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Wisdom in the Trenches

In 2001, the year Wikipedia launched and four years after Google was founded, UC Berkeley sought to measure in “data bits” the information gathered in that year and compare it with the amount of information collected in previous times. Their findings were astonishing. More information was gathered in 2001 than in all previous years of human history combined. In fact, 2001 doubled the previous total. Then, in 2002, that information doubled again – adding 23 exobytes = 140,000 Library of Congress collections.

Now here’s the interesting thing: a former CIA analyst Martin Gurri argues in his recent book that precisely because of all the information that is available to the public, there is now a global crisis of authority. We have become increasingly distrustful and critical of the elites who claim expertise and ask us to follow them (The Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium). Here’s the takeaway point of Gurri’s book: the greatest need we have as societies right now is how to find those that embody honesty in the midst of everyday life, people who can draw others, by force of example, toward virtue. We need people we can trust! Which brings us to our summer series in the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs wants to show us how to be what this world needs most: virtuous people of integrity and goodness; people who embody wisdom in the trenches of everyday life.

While we were in Minneapolis with Kaitlin at a volleyball tournament, we got a call from Yoojee Kim who is staying with us this summer. She let us know that a major plumbing crisis was brewing beneath the floorboards. Every sink, toilet, and drain was backed up. It was obvious this couldn’t wait until we returned. So, I got on my smart phone, and in about 30 seconds I Googled a well-known plumbing co., made a call and arranged for someone to come to the house. Ahhhhh, the digital information age! An hour later, the plumber called:

“Everything is backed up, sir, your main sewer line is blocked and it’s going to cost x dollars to roto rooter this.” “But,” he continued, “It may not work because of the number of roots that have invaded the pipe. I suggest a high-powered pressure washer. It will get the job done faster, and it will definitely work. But, it will cost x dollars more.”

When he started talking about more money, something in me began to question his authority and I considered looking for another plumber on my smartphone, like a page out of Gurri’s book. How could I be sure he was not trying to take advantage of me, that he was being honest? So, 2000 miles away, I decided to ask him another question:

“Hey buddy, I’m a pastor, you wouldn’t lie to a pastor would you?”

“Brother,” he said, “I’m a youth pastor, when I’m not working as a plumber!”



“And as God is my witness,” he continued, “you’ve got a big mess here!”



Then he told me about his church, his ministry, how he is helping to raise the next generation of believers and suddenly, I felt peace! Believe me, I know there are pastors and plumbers who are dishonest, but in this case I felt confident. “Brother,” I said, “clear that mainline!”

I needed more than an expert plumber, I needed an honest plumber, a good plumber, a trustworthy plumber; a plumber who has read Proverbs! That’s what that CIA analyst says we need today; that’s what Solomon says we need, that’s what I need; that’s what you need; and that’s what you and I need to be. As we study Proverbs this Summer we’ll be looking at how to be people of virtue, able to exercise wisdom in the trenches. Proverbs will explain how to know true success; how to speak good rather than evil; how to make friends and make an impact; how to manage our resources wisely; and how to bless the next generation while blessing our own. Hope to see you soon…


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