New Year’s resolutions reflect our desire to live wisely, and where better to learn about wisdom than Proverbs.
Wisdom is not the same as knowledge, which is about what’s true. It’s also not the same as morality, which is about what’s right. Wisdom is knowing and doing what’s best. The opposite of wisdom is not ignorance or sin, but folly (foolishness). You can be knowledgeable without being wise, and you can do foolish things that are not sinful, like over committing or making a bad investment.
Since we all want to be wise in 2015, knowing and doing what’s best, today we’ll consider five principles about wisdom from Proverbs 1:20-33.
1. Wisdom wants you.
20Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; 21at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
We tend to think one must to travel to find wisdom (see movies like Batman Begins, The Last Samurai and Eat, Pray,Love). We think the grass is always wiser on the other side of the world. But you don’t have to find a remote monastery in Bhutan to find wisdom. It is accessible and attainable.
2. The choice is yours.
23If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
Here’s a good test to see how wise you are: What do you do with reproof? The Biblical idea of reproof has to do with pointing out something that is wrong in someone. It’s a harsh sort of warning/accusation meant to wake someone up to their flaws. When you are reproved, do you change course (turn) or keep course (refuse to listen)? Wisdom turns; folly refuses. The choice is yours.
3. Wisdom leads to security.
23If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.
33but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
One thing you’ll need to understand in order to get Proverbs is the difference between a promise and a principle. A promise from God is something that always holds true. A principle from God is something that generally holds true. Proverbs is mainly about principles. It’s saying: “This is generally how the world works.”
We can consider verse 23 a promise because of James 1:5, which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” But verse 33 should be viewed as a principle. You can count on gaining wisdom if you learn from God’s teachings. And as you gain wisdom, generally you can expect to gain security.
4. Folly leads to calamity.
24Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
Remember tornado drills in school? All of a sudden, an alarm would ring and we’d pretend a tornado was coming. We did these drills because tornadoes can come swiftly, without warning and bring instant devastation. Folly is the same way.
Folly never hurts, until it does. And when it does, it can be as sudden and destructive as a tornado. Foolish flirtations evolve into adultery and suddenly CALAMITY: broken homes and shattered reputations. Foolish laziness feels good, and suddenly DISTRESS: unemployment and poverty. Foolish parenting is easy, and suddenly ANGUISH: the child’s decisions grieve the family.
5. Consequences accumulate.
28Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. 32For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
Turning from folly to wisdom is not like flipping a light switch. It’s often more like pulling a 747 out of a nosedive. While God’s grace in Jesus Christ can immediately remove sin’s guilt, folly’s consequences linger. Be arrogant for 30 years and then humbly repent and your sins will be forgiven in an instant, but your reputation and strained relationships will haunt you. We eat the fruit of our way and have our fill of our own devices.
We will study a topic in Proverbs each Sunday through February, and I invite you to listen and heed God’s wisdom.
Making new year resolutions? Take some time to share your goals and hopes for 2015.
Read Proverbs 1:20-22. Where do people typically look for wisdom (advice about how to best live their lives)? What are some implications of these three verses for our pursuit of wisdom this year?
Read verses 23-33. Using these verses, work together to list the results of both listening to wisdom and ignoring wisdom. You may want to write them in two columns so you can see them.
Have you ever been reproved? Can you share an example with the group? How do you respond to reproof? Why? How should we respond to reproof? Why?
Read verses 24-32 again. Does wisdom’s harshness contradict God’s grace? Why or why not?
Have you or anyone you have known experienced what is described in verses 24-32? Can you share an example (without naming anyone) with the group?
Read verse 33. Have you seen this verse to be true in your life or the lives of people you know? Can you share an example with the group?
What stands out most to you in Proverbs 1:20-33?
What is one specific way you will respond to this passage?