Category Archives: Wisdom

Two Roads

Proverbs 14:2

“He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.” (KJV).
“Those who follow the right path fear the LORD; those who take the wrong path despise him.” (NLT).

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost:

  • I shall be telling this with a sigh,
  • Somewhere ages and ages hence:
  • Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
  • I took the one less traveled by
  • And that has made all the difference 

Often, the references to roads in poetry are metaphors to make us think of our lives and how we live them. Even Jesus used this metaphorical sense in talking about roads when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14).

Everyone wonders: how do we find the road to the blessed life?  Jesus said that this road is the road less traveled by – that there are few who find it – and that it will make all the difference, for this is the road that leads to life. I believe this is what Solomon was talking about in the above Proverb:

The First Road – The Wrong Path:

The first road that Jesus talks about is the wide road that leads to destruction. He says there are many people who walk on that road. Proverbs 14:2 says that those who are perverse in their ways – those who take the wrong path – show that they despise God by walking on this road. It’s like God put up a big sign that said, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” and yet foolish people still choose that road. The road of sin, rebellion, and ultimately death. But there is another road…

The Second Road – The Right Path:

The second road that Jesus talks about is the narrow and difficult way that leads to life. He says that – sadly – there are few who find this road. Proverbs 14:2 says that those who walk in their uprightness – those who follow the right path – fear the Lord. And here is the key to walking on the right path. It starts with a fear of the Lord.

To fear the Lord doesn’t mean that we are afraid of Him. However, it does mean that we respect Him, and when He says, “This is the way, walk in it,” we obey. Because we trust Him. And we know that the commands that He gives to us are for our own good.

Today, you are standing at a crossroads. Two roads diverge in a wood. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for those who choose the easy way. But the road to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few find it. Take the narrow road – the road less traveled by. It will make all the difference in your life!

Advertisements

Building a Home

Proverbs 14:1

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Housebuilding

Six months before we got married my wife and I purchased our first home. Mortgages were not easy to come by in 1978 and we had to find a deposit of £1,000 for a house that cost £14,995. Prudently we saved far more than the deposit before applying for a mortgage. Why? Because a house without furniture would not have been a home. Some of our furniture was purchased second-hand, some of it was new. Some of it was given to us by relatives who wanted to pass on their hand-me-downs. It didn’t really matter where it came from, what mattered was that we were building a home.

Lived In

When I look back at our first house it wasn’t perfect. The wallpaper and carpets were chosen by the previous owner and could best be described as ‘loud.’ The electric heating was inefficient and expensive. The front door caught the force of the wind and the rain in winter and used to jam. But whatever else that house was it was our home. It was where we lived and raised our family for fourteen years. If you had visited you might not have found a tidy home, but you would have found a home that was lived in. A home that was built and cherished by a wise woman. My wife.

Tenant or Owner

Just as our homes should be filled with evidence of our lives, Scripture teaches that our lives should be filled with evidence of God’s Holy Spirit. If we have surrendered our lives to God this is equivalent to opening the front door of our home and inviting Him in as the new owner, not just a tenant. If we do this then He will help us to change the decoration, fit new carpets, install new heating, and anything else He sees necessary for Him to feel comfortable living in us. It all boils down to ownership. Have you made God the owner of your house or do you treat Him like a tenant?


Got Fleas?

Proverbs 13:20

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Just about everyone has heard the old English proverb, “He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” If not, let me explain. This proverb involves two things: a person and a dog. What is the action that is involved? They are very close to each other. So close, in fact (“lies down with”), that the fleas that are on the dog would move to the person.

So what does Proverbs 13:20 have to do with fleas? Answer: Association.

If the person was not associated with the dog, then there would be no possible way for that person to get fleas from the dog.

Solomon is explaining to us that we must be careful with whom we associate. He is telling us that we need to be very careful who we have as our friends and those we depend on.

This verse is simply saying that we need to make sure that we associate with wise men and not with foolish companions.

As I was preparing for this post, I came across this saying,

“Your friends are like the buttons on an elevator. They will either take you up or they will take you down” – Author Unknown

I am asking you today, based on Proverbs 13:20, are the people that you associate with bringing you closer to God or taking you further away from Him?

