The book of Proverbs describes two ways of living, wise and foolish, and occasionally personifies them as women both calling out for our attention. Wisdom says, “Let all who are simple come in here!” (Proverbs 9:4). Twelve verses later, Folly says, “Let all who are simple come in here!” (Proverbs 9:16)
Which call will we accept?
The very same words are used in both solicitations, but they mean two very different things. Wisdom invites the simple to join her at a table of abundant living. On the contrary, Folly entices “those who lack judgment” to join the dead “in the depths of the grave.”
How do we simple humans discern the difference between wisdom and folly when they call to us with the same words?
The short answer, also from Proverbs, is that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) If only it were that simple. Many Christians who presumably understand the fear of the Lord make fabulously foolish decisions (myself included), while people who have no fear of the Lord can and do behave wisely. Although I believe Christians have a major advantage in recognizing and applying wisdom, our sinful natures are still suckers for foolishness.
We get helpful clues from the descriptions of Wisdom and Folly in Proverbs 9. Wisdom issues a straightforward invitation supported by her productive and disciplined life. Her life and her behavior do all the talking. Folly is described as loud, undisciplined and without knowledge. She sets herself up at the highest point of the city and shouts with tempting words. Her words, with nothing to back them up, are all she’s got.
Words alone will not communicate wisdom. They must be supported by the wise behavior of the speaker.
I also find the distinction between an invitation and an enticement to be helpful.
We are “invited” to coffee, lunch, dinner, parties, weddings, and other events all in the context of relationship. We are “enticed” to stare at mind-numbing television, to purchase products we don’t need, to indulge in illicit pleasures or over-indulge in legitimate pleasures, to cheat, to steal; to sin.
It should be no surprise that the Lord invites us into a relationship with Him in which we will discover infinite wisdom. Make Him your friend, and you will better recognize his wisdom.
“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 8:10-11