Wisdom is valuable. When we learn from our experiences, we gain wisdom. We avoid making the same mistakes in the future and we tend to have a better experience than we did in the past. It can apply to both simple and complex circumstances.
We learn not to burn the food, we learn to add a little more salt, we learn to get up a few minutes earlier so we aren’t late for work, we learn to take better care of our homes, our cars, and hopefully our lives. Wisdom can be a treasure of immeasurable value. Not only does it improve our lives in real tangible ways by the good practices it leads us to, but it greatly enhances everything by avoiding the foolish path.
The Bible contains many passages about wisdom, and in many cases, it contrasts that wisdom with the foolish path. Proverbs is often called one of the wisdom books and it lists not only principles but practical examples of both wisdom and foolish behavior. 2020 is a great year for wisdom. Information is flowing constantly, but discerning the value of that information is very challenging. People take information and they process it with wisdom or in a foolhardy manner. If you take the book of Proverbs and read through it, you will find relevant guidance for today that can help you avoid being a fool in your actions and in your words. Here are a few examples.
These verses might seem to contradict each other, but they are actually 2 versions of the same principle. The difference requires wisdom. We certainly shouldn’t be drawn into a foolish argument with a fool. When you argue with a fool on their terms, you find yourself being drawn to their level. A fool that won’t listen to reason can lead you to come off looking just as foolish as they are. This reminds me of the kind of arguments we see regularly on social media, where people argue in circles, spouting one foolish platitude after another. Fools are known for to refusing to listen, as we will see later in Proverbs. On the other hand, we should be sure to collectively or privately answer the arguments of fools, otherwise their foolishness will reign as the truth of the day. Biblically, this could be a private answer that calls the fallacy to their attention, or with wisdom you may want to involve others in correction. Wisdom is the antidote to foolishness, not arguing, but that leads us to the next problem with fools.
Lots of people lack understanding or information. Not knowing about a subject doesn’t make you a fool. According to this verse, what makes you a fool is insisting on airing your uninformed opinion. If the goal is only for the opinion to be heard (which seems to be one of the main purposes of social media) then providing a fool with new information or insights will not be welcomed. Instead, you will find yourself on the path to becoming as foolish as they are. Many public arguments on social media head in this direction. Flamewars leave no one unscorched. Talking to someone privately or via direct message is a better avenue, but according to this verse, you will often find people who have no interest in understanding. Why?
Fear of the Lord is a moral foundation of truth and an understanding of your place in the world God created. Those who understand who He is have a foundation that is different and should have the confidence to not be drawn into foolish engagements. Fools lack the wisdom and discipline to do the same. A fool’s confidence and self-image are locked up in their own words. This contrast comes out in chapter 12.
To be wise is to not always assume you are right, but take the time to listen to others. To be a fool is to continue to insist you are right, ignoring contrary opinions. A fool gets ticked off at the most miniscule slight, but a wise person can endure a barrage of insults without losing it. The differences are stark between the two and it doesn’t take long to watch an interaction to identify who the fools are.
In might seem too simple to just say, “don’t be a fool”, but it really is something we should all strive for in our lives. Wisdom is valuable. When you pursue wisdom, you will have a better life. You will suffer less from your own foolishness and you will find yourself suffering less from being involved in foolish interactions. As you read through these verses, you may have been thinking primarily of other “fools” that you have seen in person or on-line, but the most important step you should take is looking in the mirror to see if you find yourself being foolish in any of the ways listed here or throughout the book of Proverbs.
It is horrible to lack wisdom and no one should desire to be a fool, but ultimately the biggest fools are those who refuse and continue to follow the path of Proverbs 26:11:
Don’t be the person that lives off of foolishness and builds their life around foolishness. Build your life around truth, and especially the truth that is found in God’s Word. If you are interested in knowing more about who God really is and what it means to follow Him, I wrote a whole book on that subject. It is available here. The best source of wisdom is the Bible, start reading that today and read it every day.