isn't until we have consumed it fully (or it has consumed us) that we understand just how lousy the thing was for us to have ever considered as 'worth it' for us to partake of! 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 - the outside of many things. 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. Labels are not always accurate.

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 "okay". 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. I daresay if I had to rely upon the 'help' I could give myself at times, I'd be sailing down a pretty murky river to an even murkier destination! Scripture actually tells us that those who trust in themselves are fools - they are not doing a good job of walking in wisdom and their life reveals that (Proverbs 28:26)

So, the old adage of 'helping one's self' 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 when they set out on that course of travel - 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, or put our trust in. We cannot simply accept them as "fact" because someone we admire wears the label - not every label will be 'right' or 'true'. We must become wise to the "influence" that the "label" makes in our lives. Just as all that 'pretty bottle alcohol' may produce a "buzz" and leave someone feeling pretty poorly the next day, believing a wrong thing or imagining a wrong thing can mess us up! Don't become consumers just because of the 'label' one wears. Become wise to what the Word of God teaches about what the "label" really affords - it is a descriptor, but not always capable of making us appreciate what is contained within! Just sayin!

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