Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.
Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong. If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.
Honor the Lord by making him an offering from the best of all that your land produces. If you do, your barns will be filled with grain, and you will have too much wine to store it all.
My child, when the Lord corrects you, pay close attention and take it as a warning. The Lord corrects those he loves, as parents correct a child of whom they are proud. (Good News Translation)
The biblical book of Proverbs is a collection of short pithy statements based in experiential truth. That is, they are wisdom sayings.
Wisdom is a gradual accumulation of understanding, over time, with a combination of observation and practice.
The Teacher (the Collector of the proverbs) highlights the wisdom needed to navigate life. It’s a bit like learning the basic laws of the universe, such as respecting the force of gravity by not walking off the roof of your house.
Wisdom observes and pays attention; then applies the understanding gained to reality.
Failing to cultivate a wise life (foolishness) creates all kinds of problems.
Notice the realities we need to respect in our Old Testament lesson for today: God, God’s guidance, God’s honor, God’s discipline.
And then notice the verbs which tell us how to respond wisely: trust, remember, obey, honor, pay close attention. Submitting to reality, respecting others, and accepting situations as they are, and not as we want them to be, is evidence of a sage life.
In contrast to the sage response, foolish reactions are made up of pride, avarice, and hate.
Both wisdom and foolishness are evidenced by their outcomes.
The wise person, having been taught a respect for God and the ways of grace, will most likely have the experience of receiving guidance, health, abundance, and love. Conversely, the fool who ignores divine counsel will probably experience misplaced trust, health issues, short-sighted financial decisions, and cruddy attitudes.
All things being equal, the wise person who deliberately and carefully applies knowledge and understanding to life will have an abundant spirit full of satisfaction – whereas the fool who improvises everything will struggle to live in a small world of holistic poverty and want.
The gist of today’s verses is that one cannot live as an island. We all need to practice consultation and collaboration to achieve a good life. Instruction and correction are necessary to obtain the good life. To spurn both divine and human connections in favor of radical personal independence is plain old foolish; it leads to a lousy life.
In short, the fool incessantly airs opinions with useless sophistry to an empty room; and, the sage is an observant student to universal rhythms and has learned the timing of proper words and of silence.
I am going to state this all in a different way: Relying on God and others through making and keeping promises to one another is the basis of a solid community and a gratifying personal life. Relying merely on one’s self is a one-way road to spiritual pain and emotional damage, not to mention physical illness and financial scarcity.
Fools always think they know best. Sages always know better than that.
The collection of Proverbs we have in the biblical canon is a presentation, a dialectic, a contrast and a setting forth of two ways of approaching how to live in the world:
- foolishness or wisdom
- independence or interdependence
- cognitive pride or mental humility
- negligence of evidence-based research or consultation through books, literature, and reading
- exploitation of resources or submission to the natural laws and rhythms of the land
- holding-on with clenched fists or generosity with open hands
- Grinch-like attitudes or God-like dispositions
- incessant criticism or heartfelt tribute
- blaming or recognizing other’s contributions
- shame or vulnerability
- bitterness or forgiveness
- resistance to correction or acceptance of discipline
- hate or love
- judgment or grace
There is always a fork in the road. And standing at those intersections of life, we must choose whether to take the difficult path of wisdom, or amble down the broad highway of foolishness.
The two paths will lead to either life or death, joy or despair, hope or disappointment, faith or fear.
How will you choose? Which way will you go?
Choose wisely, my friend.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.