In January of 1997, two guys from Switzerland set out on a mission to be the first ones to circumnavigate the earth in a hot-air balloon. Their names were Bertrand Piccard and William Verstraeten. Their balloon was equipped with high-tech equipment, complete with solar panels for power and a pressurized cabin that allowed them to fly at a high altitude. Their plan was to float high enough to enter the jet stream, which would carry them around the globe at 200 miles per hour. The price tag for their experiment was a whopping $1.5 million. Well, not long after takeoff, disaster struck. Inside their sealed cabin, the men noticed a strong kerosene smell that kept getting worse. They tried tightening all the connections carrying the kerosene fuel, but it didn’t help. They radioed their support crew on the ground and were told to descend to an altitude where it would be safe to depressurize the cabin so they could get fresh air. However, the fumes proved to be too strong, and they were forced to ditch their balloon in the Mediterranean Sea. Upon inspection, they discovered what ended the $1.5 million voyage: a defective hose clamp, like the ones that secure an automobile radiator hose. The cost of the clamp? $1.16. It serves to illustrate the fact that a small, seemingly insignificant detail can undermine a costly project. Little things can have big consequences.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes would certainly agree! He even says as much in the tenth chapter which begins this way: “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” The word ‘folly’ is one that we don’t often use, but we find it mentioned throughout the Bible and it is used by Solomon nine times here in this chapter. It is a word that suggests a lack of good sense, lack of foresight, and failing to realize the consequences of a decision before it is made. Folly was something that Solomon warned us against. In his three books—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Songs—he uses the words ‘fool’ or ‘folly’ some 128 times.
All it takes is just a little bit of foolishness to destroy a life. Just a little bit of folly can tarnish even the most honorable of men. 1 Corinthians 5:6 puts it this way: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” I can live wisely for the majority of the time, but if I tolerate a little bit of folly, it can come back to bite me. All it takes is one bad decision, one hateful word spoken, one foolish pleasure, or one angry outburst. What takes a lifetime to build can be toppled in an instant.
Since a little folly can undermine one’s life, we need wisdom and discretion even in the little things as we make our way through life. Little things can have a big impact. We tend to think that wisdom only applies to life’s big decisions. In His grace, God gives us the wisdom of Christ for the little things of life and we must daily depend upon Him. It only takes a little folly to derail a life.
For more, read Ecclesiastes 10:1-11; Matthew 4:1-11