I Pity the Fool

A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
    but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
    but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
    he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
    while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
The righteous hates falsehood,
    but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
    but sin overthrows the wicked.
One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth,
    but a poor man hears no threat.
The light of the righteous rejoices,
    but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
    but with those who take advice is wisdom.
11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
    but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
    but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.
15 Good sense wins favor,
    but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
16 Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
    but a fool flaunts his folly.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
    but a faithful envoy brings healing.
18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
    but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
21 Disaster pursues sinners,
    but the righteous are rewarded with good.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
    but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
    but it is swept away through injustice.
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
    but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
    but the belly of the wicked suffers want.
– Proverbs 13:1-25 ESV

It is sometimes difficult to discover a consistent theme in these Proverbs because they appear to jump from topic to topic. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that these seemingly independent couplets are arranged in a somewhat topical fashion. Of course, the overarching theme has to do with wisdom and its antithesis, folly.

Solomon continues to contrast the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked, using simple-sounding statements to convey profound truths. His goal is to illustrate the fruit that accompanies each path. One way leads to life.

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life… – Proverbs 13:3 ESV

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life – Proverbs 13:14 ESV

The way of the righteous results in rich rewards.

…the soul of the diligent is richly supplied… – Proverbs 13:4 ESV

One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. – Proverbs 13:7 ESV

he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. – Proverbs 13:13 ESV

…the righteous are rewarded with good – Proverbs 13:21 ESV

A wise person is characterized by a teachable spirit.

A wise son hears his father’s instruction… Proverbs 13:1 ESV

…with those who take advice is wisdom. – Proverbs 13:10 ESV

whoever heeds reproof is honored. – Proverbs 13:18 ESV

The one who chooses the path of righteousness will find their desires fulfilled because they have sought the will and the way of God. By listening to and obeying His commandments, they will ultimately find themselves enjoying the fruit of their labors in the form of the blessings of God.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
– Proverbs 13:12 ESV

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
– Proverbs 13:19 ESV

As we saw in Proverbs 12, godliness is the byproduct of a vibrant and intimate relationship with God. The more time we spend with Him, the more often we obey Him; and the more dependent we become on Him, the more like Him we will become. Because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, and due to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to live godly lives – lives that are pleasing to and honoring of God. And the godly life not only has evidence that others can see, but it also comes with rewards. Godliness acts like a guard on our lives, providing us with wisdom for making good decisions, giving us the right words to say at the right time, and the insight on when to say nothing at all. Godliness gives us a hatred for lies and deception, a love for justice and truth, and a life filled with light and joy. Godliness gives us the insight to know that we are nothing without God, making us less prone to pride and more willing to seek advice and accept correction. The godly have a strong work ethic, not living with some sense of entitlement, expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. And their hard work not only satisfies their hunger, but it also fulfills their dreams. The godly have the innate ability to think before they act, protecting them from foolish acts, harmful words, and dangerous decisions. And while their life will not be free from trouble and strife, those things will be less likely the result of their own stupidity, rashness, and foolhardiness. Godliness brings wisdom and wisdom is both protective and attractive. The wise live lives according to God’s ways and, as a result, they attract the attention of others who long to have what they have.

Godliness isn’t some kind of unrealistic objective designed to make our lives miserable because it is unachievable. Godliness is attainable, enjoyable, laudable, and highly possible, not because of anything we do, but because of what Christ has already done. His death on the cross makes the life of godliness possible for all who place their faith in Him and Him alone. And not only do we get eternal life in return, complete with an irrevocable guarantee of a place in heaven someday; we get the promise of the rewards that come with a life of godliness lived out here on this earth.

And while we live our lives on this planet, we must constantly deal with counsel, criticism, and correction. The Proverbs talk about all three and remind us that those who are wise willingly and gladly accept each equally. But the reality for most of us is that, at best, we tolerate one of them and despise the other two. We will listen to counsel if we think it will benefit us or if it doesn’t vary too much from our preconceived plans. But criticism and correction are two separate matters. Nobody likes to be criticized. And few of us truly enjoy correction. But again, the wise are those who have learned the value of all three. Even a child can come to a place where they understand that their parents’ discipline is beneficial.

A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline, a mocker refuses to listen to correction. –  Proverbs 13:1 NLT

In the book of Colossians, Paul tells us that, as believers, we have a responsibility to admonish or warn one another as part of our corporate experience as believers.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. – Colossians 3:16 NIV

We all have blind spots, those areas of our lives that we’re unable to see, and it takes a loving brother or sister in Christ to point them out so we can confess them and be cleansed from them. Those who are wise embrace counsel and correction equally. They see the benefit of both.

People who despise advice are asking for trouble. – Proverbs 13:13 NLT

If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace. – Proverbs 13:18 NLT

Pretty serious stuff. Yet think about how often we reject the counsel, correction, and criticism of others. We may accept it with a smile, but inside we can be angry and resentful. We may even avoid that person in the future, refusing to allow them to speak into our lives. When we do, we are the losers. We miss out on the benefits God has intended. Even when someone criticizes us unfairly or wrongly, we should learn to accept it patiently and lovingly, understanding that God knows our hearts.

At the end of the day, our unwillingness to accept counsel, correction, or criticism is all about pride. Admitting our flaws, acknowledging our ignorance, or accepting our need for correction is hard on our egos. But the wise would rather increase in wisdom than worry about their pride. They would prefer to become more godly than simply pamper their egos with false flattery and pride-producing praise. Wise people know that it takes a true friend to tell you what you need to hear while everyone else avoids the subject like the plague. Wise people know that ignorance is NOT bliss, and what you don’t know CAN hurt you. Wise people know that criticism may hurt, but not as much as hypocrisy or lies disguised as praise. Wise people don’t just tolerate counsel, they seek it. They depend upon it. Counsel, criticism, and correction. Three invaluable resources in the toolbox of the wise. You can’t live well without them.

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