Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on. (…) But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines down brighter and brighter until the full day. (Proverbs 4:14-15, 18)
Where Do We Go From Here?
For the past several months, these posts have been used to discuss the reality of wisdom and foolishness, predominantly based on the teaching of Proverbs. And, like the proverbs, these posts certainly could seem a bit disjointed and unrelated. Hopefully, all of that will change with this final post in the series. Proverbs teaches, “That the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). We have seen how the Scripture categorizes foolishness as it relates to (1) ourselves (2) our neighbors (3) our families (4) our feet (5) our mouths (6) our stomachs (7) our money (8) and sex. Yet, even if a person were to pursue each of these with the wisdom that the Scripture calls for, one significant and substantial thing will still be lacking – the Lord. Displaying a life that appears wise and yet lacks the Lord is the pinnacle of foolishness. It is the fear and reverence of Him that is the foundation on which a wise life is built. Many reading this will say, “But I do fear God. I do love Jesus. I am a believer. I have trusted Him. I have turned from sin. Yet, my life still feels and appears foolish in many ways.” Hence, the subtitle of this series, “Fooling Ourselves.”
In the Proverbs (as well as the rest of Scripture), wisdom and foolishness are regularly conveyed as differing paths. One is narrow and small and straight; the other is wide and broad and leads to destruction. There are many ways to enter the path of foolishness. In fact, it is a spiritual super-highway of crisscrossing intersections and on/off ramps. Yet, there is but one path of wisdom. It is the way of Jesus. It is pursuing after Jesus, being conformed to His image. The faith life of following Jesus is the path of wisdom – and this path demonstrates itself in the world through grace-filled contentment and generosity. This is what the gospel effectually does to the one who is under it – it generously forgives sin and redeems from judgment and it produces a contentment (joy) in life only Jesus can supply. In fact, all of the areas we have observed in the past several months regarding wisdom and foolishness demonstrate themselves outwardly under the categories of contentment and generosity.
Contentment and Generosity As The Grace-Filled Outworking of Wisdom
So, how is the outworking of wisdom demonstrated in grace-filled contentment and generosity? Consider all of the categories we have observed in this series. Are we content to be made in the image of God and to be remade into the image of Jesus? Though we should strive to grow and learn, especially as it relates to holiness, can we truly settle in, by grace through faith, into a life contented with our identity in Jesus? We should not be too proud, nor too lowly; we should be focused on the Lord and others. The two great commandments, Jesus announced, were to love God and love people. Can we be content with our call to bless our neighbor, loving them where they are and generously showing them the way of Jesus? Can we do so with integrity, not being overbearing, treacherous, devious, or filled with envy and contempt? Can we be content with our families, delighted in the fact that they are God’s gift to us? Can we generously challenge and lead them in the love of Jesus, in word, deed, and attitude? Can we be content with the life and work God has given us? Can we live our lives and do our work as unto the Lord and not man? Can we generously work hard and well everyday, making the most of the time? Can we do so, even in the most difficult of circumstances, with compassion and grace? Can we be content with our mouths, using them to bless and not curse, being generous with speech that is gracious, and learning to be even more generous with our silence, believing that the abundance of words leads to transgression? Can we be content to receive abuse by the mouths of others without violent and malicious retaliation, knowing that our Lord promised that what was done to Him would be done to those who loved and followed Him? Can we be content with our food and drink, neither over-consuming or under-consuming too much of either? Can we be generous with our food to those who lack, and filled with joyous contentment that God is kind enough to feed us? Can we be content with the money that God has given us, remembering that even the jobs we have to “earn it” are gifts to us, as is our ability to do labor? Can we be generous in the giving, spending, and saving of money – reflecting a spirit of stewardship rather than ownership? Can we be content with gift of sex as God has given it? Can we learn to intoxicated by our spouse and to be intoxicating to them, understanding that sex is the physical expression of a faithful, covenant relationship that pursues the good of the other?
The larger issue of wisdom and foolishness is one of contentment and generosity. Will I be content with basic food and shelter? With my spouse? With my children? With my work? With my home, my neighbor, my citizenship? Will I demonstrate generosity in love, mercy, time, and resources? Will I be gracious, since I have been given grace? In other words…WILL I REALLY SHOW BY MY OVERALL BEHAVIOR AND LIFE THAT I AM CONTENT WITH JESUS?
The fool is always chasing the next best thing. But if we believe the gospel, if it really has transformed us from the inside out, then we know that there is no “next best thing.” Jesus truly is the great treasure hidden in the field. He is the pearl of great price. He is the glory of the invisible God. And, if we have Him and He has us, will not the rest of our lives reflect both contentment and generosity? Or, are we just fooling ourselves?