A Fool’s Wisdom

foolYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week, talked about budgeting – don’t spend what you don’t have. The foolish man doesn’t think about tomorrow and what might be needed, he simply spends all he has. Righteous people pursue God and find life. Wisdom is the conqueror over strength. Be careful what you say and sometimes not saying anything is the best. Don’t be foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter how you approach a holy and perfect God. He will not accept sacrifices offered with evil intent. This morning, we’ll get some clues in identifying wickedness as well as seeing how foolish it is to go against God.

I hope you’ll take the time to read Pro. 21:29-22:4 so you know where we are.

We begin with a question. How can you spot a wicked man? Solomon says, “A wicked man displays a bold face, but as for the upright, he makes his way sure.” Bold face is not a likely description that people would use these days. It literally means makes firm with his face. It gives us the idea that the wicked man does not show anything on his face. He doesn’t blush, his face doesn’t get red when he’s angry. You can’t read this guy and he uses that to get his way.  But the upright or righteous man seeks God and determines to follow Him. Other versions translate that last phrase as, “gives thought to his ways.” That’s consistent with what we have seen in Proverbs, It’s not about following your own path, but about following the path God has set before you. When you truly seek God, that’s one and the same direction.

How smart is God? Solomon says, “There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the Lord.” I searched Google for the smartest people in the world and found a list of really smart people. I learned that the average IQ in America is between 90 and 100. Individuals with IQ scores between 160 and 165 are considered extraordinary geniuses, and those with scores of 145 to 179 are considered geniuses. The person with the highest IQ is Australian born Chinese American Terence Tao with a verified IQ of 230. If you stack up Terence’s smarts against God, you will come up dreadfully short. It is foolish and unwise to go against God. Even though there seems to be progress made in things that are anti-Christ, don’t let that fool you into thinking there is victory against God. There is no success when you go against God. People think they’re so smart and yet Solomon says, “There is no wisdom, no understanding and no counsel against the Lord.” Ps. 2:1-6 speaks to this pretty clearly. It’s no use to battle against the Lord.

Solomon goes on to say, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” This is connected to the previous verse. The horse was used in battle, but before you go fighting, you have to make sure the horse is ready. The same holds true for foot soldiers and holds true in modern warfare. Remember the context in which this was written. We’re talking about Israel here. God was very involved with guiding Israel to battle. God can win without armies, but armies cannot win without God.

What’s in a name? I don’t know if this applies today, but back in the day, your reputation meant a lot. There is power in names. When I was in high school, if you heard that someone had a bad reputation, you would immediately draw some conclusions. It doesn’t matter when in history you are, you hear names that will evoke certain emotions. Most recently, you hear names like Trump or Clinton and it immediately brings out the worst in people. The name Jesus Christ has evoked much emotion over the course of history as well. People use the Lord’s name in jokes, in cursing others, or in ritualistic incantations. There is definitely power in a name and there is one name that is above all other names. Phil. 2:9-11 says, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That’s some real power!

“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” Solomon uses his favorite writing style of contrasting two things. In this case, it’s the reputation of a good name and wealth. You’ve heard of name dropping? That goes off the principle Solomon is sharing. People drop names in hopes of getting out of trouble or gaining favor or impressing someone else. Just because you know someone, doesn’t really mean anything. The difference as we have already seen, is when you personally know Jesus Christ. How do you get that good name?        Follow wisdom. No matter what tax bracket you’re in, “The rich and poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” Solomon has gone to great lengths to draw parallels to wisdom and riches and poverty and foolishness. The bottom line is that God is still the Maker of them all. Job 34:19 referring to God says, “Who shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they all are the work of His hands?” Rich or poor, good or bad, wicked or righteous, the Lord is maker of everyone. This is really a blessing too. You don’t have to do anything to gain favor from God. 1 Tim. 2:5 reminds us, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Solomon continues by saying, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.” This is similar to what Solomon said back in Pro. 14:16: “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.” Prudent means acting with or showing care and thought for the future. The person that thinks ahead can see the potential evil. It might not be wickedness or evil, it might be temptation. If you know you’re prone to spend money you don’t have, when you go shopping, make a list of things that you need to have and only buy those items. If you know you have a tendency to watch YouTube video after YouTube video, then you might want to set a time limit or avoid YouTube all together. If you find yourself getting sucked into Facebook and the time gets away from you, the prudent person establishes boundaries. That’s all that Solomon’s saying. Prudent people recognize the potential problems and take action to minimize the impact. “The naive go on, and are punished for it.” These are the people that want to go to the beach during a hurricane. These are the people that when the tornado siren goes off, they go outside to look at it. Don’t be that guy.

