October 3, 2004 Proverbs of Wisdom and Foolishness
Put yourself in Solomon’s shoes some three thousand years ago. The LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Ki 3:5) This was no Monte Hall’s Let’s Make a Deal - having three doors to choose from - taking a risk with what you’ve got for something greater. This was an open door - whatever you want! Instead of asking for riches, faith, or popularity, Solomon asked for wisdom. God responded by saying, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:12-14)
After God imparted Solomon with this wisdom, the wise man says to us -
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.” (Pr 4:5-9)
Wisdom is the key to life. Without it - you will end up in hell. But with it - you are given the very treasures of God Himself. God did not choose us and fill us with His Holy Spirit in order that we would remain fools. In order to get this wisdom, today we are going to open up Solomon’s words - and contrast two kinds of people -
The Fool and the Wise
I. What is a fool?
A fool, according to Solomon - is not a matter of how smart someone is or how high their IQ is. God’s idea of a fool doesn’t look at the brain, but more at the attitude and actions of a person. First of all, what does God say about the actions of a fool?
Proverbs 10:23 A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct.
Proverbs 10:18 Whoever spreads slander is a fool.
Proverbs 15:2 The mouth of the fool gushes folly.
Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
You see these actions in the child that thinks it’s funny to get his teacher angry - even though it gets him in trouble. You see it in the big talking wheeler dealer who likes to look impressive by flashing his money around and taking big risks - but ends up having to declare bankruptcy three times. Even though he talks big, his actions are clearly ruining himself or his family. He would rather arrogantly ridicule those who are “too conservative” than admit that he did something wrong - tear others down to build himself up. All of us do foolish things more than occasionally - but the fool is distinguished because of the way he responds to correction -
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 15:5 A fool spurns his father’s discipline.
Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
The attitude of a fool is someone who thinks he knows it all and can’t be convinced that he might be or do wrong. When Saul was sent to fight the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15, he was supposed to destroy all of it. Instead, he spared the king and the best sheep and cattle. However, when he met Samuel he said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” (1 Samuel 15:13-15) He was not willing to accept correction, because in his mind he was convinced that what he had done was ok - excusable. That is the sign of a fool - even in the face of obviously breaking God’s Word - he or she will not be willing to be told that he or she should have done something differently or that they made a mistake.
This is hard for people to do - for if they admit they made a mistake - it also means that they have to feel guilty. It means they might lose their job - get sued - or even go to jail. It also means that they might have to change their lifestyle - which is not a fun prospect. Therefore there is tension when dealing with fools. Solomon says -
Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
Proverbs 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance at once.
Proverbs 14:16 A fool is hotheaded and reckless.
When you try to tell a fool that he is wrong - needs to change - he gets angry - belligerent. Why? Because he knows that if he gets angry - he may be able to scare you off - intimidate you into not pressing the issue. Since he is so full of himself - so selfish - he takes it as a personal attack for someone to insinuate that he - the all knowing one - may have made a mistake. He or she enjoys being selfish so much that the very prospect of getting out of himself makes him angrily fight back or lash out. That’s one reason why Solomon said in Proverbs 23:9 Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to counsel or help a fool - because he doesn’t think he needs any help or he doesn’t want any help.
Doesn’t this describe our society to a “t”? The alcoholic doesn’t want to change, even though he or she knows what he’s doing is wrong. The selfish spouse doesn’t want to go to counseling, because he or she knows that his or her sins will be exposed by God’s law. Instead of confronting the sexual, physical and monetary problems our country is having - our society would rather excuse it and try and find remedies to allow us to continue in it. We live in a society that is full of these fools. When these sins are exposed, people get angry. Parents become belligerent with teachers - when their own children misbehave! Then when you suggest that they need to change their parenting, they blame everyone else but themselves. When employees get fired for not working hard enough, they blame the employers for being prejudiced. When a potential mom decides to do drugs and has a miscarriage, she blames the doctor because he didn’t tell her she shouldn’t do drugs.
Let’s look at ourselves for a minute. When we have our own members refuse to even consider coming to a Bible class or consider having a devotion or send their children to Sunday School or Midweek School - and get angry when this is even promoted - are we not acting like fools? Why should it anger you to be told you should give more, study the Bible more, or come to worship more? Why should it anger you when you are shown that you are sinning - or your children have sinned? Why should it bother you if a fellow Christian gives you a suggestion on how to raise your children better or be a more faithful child? But how often do people respond by getting angry and thinking, “how dare HE tell me how to act!” When we respond this way, we become nothing but fools.
II. The Key to Wisdom
What is the key to wisdom then?
Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
The key to wisdom is first of all humility. When you realize you’re a pitiful sinner, it won’t offend you so much when someone mentions that you are doing something wrong - or you could do something better. I can recall trying to promote a Bible class on marriage a few years ago. I had one member who said, “we could use all the help we could get,” and showed up. She was willing to come because she knew their marriage needed work. God can’t fill you with wisdom until you are willing to admit you have something to learn. But it goes further than that. Solomon also says -
Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
True wisdom comes from recognizing that I am not the master of my destiny - God is. It doesn’t matter what I think is right or wrong or wise or foolish. It matters what God thinks. If the LORD says I am being foolish - then I need to fear that - respect that - and confess that - not get angry about it. When God’s Word says I’m a dead sinner who can do nothing for my salvation - I need to fear that. I need to fear what God says and show some humility - otherwise I will end up in hell.
