“Empowered by the Spirit, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ can now follow the way of wisdom. Without the Spirit, we couldn’t even see it.”
We often learn more about things by examining their opposite. This is especially true in Proverbs which describe wisdom by painting a portrait of folly or foolishness. Wisdom and folly are portrayed as opposing ways of thinking and living that shape our behavior.
Folly has tremendous appeal to the “simple” (Prov. 1:22). This word conveys the idea of openness or gullibility, makes the simple easy prey for the attraction of folly. By contrast, wisdom promises safety, prudence, and understanding (Prov. 1:33; 8:5). Folly appeals to our baser instincts, as depicted in Proverbs 9:17: “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” The author of Proverbs reveals the hidden catch in the next verse: “But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (Prov. 9:18 ESV).
When the New Testament speaks of wisdom and folly, its focus becomes narrower. Rather than talking about life in general, the discussion primarily revolves around the gospel. The fool is one who suffers from spiritual blindness (2 Cor. 4:4). Titus 3:3 mentions folly as the chief characteristic of our life before Christ: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” This changed “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” (v. 4). Jesus saved us not only from our sins but also from our folly. How? By giving us the Holy Spirit.
Empowered by the Spirit, those who put their faith in Christ can now follow the way of wisdom. Without the Spirit, we couldn’t even see the way. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them” (1 Cor. 2:14).
Only God can remove the blindness of the simple. James 1:5 adds that wisdom, like forgiveness, is available merely for the asking. God “gives generously to all without finding fault.” The ultimate wisdom comes in the person of Christ. He “has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).
To learn more, read Proverbs: A Shorter Commentary Bruce K. Waltke and Ivan D. V. De Silva (Eerdmans).