“The Destructiveness of Folly” – Ecclesiastes 10:1-20
Hear now word of the Lord from Ecclesiastes chapter 10, starting in verse one.
Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 A wise man's heart inclines him to the right,
but a fool's heart to the left.
3 Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense,
and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
4 If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place,
for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.
5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: 6 folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7 I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.
8 He who digs a pit will fall into it,
and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.
9 He who quarries stones is hurt by them,
and he who splits logs is endangered by them.
10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
he must use more strength,
but wisdom helps one to succeed.
11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
there is no advantage to the charmer.
12 The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor,
but the lips of a fool consume him.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
and the end of his talk is evil madness.
14 A fool multiplies words,
though no man knows what is to be,
and who can tell him what will be after him?
15 The toil of a fool wearies him,
for he does not know the way to the city.
16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
and your princes feast in the morning!
17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility,
and your princes feast at the proper time,
for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.
19 Bread is made for laughter,
and wine gladdens life,
and money answers everything.
20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,
nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter.
Ecclesiastes 10:1-20, ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever. Well, in the course of fighting World War Two, the United States faced a pocket of resistance from a somewhat surprising source, namely their own soldiers and the families of those soldiers. As soldiers on the front lines were trying to write home, write letters, send photographs, put together packages of what they were getting as they were overseas. These were all combed through meticulously and very often these soldiers would get responses from the U.S. War Department saying that your letters or your photos or your packages have been confiscated because essentially, we're worried about some kind of intelligence leak. This got so bad that some families actually resorted to using codes in their own letters to communicate with their sons and brothers and husbands and fathers on the front lines.
Now, families just wanted to stay in touch. They had to be thinking, what's the big deal? Why is this such a problem? Is this really such a concern if I tell my mom where I'm stationed as I risk my life for the country and for the wider world? The U.S. Department of War saw intelligence leaks as a real threat, because they knew that a casual reference to some place that they visited in a letter or perhaps some product that was packaged up that was unique to one area or perhaps something in the background of a photo would give away a location that would genuinely put soldiers’ lives and operational plans at risk.
So the U.S. Department of War had to think, how can we convey the great seriousness of this threat and the real risk that this poses to the safety of people? So the U.S. Department of War came up with a clear, concise and memorable phrase or slogan to drill this risk into the minds of their soldiers. They came up with this, you may have heard it that loose lips may sink ships. Or sometimes this has been condensed to just loose lips sink ships. They printed up posters and they reminded everyone to try to get this message that as little as you think this will cause a problem, so much more. This can actually cause great harm and even sink the ship, perhaps even the one that you are on now.
In Ecclesiastes Chapter 10, the preacher is warning us of carelessness, of negligence, of foolishness, maybe foolishness that we wouldn't think a whole lot about. We'd say, what's the big deal? What's the harm? What's the problem? And the preacher wants to find a way to drill into us the dangers of foolishness. So to communicate the big idea of this passage, I've adapted and tweaked the World War Two slogan into our big idea for today that leaky wisdom sinks a kingdom.
So three parts today.
1. The Crisis of Folly
2. The Consequences for the Fool,
3. The Catastrophe of a Foolish King
The Crisis of Folly
So number one, the crisis of a fool in verses one through seven. Before we look at the first few verses of our passage today, again, I think it helps to orient ourselves where we are in the book of Ecclesiastes. Again, we've talked about the first half of Ecclesiastes, the first six chapters are about deconstructing vanity in this world. There's nowhere you can put your hope in in this world that will satisfy you, that will give you what you want for joy and life in this world. Don't search for it because there's not to be found under the sun.