Here’s some generalities. The next verse cannot be applied to a specific individual, but is a generally applicable principle. “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.” We definitely see exceptions when we think of our brothers and sisters suffering for their faith all around the world. The guiding principle is humility. You’ve probably heard it said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” (Muhammad Ali) So, let’s put humility in perspective. According to Google dictionary, humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. Humility is a part of God’s character and is a quality to emulate. Ja. 4:6 says, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  What is curious in Scripture is that we get to see both sides of God. Let me highlight a few examples.

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” (1 Chron. 29:11)

“For the Lord Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth.” (Ps. 47:2)

“There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might.” (Jer. 10:6)

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God.” (Is. 45:5)

God is greater than everything else and we have already seen that at the very mention of His name, people will bow down yet there is another side to Him. Paul spoke of Christ’s meekness and gentleness. (2 Cor. 10:1) In Matt. 11:29, Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Speaking of Christ in Phil. 2:8, Paul said, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Muhammad Ali would later say, “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” There are great people in the world, but they don’t tell people how great they are; it’s is recognizable. The reward for true humility, “Are riches, honor and life.” These riches may not be financial riches. There lots of truly humble people that love Jesus and live in poverty. These riches are seen in the immeasurable grace and mercy we receive in this world. Followers of Christ are rewarded with eternal life through the covenant of grace.

Solomon gave us some clues on identifying a wicked man. He also told us there is no one with the intelligence or smarts to go against God. It’s no use to battle against God either. Names can evoke a lot of emotion and God says there is power in the name of Jesus. Having a good name in the community is better than riches. Rich or poor, everyone belongs to God in the sense that He is the Creator. Prudent people pay attention, but fools do not. It’s good to be humble and recognize that whatever greatness you may have on this earth is because God has given it to you. The riches may or may not be material, but the reward is assuredly eternal life in the presence of God.

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Wicked Destruction

DestructionCheck out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon told us to be afraid in an awesome reverent manner when it comes to God. We know it’s the beginning of knowledge which leads to wisdom. People who are quick tempered are foolish, but the one that is slow to anger reflects great understanding. Envy and jealousy will rot you from the inside out. Extend grace to the poor because that honors God. This morning, Solomon gives us some more comparisons between the wicked and the righteous.

Pro. 14:32-35 says, The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies. Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the hearts of fools it is made known. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.

Here’s a sure thing. In our first verse, Solomon tells us with certainty that, “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” There is something important here that I don’t want you to miss. Solomon has firmly established that there is no good in wicked people. You can be good by the world’s standards and wicked by God’s standards. The wicked do what the wicked do because they are unregenerate human beings. Sin sticks to them so closely that you cannot separate it. However, the Bible provides us with the formula to become unwicked. That process begins with the Gospel. Even though the vast majority of people in America believe in God or believe that God exists, it does not mean that they have a relationship with God. Everyone has a father, but you may not have a relationship with him. The relationship develops as you spend time with one another and relate to one another. The father can pursue the son all day long, but if the son refuses, there can be no relationship.

The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies.” We’ve established that the righteous are righteous because of Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20) The righteousness of God is given to us through our faith in Jesus Christ. We are not righteous in and of ourselves, but because of Christ. This is called imputed righteousness. Because of this, we have a refuge, a safe haven, a safe place called heaven. We look forward to it, but it’s not to be viewed as an escape. It’s not that we are excited about being dead. Assisted suicide, euthanasia, and suicide are not to be used as a means to get to heaven quicker in order to avoid the heartache of living in a fallen world. Sometimes you hear this veiled when people say that you have a right to die with dignity. That kind of teaching is not consistent with Scripture. Job 14:5 says, Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.” Heaven is a refuge to those that trust in Christ, but there is work to be done while here. You have a mission to complete and you cannot bypass the responsibility God has given to you. Notice Solomon didn’t say anything about a refuge while alive. Paul declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

