Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Solomon takes two primary approaches in the first nine chapters of Proverbs to encourage us to become wiser. First, Solomon assumes the role of a father instructing his sons to heed his sage counsel (Proverbs 1.8; 4.1). Second, Solomon uses the personification of wisdom as a woman to provide his students with something tangible to follow (Proverbs 1.20; 8.1).
Regarding this latter approach, Solomon even provides a foil to Lady Wisdom in the personification of folly. So, those who want to become wise have someone to follow and avoid. We have seen Miss Folly wield her influence over men and women in chapters one through eight, nearly coming out of the shadows in the form of the adulteress in Proverbs 7. Yet, in Proverbs 9, Miss Folly comes out into the open to extend her competing invitation alongside Lady Wisdom’s offer.
Wisdom and Folly compete for the same audience. They both desire to receive the companionship of the naïve and those lacking understanding (9.4). There is no need to compel the righteous or wise as they will already want to be in the companionship of Wisdom (9.8-9). But Wisdom opens her house and has her servants invite people to her feast (9.1-6).
Wisdom is a gracious hostess. She has a great house with seven pillars. In terms of the identity of these pillars, is it a coincidence that our Lord’s half-brother uses seven adjectives to describe the wisdom from above in James 3.17? If not, the pillars of Wisdom’s house are purity, peace, obedience, industry, impartiality, and sincerity. Indeed, these qualities are not inconsistent with the wisdom Solomon encourages others to possess. And entry into Wisdom’s house multiplies one’s days and adds years to their life (9.11).
Wisdom does more than send out her servants to garner the most attendants. Instead, she calls out to the people from a high vantage point above the city. Lady Wisdom is proactive in her approach, demonstrating her genuine concern for people. But despite how admirable her actions are, one realizes that she must be passionate because her enemy can accomplish much more while doing less.
Miss Folly ensures others can see her (9.14), but she does even get up out of her seat. As I read about Miss Folly’s approach, I could not help but think of a prostitute’s solicitation. For example, if one visits Amsterdam’s red-light district, he sees sex workers standing in store-front windows as if on display in lingerie, smiling and flirting with the passersby. Yes, if someone walks through the red-light district, he knows what he wants. I believe Miss Folly likely realizes this as well.
One has to put forth no effort to remain naïve. The wisdom-averse can continue to scoff and act wickedly (9.7). However, this one believes Miss Folly when she says, “Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (9.17 NASB1995). In other words, Miss Folly requires no discipline from her guests. They do not have to reform themselves or strive to do and be better.
Miss Folly would be nothing more than a nuisance if it weren’t for her boisterousness attracting the attention of even those attempting to keep their paths straight (9.13-15). But, as Christians know, the alternative to the “strait gate” and narrow way is that colloquial “highway to hell” (Matthew 7.13-14). Solomon warns us that Miss Folly’s houseguests end up in the depths of Sheol (9.18). That is reason enough to avoid Miss Folly and attend Lady Wisdom’s feast.
We must choose which invitation to accept. We will listen to Lady Wisdom, who has done a lot of planning and always keeps her promises. Or Lady Folly, who promises much but delivers nothing? The choice should be obvious.