William Shakespeare’s King Lear portrays one of the most prideful characters in English literature. In the first scene, he calls upon his three daughters to flatter him as the basis for dividing up the kingdom. Two comply, but the third cannot. In a rage, he banishes her, though she is the only one who loves him sincerely. It takes the rest of the play, and much suffering, for the king to learn the full extent of his pride and folly.
Patience or godly waiting can work against pride in our spiritual lives. That’s why yesterday’s reading linked the fruit of the Spirit, including patience, with the command, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Gal. 5:26).
Today’s reading consists of proverbial sayings. Some show that wisdom is often an obvious part of common sense. For example, in comparing the rebuke of a wise person with the song of fools, it’s clear which is more valuable (v. 5). Being quick-tempered is foolish (v. 9). There’s no real point in moaning about the good “old days” (v. 10).
While wisdom may often be as obvious as that, it’s also true that at other times wisdom is counterintuitive. For example: The day of death is better than the day of birth (v. 1). Mourning is better than feasting (vv. 2, 4). “A sad face is good for the heart” (v. 3). These mean that wisdom perceives accurately the hard truths of the human condition. Death is universal. Difficult experiences generally teach us more than pleasurable ones. And it takes time, patience, and perseverance to acquire wisdom.
Shallowness, corruption, and pride are on the side of foolishness. Waiting, patience, and self-control are on the side of wisdom (vv. 11–12). That’s how and why godly waiting or patience is better than and works against pride (v. 8).
Much can be learned from King Lear about pride, patience, and moral and spiritual choices and consequences. You could read the play or look for a live production to attend or a movie version to watch, such as the 1984 production starring Laurence Olivier. As you read or watch, pray for godly wisdom and patience!