Again ,remember the purpose of the Proverbs is to confront people’s propensity toward foolishness and to guide them in growing maturity toward wisdom. It assumes that wisdom could be taught and one did not need to live a train wreck of a life in order to wake up to reality. It also assumes that one could actually “acquire skill” in living life. Wisdom, at its foundational level, is the ability to see the “grain” of how God made life (reality) and to live consistent with it. This, the ancients believed, would lead to a life of flourishing, individually and communally.
Israel’s teachers were very aware that in gaining wisdom, people were all over the spectrum – some more foolish than others while others were simple, unskilled, or untutored (peti or pethi). With the simple, while there was a willful spirit underneath, there was a corresponding openness to be taught. Increasing foolishness was connected to pride as one’s willful spirit overruled the desire to be taught. So there was an intentional “older” person tutoring the “younger” seen in raising children as well as mentoring.
In folk stories, the simple person was the village idiot who was foolish, dull, and maybe mentally
challenged. However, in Hebrew thinking the simple person was merely the untutored in life. With guidance, this person could become wise as they listened to their tutor and implemented his instructions as it pertained to life. Proverbs 1:4 calls this “prudence” which according to Tremper Longman is, the ability to use one’s reason, in a given context, guided by the fear of God, to help one navigate through the complexity of life.
While the simple person describes a naive child or a young Christian in today’s language the problem is most of us is we cannot claim to be simple. Unlike the child however who passes from childhood to adolescence, passing from simplicity to becoming wiser does not happen naturally. Simplicity is dealt with by forsaking it and making the right choice to get on the road to wisdom.While the child can claim, “I honestly don’t know”, most of us have had enough experience with life, with God, and with ourselves that we have seen our will overrule our desire to be taught.
That said, here are a few questions that flow out of reading Proverbs 1-2…
1. Are you willing to put yourself under another’s instruction to learn how to live life in a way that God has constructed it?
2. Do you have a desire to learn? With as much access as we have today to good, solid instruction, is there a thirst to learn not only for the goodness of knowledge but to become a particular kind of person who can navigate through the complexity of life well?
3. Do you find yourself putting off #1 and #2 because you’re young and have “plenty of years to get serious with God”? Do you find yourself attempting to plead “ignorance” because you just don’t want to put the energy into learning? Now you have “graduated” into the category of fool…
One of the best decisions I made early on as a Christian (and it even travels with me today) was to leave my pride at the door and put myself under the godly care and counsel of men – those up close and those at a distance. Sam Williams, Eric Swanson, Walt Henrichsen, Dallas Willard, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller. But even this was intended to put me ultimately under the discipleship yoke of Jesus whose constant invitation is,
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you shalom. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find shalom for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)