Proverbs Thematic Sermon: Wisdom vs Foolishness Pt. 2: Reaping the Results of Wisdom and Foolishness
We’re continuing our Proverbs thematic study this morning. And let me say, we’ve been in unchartered territory. I’ve actually never heard anyone preach through the second half of Proverbs, so this has been a new experience.
I’ve learned a couple of things:
· First, reading 40-50 Proverbs takes more time than I realized. My sermons have been a few minutes longer than usual, so I’ going to try and adjust. We’ll still read all the verses, but I’ll slightly shorten my content.
· Second, I’ve learned that it’s virtually impossible to reference every verse in my sermon. Last week, I was blitzing through too many verses too quickly. So, what I plan to do instead is point to representative verses that really encapsulate the emphasis. And, I’ll also summarize themes and words without always pointing to specific verses.
· To be sure, I still want to anchor my sermon to the text so, I’ll still reference specific verses, but just fewer of them.
Well, that brings us to our focus this morning - the results of wisdom and foolishness.
Last week, we considered the nature of wisdom and foolishness. The wise pursues wisdom. The fool pursues folly. And remember, our words and actions reveal whether we have a heart of wisdom or whether we need a heart of wisdom. That wisdom is ultimately found in Christ. The good news is that there is not a single one of us, nor anyone in the world, who cannot be redirected to the wisdom of God in Christ.
So, that was last week. This morning is more about the effects and consequences of the one who is wise and the one who is a fool.
If you’ll take your Proverbs bulletin insert… On the inside, you’ll see two groupings of verses. The first is titled near-term effects of wisdom and foolishness. In other words, what wisdom and foolishness cause. I’ll say, those verses do include some action verbs, like a fool “troubles” his household or “belittles” his neighbor. Those words imply an effect, so I’ve included them. The second grouping contains more longer-term results. Many of those are eternal in nature. In other words, where does each path lead?
There’s a little overlap from last week as well.
The first 3 verses are from Proverbs 13:13-15. If you would like to read those out of your Bibles, please turn there. You can find them on page ???.
Reading of selected proverbs:
13. Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
14. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
15. Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
A. The near-term effects of wisdom and folly
11:12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
11:29 Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
12:8 A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
12:16 The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
17:21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
21:22 A wise man scales the city of the mighty
and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
24:9 The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.
27:3 A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty,
but a fool's provocation is heavier than both.
29:8 Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.
B. The long-term results of wisdom and folly
10:8 The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
14:3 By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
14:18 The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
14:35 A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.
15:24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
17:2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
19:29 Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools.
21:16 One who wanders from the way of good sense
will rest in the assembly of the dead.
22:3 The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
24:13-14 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools.
27:22 Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain,
yet his folly will not depart from him.
28:26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
About 10 years ago, we visited the Grand Canyon. It was the first time that I had ever been there. If you’ve ever seen it, you’ll know that it is really grand. Our kids were a lot younger then, so we only hiked down a little way into the canyon. And of course, we were holding their hands really tight. Because you quickly realize that the Grand Canyon is a dangerous place. There are cliffs everywhere without railings. It’s also very hot and dry with hardly any water except the river below.
In fact, in the visitor center we found a book titled “Death in the Grand Canyon.” It’s really sad. On average, a dozen people die every year due to various causes. People have died trying to take selfies as close as they can to a ledge, and then slipping. Some have died when they pretended to fall but in doing that, they actually did fall. Others have ignored warning signs and wandered off the path only to get lost and die of heat exhaustion or of cold at night. Some have tried to jump across to rock outcroppings but didn’t make it. And every year, a couple of people die attempting to hike the 26 miles from one rim to the other and back again in a single day. That happened twice this last fall. They were ill-prepared physically and mentally and did not plan well.
You could categorize many of those tragedies as foolishness.
And I’m sure we could spend all day coming up with similar examples.
As we read, and as we each intuitively know, actions have consequences… and words have consequences. The folly of our foolish ways leads to tragedy - that may include near term damage and drama. Sometime it includes immediate tragic results like these examples, and certainly living a foolish life will lead to long term consequences… as Proverbs puts it, to ruin.
On the one hand, these verses are a warning to us. If you act this way, if your words are flagrant and foolish, this is what will happen. But, on the other hand, these verses also give us hope. They give us a picture of wisdom’s results – both the near-term benefits but also the ultimate deliverance that wisdom will bring. So, again, on the one hand, the warnings about foolishness, and on the other hand, the hope of wisdom.
Here’s where I do want to draw your attention to a couple of verses. Either in your Bibles or in the insert, look at Proverbs 13:13-15. These are the first three verses in the list.
Really, they are a good summary of today’s focus.
Verse 13, “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.”
“Whoever despises the word…” The Hebrew for the word “word” literally means, “that which has been stated.” What Solomon is saying is that if the Proverbs which he has written are rejected, the result will be self-destruction. That’s an important point to note. The one who rejects the Proverbs will bring destruction upon himself. His words and actions will cause his own demise.