Then in the second half, in chapter seven and following, the preacher is trying to give us a positive view for how to live in this world. In chapter seven, chapter eight, and then chapter nine, the preacher has been commending to us wisdom in urging us, encouraging us in wisdom. This becomes particularly comes to a fore in the last three verses of the previous chapter, where three times the preacher says wisdom is better in verse 16 and then in 17, the words of the wise are better. Then in verse 18, again, wisdom is better than weapons of war. And then he says this in verse 18, and this transitions into our passage and chapter nine, verse 18, he says. But one sinner destroys much good. He's been focusing positively on wisdom, urging us toward wisdom, but now he gives the flip side and gives a warning and says, but understand it just takes a little bit of folly, a little bit of foolishness, a little slip of the tongue can sink the ship.
So in verse one, he makes this in a very graphic way. He says dead flies, make the perfumers ointment give off a stench. You may have heard the phrase about the fly in the ointment, that's coming from this particular verse. Foolishness is a fly in the ointment. It takes something that is wonderful, that smells good, that is very life giving and it purifies it, it corrupts it. It only takes a little, only takes a few dead, flies to corrupt or to cause the perfumers ointment to give off a stench. In the same way, the preacher says so also a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
Now, the Bible actually has a lot of illustrations. We see this all over the place, where you see people who largely live their lives very well, but in a moment by some act of foolishness, some carelessness, some slip of the lips and you see lives that had otherwise been ordered toward wisdom and toward honor suddenly brought into ruin and disrepair. I think one of the strongest examples of this is the story of Moses and Numbers 20. You have the great Moses, the one who with a strong arm and an outstretched hand the Lord used. It was the Lord's arm and hand that led Israel out of the Land of Egypt, but he used Moses to lead them. It was by Moses that God sent plagues against Egypt to spring them from their captivity there. It was Moses who shepherded God's people in the wilderness Moses. It was by the hand of Moses that the seas were parted and Israel walked across on dry land. Again it was by the hand of Moses to cause those waters to come crashing down on the chariots and the armies of Pharaoh. It was Moses, who patiently led this people through their murmurings and their grumblings and their groanings, even to the point of wanting to replace him with a new leader so that they could head back to Egypt.
Through all of this in Moses is incredibly faithful. In Numbers 20 God tells Moses to speak to a rock and out of that rock would flow water. Moses, in a moment of frustration because these people grumbling again, grabs his staff and smacks the side of the rock so that water comes flowing out of it. He says, shall we bring forth water for you, rebels? He's so angry at them in a lifetime of frustration flows out in just a little bit of folly.
It's because of that that God, says Moses, you will not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land. All of this has been to lead Israel to the Promised Land, but you yourself will never set foot in that Promised Land because in that moment, you did not uphold me as holy. It just takes a few dead flies to ruin a corrupt or to cause a stench in the perfumer’s ointment.
Well, verse two, the preacher goes on, there's more danger, "The wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left." Now, with apologies to our left handed brothers and sisters, it is universal in all places, all cultures, all languages at all times that just naturally people have favored right handed things over left handed things. Again, it's nothing personal, this is just the way that all cultures have functioned. That's what's in reference here.
In the Hebrew mind, it's still very true. You think of the name Benjamin, Jacob named one of his most beloved sons Benjamin. In Hebrew that means "son of my right hand" because that was a son of honor, an honorable name to call him "son of my right hand". If you remember a few months ago when we were finishing a sermon series through the story of Joseph at the end of Genesis, you may remember that Joseph brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, before Joseph's father, Jacob, their grandfather. Joseph brings his son so that Manasseh is in front of his father, Jacob's right hand, so that Jacob can give a right handed blessing to the first Manasseh. Whereas Ephraim was in front of the left hand. It was a better blessing to get the right handed blessing.
Yet in that moment, Jacob prophetically crossed his arms and gave the right handed blessing to the younger Ephraim instead of the older man. That was one more reversal in the book of Genesis that even blessed Jacob and even blessed Joseph, where the younger was favored over the older one more time that happens because the right handed blessing was given to the younger there. The right handed blessing is the better its fullness and blessing and strength.
What we're reading here in verse two is that the wise man's heart is constantly, naturally in climbing toward that blessing and that strength. Yet the fool never ends up in the right place. The fool was always lost, wandering, headed away from blessing and strength and honor. There's danger there.
