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. (Prov. 14:7-12 NIV)
7 Stay away from a fool,
for you will not find knowledge on their lips.
In this proverb there is no contrast, but the second line expands on the first line. Proverbs often warns us about the importance of choosing the right set of friends. The warning is stark: stay away from a fool. There is no wisdom or knowledge in the heart of a fool and therefore there will be no knowledge or wisdom expressed on their lips. We need to be careful who we allow to influence our attitudes and opinions. We have the same idea expressed in the NT:
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. (1 Cor. 5:11 NIV)
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.
It is important to note that the prudent person, the one with knowledge and wisdom, still has to go through the constant process of examining their ways. They have to give thought to their attitudes and to their words. At times it is also prudent to ask trusted friends if you have adopted a reasonable attitude to a situation. It is prudent to seek the perspective of others whom you can trust. In contrast the fool’s way is the way of deception. He deceives himself and he deceives others. The self-deception is that he is convinced that his way is right. He would never dream of asking anyone else for advice because he is convinced that he knows best.
9 Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
Fools mock at the idea of making amends for sin. Some stubborn fools won’t ever apologise because they are convinced that it is a sign of weakness. Many mock the action of confession of sin or repentance. They feel that always thinking of our sin is to constantly debase ourselves. In the company of the upright there is not a mocking attitude. There is a sense of goodwill and an acceptance of the right way of doing things, and that making amends for sin is an acceptable action to take. This also acknowledges that the upright do sin and that they have to repent before God and people, and that they should endeavour to undo the harm and hurt that their sin has caused.
10 Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
This is quite a melancholy proverb. While we are social beings and live in families and communities this proverb shows us the individuality of the human heart. It is true that no one can perfectly understand the sorrows and joys of the individual. We can all sympathise and enter into the sorrows and joys of others at some level, but to say we know exactly what a person is feeling runs the risk of undermining the depth of what they are experiencing. Usually we don’t even understand our own hearts fully. When we try to explain to someone else how we are feeling, we sense that we have given only a snapshot of what is going on and we fear that we will have been misunderstood. The comfort of prayer is that even if we can’t find the proper words to express to God how we feel, or even if we say the wrong thing, we know that God knows fully and it is a great comfort knowing that God knows.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
In the end, the house of the wicked will be destroyed. That house could be a small shack or a mighty empire, it simply will not last. Many authoritarian leaders amass a fortune for themselves, some of them jerrymander the electoral system to ensure that they are perpetually in office. They never get a chance to enjoy the ill-gotten fortune that they have embezzled from the people. They may set things up to ensure family succession but on the scale of things that only lasts a short time. In the end God will put down that rule and the wicked will give an account for every wrong action. If all the upright have in life is a tent, that will flourish. It will so flourish that it will become more that a tent. God will gather His people around Himself and acknowledge that He is our God and that we are His people.
12 There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.
There is a wicked way that appears to be right. Many people are convinced that it is the only way, and they will legislate and dominate social media to ensure that no objection can be made or heard of what they believe is right. In the end it leads to death because God will exercise His control and establish righteousness. The appearance of right, or making something to appear as right, if it is not based on what God has revealed in His word then its destiny is already settled.
Lord give us wisdom so that we can discern the difference between what is right and what merely appears to be right. The distinction between right and wrong used to be clearer. Help us to see through the arguments that promote sinful behaviour as the new liberated norm. Help our children to be discerning and to know exactly what Your word says about life and liberty. Lord preserve Your people because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.