And remember, Solomon is being guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit here. His words in Proverbs are God’s words. The second half of verse 13 alludes to that. Again, it says, “but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.” That word for “commandment” is equated with the word “word” and it’s a reference to God’s commandments. So, the determining factor of whether you will receive self-imposed destruction or whether you will receive a reward is… whether you obey the commandments of the Lord.
Now, to be sure, this is not saying that obedience is the way to salvation. No, remember, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Reverent trust in the Lord is the starting point. The New Testament calls that faith. Our obedience rather testifies to our faith.
To be sure, Proverbs is a rubber-meets-the-road book. We’ve talked about this. There are tangible consequences in this life to both wisdom and folly. I don’t want to skip over those and jump right to the eternal matters. So, we’ll consider both the near-term and the eternal consequences.
In fact, verse 14 is the verse about eternal matters. It says, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” It’s saying, wisdom and foolishness are ultimately matters of life and death. We’re going to come back to those eternal matters.
And next, notice verse 15. It’s about near-term matters. “Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.” When we act and speak with “good sense” (meaning all the things we talked about last week - humility, sensitivity, carefulness, prudence, and thoughtfulness) when our lives reflect those things, there are near-term blessings that we will reap.
But the opposite is true for the fool: “the way of the treacherous,” as verse 15 says, “is their ruin.” There’s that self-induced trouble, again.
So, near term and long term.
Near Term Effects
We’ll first consider the near-term effect and then we’ll move to the long-term ones.
Do you remember Mr. T? He’s still out around! His life motto is, “I pity the fool.” That was originally a line in Rocky III. After that, he adopted it personal;y and would use it in both acting as well as in real life. Although, for Mr. T, the line was always blurred between his characters and his persona.
But what does he mean when he says, “I pity the fool.” Well, as you would suspect, he’s been asked several times about that. And Mr. T’s is pretty clear about it. He feels sorry for the fool, he says. He has both sympathy for a foolish person as well as a desire to see him change. The reason is that a fool has to deal with the consequences of his foolishness. As Mr. T puts is, “something bad is going to happen to him. So, I pity the fool.” By the way, he’s a professed Christian and he even connects that phrase to the Scriptures warning to the fool.
And these verses here have much to say about the effect of a fool. A big one is relational. To use some of the words in grouping A, a fool is “despised” and an “abomination” to society. He causes, as one of these verses says, “vexation.” A fool is a trouble-maker. He brings “trouble” on himself as well as others. Another word used here is “provocation.” His words and actions provoke trouble.
I think the verse that best captures the near-term effects of folly and wisdom is 29:8. It’s the last verse there in grouping A. It says, “Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.” In his folly, a fool stirs up and escalates controversy and anger. He fans the flame. You could compare a fool to a tornado. He or she leaves a path of destruction - relational and other.
But on the flip side of that, “the wise turn away wrath.” They put out the flame. Instead of fanning the flame, they help to extinguish it. One of the other verses says that “the prudent ignores an insult.” That’s hard to do! Instead of going into attack mode, the wise respond by absorbing the insult and thereby defusing a situation.
You know, we’ve been having problems with one of these cafeteria refrigerators. It’s very noisy. To try and minimize the noise, we put up a couple of sound blankets over the top, and they really help. You can still hear the compressor, but the noise is greatly reduced. Someone wise is like a sound blanket. He or she dampens the folly of a fool or acts as a peacemaker instead of a peace breaker.
By the way, there’s plenty of ventilation on the other side of the wall. We don’t want to foolishly burn the building down.
Now, to be sure, there are more positive effects to wisdom than just peacemaking. Proverbs 21:22 captures that. “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” There’s safety in wisdom. There’s power in wisdom – power in the good sense of the word. A power that protects and enacts justice. And there’s security in wisdom, compared to the fool.
I think Jesus’ parable of the wise man and the fool captures the near-term consequences well. We read it earlier. The wise man built his house on the rock. The foolish man built his house on the sand. Some of you know the parable and are probably singing the song in your head! What happened? The rain fell, the floods came, the wind blew – and the house built by the wise man stood firm. But the house built by the foolish man was destroyed. Now, that implies both near term and long term consequences.
Jesus makes clear that the rock is his Word. He said, “everyone who hears these words and does them, will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
That’s quite relevant. It takes us back up to the first verse we looked at… Proverbs 13:13… where we look for wisdom? We look to the Word.
Long Term Results
Ok, so there are real and tangible near-term consequences to wisdom and foolishness. But, we’re also told of long-term including eternal consequences. So, let’s go there now. The long-term results of wisdom and foolishness.
The language is very ominous for the fool. Let me highlight some of the phrases in the second grouping.
· “The babbling fool will come to ruin.”
· And “fools die for lack of sense.” That certainly captures some of the deaths in the Grand Canyon.
