April Foolishness

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, today is April Fool’s Day, the day of the year that we’re all allowed to lie and deceive our friends and family, as long as we say “April Fools!” when we’re done. The day is known for pranks big and small, and there have been some good ones over the years. Whether you’ve been the fool-ee or the fool-er, I’m sure you’ve experienced plenty of foolishness yourself.

With the advent of the Internet, and social media in particular, we have a whole new realm where April Fools jokes and hoaxes can take place. I researched some of the great April Fools hoaxes of all time, on the Internet of course. But even in that you have to remember, as Abraham Lincoln was famous for saying, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”
The Museum of Hoaxes website–and yes, there really is such a site–gave the rank of the #1 April Fools hoax of all time to a BBC TV show in 1957 that ran a segment about the Swiss spaghetti harvest enjoying a bumper year thanks to mild weather and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil. Many Britons were taken in, especially since as a relatively new invention, people never considered that someone on television would lie to them. Of course, we known differently by now.
Other great lies over the years included a Sports Illustrated story by noted author George Plimpton in 1985 about a pitcher (Sidd Finch) who could throw a baseball 168 miles per hour. In 1998, a man named Mark Boslough spread a story that got picked up as news and was widely disseminated and believed, that lawmakers in Alabama had passed a law that redefined pi from 3.14159…. to simply 3. No more of those pesky digits in our state. But, as easy as that story may have been to believe about Alabama, it wasn’t true.
In 1996 Taco Bell announced on April Fools Day that it had purchased the Liberty Bell “in an effort to help the national debt.” Even some senators were apparently taken in, and the National Parks Service had to hold a press conference to deny the news. The fast-food chain eventually admitted it was a joke, and having milked all the free publicity out of it that they could, donated $50,000 for the bell’s care.
Just last year Cottonelle tweeted on April 1 that it was introducing left-handed toilet paper for all those southpaws out there. Some gullible folks in the Twitterverse wondered publicly–for all the world to read–how the paper worked differently.
This day reminds us how easy it is to get “fooled,” and be taken in by deception and lies, even if done as a playful prank. But the Bible speaks much about fools and foolishness, and calls us to avoid both. The Proverbs are full of wisdom about foolishness, and warnings about how we think, how we act, and what we say in foolish ways. It is our foolish words that get the most attention, because the truth is most of our foolishness involves our mouths, and the things we say.
Interestingly one of the most remembered verses about fools is repeated a few times in Scripture: “A fool says in his heart there is no God.” The interesting thing is not so much that they say it out loud, but that they say it to themselves, in their own heart. No doubt we have all been known to say foolish things from time to time, or even type them on social media for all to read. But what we say in our heart really defines us. It is who we really are.
In that light, I am not sure if that verse just addresses atheistic thinking. Many of us profess faith in God, but in our hearts–in our core–we live independently of God as if we are master of our own fate, captain of our soul (to quote from Henley’sInvictus). “Practical atheism” is how someone described it; our mouths may speak of God, but our lives show no evidence of His existence, and definitely not of our allegiance and devotion to Him. That is the ultimate of foolishness.
I hope you don’t get fooled too much by pranks or hoaxes this April Fools Day, but more than that, I hope you don’t try to fool others or even fool yourself with a profession of faith in a God in whom your heart does not truly believe. If He is real–and He is–live like it.
I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
–Pastor Ken