Do you have to let everyone know how smart you are? In the next verse Solomon says, “Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the hearts of fools it is made known.” There is a difference in knowing it all and being a know it all. I admit I sometimes have trouble not answering questions when in a group setting. “Wisdom rests in the heart” is a great phrase. Remember when referring to the heart in Scripture, the Bible rarely means the organ. Rest means cease work or movement in order to relax or recover strength. I may have over analyzed this, but here’s the way I’m thinking. Knowledge is good and when it shifts from simply knowing something to applying it and living it out, it transforms into wisdom. The heart is where that wisdom grows and gets stronger. Some people want to get smarter and smarter and more knowledgeable, but for Solomon, that’s not the goal. I encourage you to read 2 Tim. 3:1-9. The goal of knowledge is to increase in wisdom and that takes place in the heart. All that to say that when you are biblically wise, you don’t need to tell people about it. It will be obvious to those who come into contact with you. He says this because, “in the heart of fools it is made known.” In order for a fool to recognize wisdom, you must thrust it upon them. The wise man doesn’t need to tell everyone how wise he is; people will see it. For the fool, even when wisdom stares him in the face, he doesn’t recognize it.

What was obvious in the past is now uncommon. When we evaluate the history of the Unites States, I think the next verse has been very applicable to us as a nation. “Righteousness exalts a nation.” In the grand scheme of the world, America is young. At 239 years old, we think we have always been around. Compared with South Sudan (July 2011), the newest country in the world, we are old. Since righteousness exalts a nation, we have to ask the question, what is right? Greek poet Hesiod (800 B.C.) said, “A nation’s real greatness consists not in its conquests, magnificence, military or artistic skill, but in its observance of the requirements of justice and religion.” When you evaluate the reasons countries are actually formed, that statement really rings true. The country of Sudan had been embroiled in a 22 year civil war where people in the south were oppressed and marginalized by the government. The people of the south are largely non-Arab and Christian people while people in the north are mainly Arab and Muslim. So the southern people fought for years to break free and finally liberated themselves and became South Sudan. The history of the world is truly fascinating.

When you evaluate the rightness of a nation, we have to evaluate it by the rightness of God. You have likely heard at some point America referred to as a city on a hill. While this is a warm and fuzzy sentiment, that’s not what Jesus was referring to in Matt. 5:14 in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was speaking to Israelites that had gathered outside of Jerusalem. The geographic location for the Sermon on the Mount is a literal hill on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. God had chosen this nation of people to be His people. He gave them an incredible promise in Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) God told Moses, “You shall be My own possession among all the peoples.” (Ex. 19:5) To Isaiah God said, “I will make you a light of the nations so that my salvation will reach to the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:6) The rightness of a nation is in the people that are in the nation. You see this in the good deeds a nation does. In fact, in that same city on a hill message Jesus gave, He said to the people assembled, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13) We don’t do good works for the sake of good works, but to point people to God. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

A nation exalts God when it does what is right in God’s eyes. The opposite is also true. “But sin is a disgrace to any people.” I think many people recognize the atrocities committed in the name of power. Hitler massacred 17 million people including 6 million Jews and 250,000 gypsies. Saddam Hussein massacred 2 million of his countrymen. While there might not be any modern day leaders like Hitler, there are ongoing atrocities in countries like Sudan, Eritrea, North Korea, Nigeria, as well as numerous others. That is an appropriate application, but Solomon is talking about Israel. Ps. 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Israel’s history is filled with trouble a plenty. Following their departure from Egypt, Israel had some issues. I encourage you to read what they were doing as Paul relates it in 1 Cor. 10:6-11.

Solomon closes out the chapter in v. 35, “The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.” Remember Solomon is king of Israel as he writes so he’s speaking from a personal perspective. There is no shame in serving another. Many people are in the serving business. From police, firefighters, and emergency responders to all medical professionals. From the hospitality industry to utilities. It’s hard to think of a single occupation that does not provide a service. Each of us is in a position to serve. Being low on the totem pole of responsibility does not diminish a person’s worth. Just because a person is not in a leadership position, doesn’t mean he’s not valuable. When you have a servant or putting it in a modern context – employee – that acts in a responsible, respectful, proper manner, the leader or supervisor is pleased. When you have someone that acts in the opposite manner, the boss gets upset.

The wicked of the world will get what’s coming to them by a just and perfect God. God is our refuge and our safe haven. That doesn’t guarantee that we will be free from harm, suffering, or hardship, but it does mean that God is always there right beside us. As Christ followers, we have a responsibility to act righteously and that brings glory to God. Be an excellent servant – employee – because that also brings God glory. Jesus even modeled this for us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matt. 10:45)

The Shotgun Approach

ShotgunYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we enjoyed a wonderful Easter service as we celebrated the risen Savior. When we were last in Proverbs, we learned that wicked people are generally defined as those without a relationship with Christ. The memory of the blessed will be remembered fondly, but the names of the wicked will rot. Wise people want to be wiser and welcome instruction. Solomon said to stay on the path of righteousness and do not go astray. This morning, Solomon quickly gives us 14 principles to adapt to our lives and they are going to come fairly fast so let’s hang on.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read our passage found in Pro. 10:18-32.

