The Folly of Self Sufficiency

“Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor.” (Ecclesiastes 4:13, ESV)

In this proverb, the young guy who is nothing and who has nothing but wisdom is better than an old guy who has everything but can’t learn anything. The old king’s problem? He’d forgotten his own roots. He too had grown up poor, but now that he had power and influence, his dependent attitude went bye-bye, only to be replaced with prideful self sufficiency.

I almost laughed when I read about the old and foolish king. It reminded me of myself at times in my own ministry. During one particular season, I had lost the willingness to receive input from others, especially from those outside of our fellowship. I became somewhat isolated, and my relational circle drew ever tighter.

Early in the ministry, when I’d only been at it for about two years, I remember one seasoned CC pastor coming through our area as he traveled in his RV with his wife. He was essentially offering himself as a servant to a young pastor. Looking back, I wish I’d welcomed him with open arms, invited him to our home, allowed him to look at the church and what we were doing (and not doing), but I did not. Looking back, I realize I missed a huge opportunity to grow. I was too young and dumb to know that at the time. But now that I’m old and dumb I’ve been able to at least figure that out. I blew it.

It’s possible that in the fellowship of churches I’ve been involved with for 38 years that a similar thing has happened. Many Calvary Chapel pastors went from prison to the throne. Meaning, many were in deep trouble, the Lord rescued them when they had nothing and were nothing, but His anointing upon their lives has brought much “success,” as one might view it from the outside. It’s a dangerous place to be in. It’s easy to become like the old king who no longer knew how to take advice.

In my ministry with Poimen Ministries (a ministry that helps senior pastors in whatever ways they need and want it —, I have seen how hard and risky a thing it can be for pastors to ask for input, and to receive it. Even when it’s safe.

I hope that I can be open as I continue to get older. And I also hope that my peers in ministry … older and younger … can be the same.

The only Person in the universe that can’t learn anything or doesn’t need to learn anything is God Himself. All of the rest of us are students until the day we die. Even then, there will still be learning in heaven.

1 reply
  1. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Bill – thanks for the post. For me, the older I get the more teachable I become. For this I am grateful. I wish I had learned earlier, as you have recounted, to be more open to correction and exhortation. I have learned that if I am going to correct or exhort someone, if they know that I love them and have nothing but their good in mind, I can say anything want. If someone loves me, they can say anything they want to me.

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