I love the way the New Living Translation says this verse, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”

Psalms 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…”

So, do you have fleas? Are you associating with people that are getting you into trouble? If so, it’s time to “de-bug or de-fool” your life and seek out people of wisdom. Just as the verse says, “walk with the wise and become wise”!

Lord, help us to be careful who we associate with in our lives. We know that we are to be salt and light in this world, but help us to make sure we seek the counsel of wise men and women and not those who will lead us into trouble. Give us wisdom each day to seek out those who give wisdom based on your Word.

Folk Wisdom:

  • “Tell me your companions, and I will tell you what you are.”
  • “He that lives with cripples learns to limp” (Dutch Proverb)
  • “He that goes with wolves learns to howl” (Spanish Proverb)

Strong Foundations

Proverbs 13:16

Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.
Wise people think before they act; fools don’t – and even brag about their foolishness. (NLT)

Building Wisely

A good explanation of this proverb is found in Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV) where Jesus uses a construction site to illustrate the difference between a wise man and a fool:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When builders came to extend my home they were required by law to dig deep foundations. Although the extension only involved two ground floor rooms, building regulations stated that the foundations had to be strong enough to support a double height extension. While the builders considered this excessive, it added an element of future proofing and made absolutely certain that my ground floor extension would stand for many years. Call it wisdom, call it forward planning, call it what you like, but I have absolute confidence in the deep foundations supporting my extension.

Foolish Boasting

I also have absolute confidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that His words provide a foundation for survival in a world that offers many other choices. In fact there are only two choices. Listen to Jesus or ignore Jesus. He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Sadly there is no shortage of fools prepared to boast that there is no God as demonstrated in an advertising campaign involving buses in the UK during 2009.

Scripture provides a response to such folly:


My Pride Says I’m Right

Proverbs 13:10

“Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom.”

I know I’m right

Have you ever listened to a parent talking with a teenager? It can be fun, to say the least.

You see, a teenager has “seen it all” and “knows about everything” now that they have lived on this earth as long as they have. A teenager “understands what the world is all about” and is “always in perfect control” of his or her life.

But you know, a parent has been through “everything” that a teenager is going through, “knows all about everything” going on, and how to solve every situation.

A parent “has to control” the family and everything that affects them; a teen thinks he can handle things himself.

Both sides know and can.

Not Listening

The problem that always comes in is that, sorry, teenager, you have not been around as long as your parents, and they have been through a lot more than you may ever know.

The problem that always comes in is that, sorry, parent, teens actually do go through different circumstances and know more than you may realize.

In other words, the reason so many fights break out between parents and teens is that both know everything going on and think they can control it. This usually includes not hearing what the other is saying, because each side is so sure that the other does not understand as much as they think.

And usually they are both right.

And usually they are both wrong.

Wisdom

Just like in any relationship – from parents and children to friends to spouses to complete strangers – contention arises because we fail to listen.

The wise choice is … wait for it … TO LISTEN!

Much contention, fights, and hatred could be avoided if we would just listen to each other, hear each side. Then, find your common ground and dialogue.

If you can not do it, get another person to help, but be willing to hear that person tell you that you are wrong (Matthew 18:15-17). Pride will tell you to fight it.

If you listen to pride, go back to the beginning of this little devotional.

Lord, teach us humility, even though it may hurt to get to it. Give us a heart to listen and hear and to admit when we are wrong. Give us the wisdom to listen to others and know when it is okay to speak (James 1:19)


Just Zip It

Proverbs 12:23

“A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.”

My wife has an expression for the person whose mouth opens and gushes forth streams of idiocy which should have remained locked away in the reservoir of the heart.  She calls it, “a case of diarrhea of the mouth.”   Mark Twain must have had the same idea in mind when he famously quipped, “It is better to have people to think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT US? 

What is it about us, that we think we have to speak even when we have nothing of value to say?  Is it that hearing the sound of our own voice makes us feel important?  Is it that we want to be perceived as intelligent, wise and knowledgeable, able to speak authoritatively concerning any and every subject?  Or is it that we are threatened by silence, as if we must fill the space between us and the others around us with words, lest a moment’s silence should become an awkward void?

