I’m going to do a different post than I usually do on Sundays because I want to discuss some of the sayings in Proverbs 15. I will not go through all 33 pieces of advice given in this chapter, but many of them hold some good advice. Proverbs 15 is a long string of short expressions of commonsense wisdom, aka “proverbs” which are said to be written by King Solomon and gathered in the Book of Proverbs. Solomon begins (Proverbs 15:1–5) with several statements commending self-control. Cautious, gentle answers not only prevent additional strife, but they also reduce whatever tension already exists. A wise person carefully chooses their response, rather than babbling out whatever comes to mind. Closely connected to this is the need to humbly accept correction.
Next (Proverbs 15:6–12) are several contrasts. These compare the righteous with the wicked, using the parallel ideas of those who are wise and those who are foolish. These proverbs echo themes such as the life-giving nature of godly wisdom, the disastrous consequences of sin, the importance of humility, and the value of seeking advice.
1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
When somebody is trying to get a rise out of us, we far too often fall right into their trap especially when we react with a quick temper, with violence, or with an angry outburst. A harsh word in response to a person who likes to pick fights only stirs up anger by adding fuel to the fire. We are better off giving a gentle answer to show that a person is better off picking a fight with somebody else who will make a better sparring partner. Other times, we are best to just walk away or say nothing.
2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
Part of wisdom is trying to convince and reason with others to show them what is the best way. Bad people are blinded toward the truth of morality and virtue, and there are times to reason with them to show them their ignorance and foolishness. They need to see that what they are saying and how harmful it is to us all. We have seen this so much during the pandemic as people have followed political cruelty and greed all in the name of “personal freedom.” If personal freedom comes at the cost of the good of humankind, then they do not deserve personal freedom. They are a menace to the public good. Wisdom comes as people come to see the truth, not those who blindly follow other fools.
7 The lips of the wise disperse (spread) knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
Wise people want others to understand wisdom because they recognize that its value is far beyond anything this world has to offer. They want others to have the joy and hope that they have. They want to teach others the ways of goodness and light. Fools could care less about following truth about God and wisdom. Ignorant and selfish people delight in their hatefulness, they could care less about the welfare of others. Fools are unable to offer others the help of valuable knowledge and insight even if they wanted to because they do not know wisdom in Christ, whether they claim to or not.
10 Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.
Those who hear the truth of the gospel and accept it and follow it will find their reward, yet those who reject it will find only punishment. Those who do not respond in faith and humility to the revelation of God to man (God has revealed Himself through the conscience (Romans 1:32), through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), and through the creation (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:18-21)) will pay, for they have made a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Those who are unwilling to respond to the truth when it hits them squarely in the face will suffer and pay the penalty. On the other hand, those who seek the truth and practice it will find the Light in Christ (John 3:21).
12 A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.
The fool scoffs at truth and hates to be confronted with correction. He is not going to seek out wisdom from the Bible or from people who could share with him wisdom. He enjoys his folly and error and the company of other scoffers and mockers of truth. We see this far too often in American politics (i.e., Republicans), hate groups, and religious leaders who preach only hate and fear.
13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance (face),
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
It is possible to force a smile even when the heart is sorrowful, but a joyful heart leads to a true, full, and genuinely happy and uplifted countenance (Genesis 4:7). A sad heart breaks the spirit by draining us of energy, hope, and passion. There is a time to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep so that they can be comforted and encouraged to continue. It is not wrong to be sad as a Christian or to feel discouraged at times. It is how we respond when we are in the valleys of life that counts. We need to remember that Jesus traverses the valleys of death with us and comforts us with His presence (Psalm 23:4-6). It is by His strength that we can endure, His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:22-25), He exceeds beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and He is an expert at turning sorrow into gladness and weeping into joy (Esther 9:22).
I will continue my discussion of Proverbs 15 next week as we look at more of the wisdom of Solomon.