“Fresh Fish Sold Here Daily” read the fish merchant's sign. He had just painted it, hung it above his window, and he was beaming at the sign with pride when a neighbor passed by.
“Why does the sign say 'daily'”, the neighbor asked, “Surely no one thinks you mean to be open once a week selling fish?”
The merchant thought about this for a second and said, “That makes perfect sense!” So he took the sign down and painted over the part that read “Daily” so that the sign now just read, “Fresh Fish Sold Here.”
He was admiring his edit when another neighbor passed.
“Here?”, the neighbor asked, “Where else would you be selling the fish but in your shop?”
After thinking about this, the merchant said, “That makes perfect sense!” So he took down the sign and changed it to read “Fresh Fish Sold.”
No sooner had he hung the freshly painted sign when a passing neighbor remarked, “'Sold?' How silly! Surely you weren't planning on giving the fish away for free!”
Of course this made perfect sense so the merchant took his sign down yet again and made the correction. It now read “Fresh Fish!”
He was merely holding it in his hand getting ready to hang it when another passerby chuckled, “'Fresh?' I should certainly hope so! Surely no one thinks you plan on selling rotten fish.”
“That makes perfect sense!” The merchant thought so, yet again, he took the sign into his shop and removed the unnecessary word. Now the sign simply read neatly and concisely, “Fish.” There it hung in big bold letters. The perfect picture of simplicity.
“We know it's fish! We can smell it all the way down the road!” The neighbor remarked as he passed by.
The merchant thought about this for a second. “That makes perfect sense!” So he set to work on his final edit. So he hung a sign in the store window that read, ” .”
The sign hung in the window for a week and the merchant didn't receive a single customer. “That sign might be bad for business,” the merchant thought to himself, “but at least it makes perfect sense!”
All advice must be received with discernment and just because something “makes sense” doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. This humorous Jewish story reminds us that it is a fool who follows the advice of every passerby and takes every critique to heart. An inward sense of your own purpose can help you sift the good advice from the bad. “What am I setting about to accomplish and for whom? Does this counsel help me achieve what I am called to do?” This story can also have a deeper meaning for followers of Christ. As disciples we can be tempted to edit from the gospel things we think the people don't need to hear or what we assume they already know. But if our communication neglects the essentials, then we're just a fancy sign with no words.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…