Don't be a Fool!!

“Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel: to know wisdom and instruction, to understand sayings of understanding, to gain insightful instruction, righteousness, justice, and equity, to give shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and purpose to the young, may the wise hear and increase learning, and the one who understands gain direction, to understand a proverb and an expression, words of wisdom and their riddles. Fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction, fools despise.”—Proverbs 1:1-7 LEB

     In praying and preparing for the upcoming year, it hit me: what better way to get ready for it than by kicking it off with Proverbs? Personally, I long for understanding and wisdom. I yearn for instruction and insight; and I crave knowledge, purpose and an increase in my own learning. I find that my soul longs for direction and knowing what God wills for my life in all its areas. Yet, I know that while I may pray all day, I will only come to understand God’s will by staying in His Word and doing what He desires of me.

     I’ll go ahead and let you in on a fact about my life: I have struggled with instruction, wisdom and learning. Truth be told, I still struggle with it. It’s humorous to me when my wife or even close friends express their view of how smart they think I am because the majority of the time that’s not how I’ve ever felt inside my head. In fact, I spent a large portion of my youth being told how dumb and stupid I was. There were special education classes that I had to attend in elementary school, which were held in this trailer on the property. Keep in mind this was back in the nineties, too. Things were not as PC back then, and all of us can imagine how it went. Short bus, LD, and “special” were terms not unknown to me; however, stupid and dumb were things I heard almost daily. Those words became part of the inner self-talk that developed within me. Interestingly, there’s debate today as to whether I was ever even actually dyslexic, learning impaired or needed those classes to begin with. But, that is a whole other story! The fact remains that it had a lasting impression on how I see myself versus the way those closest to me perceive me.  

     From all of that, I still don’t really see myself as smart nor do I believe it when I am told that I am. It’s like, to me, I have what I have and that’s it. Add to that that I got locked up in the eighth grade and that was the last grade I completed before getting a GED in 2000, I have had others use that against me to make me feel like because I never went to high school, I am not as smart as everyone else. That started early on in prison, when I found myself with adults and was always made to feel like most teenagers do in predominantly adult conversations: what do you know?

     That probably helped lead me to the phase of reading a lot and going through the dictionary learning new words! Of course, I still had that middle school mentality of having to use those words whenever I wrote. Honestly, I probably read or heard somewhere that an extensive vocabulary was a sure sign of intelligence. So, ever eager to prove myself, there I was scouring the dictionary. Admittedly, half of the words I could not even pronounce in a real-world setting. I recall butchering aurora borealis so bad that borealis sounded like bore*uh*leeze. Once corrected, I went on saying it right. But, that happened more than once. Don’t even get me started on lethargic. I butchered saying that one ten times worse than borealis. Yet, realistically, only finishing out the eighth grade and then getting a GED in prison had its own learning curve and then there was the fact that I was in prison. It is a different world in and of itself.

     Something similar occurred when I wrote the Christian Fiction novel The Hand of Refuge. I was probably only a year out when I wrote it and from the years of my trying to “fix the stupid” that I felt and be smart, I used a lot of words in that book that were simply not needed. Once it was pointed out and I realized what that stemmed from, I began making a conscious effort to just write and eliminate words that I do not need to use. Let’s face it, big words are a hindrance to effective communication. Those insightful experiences have allowed me to realize that knowledge is knowing words, but wisdom is using them so that what we say is understood and received by those taking in our words in the most clear way possible.   

     All too often it’s easy to become entrenched in our own particular way of thinking and seeing the world. You can become entrenched in the knowledge you possess, be it from books or experiences, without seeing the best way to use it with wisdom. What we see here in Proverbs is that instruction, particularly insightful instruction is good!!  Much like if you had thought that borealis was pronounced bore-uh-leez, in your mind you may be right, but to those hearing you, they know you are not. It is no different than thinking that having an extensive vocabulary is an indication of being viewed as intelligent. Having a vast vocabulary is great if that is your goal. But, if your goal is to share your strength, hope and experience with somebody struggling and the person you are talking to has no clue what you’re saying because they don’t live in a dictionary, the result is not the realization of intelligence. The result is you showing a lack of wisdom by using words not best suited for the person you are talking with. This is where receiving instruction and being humble enough to accept it comes into play. The more open to the truth we allow ourselves to be, the more we’ll grow in knowledge and wisdom.

     The part in these verses that grabs my attention, though, is that Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Matt Chandler used an example in a Philippians series where he talked about this place that had goats and they told the people not to scare the goats because they would lock their legs and fall over in a faint. Of course, he explained there were people there like me who went in after hearing all of that with one goal: scare the goats just to see if they would faint. Yes, Jesus is still working on me. Then, Matt asked what if it had been a lion in there instead of a goat; and he made a connection to the Lion of Judah, Christ Jesus and fear of the Lord that I had never thought of before: Most of us would never dare go into a room with a lion, much less go in to scare a lion like we would a goat. Why? Because we know that that lion could take us out. One wrong move, and—bam—we could be a snack.

     That same healthy respect we would have for a lion, due to being afraid, is the same healthy respect we should have toward God and the things of God. This has got me to thinking, what if I started looking at life and all those around me through having a healthy fear of the Lord; and choosing to obey what He says through the respect He deserves? What if we all did it? Now, understand what I mean by a healthy fear and worthy respect, in Matthew 10:28 Jesus instructs us not to be afraid of those who can kill our flesh, but to be afraid of the One who can kill our bodies and our souls in hell! God is the Ultimate Authority, not our friends or our clicks, but God. Do we respect Him like we should? Why not?

Until Next Time
God Bless


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