The Path of Folly
Proverbs is for the wise, foolish and simple. That means its for all of us. This book is divided into two parts: 1-9 and 10-31. Chapters 1-9 serve as the introduction for the book, selling us on the value of wisdom and the folly of foolishness. To rightly understand chapters 10-31 we have to come to terms with the major themes of chapters 1-9: wisdom and folly. Last week we look at the path of wisdom. This week we’ll look at the path of folly.
We don’t have to live long to know that life is messy. Being human is not always easy. Relationships are complicated. Decisions are often difficult. Sin is real. Life doesn’t go as planned. It doesn’t take long to discover that we need more than the right information, a cheery outlook and Google to get through life – we need godly wisdom. That’s where Proverbs comes in. Proverbs was written and edited by Solomon, the third king of Israel, roughly 1,000 years before the coming of Christ. It was used as a leadership manual, of sorts, to instill wisdom in aspiring leaders within the royal courts and in children within the homes of God’s people. In it, God meets us on the street and delivers us aid in the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life.
This book is incredibly relevant nearly three millennia after its writing and assembly.The key to rightly interpreting and learning from Proverbs is understanding that wisdom does not begin with mastering new information but by submitting your life and heart to God – also known as “fear of the Lord” (see Proverbs 1:7). The fear of the Lord serves as the trigger, detonator or lynchpin of wisdom. Proverbs is filled with good news, but perhaps the best news is that God wants us to be wise people. He’s not hiding the secret of life from us nor withholding important information nor reluctantly doling out wisdom. Wisdom is for anyone and everyone who approaches the living God, ready to listen and respond. Proverbs is for the wise, foolish and simple. That means its for all of us.
Roughly speaking this book is divided into two parts: 1-9 and 10-31. Chapters 1-9 serve as the introduction for the book, selling us on the value of wisdom and the folly of foolishness. Chapters 10-31 are to be read and interpreted in light of the key themes of chapters 1-9: wisdom and folly. Last week we examined the path of wisdom. This week we will look at the path of folly.
INVITE OF WISDOM (9:1-6) VS INVITE OF FOLLY (9:13-18)
At the end of the introductory section, chapter 9, we receive two invitations. The first is found in 9:1-6. It is the nvite of Wisdom. Here Woman Wisdom serves as the personification of God’s wisdom. In other words, what we have here is God’s voice inviting us in. The second is 9:13-18. This is the invite of Woman Folly which represents the voice of God-substitutes – anything that replaces God in our life. This is important as this the essence of foolishness is living life apart from God. Also note that :
#1 WISDOM builds her house, but FOLLY just sits there, lazy.
#2 WISDOM offers us meat and wine, but FOLLY offers us bread and water.
#3 WISDOM speaks honestly, but FOLLY makes deceptive offers.
#4 WISDOM offers life/wisdom, but FOLLY deceptively offers life while concealing the death within her doors.
In the ancient near east, to invite someone over for a meal was to invite them into a close personal relationship. Here, both wisdom and folly are inviting us into relationship. Who will we enter into relationship? Now, the choice seems obvious, but the reality is that we go back/forth btwn meals, right? Why is that? The reason is that folly is deceptive. It appears life-giving, but it always results in guilt, shame and – ultimately – death. The path of folly is gradual and intelligent, not as sudden and random as it seems – bring pain now and later. Let’s zoom in to hear more of what Wisdom has to say about the path of folly in 1:20-21.
#1 REALITY OF FOOLISHNESS
We live in a city and culture that denies being “foolish” or being wrong is even a category. It is common to hear, “Whats right for you is right for you, what’s right for me is right for me.” The reality is that we don’t want to be wrong, so we’ve eliminated the possibility. One comedian captures it this way “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is stupid and anyone driving faster than you is an idiot?” So, saying that everything is truth is a faith statement itself. You can’t prove it. You just like it and have accepted it by faith.
