“I call to you, to all of you! I raise my voice to all people. You simple people, use good judgment. You foolish people, show some understanding. Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. Everything I say is right, for I speak the truth and detest every kind of deception. My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge. Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it." Proverbs 8:4 - 11 (NLT)
Simpletons and Fools
We have spent the last seven days talking about wisdom. We have learned how we can gain wisdom, walk in wisdom, and we’ve looked at ways we can be drawn away from wisdom into the darkness. In chapter 8, we are introduced to the simple (or simpleton in some translations) and the fool. Simple people, as referred to in Proverbs, are people who just do not know. They could be described as ignorant or unaware. Simple people act in certain ways because they don’t know any better. It is easy to ignore people who are simple, but it would do us well to remember that life experience is often the cure for the simple. Often, the passage of time and the use of caution help the simple navigate the world. We do not fault our children when they do not know something - we provide learning opportunities for them to learn and grow. We are all simple people in certain areas of our lives, and the progression to wisdom is not always a straight line.
Fools, on the other hand, are people who are more aware than the simple and bring about harm to others. Verse 5 tells us to "show some understanding" because fools will bring about tragedy to those in their wake. You know foolishness when you see it. Whether it's putting someone in physical harm from careless action or thinking foolishly about a situation, the fool usually brings about tragedy because that is how they learn. Proverbs 13:20 says "a companion of fools suffers harm." Solomon pleads with the readers to follow wisdom and to avoid the folly of the simpleton and the fool.
Plain and Simple
"My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge." Proverbs 8:9
Just because something is clear does not mean that it is not difficult. Consider the calling from Jesus to become a disciple. In the Gospels, we see Jesus call Matthew, Mark, and others to come and follow Him. When Jesus finds them by the shore, the Bible says that they dropped their nets and began to follow Jesus. It was a clear concept (“Come and follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19), but that does not mean that following Jesus was going to be an easy process. All of the disciples were essentially homeless during their times of ministry with Jesus. They left their jobs and homes to follow someone they did not really know. Then, they had to watch their master die on a cross and bury his body. It was not an easy journey, but the call on their life was clear. Jesus reminded His disciples many times that He would use them to build the church and begin a movement unlike anything else in the world. Normal people (you could even call them simple) changed the world by making a choice to follow Jesus.
Walking in wisdom is like becoming a disciple. We learn as we walk with the master. We move through life as a simple person, a fool at times, and even as a mocker (we will talk about the mocker more in the coming days), but we all have the chance to find and follow wisdom. Just like the disciples, Jesus is calling us to follow Him in the ways of wisdom today. So, how can you know whether you are following wisdom and not foolishness? Solomon makes it clear in verse 8 that the advice of wisdom is wholesome and that it is not crooked. If you have to talk yourself into taking the advice you want to believe to be right or if you need to make accommodations for why it's OK to follow a certain person or way of living, you might not be following wisdom. Wisdom is not crooked or hard to understand. It may be hard to exercise wisdom in our daily lives, but there is always simplicity and clarity in wisdom.
Reflect and Respond
Do you find yourself living as a simpleton? Are you living as a fool, making foolish decisions? On the other hand, are you walking with clarity and wisdom? Ask God to show you any areas in your life where you may need some wisdom. Ask Him to reveal to you someone who may be able to help you gain the wisdom you need for a particular situation you’re facing. Allow Him to lead you down the straight path and remove foolish thinking from your heart and mind.