There are two types of people in the world, wise and foolish. I have done some pretty foolish things in my life. One of the most memorable was starting a fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We had taken the youth group on a campout, and the next morning they were apparently super hungry. Once half of the bacon was prepared, I decided to allow the students to go ahead and eat. This, of course, required us to pray first. Every head was bowed, and every eye was closed. I was leading the group in prayer when one of my youth, who was ashamed that his eyes were not closed, interrupted me with the word “FIRE!” Yep, you guessed it…a grease fire right there in the National Park! I felt pretty foolish leaving an empty pan of bacon grease on a hot camp stove. I’m sure everyone can relate to doing something foolish. In that moment, we want to take off the shoes of the foolish and begin to walk in the shoes of the wise. So how do we learn to walk in those shoes? Today, we are going to look at some marks of a wise person and learn to walk where they walk. Our passage is in Proverbs. Though the entire Bible is filled with wisdom, Proverbs is the book of wisdom, as it shares wise sayings and truths.
He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.Rebuke is more effective for a wise man Than a hundred blows on a fool. An evil man seeks only rebellion; Therefore a cruel messenger will be sent against him. Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly. Whoever rewards evil for good, Evil will not depart from his house. The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.
Proverbs 17:9-15 (NKJV)
When this passage begins by talking about covering a transgression you may have thought like a cover up. Trying to get away with something you have done wrong. I see it as more of a burial. If we allow a transgression to die and be buried or put away from our minds, we are trying to reinstate peace with whoever we have offended or hurt. That is seeking love, letting our past stay in the past and looking forward. The next phrase was talking about rebuking verses a more physical punishment. Let’s be honest, it does not matter how many times we punish a fool; they will never learn their lesson…that’s why they are the fool. However, in contrast, a wise man only needs to be told he is wrong and he will learn from his lesson. In this part of our passage, I began to focus on how the instructor should maybe not waste his time on the fool, but then I shifted my focus to the one receiving the instruction. Each of us have a choice. We can walk in the shoes of the wise and listen and learn when that authority figure rebukes us, or we can walk as the foolish, refuse the instruction, and suffer consequence after consequence. I, again, have walked in both shoes and can tell you that to walk in wisdom is far less painful. So let’s be teachable and be open to learning.
Now, we come to this evil man that seeks rebellion. Honestly, I am unsure of the cruel messenger that is referenced here. It may be an angel that God sends, for we do know that vengeance is His and He will punish the wicked, or it may just be that evil associates with other evil and this lifestyle of rebellion will ultimately be the end of the fool. Regardless, it is understood that the evil rebellious man will not prosper. So, for you and I, it is better that we walk in the shoes of wisdom.
We will travel back to the National Park for the next phrase about the bear. God is saying that it would be better if we met a bear separated from her cubs than to meet a fool in his lack of good sense. This should be a clear message to us of how important it is to choose carefully those with which we associate. As a Youth Leader, I have seen the consequences in the lives of young people when they simply choose to hang with the wrong crowd. I am convinced that foolishness is contagious. God is telling us that it would be better to meet an angry bear in the woods than to meet with a fool. How much more clearly can God say, “choose your friends wisely?” The bear will kill this body, but the fool can cost you your soul.
When I read the next sentence, I thought about the saying, “what goes around comes around.” Rewarding evil for good would be like someone doing something nice for you, and you returning it to them with meanness. God said that the person who acted that way would have evil that would never leave their house. Simply put, you will reap what you sow. Don’t walk in foolishness by hurting those who try to help you, for God will not tolerate it. It may sound silly, but I know that, at times, we can be foolish and self-destructing to that very point. Don’t repay good with evil.
Another mark of wisdom would be an individual who would recognize an issue before it starts. God has called us to be peacemakers. Therefore, to walk in the shoes of wisdom we need to be watchful for the floods of strife and turmoil and do our best to defuse the situation before it explodes. Now for our last phrase, “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” I have seen this in the lives of Christians, and I have seen it in the church as well. We want to water down the faith. We want a feel good Gospel. Well, quite honestly and respectfully… GET OVER IT. To walk in the shoes of a true wise individual, we must understand that if the Bible says it is right, then we need to do it; and if the bible says it is wrong, then we don’t need to do it. Foolishness is trying to blur the lines and tell the sinner not to worry because it is ok to live how you want to. Foolishness is telling that Christian that is speaking the truth in love (now I do want to specify that we are to speak in love even while we are correcting) that he shouldn’t go around telling anyone how they should live. If you want to walk in that doctrine of foolishness, then I’d say it would be better to go back and meet that bear. We must stand for the truth. Now, we have looked at a lot and discussed a lot about the marks of wisdom and foolishness, but the bottom line is that we must all realize that God is calling us to walk in the shoes of wisdom. To do that, we are all going to have to take off the shoes of the foolish.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your wisdom that cries out to us. I pray that we can receive your wisdom and walk in that wisdom. I need to take off these shoes of foolishness, but they seem to be tied so tightly. God will you come and loosen these shoes. Give us the direction and discipline to walk in your guidance. Lead us and guide us each and every day. We pray this in the name of the Giver of Wisdom, Jesus Christ. Amen.