26 September 2016

Proverbs 26:12-28

“Do you see persons wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for fools than for them.” (v. 12)

Psalm: Psalm 13


Two of the lead characters in the book of Proverbs are 'the wise' and 'the fool' (a pairing echoed several times in the Gospels, including in the stories of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27 and the wise and foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13). The book of Proverbs (like these parables) makes many of its most powerful pronouncements by comparing and contrasting the actions of wise and foolish people. Prior to this passage, Proverbs 26:1-11 paints a vivid picture of the dangers of foolishness (comparing the fool to a dog returning to its vomit and an archer who wounds at random). But then verse 12 delivers a staggering punchline - there is more hope for a fool than for someone who considers themselves so wise that they have nothing left to learn.

The rest of today's passage warns against the dangers of such individuals who, based on the assumption that they know best, meddle in other people's arguments, spread anger and malice cloaked in words of flattery, and stir up trouble wherever they go.

Parallels can perhaps be seen in some of the discourse surrounding this year's EU Referendum and the presidential election in the USA. Michael Gove famously declared that "the people of this country have had enough of experts" while President Obama has voiced his concern that ignorance should not be seen as a virtue among those entrusted to lead. Proverbs suggests that an unwillingness to acknowledge our own fallibility and to listen to the words of others can create danger, both for us and for our neighbours.

According to the Bible, the gift of wisdom comes from God, and as such we are encouraged to trust in God and not in our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Not to be deliberately self-deprecating, but to see ourselves as we truly are; "not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Romans 12:3).

To Ponder

  • Many people struggle with self-esteem. How do we find the balance between acknowledging confidently that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) without 'thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought'?
  • Do you think that "people have had enough of experts"? Where do you go for information and guidance you can trust?

Bible notes author

Naomi Oates

Naomi Oates has worked for the Connexional Team in a variety of guises since 2012, currently as the Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Conference. She is also training part-time for presbyteral ministry.