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Last week we saw the very destructive doctrine called backsliding. There is no example in Scripture to support what people have defined as backsliding. If you are saved, you’re a new creation and old things are passed away. We need to engage in the intentional process of discipleship and teach people how to walk with God and of course this absolutely means we must walk with God. This morning, we dive into several principles you have likely seen firsthand.
Take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 14:15-21.
Solomon talks first about the naïve. Sometimes we use the term naïve and innocent synonymously. Being naïve in Solomon’s mind is not the same thing. He says, “The naïve believe everything.” Let me remind you of his words in Pro. 1:22a when he said, “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?” This is an indication they like it where they are. These people are very susceptible to heresy because they believe whatever they’re told without explanation, proof, or convincing. Because he’s simple and has no real principles or standards within him, it’s easy to lead him down the wrong path. Naïve people believe whatever they are told regardless of how incredible it may be. They lack discernment; they don’t have a biblical worldview and are easily led into things that are not pleasing to God. All of us can be naïve at times, but that’s not what Solomon is talking about.
Let me throw this into the mix, people of influence must be very careful. If you’re in a supervisory position or a position of leadership, your position can be used for ill advised purposes. At the same time, if you’re under the authority of such a person, it might be very difficult to work in an environment where someone uses their position to exert any type of ungodly influence over you. What is really concerning is the theology some believe because someone else told them what to believe. Jesus said it this way and I imagine He shakes His head as He says, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” (Jo. 5:43) I firmly believe that if Jesus Himself told us something, there are people that would dismiss it. In fact, there things Jesus says in His Word that people totally dismiss, including those people that have been raised in church and claim a faith in Christ. Sound, solid, proven biblical principles somehow don’t apply to them. “But the sensible man considers his steps, a wise man is cautious and turns away from evil.” Guess what sensible means? Yep, wise. “Considers his steps” doesn’t refer to transportation. Someone with wisdom listens to what is said and evaluates it against the foundation of biblical truth. What is biblical is retained, what is not biblical is discarded. The one that possesses biblical wisdom exercises caution, he does not recklessly rush into anything. The wise person doesn’t want to do or say anything that would bring reproach on his Savior.
The contrast is of course, “A fool is arrogant and careless.” Nobody knows more than the fool. They won’t get hurt, won’t go broke, has no respect for the law, ignores the rules, won’t hurt anybody else, and doesn’t really care about any of that anyway. They lack wisdom and that causes them to do dumb things that we shake our heads at and ask, “How could they be so foolish?” They’re so foolish because they lack wisdom. “A quick tempered man acts foolishly.” This applies to everyone, not just men. You might call it acting out or showing out. In the South, we might call it acting the fool or having a hissy fit. This type of person has a very short fuse; the littlest thing sets him off. It can be slow service at a restaurant, getting cut off in traffic, getting a flat tire, or having slow internet. They say things they shouldn’t and they do things they shouldn’t. All of us have likely acted the fool at times and I am positive that when I have done that, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Not this guy. “A man of evil devices is hated.” 12:2 says that he, “devises evil.” This is the guy that uses underhanded tactics to get his way. He is unscrupulous, he doesn’t care who he takes advantage of as long as he remains ahead. This is the guy that holds a grudge. This is the guy that plots revenge. I remind you of Cain who killed Abel. Of this type of man Matthew Henry says, “There is no fence against him or cure for him.”
Is there a genetic connection to foolishness? If your parents are foolish, will you be foolish? It’s a good question given other characteristics that are passed down like physical traits, skills, talents, and mannerisms. Solomon says, “The naïve inherit foolishness.” Are our parents really to blame for our foolishness? Yes! And no. If we look at statistics, alcoholic parents tend to have children that will drink to excess. Kids that grow up in homes where there is drug use will tend to use drugs. These are general conclusions. We might conclude that these behaviors are inherited, but the reality is if we go back to the root cause of these behaviors it’s sin and we know for sure that is passed down. Rom. 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” So foolishness is passed on to generations, but the opposite is also true. If you’re raised in a loving, wonderful, God fearing home, the chances are greater that the children will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If the parents lead a life of authenticity for Christ, the chances are greater that the children will develop the same type of relationship. Let me be clear, there are no guarantees one way or the other. No matter how terrible a home you grow up in, Jesus can deliver you. No matter what type of cycle you’re in, Jesus can break it. “The naïve inherit foolishness, but the sensible are crowned with knowledge.” Sensible means having or showing common sense. Remember in Solomon’s mind, knowledge equals wisdom. Wisdom causes a person to do what is right while a lack of wisdom leads to foolishness.
Now a sign of the end times. “The evil will bow down before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.” This is more pointing to the ultimate judgment then it is day to day. There will come a time when evil ends. Our mission today is to point people to the hope of Jesus Christ so that people will turn from their wicked ways and turn to God. I know sometimes we can be impatient for judgment, but as I have said in the past, we typically only want quick judgment of others, not for ourselves. The times are drawing to a close and there are fewer and fewer opportunities for people to recognize Jesus as Messiah. We must be more focused on that truth. Here’s another reality you’ve seen. “The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many.” The word for hated here means shunned. This is not the way it should be, but it’s the way it is. There used to be a TV show on from 1984-1995 hosted by Robin Leach called, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” It looks like NBC is trying to revamp the show and Nick Cannon has been tapped to host it. It plays on the idea Solomon is telling us. People love rich folks because of the potential for what might come their way. Call them fair weather friends.
“He who despises his neighbor sins.” God does not want us to sin – ever. This goes along with the previous verse. That brings up a question I am often confronted with. Do we have an obligation to help poor people? That’s a very difficult question to answer and my answer is: it depends. The methodology used to define the poor in America is a dizzying array of facts, statistics, and research. In an often referred to passage in Scripture regarding the poor, Jesus has arrived in Bethany and is at the home of Simon the leper and He is approached by a woman with that famous alabaster box. She takes the box and breaks it and pours the precious ointment over Jesus’ head. The disciples got bent out over what they believed was a waste of resources. John’s account in Jo. 12 says that Judas was particularly vocal in raising the objection. He said, “Why was this perfume not sold for 300 dinarii and given to poor people?” 300 denarii was nearly a year’s wage. That’s a lot of money. On the surface, Judas’ idea was very commendable, but John tells us the real reason he was upset. Jo. 12:6 says, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned with the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” Jesus concluded the account by saying, “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.” (Matt. 26:11) People have used this passage to justify ignoring the poor in order to remain focused on our worship of Jesus. What Jesus is really saying is that man’s best efforts will not eradicate poverty.
That being said, it’s absolutely wonderful to help the poor. Solomon says, “But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.” Remember happiness is based on circumstances and we typically use joy and happiness synonymously. Helping someone that’s poor is rarely a permanent cure. You might be able to help them get passed the current situation. If Jesus said we’ll always have the poor with us, I assure you, we’re not going to solve the world’s poverty here this morning. Let me remind you that we must think eternally. If our primary responsibility is the make disciples, isn’t that where we should focus? If things are temporary here on earth, shouldn’t we focus on heaven? The short answer is yes, but we need to balance that with compassion and love. Helping others is a key component of our walk of faith.
Don’t believe everything you hear. Check things out, that’s what people of wisdom do. Foolishness can be inherited from your parents, but Jesus Christ can break that cycle by transforming you into His image. The poor will be with us always, but that doesn’t mean ignore them. Be intentional with the Gospel because that’s what can change eternity for a person.