This is the fourteenth of thirty-one articles examining the book of Proverbs. Today we come to chapter fourteen as we near the half-way mark of this study.
“A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding. Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.”
This passage reinforces what I have already learned through earlier chapters. Each of us is faced with the decision to choose wisdom over foolishness. However, if we continually reject wisdom it seems that there is a point of no return after which wisdom will forsake us permanently. At this point a foolish man may seek out wisdom but it will be too late; he will be given over to his folly.
The last two chapters of Proverbs have stressed the importance of being careful to choose friends who are wise and love knowledge rather than foolish ones who despise wisdom. Verse 7 carries the same exhortation to leave foolish people to their folly as soon as I perceive that his lips speak no knowledge, for I am to “Leave the presence of a fool, for there [I] do not meet words of knowledge.”
The eighth verse explains the value of prudence. A prudent man is one who has shrewdness to live his life in a way that promotes life. He uses his knowledge to better understand how to live a life that is approved by God and glorifies Him. A foolish man, though, is deceitful as he leads himself and others away from living a God-glorifying life.
“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious[d] and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”
The study of wisdom allows me to understand discernment, which in turn allows me to exercise discretion. A foolish man has no basis to make sound judgments so believes everything he is told and is easily led astray. A prudent man makes good judgments about what he is told and considers his steps wisely. He can then discern evil and flee from it before blundering into it. A foolish man, though, is blinded by irrational self-confidence in his own abilities and is easily led into the way of evil.
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”
Even thousands of years ago this writer knew that there is a link between mental and physical health. A heart that is continually dissatisfied will cause the entire body to lose health. However, a sound heart – one that is content with its lot in life – will cause physical as well as mental health.
“The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”
I found these two verses especially convicting this morning. A couple of weeks ago I saw a piece of a television program that examined the lives of several different lottery winners. A consistent theme was that these people now had a whole lot of friends they did not have when they were simple, poor folk. As soon as they struck it rich, all their old friends and a lot of new friends came crawling out of the woodwork. Interesting, it seemed that most of these newly rich lottery winners were not wise enough to be wary of these fly-by-night friends.
There are rich and poor people in every area of life, and poverty can go far deeper than mere money. When I was a kid in grade school, the “rich” kids were the ones who were best at sports during gym class, and the ones who were best at science when it came time to perform difficult experiments in the laboratory. I often overlooked the poor kid in gym class – the one who had no coordination and could barely run – in favor of the nimble, fleet-of-foot guy who could help my team win. In science class I was the poor kid, always trying to find a rich kid to help me elevate my grades.
It occured to me that rich and poor extends even to the blogosphere. There are bloggers than command a large audience and with site visitors being the real currency of blogging, these few people are the rich ones. I would encourage those with the greatest wealth in this area and any other to share that wealth as best as you can. “Blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” I believe we can extend this wisdom beyond mere dollars and cents.