I live in the southeastern United States of America. As many regions do, we Southerners have certain characteristics that are attributed to us; some are legitimate while others are founded on biases or stereotypes. A few years ago a friend and I were driving around the countryside where we encountered a gentleman who reminds me of these facts. Today's message discusses that encounter.

In the neatly trimmed yard there were a number of trees that had obviously been planted and cared for regularly. However, there was something that stood out about the trees even more than their beauty; the trunk of each one of them had been carefully painted with white paint to a height of about 7 or 8 feet from the ground. There was something about the sight that prompted us to stop and inquire of the older gentleman who was busily occupied outside the house. As we drove up the winding driveway we noticed the flowers that were uniformly planted on either side. As we drew closer, we also noticed that the outside of the older clapboard house was meticulously cared for; there was absolutely nothing out of place either in the way things were maintained or in the orderliness of the outdoor furniture that sat on each of the two large porches.

We introduced ourselves to gentleman who stopped his work in order to come over and greet us. We told him that our curiosity regarding the trees and the way they had been painted had prompted us to stop. Specifically, we asked why he had painted the trunk of each tree. He kind of smiled a bit and then drawled, “Well fellas' I'll be glad to tell ya'. The paint keeps insects outta' the wood and protects the trees from being infested. It shore works as you can see.” We agreed that it worked as it was visibly obvious. The man then pointed to a space where it looked like a tree ought to be, its absence breaking the obvious symmetry. He said curtly, “Lost a tree right there several years back.” My friend asked, “How did that happen?” “Well,” he replied, “That was before I started painting these here trees; it was just plain ole' sorriness on my part!”

One thing is sure; if the tree died from “plain ole' sorriness” on the man's part, his sorriness also died with the tree. Everything about his yard spoke of just how industrious he really was; absolutely nothing suggested sorriness. His self deprecating comments are perhaps indicative of the region in which he lived; perhaps they were typical of a generation long since past. Whatever the reason, it is that comment which prompts today's message.

Paul wrote, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12.3). I don't think the gentleman that I met that day thought more highly of himself than he should have; in fact, I think he went to the opposite extreme. Paul's instructions commend sober thinking. In our culture this is a forgotten art! Athletes, politicians, singers, movie stars, along with many, many more of us who are just mainstream America simply don't know or don't care how God wants us to think. Sober thoughts are thoughts that are rooted in reality. In this particular case, sober thoughts originate in God's word as it and it alone provides the wisdom necessary to properly estimate ourselves. Think too highly of oneself and arrogance is a real possibility; think too little of oneself and under achievement will follow. In either case, we miss the mark which God desires for us.

Today's Wednesday Wisdom challenges you to read and apply the word of God to your life. It tells where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going. No other book can do this!

(Apologies to our email readers; this message was published last Wednesday but did not make to to the website correctly so it is being run again for those readers)

Questions:

1. Do you agree that we, as a culture, have forgotten how to properly appraise ourselves? Why or why not?

2. Which do you find the most objectionable - someone who grossly overestimates his worth or someone who grossly underestimates his worth (this is not a monetary estimate)?

3. Which of the two people (question 2, sbove) fails to reach his God-given potential?

4. Sobriety includes more than the absence of drunkenness? What does it mean to think soberly?