Proverbs 10:23-26 // Wisdom for Everyday Christian Life

When you become a Christian, you become a citizen of the kingdom of God. And just like the United States has it’s own culture, God’s kingdom has a distinct culture too. As Christians, then, we’re like foreigners living out the culture of our future kingdom, and people will look at us and say, “You’re not from around here, are you?” as we mature in our faith.

The book of Proverbs lays out the details of God’s kingdom culture. Last week, we learned that wise, Christian culture avoids laziness and overwork, whereas the world’s culture might embrace laziness and overwork in pursuit of wealth (see “How to Work Wisely“). Proverbs 10:22 is more about work, Proverbs 10:23-26 is more about fun.

Doing Wrong vs. Being Wise

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

– v. 23

The Bible uses the phrase “doing wrong” for various meanings. One is in reference to things like bribery and oppressing the poor. Another has to do with idolatry. More often, though, it refers to sexual immorality – pornography, adultery, incest, lewdness, etc.

This kind of stuff is like a joke to foolish people. They find it fun to pick on others, or sexual harass women, or watch lewd movies. It’s not just wrong to do these things, it’s foolish.

Doing wrong is fun to a fool. On the other hand, wisdom is fun to people of understanding. They wake up thinking, “How can I trust God with my work, working hard but not be anxious about it? How can I use my words more wisely today?” Figuring out how to live wisely is fun to a man of understanding.

It can be confusing which path is going to lead to good results. That’s why we have to let God’s Word guide us.

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Dread vs. Desire

What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted.

– v. 24

Proverbs often interchanges “fool” and “wicked” because the fool often does what is wicked. In this verse, it teaches that the way of the wicked is the way of fulfilled dread, and the way of the righteous is the way of fulfilled desire.

Making bad decisions leads to a feeling of dread. To use an example of “doing wrong,” watching porn leads to no fulfilled desire – instead, it leads to a sickening fear of getting found out. Wise, righteous people experience the same temptations but desire to preserve the dignity of others, aim their sexuality toward marriage and serve other people instead of using them. These good desires will be granted.

Now, verse 24 isn’t saying that the righteous get whatever they want and the wicked get whatever they fear most. Righteous people have right desires, and so those desires are granted. In the same way, wicked people have wrong desires and make wrong decisions, leading to dread that will eventually be fulfilled.

The Storm of Life

When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.

– v. 25

Don’t think that if you’re righteous and wise you’ll have an easy life. It’s unavoidable in our fallen world. The storm hits both the wicked and the righteous, however, the outcome is different for each.

Every decision, every word choice, every workday is like a block that is building our lives. Foolish, wicked decisions are like Nerf blocks. Wise, righteous decisions are like brick blocks. We’ve all built our lives with a mixture of Nerf blocks and brick blocks, but those with more brick blocks hold up better in life’s storm than those with more Nerf blocks.

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People who build their lives foolishly are destined for disaster. People who build their lives wisely are secure.

The Sluggard vs. the Wise Worker

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.

– v. 26

Have you ever drunk vinegar? Have you ever had smoke blow into your face? The feeling is what sluggards make their boss feel. The sluggard is Proverbs’ classic example of a foolish person. So let’s compare the sluggard and the wise using the previous verses in a real-life scenario.

  • Sluggards – it’s like a game for them to do wrong, make bad decisions, and find ways to cut corners, use shortcuts and procrastinate. Every sluggardly decision they make leads to a feeling of dread because they know things are going to end badly. Then the storm of life hits – the economy crashes and the boss has to let employees go. Guess who gets laid off first. After that, the sluggard won’t get any recommendations or network of people eager to help. If they do find a job, it’s likely going to be harder work than before, which was exactly what they dreaded.
  • Wise people – they find it fun to come up with efficient, excellent ways to get the job done well. Their desires are satisfied because the job is done correctly, people are better off, the boss is in a better position and God is honored. Then the same storm that hit the sluggard hits them, but all the slugs will be let go before they are. If they are laid off, they’re given a good recommendation, a network of people who want them to succeed and developed skills. Likely, they’ll be able to find excellent employment.
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Of course, none of this is a guarantee. Proverbs is a book of principles not promises – so generally, this is how things work in reality as God designed it. It might not happen immediately, but if you constantly build your life with brick-block decisions, you’ll see these principles eventually fulfilled.

Living in Light of God’s Word

Let’s look honestly at ourselves in light of God’s Word. Where you see folly and wickedness (because none of us are perfect), repent and receive forgiveness from Jesus Christ. Let’s forsake this world’s culture of folly and wickedness and take on God’s culture of wisdom and righteousness.

Proverbs is like a diagnostic tool that shows us our need for not just self-help, but salvation. It also teaches us about our new culture as Christians. It’s not a manual for earning and keeping salvation, but a manual for how to live once we’re saved. Thank God for sending Christ so that we get to live this way!

Discussion Starters

  • How is wrongdoing a joke to a fool? How is wisdom pleasure to the wise?
  • What does it mean that “the desire of the righteous will be granted”?
  • How would the storms of life turn out differently for a wise person than a fool?
  • What areas of foolishness or wickedness do you see in your own life?
  • What do you need to do to live wisely?

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