The Path to Paradise

18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
    but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
    but the path of the upright is a level highway.
20 A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
22 Without counsel plans fail,
    but with many advisers they succeed.
23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
    and a word in season, how good it is!
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
    that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud
    but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
    but gracious words are pure.
27 Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household,
    but he who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
    but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
    but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
    and good news refreshes the bones.
31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor. 
– Proverbs 15:18-33 ESV

Uncontrolled anger, relational damage, self-inflicted trouble, parental disappointment, greed, godless words, unrighteous behavior, and abandonment by God. These are the sad and inevitable characteristics of the one who chooses to take the path of the fool. It looks so appealing and yet, according to Solomon, it doesn’t end well. The fool is like a car careening down a steep street without a driver. It makes plenty of headway but leaves a wake of destruction in its path as it does so. In the same way, fools tend to wreak havoc wherever they go. Their lifestyle is not only self-destructive, but it ends up doing inestimable damage to so many others along the way. And they don’t seem to care.

foolish children despise their mother. – Proverbs 15:20 NLT

They don’t literally despise their mothers. But their self-destructive actions end up bringing sorrow and hurt to those who love and care about them. A mother who is forced to stand back and watch as her foolish son self-implodes can’t help but feel hurt and saddened by the experience. This is a regular theme in Proverbs.

…a foolish child brings grief to a mother. – Proverbs 10:1 NLT

It is painful to be the parent of a fool – Proverbs 17:21 NLT

Foolish children bring grief to their father
and bitterness to the one who gave them birth. – Proverbs 17:25 NLT

The fool ends up developing so many disabling and self-destructive habits that the path of his life becomes virtually impassable and, getting to where he longs to be, becomes almost impossible.

The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns – Proverbs 15:19 ESV

Because the fool lacks godly wisdom, he ends up trying to navigate life without a map. He has no instructions and, therefore, no way of knowing which path to take. So, he chooses his own destination and ends up determining his own fate.

Fools think their own way is right… – Proverbs 12:15 NLT

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. – Proverbs 16:25 NLT

A fool is incapable of seeing that his path of choice leads to a dead end. From his perspective, he’s making progress but he doesn’t realize until it’s too late that his final destination is unexpectedly unpleasant.

In contrast, the wise individual finds their life’s journey to be far more pleasant and free from roadblocks.

…the path of the upright is an open highway. – Proverbs 15:19 NLT

Solomon is not suggesting that the wise are guaranteed the promise of a trouble-free life. Walking with God is not always easy. The road of righteousness can also have its potholes and pitfalls. But its final destination is certain. It ultimately leads to a pleasant place that God has prepared for all those who faithfully follow His divine directions. Yet, Solomon points out that a fool lacks the discernment to realize his path is a dead end.

Foolishness brings joy to those with no sense… – Proverbs 15: 21 NLT

They say, “Ignorance is bliss.” There is a certain degree of truth to that maxim. The saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” is partially true. Not knowing what lies at the end of the path can be a good thing – for a while. The journey itself can actually be quite enjoyable but eventually, reality will set in. But along the way, the fool can have the time of their life. It can feel like a non-stop party as they make unscheduled stops and take unexpected detours to see all the tempting sights. But Solomon reminds us that “a sensible person stays on the right path” (Proverbs 15:21 NLT).

The fool, never realizing that they’re lost and headed in the wrong direction, refuses to ask for directions.

Plans go wrong for lack of advice… – Proverbs 15:22 NLT

They’re too arrogant and self-assured to seek counsel. Even if they realize they’re lost, they can’t bring themselves to admit it. So, they stubbornly stay on the path they’ve chosen for themselves, refusing the input of others and further ensuring their eventual failure. And Solomon provides a not-so-subtle hint as to the far-from-pleasant outcome of their ways.

The path of life leads upward for the wise;
    they leave the grave behind. – Proverbs 15:24 NLT

The choice is either life or death. It’s as simple as that. And what determines one from the other is wisdom. And wisdom begins with a healthy reverence for God and His ways. What the fool fails to realize, to his own detriment, is that He has God as his enemy.

The Lord tears down the house of the proud… – Proverbs 15:25 NLT

The Lord detests evil plans… – Proverbs 15:26 NLT

The Lord is far from the wicked – Proverbs 15:29 NLT

This is serious business. Foolishness is not some kind of alternative lifestyle that is harmless and free from ramifications. Solomon is not describing some innocent free spirit who is simply trying to live life on his own terms. He is revealing the ultimate outcome of all those who refuse to honor God and live according to His righteous commands. The fool is a synonym for the godless. Solomon’s own father, King David, described the fool this way:

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! – Psalm 14:1 NLT

Fools are actually arrogant and, ultimately, atheistic in their outlook. They live as if God doesn’t even exist. They know His commands but refuse to obey them because they have determined He has no power over them. The psalmist put it this way:

The wicked are too proud to seek God.
    They seem to think that God is dead.
Yet they succeed in everything they do.
    They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
    They sneer at all their enemies.
They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
    We will be free of trouble forever!” – Psalm 10:4-6 NLT

They live in a state of perpetual denial, dismissing the reality of God and denying the deadly fate that lies at the end of their chosen path.

The wicked think, “God isn’t watching us!
    He has closed his eyes and won’t even see what we do!” – Proverbs 10:11 NLT

But oh, how wrong they are. God does see, and He does repay the wicked for their ways. He does mete out justice upon the fool. Those who spurn the Lord may appear to enjoy a modicum of success but their days of fun and games are numbered. One day, they will have to answer for their choices. And Solomon warns that all those who reject the loving discipline of God will come to regret their decision.

If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself;
    but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. – Proverbs 15:32 NLT

According to Solomon, “Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom…” (Proverbs 15:33 NLT), and wisdom results in a lifestyle that is life-preserving, joy-filled, other-oriented, and God-honoring. The fool is perfectly free to choose his own path, but he cannot determine his own destiny. That is up to God. But the one who chooses the way of the wise finds himself on the highway that leads to godliness and holiness.

The path of life leads upward for the wise – Proverbs 15:24 NLT

That life will have its ups and downs and peaks and valleys, but the trajectory is always upwards. It leads to a final destination that features joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment, peace, and an unbroken, never-ending relationship with the God of the universe. And that’s a path only a fool would avoid.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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