“When you say that no one has a superior take on spirituality, that is a take on spiritual reality – which you say is superior to everyone else. When you say that no one should convert anyone else to their view of religious reality, that is a view of religious reality that you want the listener to convert to.” Keller
The reality is that many have considered religions, searched truth and humbly came to conclusion Jesus is who he said he is. That is not arrogance. That’s just being genuine by standing behind what you discovered to be true. Insisting on what is true doesn’t make you arrogant, though there is an arrogant way to do that. Ironically, saying “everything is the same” can also be arrogant by insisting there is no ultimate truth. What’s the point? We’re all in the same boat. Let’s think through this together – humbly, in pursuit of truth.Bible is clear: Foolishness, folly and sin are very real realities. If we’re honest, we all know this.
#2 DEFINITION OF FOLLY.
Proverbs divides humanity into two categories. Wise and the foolish. No other option. Pr 1:7 (cf 9:10) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge [or wisdom]; fools despise wisdom and instruction. “Knowledge”? In Proverbs, “knowledge” refers to knoweldge of the created order established by sovereign, gracious, wise God – for our good.
The wise are those who submit their lives to this God and live in light of who he is and what he has done, in Jesus.
The foolish are those who fail to see existence, power, wisdom of created order, sustained by God.
In other words, the foolish are those who are out of touch with reality – the reality of God, the reality of God’s created order, the reality of their sin, and the reality of their need of a savior. Biblically, foolishness is not issue of intellect + education + sophistication.Foolishness is a moral category and the root problem spiritual. To be simple and fool does not mean you have to say “I hate wisdom or I hate God”. To be foolish, you only have to be ok with the way we are without God. 1:32 “the complacency of fools destroys them…” The reality is that we’re all born this way. We are not born as blank slates. We are born guilty with what theologians call, Original Sin. This explains why we are the way we are and our world is the way it is. 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…”
#3 TYPES OF FOLLY. Woman Wisdom addresses three types of fools in 1:22, all of which are out of touch with reality in different ways: SIMPLE + FOOL + SCOFFER
SIMPLE (v22): gullible, naive, unreliable, go w/ flow, drift into temptation, uncommitted, no urgency. 14:15 “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps…” The simple can’t discern btwn bad/good ideas. Don’t stick @ things. Give up easy. No long obedience same direct.
Herd mentality. Go with whatever’s popular. Entertained. Easy. Comfortable. Non-committal. Don’t see relationship btwn actions + consequences. Don’t see the reality that you can’t sin and not suffer for it. It can’t be done. Therefore, the simple is vulnerable to foolishness and easily deceived by sin.
When the simple become Christians, and don’t grow out of their simple-mindedness, they turn into perpetual church shoppers, looking for the place with the most resources, most comfort, mose entertainment, that requires the least commiment. The simple will move on immediately when they find something that does these better.
FOOL. There are three words (kesil, ewil, nabal) translated as fool in the book of Proverbs. In essence, they are all various forms of being stubborn. 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advise.” The fool is self-sufficient, self-reliant, doesn’t listen, always has excuse, nothing is ever his fault. The fool Isolates, doesn’t get help w/ sin, only see foolishness of others, never own. They refuse anything wrong w/ them. Fools are often “Know-it-alls”. Only voice he desires to hear is his own.
SCOFFER. (see also scoffer, mocker, scorner) 17x’s. In Proverbs, the scoffer is a hardened version of a fool. The scoffer is aggressive, confident, calculating, outwardly impressive, highly opinionated. Never accepts correction. Thinks others need his opinions. Easily offended. Sarcastic. Cynical. Skeptical. If someone threatens, he scoffs, mocks, mouths off. Cross her, she will punish you then say its your fault. One of the reasons that scoffers are fools is b/c humans need relationships and the mocker always sacrifices relationship to get ahead, prove point or win an argument.
Q: What is common to all?
Common to each of these is unteachability and unresponsiveness. The simple, fool and mocker are all persuaded that they are right and will not listen to anyone else that says to the contrary. Don’t try to tell him he’s ≠ seeing things clearly ≠ doing right thing w/ life ≠ heading right direction. The question for all of us is, “Are you a teachable?”
