1 The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
2 Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly,
but those who despise him are devious in their ways.
3 A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
but the lips of the wise protect them.
4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.
5 An honest witness does not deceive,
but a false witness pours out lies.
6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none,
but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.
7 Stay away from a fool,
for you will not find knowledge on their lips.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.
9 Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
10 Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.
14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways,
and the good rewarded for theirs.
15 The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps.
16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil,
but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.
17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things,
and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 Evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good,
and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor are shunned even by their neighbors,
but the rich have many friends.
21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
22 Do not those who plot evil go astray?
But those who plan what is good find[a] love and faithfulness.
23 All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.
24 The wealth of the wise is their crown,
but the folly of fools yields folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
but a false witness is deceitful.
26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
and for their children it will be a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
turning a person from the snares of death.
28 A large population is a king’s glory,
but without subjects a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
30 A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.
31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,
but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.
33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
and even among fools she lets herself be known.[b]
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin condemns any people.
35 A king delights in a wise servant,
but a shameful servant arouses his fury.
“But it is better to learn wisdom late than never learn it at all.”
The great detectives of literature all have one thing in common, one attribute that unites them as they move from mystery to mystery, from the theft of magnificent jewels to murders on a snow-capped train. These men and women parse out what is critical from what is conjecture. Their keen sense of focus informs their reasoning, and their reason informs their deduction.
Not so much with us. How often do you find yourself wrapped up in the wrong point of a story? Or how easy is it for you to become fixated on the tiniest detail of an undertaking, only to find yourself blowing by the main thrust of the whole endeavor?
Put another way, how many times do you end up at Home Depot per project?
These great sleuths that we spent our childhoods admiring had a method of evaluating a problem and coming to the proper conclusion. But here’s the caveat: they aren’t real people. We who are living and moving through real life have a reality we need to face about our ability to reason.
“There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.”
Our method of evaluation may be and usually is faulty. What is wrong may seem right, and the pathways leading to death are typically illuminated by crooked lights designed to entice your soul.
This is a truth all people acknowledge to some extent. If a person shows any discipline whatsoever, they see the truth in this Proverb.
Thinking of ‘right’ as ‘preferred’ helps to reveal the relatability behind this teaching. It is preferable to avoid exercise, but that way’s end is an unhealthy lifestyle. Getting revenge is preferable, but that way’s end is more troublesome. It is preferable to ignore yard work, but that way’s end is more work. It is preferable to flee from loving people selflessly, but that ends with broken relationships. Our method for evaluation is flawed.
Our natural senses cannot be trusted; we need a guide.
Thankfully, a guide is present in the book of Proverbs and the Scriptures as a whole. God lays out the best way to live life, which corresponds to His design for human flourishing. The more we live our lives in a way that matches this design, the better our lives are.
The ‘way’ that seems right may not only be misleading but so misleading that it goes entirely against God’s way. The ‘flesh’ is mentioned in Scripture (Rom. 8) and is probably best described by Dr. Victor Anderson of Dallas Theological Seminary as “A package of desires that goes against God’s design.” The flesh is present, working in our minds, as long as we are in our unrestored, earthly bodies. And it will, so long as we are alive, lead us away from God. This ‘way’ seems fitting because the flesh is convincing, but the ‘end’ is the way that leads to death.
The solution to the problem is a guide, someone whose senses can be trusted and whose wisdom is unimpeachable. Thankfully, we follow a Savior who is ‘The Truth.’ His Word and His way are reliable and trustworthy. How often do you immerse yourself in the Scriptures and work to emulate the behavior of Jesus? How has studying Proverbs changed the way you face intersections in your life? What are the areas of life that trigger your impulsiveness? Ask God to continue to reveal these areas and meet you in those moments with His wisdom.
Father, my feelings and inclinations have led me down the wrong path countless times. I need Your truth to inform my decisions. Please help me understand my blind spots and lead me back to Your Word when I face temptation and decisions. Amen.