Summary: Solomon is training us to develop discernment, the ability to distinguish between truth and lies, integrity and dishonesty, foolishness and wisdom. From his words, we can draw four important principles.

Discernment Camp

(Proverbs 20:5-8)

1. Once when Red Skelton was being interviewed he was asked if he ever was at a loss for words. He hesitated a minute then said, "I dreamed I died and went to heaven. Just as I was taken before God, he sneezed...and I just didn’t know what to say to Him!"

2. We can imagine a number of situations that are beyond us. But for most of life, we can lean upon God’s wisdom to direct us. And nowhere is God’s wisdom found in more concentrated form than we find it in Proverbs.

3. The secret to wisdom is to pursue it, learn it, and then apply it.

Main Idea: Solomon is training us to develop discernment, the ability to distinguish between truth and lies, integrity and dishonesty, foolishness and wisdom. From his words, we can draw four important principles.

I. People Are COMPLEX, Requiring Depth of Understanding (20:5)

A. SIMPLE approaches ignore the depths of the human heart

1. Darius did not see the trap his counselors were setting for Daniel

2. He was easily flattered: can only pray to him for 30 days

3. Rather than catching on that something was amiss, he viewed things simply

4. The Magi were gullible toward Herod’s request to point out where Jesus born

5. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were given to move us from simplicity to wisdom

B. The wise person exerts EFFORT to understand the complexities

• Illustration: Relative who asks questions about complicated matters but does not have the patience to listen to the answer (“this will take 5 mintues”)

• Many situations involve a number of people; who of those people are your primary concern? If you help one, you may hurt another

C. Complex problems rarely have SIMPLE or complete solutions

• Difference between a remedy (cure) and a treatment

• We are products of heredity, environment, and choices we make

• Allow space for people to be complex; they behave for a reason!

II. Suspect Salesmanship: Those Who ASSERT Their Trustworthiness Probably Aren’t (20:6)

Or, “Honest Harry’s Used Car Lot is not the place to go.”

A. Self-advertising is SUSPICIOUS

1. Absalom – showed compassion and suggested how he would do things if King

2. Jesus’ parable about choosing seats at a banquet…

3. The Jewish tradition of the Messiah: would not advertise that he was Messiah

4. Resume’ or job interview: Americans vs. the Dutch (Cultures & Organizations)

B. A track record of FAITHFULNESS is ideal

Luke 16:10-11, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”

Philippians 2:22, “But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.”

I Timothy 3:5, “…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”


Paul Harvey tells this one: A frantic mother found her lost 3-year old in the plumbing department of K-Mart, doing what he had so carefully been trained to do.

Some parents, however, do not train their children in wisdom; others do.

This is another way of saying wisdom runs in families; by implication, so does foolishness. Yet we should break the foolishness cycle for ourselves & our kids.

A. Children are blessed (privileged) to have WISE parents

• Think of the privilege Jacob and Esau had; father Isaac, g-fath. Abraham

• These children have an advantage, unique opportunity

• Sometimes it takes generations to hone wisdom

B. The heirs of the wise know HOW to be godly and wise

1. Not a guarantee: Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, proved foolish

2. Illustration: my grandfather a tailor… my dad knew how to sew

3. We can make up for our deficient home lives by learning from others

IV. Learn to DISCERN Instinctively (20:8)

Helping people brings us back to the first point, complexity. Making judgments and timely decisions is often simpler out of necessity.

A. The piercing eye of WISDOM must compensate for lack of detail

1. Some inherited personality, some developed. Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan

2. We only look on the outward appearance, not the heart, so we need to be aware of our limits; but we must make judgment calls, for better or worse.

3. Get the basic facts but do not get too bogged down in the details

4. Important to be in the physical presence of people; it is the piercing eye; body language, etc., all contribute toward understanding

B. They PIERCE the façade rather than parse words

1. Some amazingly unforgiving if you use the wrong word. “You always complain about this.” “Always? Not always…” “OK, not always.” “Oh, but you said ‘always’.”

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