Well, then verse three, even when the fool walks on the road, apparently to the left, he lacks a sense and he says to everyone that he is a fool now. Probably the fool is not saying nice to meet you, I'm a fool. Rather everything he is saying is proclaiming that message in one way or another. The more you talk to this person, the more you realize that this is a fool you were speaking to. The fool can't help but advertise and broadcast his folly.
Well, these are sort of some general principles. Verse four really gets in a crisis moment where wisdom is needed instead of foolishness, and we see vividly portrayed for us the danger of folly. "If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest." Here's a concrete example where your status, your safety and your life are at stake based on how you respond to that king in his moment of anger. It doesn't matter if he's in the right or if he's in the wrong. As we've read elsewhere in Ecclesiastes, the word of the king is supreme. Don't cross him when he's angry. Don't walk away from him. Don't get up. Don't respond with calmness that will lay great offenses to rest.
So there's this crisis moment, but then in verses five to seven, we also have a sort of a general example of the danger of folly in the world versus five to seven, "There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves."
Now, the point of this is not that folly can elevate people, and so therefore it's a good thing. The preacher, as well as the rest of the Bible, especially in wisdom literature, talks often about how wisdom is what rightfully raises the lowly to higher places of honor. What he's saying here is that foolishness turns the world upside down. It inverts what is right. It reverses what is just. Foolishness turns the world upside down. It puts the wrong people in the wrong places at the wrong time. The crisis of foolishness turns the world upside down.
Now, maybe you're listening to this and maybe you're nodding in agreement, yes, I'm sure folly can be very, very bad. The preacher is saying this because he wants you to take stock of your life, to take stock of your wisdom and your foolishness. It was one thing for the soldiers of World War Two to say yes, I'm sure someone could get their hands on this, and maybe it could come and cause some kind of problem or some kind of ambush or sink some sort of a ship. It was another thing to see that their loose lips could sink ships, especially the ones that they were depending on for their lives. What we see here is that it only takes just a little bit of foolishness to outweigh a lifetime even of wisdom and honor.
Now, one of the saddest examples that I've heard about that illustrates this point, that it just takes a little bit of folly to outweigh wisdom and honor was from a story that came this week that happened on a movie production set. You may have heard this story, but an actor was given a gun that he apparently thought did not have live ammunition. In the course of making this, the gun discharged and a woman was killed in the process of this and a man standing behind her was also wounded by this. Now I'm not speculating. I have no idea what happened there. I'm simply pointing to the story.
There you have the smallest of errors, a blank looks exactly like a bullet. The only difference is a small, tiny little piece of projectile that's included in the one and not the other. They look nearly identical. Here you have the smallest bit of folly, and it caused the most horrifying consequences of that. Think about how many scenes that Hollywood has made, where they safely used guns in the making of a movie or a television. Here you have someone who died from this, the smallest possible error and the greatest possible price. That's what the preacher wants to get into our heads. It's not just some, maybe I'm sure it'll be fine. No big deal. What's the harm the preacher is saying? Folly can ruin your life like that, and it just takes a little.
Are you listening? Are you aware? Are you taking stock of this in your own life? Folly is the fly in the ointment, even a little foolishness can destroy much good. Foolishness is never leading toward the good, but always away from it. Now there's so much at stake in our society as a whole because foolishness inverts the world turns the world upside down. The next thing the preacher is going to tell us is that there's also much at stake for the fool himself. It's not just that he's a danger to those around him because he is, but the fool is also a danger to himself.
Consequences for the Fool
This comes to the second section the consequences for the fool in verses eight through fifteen. Now look at verse eight with me, "He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall." Now, if you read the commentaries, people are divided about what kind of action they're talking about here the preacher is talking about here. Some think this is totally normal, legitimate things. Just legitimate ditch digging, legitimate demolition efforts, and breaking down these walls. But I'm inclined to follow those who do see a sinister malicious intent in verse eight, in the two things that are described in verse eight.
