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A People of Understanding

Proverbs 18:2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Time after time the book of Proverbs has given us characteristics of a fool:

  • Fools despise wisdom & instruction (Proverbs 1:7) 
  • Fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22)
  • Fools slander (Proverbs 10:18)
  • Fools cause mischief (Proverbs 10:23)
  • Fools are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8)

Our verse today adds one more characteristics – a fool is someone who does not want to understand.

Bla_Bla_Bla_by_explosiv22I knew a guy in college that was never wrong, even when he was wrong. He did not want to even consider the possibility of being wrong. He knew everything and had the answer to ever question that has ever been asked.

You know the type of person that I am talking about! They have no interest in hearing the truth but are speaking to hear themselves talk and to show others just how much they know.

The New Living says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Fools want to talk all of the time and tell other people their opinions and how things should be done but don’t want to hear any instructions themselves because they know best. Many times, these people talk just to hear themselves, and all that the other people are hearing is “BLA, BLA, BLA”.

FULL CIRCLE

There are several verses in Proverbs that do this, but I believe that our verse today comes full circle with the whole theme of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

As Christians, how can we expect to fear the Lord and grow in knowledge when we want to live our lives the way we want to and aren’t willing to submit to HIS will for our lives. We are saying to Him that I just don’t want to understand Your ways and I think that I can do better. If we are living our lives this way, we are nothing but fools, but I do it all the time!

Lord, I pray that you would help me and others to live our lives in such a way that we would not be fools with our lives. I pray that we would be willing to submit ourselves to you and understand Your ways. 


Let Our Words Be Few

Proverbs 17:27

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.”

Our Words

For years, it was said that women would speak about 20,000 words per day while men only speak around 7,000. But, more and more research is showing that nowadays men and women are both speaking around 16,000 words per day.

Some of those words that are spoken are very well thought out, while others are just blurted out.

Mark Twain said,

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Solomon is warning us to learn how to restrain our words and to keep a level head. The ESV says our verse this way, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

Proverbs, and the Bible for that matter, is full of wisdom on how we should use our words.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 reiterates Proverbs 17:27, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

The words in Ecclesiastes are talking about making promises or saying hasty words straight to God but I believe that we can carry this over to our communication with those around us. We should take the time to think about our words and not just “shoot off” at the mouth.

Keep Calm

As I was child I played baseball for years at a local recreational park. Each year I hoped that I would not be on one particular coach’s team simply because every call that did not go his way he would just go off on the umpires. To the point that many games he was tossed from the game! I guess you could say that he had a very short fuse. We all know something like that.

Solomon is saying in the second part of our verse that a man of understanding has an “excellent spirit” or has a “cool spirit”. Having a cool spirit means that one is not soon angry, but is calm,  and not easily provoked to wrath.

Are you a person of “few” words and of an “excellent spirit”?

Lord, I pray that you would make us all men and women of knowledge and understanding. May our words be thought out and spoken wisely and may our demeanors be calm and not easily provoked. May we live our lives in a way that would be pleasing to You!


Stepping on Snakes

Proverbs 17:24

“Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”

If It Had Been a Snake

I have heard this saying all my life: “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you.” What exactly does that mean?

One time I heard it after I had been searching for a water hose in some tall grass I should have mowed earlier. My dad and I had to look for the missing hose, so when my foot slipped on the round rubber tube, my dad said, “If it’a been a snake, it would’a bit ya’.”

The meaning is that sometimes we miss the most obvious things, even though they may be right in front of our face.

It Was a Snake

800px-Copperhead05

Credit: Wikipedia

Because we lived next to the woods and near the Tennessee River when I was younger, rattle snakes and copperheads (venomous snakes) were common. One day, when a friend of mine came to visit for the evening, he walked in front of me to the front door of our house. What he failed to see stretched out on the ground in front of him, right below the door, was a 3-foot copperhead. He didn’t see it, but I did – just in time – so I threw him (my friend) off the porch and into the yard (I guess it was the adrenalin).

The reason my friend did not see the snake was because he was looking other places.

Not a Snake

Wisdom is not a snake, but you probably knew that. Yet, why is wisdom so hard for some to recognize? Solomon previously described Wisdom as even crying out in the streets (Prov. 1:20). It’s not like we can call wisdom elusive, can we?

I am reminded of what God said through Moses,

11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.[1]

Wisdom is as close as our face, if we would just pay attention. All it would really take is for one to want to see it.

The Fool Will Get Bitten

Unlike the man with understanding, the fool has his eyes looking around for anything and everything that doesn’t matter.  Instead of recognizing what is in front of his face, he looks up to the stars and across the seas.

In the end, it won’t be wisdom that bites, but another kind of Serpent.


[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Dt 30:11–14.


BOGO

Proverbs 17:20

“He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.”

Not A Good Deal

BOGODo you know what BOGO means? It stands for “Buy One Get One” free. My wife and I have argued for years what is the better way of going; buying one at regular price and getting a second for free or just buying one and only paying half price. I am sure that every one will agree with me that “two for the price of one” is a much better deal!

But not in the case of Proverbs 17:20!