This is where wisdom begins - but it’s not where it ends - for God’s Word tells us what is most wise. In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 Paul stated, we preach Christ crucified: . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God. Paul calls Jesus THE wisdom of God. The wisest thing a person can learn is not only to confess his sins - but to throw them on the cross. For in the cross we find our salvation. The best wisdom there is is in knowing that God put your sins on Jesus 2,000 years ago and declared you not guilty through HIS death and resurrection. Without knowing that Holy One - and believing that - you will never want to confess your sins - because you won’t know that God will forgive them. Unless you see forgiveness, you will only hide your sins, and you will only be a fool. Thank God that we have the wisdom that comes from above - that He has opened our eyes to see and believe not only that we have been fools, but also to believe in the foolishness of the cross - that God made us holy through Christ.
III. The Life of Wisdom
This view of wisdom can’t help but effect the way we live our lives. Proverbs 3:19 says, By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; When God made the earth and heavens with wisdom - he made it all to work together. The sun sets and rises at a regular time every morning. We have months, seasons, days and years. It all seems to have a harmony about it that works pretty well - barring a few hurricanes which most likely came as the result of sin. In the same way, when God makes you wise - and you really study His Word - it has an immediate effect on your life - makes it run in a more - what would you say - efficient - way.
Proverbs 9:8 Rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Proverbs 19:11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Notice that a wisdom of sin and salvation makes a person more amicable. When he realizes that he is a sinful person who doesn’t know everything - it is not so offensive when someone says - “hey, you did this wrong!” Actually, he appreciates the help. Even if someone falsely accuses them or offends them in some way - he doesn’t fly off the handle - because he looks at himself and says, “you know I could have done the same thing.” Instead of wanting to start a fight, he wants to bring healing. Instead of thinking he is a know it all and feeling the need to spout off his opinions, he calmly and gently proclaims the Word of God - confident that the Holy Spirit can do what He wants to do. He wants to learn from his mistakes and admit them, instead of covering them up.
Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
Proverbs 10:5 He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
Proverbs 23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.
A wise person is able to study the ways of the world and learn from it - examining what works best - in the way he uses HIS body. He realizes that God says if a man will not work neither shall he eat - and so he works hard. Yet he realizes that his body has limitations - and his riches come from God - so he shouldn’t wear himself out to get the riches of this world.
In his wisdom, the wise man also realizes that since he is sinful he will always have weaknesses - and therefore he shouldn’t try to go it alone - but that he needs to be careful where he treads.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 14:16 A wise man fears the LORD and shuns evil.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
A wise man is smart enough to know that there are certain people he shouldn’t be hanging out with. If there’s a classmate who brags about how drunk he gets having a party - he knows enough not to go there. If there’s a young man who is known among the girls for being a sexual pervert - she knows enough not to go out with him. If a co-worker is known to cause divisions at work and bad mouth other people, he knows not to eat lunch with him in the cafeteria. The more you get into God’s Word - the more you’re able to discern these kinds of situations.
IV. The Results of Wisdom
The nice thing about wisdom is that God even promises rewards to the wise. These are not hard and fast rules that happen every time. But as a general rule there are blessings that come to those who lead wise lives.
Proverbs 2:12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse,
Proverbs 2:16 It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words,
Proverbs 21:20 In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.
Proverbs 29:3 A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
Proverbs 14:3 A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them.
Proverbs 3:35 The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame.
Proverbs 24:14 Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 13:14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
The more humble that God makes you, and the more you learn to trust in Christ, and look to God’s Word for guidance, the more your life will be blessed with these temporary blessings. God’s Word teaches you to be content with what you have. There is no reason that over 50% of Americans have thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Wisdom teaches us better. When you are wise, you obey the law. You don’t get speeding tickets. You don’t get fined and put in jail for breaking the law. You don’t have extra-marital affairs and ask for unlawful divorces because God’s Word has taught you to be satisfied and happy with the spouse God has given you. Along with that you don’t have to pay alimony or spend the rest of your life planning on what weekend you get the kids. Wisdom brings rewards - and keeps you from problems that come with immorality.
There has been a push in our society for the past fifty years that has promoted the education of our children. The argument goes that the more educated our children are - the more they will be able to enter a professional field - and then they won’t need to break the law because of their self esteem. In other words - education breeds morality.
I would contest that argument. Education does not breed morality. Look at what education has given many of our children. Evolution. Sex education. Philosophy. The further “educated” our children become, the more they are taught to doubt religion and act like the monkeys they think they came from. Back in the 1940’s - when many of our kids didn’t have full educations - they were more willing to do a hard days labor. They were more concerned about their neighbor, and willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the country. Instead of giving them wisdom, it seems that a majority of education is to a point spoiling our children and teaching them to be arrogant and lazy heathens.
If we really want to be wise - we need to take ourselves and our children back to the true source of wisdom - the fear of the LORD. Through repentance and faith in Christ - God lays the building blocks to wisdom - opening our minds to the fact that we are not the all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-wise ones - but God is - and we need to keep learning from HIM. Through faith in Christ, we are all wise in God’s eyes - no matter how smart or old we are. God grant us that kind of wisdom, so we don’t act like the majority of fools we are living among. Amen.