How to avoid getting wisdom and foolishness confused

Can you tell them apart?

Proverbs 9

If you decided to take a trip to either the North or South pole, you’d notice a striking similarity between the two locations: friggen cold.

But upon closer examination, you’d likely recognize a few differences.  There is actual land to stand upon at the South Pole; and, while below freezing is still frigid and unpleasant, the South Pole has extreme cold temperatures year round and sees no life, ever. If I had to pick a vacation spot, I think the North would be more favorable.

People like to jump to Proverbs 9:10 and devour an oft-quoted (and sometimes out of context) verse, because it’s rather definitive of our devotion to the Lord as Christians. But if you back up and check out the whole chapter, you’ll find an interesting comparison between wisdom and folly nicely laid out for your personal digestion.

If you’ve already read the chapter, you’ll notice one glaring similarity: both WISDOM and FOLLY have the same call-out.  It’s possible that WISDOM had the original approach and that FOLLY simply mimicked it, but we can’t make that assumption.  We just have to examine the facts about each one’s front.

WISDOM is personified in v. 1-12:
She builds her own house.  Wisdom is resourceful and has an idea of how to put up a sturdy structure. This implies that wisdom provides protection and longevity (a sentiment echoed in v. 11).

She prepares her own food. Rather than ordering takeout, she takes the time to cook a complete, nourishing meal for her guests. Empty calories nor poorly arranged dishes would be found on her table. Wisdom wields the characteristic of being fulfilling and healthy.

She prepares for her guests. The verse states that she furnishes her table, as if she’s not just expecting company, but intends to make some sort of impression.  This careful preparation says that wisdom is hospitable.

FOLLY is personified in v. 13-18:
She is loud.  It’s a lot easier to hear someone when they’re making a lot of noise.  To those who aren’t paying attention, it also sounds more convincing. Many people are drawn in by this strategy.

She makes her way seem unique.   Ideas vary, but our needs have never changed.  Solomon writes that there is “nothing new under the sun.” Just because it looks fresh doesn’t mean it’s necessarily beneficial.

She hosts an open grave.  Foolish behavior, to any degree, is destructive, but many don’t recognize this, blinded by their thirst for pleasure and hunger for pride. This is often imperceptible until death is their company.

WISDOM is granted a nice discourse in the middle of the chapter (v. 7-12).
Foolish people will not receive instruction.  We like to think we can change people’s minds (Christians in particular), but if they’re unwilling to hear it, they’ll never receive it.  Sure, “plant the seed” — we all hear that from the pulpit frequently — but it requires good soil for it to flourish. I’ve had my fair share of dogmatic debates, usually ending in two peoples’ arms crossed and a lot of wasted energy. And Facebook is not the best way to go about it either.
Wisdom attributes to respecting God.  When we suggest that our personal understanding supersedes God’s, we deny the ultimate source of wisdom altogether.  His knowledge is endless, and it is still relevant today.

Next time you visit the house of wisdom or foolishness, the North Pole or the South Pole, check your facts.  It could be the difference between life and death.

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