So when it talks about first of all, those who dig a pit will fall into it. Well, there's another place in the Bible in Psalm chapter seven that talks explicitly about this kind of a situation, and it's absolutely clear that that is a sinister, malicious situation. It's in Psalm 7:15, but let me read verses fourteen through sixteen, "Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends."
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. Here's where in verse fifteen he makes a pit, digging it out and falls into the hole that he has made. That's exactly what happens in our passage verse sixteen of seven. His mischief returns upon his own head and on his own skull. His violence descends. What I think this is talking about here is a man who digs a pit, not just as a normal part of digging a ditch, but someone who is trying to catch someone and you're reading about his mischief falling on his own head.
In the same way, it might be a totally legitimate, innocent thing to break down a wall, but this is also the kind of way you would describe a burglary or break in into a house. Whatever is happening in verse eight, whichever direction you would go on that, in verse nine, it's fairly clear that this is describing innocent work, "He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them." It's hard to understand how stone quarrying could be malicious or log splitting could be bad. Here you're reading about just normal activities that also pose a threat to the one who's doing them.
Now here's how I think this works together in versus eight and verse nine. In verse eight the preacher is saying the fool is absolutely a danger to himself by the wickedness and the mischief that he tries to use against other. That will come back upon his own head, which is what Psalm seven, says. Yet don't think that you are exempt if you are not quite the fool or the other person down the street is even in your normal circumstances. You suffer a lot of risk from the things that you do, even if you're not to being a fool.
If you remember the last chapter, the preacher talked a lot about this that there is no way to manipulate God. There is no way to coerce God to give you what you want. You cannot offer the right sacrifice to the right God at the right time to get from him exactly what you want from him. The preacher is holding both of these two points together in verse nine.
Then in verse ten, the preacher continues and gives us another risk that the fool poses to himself, "If the iron is blunt and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed." We are maybe talking still about the log splitting of verse nine, but the point is very clear that if you have blunt iron, you're just not going to get very far, very fast. Wisdom makes your life and your work easier, less exerting, less taxing. But the fool wears himself out with the fact that he won't adopt a life characterized by wisdom.
In verse eleven, now we come back to this serpent imagery again, "If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there was no advantage to the charmer." Now, the way the ESV has this, it sounds like the same word is used twice charmed and then charmer. But actually, the first use in verse eleven talks about charmed, if the serpent bites before it is charmed. Then it's slightly different to end the verse, literally, it is "there is no advantage to the master of the tongue." What the preacher is getting at is that you can't talk your way out of every situation. The fool is the one who's always trying to use his words to sway people around him, just like a charmer with charming a snake. Well, if you don't charm that snake fast enough, you could get bitten, and sometimes your words will not be able to talk you out of the situation you were in.
Indeed, the preacher is going to go on in verses twelve to fourteen to talk about the fool's words. Verse twelve, "the words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him." It's not just that he might not be able to work fast enough. What he is saying is actually destroying him. Verse thirteen asks why, “The beginning of his words is the word of his mouth is foolishness. At the end of his talk is evil madness." The Fool isn't giving something wise, something substantive, something wise. He is giving something that begins in foolishness and ends in evil madness.
Verse 14, "A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be and who can tell him what will be after him." The wise is always speaking with an understanding that he doesn't know what is to come, whereas the fool is always constantly speaking, multiplying his words, pretending that he knows exactly what is to come. The summary of all of this and the danger that a fool poses to himself is in verse fifteen, "The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city."
Derek Kitchener, I don't know if this is a British expression or not, but he paraphrases this and says, "The fool would get lost even if you put him on an escalator." There's just never understanding where to go, how to get around. The fool is always confused about what is happening, and he is in absolute danger to himself. This is a hard way to live. Think about the frustration that you experience when you take a wrong turn or when you miss an exit or when you pick the slowest moving line at the supermarket. I invariably do this. I'm always the one doing this. You know how frustrating this can be, I'm sure I'm not alone in those situations.