Our verse not only talks about a “froward heart” but it also mentions a “perverse tongue”. It goes on to state that these will lead to no good and mischief.

Definitions

Let’s define two words: “froward” and “perverse” (Definitions are from Merriam-Webster)

  • FROWARD: habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition
  • PERVERSE: turned away from what is right or good | obstinate in opposing what is right, reasonable, or accepted

Do these definitions sound like someone you know? Do these definitions sound like you?

So Where’s The BOGO?

We may not be actually buying a physical product at the store, but by the way we live our lives we may not only have a “froward heart” (BUY ONE) but our heart will lead us to having a “perverse tongue” (GET ONE). Matthew 12:34 says, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (ESV)

Solomon is telling us that neither of these are good character traits to have and neither of them will end well. This is one more reason why we need to make Proverbs 4:23 a priority in our lives.

Lord, I pray that You would help us to guard our hearts will all diligence and keep our eyes focused on you. Help us to guard our hearts and to keep our tongues as we should. Keep us striving to be more and more like You!


Financial Acumen

Proverbs 17:18 

“A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.”
“It’s poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt or put up security for a friend.” (NLT)

What should you do when a good friend asks you to guarantee his or her debt, or put up security for a home or a loan? Your answer may depend to some extent on your own financial circumstances, but the fact that such advice appears in the book of Proverbs, suggests that wisdom should be involved.

I found myself in this position several years ago. Friends had fallen on hard times, largely because of a lack of wisdom in financial matters. Money from the sale of a house got spent, and eventually they ended up in rented accommodation. My wife and I helped them out as much as we could, but soon realized that he in particular needed to make some changes in approach and attitude to their financial affairs.

Then one day he arrived on the doorstep, and over a cup of coffee asked if I could stand as guarantor for another property he wanted to rent. With a heavy heart I told him I could not, even though he repeatedly told me that there was no risk to me as he would be able to pay the rent. I had no confidence that he could, and I knew that it was wrong to place my family at risk. Eventually, my friend acknowledged that he had to bring his expenditure in line with his income and downsized. We remained friends, although they live in another part of the country now.

If I had stood as guarantor and my friend had defaulted I would have been required to pay his rent. This would have made it difficult for me to meet my own outgoings. I wish I had known about this verse in Proverbs at the time. I remember the bad feeling inside when I refused to help my friend, but it was absolutely the right decision. How much wisdom do we miss out on by failing to study God’s word, and by forgetting to listen for His gentle whisper. 

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)

Fool for Christ

Proverbs 17:7 

“Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.”
“Eloquent words are not fitting for a fool; even less are lies fitting for a ruler.” (NLT)

If you Google ‘Prince Philip gaffes’ you might be surprised to read some of the things the husband of Queen Elizabeth has said in an official capacity. It’s not that Prince Philip is a fool. On the contrary he is an educated man who served as an officer in the Royal Navy. He has also been an excellent husband who has never failed to support the Queen as she has served the UK since 1952. Prince Philip just has a knack of putting his foot in it. Examples include:

  • To Cayman Islanders: “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”
  • To Scottish driving instructor, 1995: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”
  • When offered wine in Rome in 2000, he snapped: “I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!”
  • To Elton John on his gold Aston Martin in 2001: “Oh, it’s you that owns that ghastly car, is it?”
  • “Where’s the Southern Comfort?” When presented with a hamper of goods by US ambassador, 1999.

While Prince Philip may be able to get away with making numerous verbal gaffes, his wife the Queen cannot. If you Google ‘Queen Elizabeth gaffes’ the results all feature gaffes made by other people when dealing with the Queen. As the constitutional monarch of the UK the Queen has ruled with wisdom for over sixty years. She is widely respected, even by citizens who do not approve of royalty.

Although this proverb speaks of fools and princes it has a message for all who profess to be followers of Jesus, who Timothy says will reign with Him:

If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us; if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 NIV)

Paul admitted being a fool for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10) but we need to be very careful in what we say, and how we speak. The advice given by James is that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Lies are but one of many things that are not fitting for someone who is destined to rule with Christ.


Driven by Hunger?

Proverbs 16:26 

He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.
The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on. (NIV)

I meet with a spiritual director/mentor several times a year. During one visit he gave me a card with three questions to be considered during the time I spent with him, and in quiet retreat during that day:

  • What occurs in my life that nurtures me spiritually?
  • What occupies the space at the center of my life (i.e. what captivates me)?
  • What drives me and motivates me?

I added a further question to the card during the day: What distracts me?

When I read this Proverb I find myself asking the same questions again. What I am so hungry for that my appetite drives me on? Is there anything distracting me, getting in the way of my progress? The words of this Proverb directly challenge me about my spiritual welfare and growth. If I am no longer hungry, then I may become lazy and complacent, two attributes that God does not expect in followers of His Son.

Is your appetite for spiritual things constantly nagging away, driving you to feed your hunger?

  • What occurs in your life that nurtures you spiritually?
  • What occupies the space at the center of your life (i.e. what captivates you)?
  • What drives you and motivates you?
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)