Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Vigilance of thought is one of the most challenging yet most rewarding aspects of a believer’s life. The thoughts and plans we have will reveal what is truly in our hearts. To lead a life that is constantly focused on defrauding others or finding ways to exploit relationships is one that is bound to fail. In this proverb, Solomon illustrates this way as “folly.”
According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon, this type of individual demonstrates characteristics of always being morally bad, one who:
- despises wisdom & discipline
- Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
- Proverbs 15:5 – A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
- mocks at guilt
- Proverbs 14:9 – Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.
- is quarrelsome
- Proverbs 20:3 – It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
- is licentious
- Proverbs 7:7, 10, 21-23 – and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, … And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. … With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
- it is folly and useless to instruct him
- Proverbs 16:22 – Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
- Proverbs 27:22 – Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.
All of this speaks to the foolishness of the one who rejects wisdom and discipline. The proverb goes further, though, and explains that fools are deceiving. They will operate from a base of deception and exploitation of the weakness of others. Their continual mode of operation is selfish gain with no regard for the harmful effects on others. This in itself is a mode of self-deception, as well; thinking one can always simply manipulate a situation for their own gain.
By contrast, those believers who are vigilant in all their ways will seek to avoid these dead-ends of life by “discerning their way.” The Hebrew word for discerning means “to consider, perceive, understand, distinguish, have insight.” Just reviewing this list of words demonstrates that to discern one’s ways is a practice that takes time and careful thought. Fools may rush in, as the old saying goes, but it’s the wise who take their time to review the consequences of their actions. Only then will they take the appropriate course of action.
One of the key benefits of this practice that I have seen in my own life is having peace about momentous decisions which need to be made. When I feel pressured to make a big decision about something, whether it is a large purchase or a career move, I have learned to ensure that I do not arrive at a hasty decision. Anything that presents itself as urgent immediately goes into a “consideration buffer.” Through meditation on God’s word and through prayer, the correct ways will ultimately present themselves.
The apostle Paul related this principle to the Ephesian congregation, as well.
Ephesians 5:15-18 – Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
He represents how paying careful attention to how a believer should walk involves understanding the Lord’s will and being filled with the Spirit. Being vigilant with our actions means that we are taking the time to involve God in all of our decisions in life. We are examples to others of how God’s goodness and mercy watch over us and protect us from every false way.
Psalm 119:103-104 – How sweet your word is to my taste — sweeter than honey in my mouth. I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.
Psalm 119:127-128 – Since I love your commands more than gold, even the purest gold, I carefully follow all your precepts and hate every false way.
Hating every false way means there is a high dependence on the truth of God’s word. If Paul related the days were evil in his day, how much more we need to vigilantly follow his advice, and the advice of Solomon and the Psalmist, today: “Pay careful attention as to how you walk, discerning your way, carefully following God’s precepts.”
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