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. (Prov. 14:13-18 NIV)
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.
In this proverb we see the dilemma of what NT scholars speak of as the already/not yet tension. We rejoice in what we have in Christ already, but our ongoing sinfulness and weakness teaches us that we do not yet have everything that God has in store for us. I have mentioned before that two of the happiest times I have experienced in the last few years was when our family and extended families were together on two occasions. I quietly reflected the sense of joy and happiness that I was feeling. I wished I could have captured that moment. There was also a slight sense of sadness that soon the moment would be over and how long it would be until we could do this again. CS Lewis talks of ‘stabs of joy’. He meant they come suddenly but soon they are gone. This is the kind of thing that the Teacher is explaining. The opposite is also true we can turn from laughter to tears very quickly. We need to be cautious here because there is a brand of evangelicalism that is very sombre, and they feel that laughter is frivolous and that seriously minded people should not laugh. Humour is a marvellous gift that God has given us and there are ample examples of humour in the Bible. We should not be afraid to laugh or cry, and it is therapeutic to have a laugh at yourself. It is a problem if we take ourselves too seriously. Remember how we used to meet once per month for our Sunday lunch in the church and sometimes enjoy a laugh together, and of course get to know each other better and to have serious conversation as well. That is enjoying being together and laughter is a vital part of that.
14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways,
and the good rewarded for theirs.
To every action there are consequences and outcomes. The Teacher reminds us here that we must all give an account for our ways. In view here is the character and destiny of the faithless and the good. The faithless will receive payment in full, the good will be rewarded in an abundance beyond what they deserve.
15 The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps.
The people described as simple are not people who are unintelligent. Rather, they have not learned wisdom. Because of the lack of wisdom, they are gullible and will believe anything. There is a lesson for us all here. Be careful not to believe everything that you read on the Internet. Looking at a number of websites is not the same things as research. The Internet browsers will keep a record of what you are looking at and they will send you more links to information that is similar to what you have read. Before long you will have a list of people who are talking about the same conspiracy theory, or the same doctrine. Test everything by the wisdom of God’s word. The person who is prudent will test whatever ideas he follows after. He gives thought to his steps.
16 The wise fear the LORD and shun evil,
but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.
The NIV has added here ‘the Lord’ whereas the text should read, ‘The wise fear and shun evil.’ In keeping with the theme of Proverbs the wise do fear the Lord, as perhaps that is part of the fear that the Teacher has in mind, but there is a broader meaning here. The wise fear the consequences of evil and that causes them to shun it. It can always be said that they fear the Lord and therefore shun evil. The fool is different. He is hotheaded, arrogant and careless. He does not fear the consequences and certainly does not fear the Lord. The fool lacks knowledge and has a false security. He trusts in his own estimation and is outspoken about his confidence, but it is entirely misplaced.
17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things,
and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.
A quick temper is a sign of an undisciplined person. Things are done in instant response and they are almost always foolish. The anger may be well founded but it can be out of proportion to the offence, or the anger can come because the situation hasn’t been understood properly and wrong conclusions have been made. A little more time, a little more personal reflection, seeking the views of others, may all avoid a foolish impulsive response. The first line speaks of a quick response, the second line is the more complex plan to do evil. The Lord hates evil schemes and so should the Lord’s people.
18 The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
Those who have refused to learn wisdom remain simple and untaught. Their inheritance for their lack of wisdom is folly. The prudent man is surrounded by the knowledge of the Lord. Knowledge of the Lord brings honour to the upright.
Lord help us to live in the fear of the Lord and in the fear of the consequences of sin. Sin robs us of our joy. In a world where the boundary lines between right and wrong are blurred, help us to be discerning and choose and love what is right because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.