Here we go. V. 18 really goes with the previous section, but it seemed more appropriate to include it here with v. 19-21. Solomon is not saying put your hatred out in the open. When you inwardly hate someone, but try not to show it, you’re a liar. It’s not okay to hate people and you can’t excuse it by convincing yourself that at least your honest about your hatred. Notice the second phrase is connected with the word “and” so it’s not a contrast. The word slander is better translated stupid. Our speech may be the quickest identifier of what’s in our hearts and when you’re together with someone you don’t like, it’s pretty obvious to everyone else. He’s saying when you hate someone, you’re forced to lie about it because you have to pretend you like the person. So the right thing is not to hate to begin with. Solomon continues with a principle you’ll hear time and time again in Proverbs as well as other parts of Scripture. When you talk all the time, Solomon is saying it’s next to impossible to avoid issues. This is the kind of person that has an opinion on everything, and is likely a self proclaimed expert on those topics. Always talking, but not really saying anything. They love to hear the sound of their own voice. They’ve been there. They were the first, the best, or the only. They ignore the two minute rule. Mark Twain is generally attributed to saying, “Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I think he likely got this principle from Proverbs.

This is particularly evident during times of national crisis. People express their opinion, but their opinion is not based on fact, research, or personal discovery. People think something just because they think it. Sometimes, it’s okay to say nothing, but when that principle is ignored, “transgression is unavoidable.” That means there will be trouble. The word translated transgression can also mean sin, rebellion, or breach of trust. Have you ever had a conversation that stated with, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but . . .” Lying lips sink ships is an old Navy adage. Don’t be a gossip! Here’s the opposite, “But he who restrains his lips is wise.” There is wisdom in listening. You know how frustrating it is to be in a setting where something is said and five minutes later, someone says the same thing because they weren’t listening? I just have to say this. No you don’t! Don’t think something needs to be said. Some more painting with a broad brush. “The heart of the wicked is worth little.” He didn’t say worth nothing. The contrast is, “The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver.” The word choice means tested by fire or purified and the phrase worth little means dross or the impurities that are removed during the purification process. This leads beautifully into v. 21, “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.” So when we put vs. 20-21 together we get a really vivid word picture. Words spoken with wisdom are worth their weight in silver. They are valuable, they are timeless, they are reliable, and they are useful. “The lips of the righteous feed many” because they speak the unchanging truths of the Word of God which is the bread of life which is Jesus Christ. The Word of God provides the spiritual food that is so necessary in satisfying the hunger of authentic believers. What comes from the abundance of the heart of a fool is worth little. Little substance, little value, little principle, little thought. If your heart is filled with biblical wisdom, that’s what flows out. If your heart is filled with nonsense, that also will come out. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools starve to death and that’s the way they want it.

Let’s talk about cash. Money is a theme repeated often in Scripture and Solomon has lots to say about it. Here he says, “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that money makes the world go round. Many people have their sights set on the world’s riches. We’re consumed with the idea of money and wealth. And it’s not necessarily that you’re rich as much as having people think you’re rich by what you have. By the car you drive, or the neighborhood you live in, or the school you went to. Even Christians have bought into these cultural definitions that are not exemplified in Scripture. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re rich and just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you’re poor. In God’s economy, money has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It is the blessings of God that make one rich. Shift your thinking to eternity. A couple of scriptural examples jump out at me. One is the rich man and Lazarus of Lu.16:19-31. The other is the widow that gave all she had in Luke 21:1-4.

Here’s another topic shift. Even though these seem random, it all flows together. In v. 23, Solomon conveys the total deprivation of the foolish. “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool.” They do it for pleasure, for fun, for enjoyment, for amusement. They sin for the fun of it without regard to right or wrong, without regard for consequence. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  This is a huge contrast. The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. 

There are such contrasts in this series of verses. As believers, we should be a vivid contrast to the worlds and its system of thinking.  I encourage you to think before speaking. Oh the problems that could be avoided by simply keeping our mouths closed! Pursue wisdom while she can be found.