On Wisdom and Foolishness

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.  -Prov 18:6

Earlier this week I indicated that this Proverb was my new favorite Bible verse.  But what is the purpose of such verses in Proverbs?  I have a good friend that is well studied in the scriptures that still has problems with the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs falls into what we call wisdom literature.  The book is a collection of Solomon’s wisdom, basically good advice he wants to leave his children, but the question is how does it fit into the gospel?  Consider these two scriptures:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.  -Psalm 14:1

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:  Proverbs 1:7

That verse goes on to say that fools despise wisdom and instruction.  The reader of Proverbs, and all scripture for that matter, is given a choice between wisdom and foolishness.  Proverbs just points out to the reader what the choices are.  Clearly we are being warned about foolishness so that we will choose the path to wisdom.  Proverbs personifies Wisdom as a woman in the street calling out to us.  We are invited to come to Wisdom.  Proverbs isn’t just pointing out foolishness like an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos so we can laugh at it; we are warned to avoid doing things that are foolish, and to make seeking after wisdom a lifelong goal.

We have an old saying to the effect of “Better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it.”  What the Bible tells us in Proverbs is “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  It’s almost like a self-help manual.  If a person will read the book and apply the advice, one can improve their standing.  Ultimately, we have the opportunity to close our mouth, receive wisdom and instruction, and in so doing learn to fear God.  This is the beginning of knowledge in Proverbs 1 and the path to wisdom in Proverbs 9.  This book isn’t just teaching how to tell the wise and foolish apart from each other; that’s usually obvious.  This book is teaching us how to become one and steer clear of the path that leads to the other. 

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