I know I’m teachable when…
#1 “I get a lot of input.”
#2 “I see I’m changing”
#3 “I don’t have to answer critics w/ defense.”
#4 “I hear different things.”
#5 “I find myself asking others, “How can I improve?”
#4 OUTCOME OF FOLLY.
What we have in Proverbs 1:23-33 are two possible outcomes for the path of folly. Here we see a merciful warning and a gracious promise.
MERCIFUL WARNING. vs24-32 Most threatening speech in Prov. Can’t soften severity of these words. Do not miss this: The path of folly will unravel, now and into eternity. vs24-27 “laugh at your calamity” ≠ not giggly laughter, not laughter of indifference; laugh of justice and defeat of evil. It is as though God was saying, “I’m offering you everything you desire and need, and you want to patronize, marginalize me?” God laughs at those who think they are wiser/stronger/smarter than him. Now, at the same time – and this is so important – He doesn’t cease to be perfectly loving, good, just fair. Don’t dismiss this too easily. Just because its hard to comprehend, doesn’t mean its true. God is NOT an evil villain nor gigantic Care Bear. It is sections of scripture like this that make it very hard to put God in a box.
vs28? There is a day when grace is passed for person who has persistently, stubborning, rejected Wisdom. This is uncomfortable, challenging and hard to comprehend b/c we don’t understand that holiness and justice of God. We don’t understand the holiness and justice of God because we are so familiar – and at home with – sin and folly. But, don’t mis this – wisdom did not initiate this judgment. It was initiated by those who rebelled against her. ‘Only 2 kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ + those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’
Only with this in view can we understand, why Wisdom crying out, “How long will you love being simple…delight in scoffing…hate knowledge?” There is a tremendous sense urgency, but the complacency of fools destroys them. (complacency = rejection) Don’t wait, delay, postpone! Don’t be complacent! There are consequences if you dismiss God in your life. In his mercy, God is warning you. If you are convicted of sin, that is a tremendous gift from God.
Most frightened for anyone here that is not convicted. You don’t answer to me. You answer to him.
GRACIOUS PROMISE. vs33,23
“Whoever” = anyone! + “secure” + “at ease” + “without dread” >>> How to we tap into these great benefits? Listen (vs33) and turn (vs23). In effect, God is saying, “I don’t work with perfect people. I work with simple, foolish, scoffers that are repsonsive to my call. Here is my call: turn.”
Q: In light of God’s holiness and our sinful folly, how is this offer of security, protection possible? Answer: it anticipates one to come. Savior. Hung on cross. Cry out: “Father forgive them…know not what they do.” Fools don’t know what they’re doing. Wisdom came down from the high place, entered world of simple, foolish, scoffers – and died for them. Suffered as a substitute for sinners, like us. Faced the storm of our folly for us.Turn (and keep turning) to him: receive grace, new desires, new delights, new family, new purpose.
In Christ, God looks you in eyes and calls you his beloved son/daughter, in whom he is well-pleased.
In Christ, God changes subject from our failures, sin, guilt to grace, forgiveness and new life.
In Matthew 7, Jesus (this is so good) takes Wisdom’s words here and put them in his own mouth:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolsh man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ” – Jesus
When storm comes, and it will, it doesn’t matter b/c Jesus will hold. Everyone who does not listen and does not turn = foolish man who is building his/her life on sand. Shifting sand of “I’m not that bad”, “I’m too busy right now”, “I’ll think abou it”, “Don’t rush me”, etc. No one enters into relationship with God by saying, “I want God in my life b/c I need a little pick-me-up…” You have to say “I have been a fool..I have been a scoffer…I have been simple-minded…I have been out of touch with reality…I didn’t see it!” Viewed in this way, repentance is coming to your senses. If you’re NOT willing to say that, you’ll never become wise.
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”
Don’t postpone. Don’t delay. Listen. Turn and live.