A PERSONAL ISSUE FOR PREACHER-TYPES

I submit that the issue of Proverbs 12:23 is of tremendous significance for myself and my fellow “preacher-types.”  We are absolutely the worst when it comes to feeling obligated to fill the air with words.  I have just come away from a Sunday afternoon, pastoral visit with a senior citizen, a widow in my congregation.  She, like many women of her age and station in life, is lonely and doesn’t have company in her home very often.  Therefore when I visit, she enjoys the chance simply to chat away about loved ones, some of whom I know, most of whom I do not.  As she reminisced this afternoon, there was a moment in which I could hear my own voice, rising above hers, commenting on something she had just said.  Maybe I was simply trying to let her know that I was listening, that I was engaged in what she had to say.  But probably not.  It’s more likely that I just couldn’t stand being out-talked for even a few minutes.  I thought to myself, “If I were listening in on this conversation, I would conclude that guy (me!) is quite a jerk.”

IN THE PULPIT

Oh, and how about in the pulpit?!  I once had a seminary professor who warned my class that the greatest danger for preachers in the pulpit is that we’ll be tempted to say things that simply aren’t true—treating biblical principles as promises, projecting guaranteed outcomes, and so forth.  Is that anything other than “proclaiming foolishness”?  I had another seminary prof who often remarked, “Anyone who makes his living from his religion will eventually lose one or the other.”  How many “hireling” preachers have absolutely prostituted their faith in the pulpit, proclaiming foolishness, just to earn a paycheck?

ZIP IT UP

The proverb above tells us quite bluntly:  zip it up!  You don’t have to say everything you think. You don’t have to teach everything you know.  You don’t have to win every argument.  You don’t have to express every opinion.  You don’t have to weigh in on every debate.  If someone asks you for the time, you don’t have to lecture them in the craft of building a grandfather clock. It is far more prudent to keep a reservoir, a storehouse, of wisdom inside, from which you pull out treasures only when necessary (Matthew 13:52).  Knowing our propensity for gabbing when wisdom calls for silence, the great Peter Marshall prayed, “Great questions stand unanswered before us, and defy our best wisdom.  Though our ignorance is great, at least we know we do not know.  When we don’t know what to say, keep us quiet.”

WHAT A WISE MAN!

Twenty years ago I recall an elderly Presbyterian gentleman giving some tidbits of wisdom to me and several other young aspiring pastors.  He said, “Men, for your first year in ministry, at each meeting of Presbytery simply sit and do not say a word.  No matter how important the issue, no matter how heated the debate, no matter how much insight you might have about the subject, for your first year you are to say absolutely nothing on the floor of Presbytery.  After you have completed one year of silence, then you may make your first motion on the floor.  Your first motion should be, ‘I move that we break for coffee and doughnuts.’  Then the entire Presbytery will think of you, ‘What a wise man!’”

 

A wise old owl sat in an oak

The more he saw, the less he spoke

The less he spoke, the more he heard

Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?

 

  Father God:  Give us the grace of silence.  Through Christ our Lord:  Amen. 


Wound or Incision?

Proverbs 12:18

“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.”

Cut Open

I have never been pierced with a sword but I have been cut open during surgery. While under anesthetic the surgeons made a twelve-inch incision from my chest bone downwards so that they could gain access to my abdomen to remove a large section of diseased colon. Thirty-five metal staples were used to close the wound. When I came round after the surgery the pain was indescribable.

Of the several tubes I found attached to my body, one was set up to allow me to self administer measured doses of morphine. This dulled but did not remove the pain. It was ten days before the staples were removed and I was discharged from hospital. Although the pain had reduced it took a while for it to fade completely. For three months the discomfort meant that I slept sitting up, while the scar remained sensitive for years.

Pain or Healing?

This proverb is a warning of the pain that words can cause. “Reckless words piece like a sword” says the NIV, “but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The truth is that words can hurt just like the cutting of a sword, or a surgeon’s scalpel. Pain of this nature does not go immediately; it lingers. It may fade, and time may indeed be a healer, but words can cause lasting damage. It may be years before the scars left by hurtful words cease to be sensitive.

Where words of healing are required then the challenge is to select such words with the utmost of care, and preferably under the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. It is often the case that we mean to bring healing, but the words that we use merely intensify the pain. Be careful. Sometimes it is wiser not to speak at all.