Proverbs 14:1-18: It Is Wiser to Be Wise
August 18, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This is divided into two sections, one dealing with a contrast with folly and wisdom, and the other delving more into the emotive aspects of the same theme. In both cases the point is: it is wiser to be wise!
The first section contrasts folly with wisdom in various situations:
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (14:1).
“Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways” (14:2).
“A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them” (14:3).
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests” (14:4).
“An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies” (14:5).
“The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning” (14:6).
“Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips” (14:7).
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” (14:8).
“Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright” (14:9).
A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down (14:1). A woman of wisdom has an ability, in normal circumstances, by restraining from bitterness and advancing godly sweet wisdom, to build her house. A foolish woman gives into vindictiveness, but by so doing only tears her own household down.
How do you know whether someone fears God (14:2)? By the uprightness—straightforwardness, openness, integrity—of their lives. By contrast, someone who is devious, who hides things and twists things, evidences their lack of respect for God who sees all.
See the fool lashing out with his words (14:3)! That is pride. And how damaging it is, whereas a wise man’s prudent and careful words protect him (and others).
Verse 4 has a wise word for an agricultural economy, but also one for other situations. It is the strength of an ox that gives an abundant harvest. To put into the terms of contemporary business: make sure the right people are in the right seats on the bus, and you are halfway there to a thriving company.
Verse 5 seems almost tautologous: of course, an honest witness does not deceive. But the point is that if you see someone deceiving in one area of life, they are unlikely to be honest in other areas of their lives. Honesty is an expression of character.
Verse 6 shows one of the reasons why some people seem not to learn or make progress in understanding. They mock. They do not take seriously what they are being told. They sneer. Whereas a wise person is discerning: they sift what they hear and accept what is best.
The advice of verse 7 is clear: taking into account all the other ways of spotting a fool that Proverbs lists, now comes a straightforward piece of instruction. Stay away from a fool. To choose your friends wisely means to choose wise friends.
Wise people give thought to their ways (14:8). An unexamined life is not worth living. A wise person makes goals and considers their abilities and personality and generally gives thought to what they are doing and where they are going. Whereas fools try to take a shortcut: they deceive, thinking they will get ahead, but such deception will be found out in the end.
How do you spot a fool (14:9)? One way is how they think about repentance. A fool sneers at repentance. He thinks it is unnecessary, whereas the upright permeate goodwill.
The next section is also generally about wisdom but has emotive elements more prevalent in it too:
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (14:10).
“The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish” (14:11).
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (14:12).
“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief” (14:13).
“The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs” (14:14).
“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps” (14:15).
“The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure” (14:16).
“A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated” (14:17).
“The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (14:18).
Verse 10 is a sad and also a lonely one even at the best of times. No one knows exactly what is going on emotionally in your mind and heart other than you (and even then you are not always entirely sure either). How grateful then we are to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ who knows us and whose Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Verse 11 calls us to invest in character. The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. You may only have a “tent” (compared to the “house” of the wicked), but the tent of the upright will flourish.
Verse 12 functions as a warning against quick decision-making in important moments. Some ways seem right at first glance, but they lead to death. Not all that is sweet is good for you. Sin can taste sweet to begin with, but it ends in bitter death. Judge not by appearance, but according to God’s Word.
Verse 13 gives us an insight into some comedians. It is almost a truism to say that the “life and soul of the party” may be hiding a deep hurt and compensating by making other people laugh. Do not be quick to assume that those who smile most are the happiest or most joyful.
Verse 14 encourages you if you are feeling that the faithless are getting away with murder. Not so; one day there will be a reckoning. Similarly, the good—those who are righteous in Christ and who are thereby disciples of Christ—will receive a reward for Christ’s sake. Therefore, be righteous!
Verse 15 speaks a word to the necessity of giving thought to what you are doing. Think. Think carefully. Think logically. Christians, of all people, should love God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Verse 16 diagnoses the difference between the foolish and the wise. The wise are keen to obey God, to keep a careful watch on their conscience, and want to do what is right. The foolish, on the other hand, go right ahead to do things that are dubious or downright ungodly, but at the same time feel no or few qualms in their conscience; they feel secure.
Verse 17: Here is a reason to be careful to control your temper. When you give way to anger, you are liable to do foolish things. Remember that next time you are tempted to speak or act in anger. But also, do not thereby push back your anger so that you can carefully act in revenge later; that will only lead to you being hated.
Verse 18: The “simple”—that is what we could call the “simplistic”—those who do not think, who assume that the answer to everything is easy, will only inherit folly in the end; whereas the prudent, those who give careful thought to their ways, will grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom and will be crowned with knowledge—that is, honored as examples of the way to live and be.
In short, it is wiser to be wise!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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