· Here’s another result “the simple will inherit folly”
· There are a few others that speak to the long-term consequences. They include words such as “wrath” and “condemnation.”
Really, the heart of the issue is near-sighted, self-absorbed sin. It’s near-sighted because a fool is not considering the longer-term consequences of his actions. He’s more interested in the instant gratification or the thrill of what he’s doing or taking the path of least resistance. And the results are tragic.
But besides being near-sighted, a fool is also self-absorbed. It’s all about him and his ways. He rejects God’s word as the standard of guidance. He doesn’t care about the impact of his words and actions on others. And in the end, following his own path will leads to death and condemnation.
Do look down at Proverbs 28:26. It’s the very last one in the list. It says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
That verse encapsulates the world in which we live. Doesn’t it? If you were to summarize our culture in one word, it would be the word “self.”
“Be true to yourself.” “you do you.” We’ve all heard the phrases. It’s the self-absorbed notion that the standard of right and wrong centers on “you,” not God, not his Word. There’s no universal standard of right and wrong to a fool. Rather, his heart desire is what matters most. That’s what the world says. You determine your way. It’s the Disney and Sesame Street message today.
But that belief is described here as foolish. Again from 28:26, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool.” And the warning is that it will lead to tragic results.
That self-absorbed sentiment and results are captured in two of these Proverbs. They’re in fact, identical. 14:12 and 16:25. They both say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” When we define our own wisdom… when we chose our own way, not the way of God in his word, the path will lead to death.
So then, where can the path to life be found? Well, I think you know the answer, it is found through pursuing the wisdom of God.
The language used is a stark contrast to the end of folly. Here are some of the things these verses say. The wise will be “delivered.” It also says, “The path of life leads upward.” It promises, “There will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Those are encouraging words because they promise life and hope.
Someone with the wisdom of God has an eternal perspective. He or she sees the enticements of the world as fleeting pleasures. They may feel good, but their path leads to the grave.
There’s a well-known quote by Jim Elliot about this. Jim was one of 5 missionaries killed while trying to reach a remote tribe in South America. He wrote this in his Journal. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
To put that in terms of our Proverbs study, “he is no fool, who rejects the folly of the world and it’s path, and instead embraces the wisdom of the word and it’s eternal life.” He gives up the temporal to gain the eternal. May God give us eyes to see not just the way of the fool and the wise, but also where each path leads.
Let me briefly summarize.
· In the near term, foolishness breeds strife. It sets a city aflame and leaves a wake of pain and destruction. In the long term, a fool’s self-absorbed and near-sighted life rejects God and his word… it will ultimately lead to death and condemnation.
· On the other hand, the wise are peacemakers. Their prudence yields near term security and stability. And through an eternal perspective founded on the wisdom of God, their hope for eternal life is secure.
The near-term effect and long-term results of wisdom and folly.
Gospel Connection and Conclusion
But there are two important questions remaining.
· First, How do I receive this eternal wisdom?
· And then second, how does God actually give us his wisdom?
I ask those questions because if we critically look at our lives, each one of us is a fool. What I mean is that each one of us follows our own way and acts out and says foolish things. And the tension in these verses is the question, does that mean I am a fool? Will I reap the consequences of my foolishness –condemnation?
Well, there are answers to those two questions.
· First is that the wisdom of God can be received. And it starts by trusting, not in our own mind (again, as 28:26 puts it), but rather trusting in God. That means (1) recognizing your foolishness, (2) recognizing how it ultimately is a rejection of God and his word, and then (3) turning to him. That means acknowledging your self-absorbed and near-sighted folly that only leads to death. And it means trusting God by faith to renew your heart and mind, and give you his wisdom.
· But the answer to the second question is just as important. How does God give us his wisdom? The answer is that we receive it from the one who is wisdom – that is, Jesus. Last week we briefly considered how Jesus is the model and fulfillment of wisdom. But we need to take it a step further. When we come to God by faith, we come believing in Christ. When you do, he takes your foolishness and he gives you his wisdom. He takes the consequences of your foolishness and you receive the results of his wisdom. Do you get that? That is the purpose of the cross and resurrection. In Jesus death, he bore your foolish sin and rejection and he took on the consequences of it… to use the words here from Proverbs… wrath, condemnation, and death. Jesus absorbed the Father’s wrath and condemnation and he overcame death. The grave could not hold him. You see, in the resurrection we are given life in him. Both life now, which includes having the wisdom of God. And it includes the eternal fountain of life, everlasting. the results of Jesus wisdom are ours.
It does not mean that in this life, you will never act in foolish ways. No, but you have the wisdom of God in Christ. You are given his Word and Spirit, and you can pursue the wisdom of God, because you are on the path of wisdom.
Let me conclude with the words of Proverbs 24:14 “Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
May we believe by faith in this wisdom, the wisdom of God in Christ, and know of life eternal in him.