What does it cost you? It cost you a little time. A little inconvenience. A little frustration. But what about the circumstances where foolishness can destroy your life? There's an ad campaign, maybe you've seen it. I've seen billboards for this. I've heard radio ads for this that's appealing to people urging them not to get a DUI. In the past, I remember warnings about drunk driving about who might you hurt by your foolishness? Now they're saying the ad campaign is it will cost you more than you think, and it goes line by line by all the court expenses, all the fees of legal work, all the losing your job, the losing your license and on and on and on and on. It'll cost you more than you think.
Now there's a place for urging people not to be fools to protect those around him, but as the preacher shows us here, you also need to be self-interested. If you are a fool, you are consuming your own life. Your life is at risk from your own foolishness. In light of what it can cost you, what your foolishness can cost you, isn't the hard work of wisdom worth it?
The Catastrophe of a Foolish King
Folly is always destructive, especially for the fool himself. But the preacher goes on in this final section to make one last important point, namely that foolishness in leadership is especially destructive and damaging to a nation. And this is where we get to our big idea that leaky wisdom sinks a kingdom. Now the word leak is biblical, it's in verse 18. I just want you to know I wasn't totally making that quirky big idea up. Leaky wisdom sinks a kingdom.
Here we see the catastrophe of a foolish king. In verse 16, the preacher says, "Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child and your princes, feast in the morning." Now Michael Eaton, a commentator, makes a really important point. He reminds us to remember the preacher is Solomon. Or even if you don't think he Solomon, he's clearly presenting himself as though he were a Solomon. He never names himself, but I'm persuaded that Solomon is writing this. You may remember in 1 Kings three when Solomon has just become the king and God comes to him in a dream in the night and says, "Solomon, what do you want? Ask me anything, and I'll give it to you. "And Solomon doesn't ask for long days of life. He doesn't ask for riches. He doesn't ask for victory over his enemies. Instead, he asks for wisdom. And what he says is, "I am a child. I'm not able
to govern over these people."
The preacher says, "Woe to you land when your king is a child." He is not talking about someone who is young, numerically speaking, age wise. He's talking about someone who has no maturity, no wisdom that he's governing by, and more than that, his lack of wisdom leads to dissipation and debauchery among his princes and your princes. Feasting in the morning. Rather than being out and productively spending those daylight hours, these princes are partying. The contrast is in verse seventeen, "Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness!"
Now there's a question about how to understand versus eighteen and nineteen. Namely, are these just random new general principles of wisdom or is the preacher continuing to talk about the king now? I think he's still talking about the king, and I'll show you why I think that, but certainly the general principles are true as well. I think he's still talking about the king because in verse twenty, he still has the king on his mind. He's going to get there, but what's he saying in verses eighteen and nineteen?
He says, first of all, in verse eighteen, "Through sloth, the roof sinks in and through indolence, the house leaks." Now this is true for all of us. If we're lazy our houses will leak. We had to do a Building on a Firm Foundation campaign because this building was starting to leak and we didn't want to be lazy and let this building deteriorate. We want to address those problems, that's good stewardship.
Remember that the word house is another word for kingdom. When God swears to establish an everlasting kingdom with David In 2 Samuel 7:16 he says, "Your house and your kingdom will never depart from me." What's David's house? It's his kingdom. So we're talking here, I would argue, about the house, not just the home you live in, but the household, the kingdom itself. Through sloth, that roof is going to sink in and through indolence that kingdom will sink. A leaky wisdom sinks a kingdom.
Well, what about verse nineteen? "Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything." Here the preacher is talking about the good gifts of God and the proper uses of the good gifts of God. Remember bread and wine, that takes us back to the feasting in verses sixteen and seventeen. Are you using these gifts rightly? Are you feasting at the proper time for strength and not for drunkenness? Or are you misusing these gifts, abusing these gifts to use them so that your princes are feasting in the morning?
God has given us good gifts that we should enjoy, and we should use them for the proper purposes. If we misuse them, then that's a problem not only for the king, but even for us. If the king is the one doing it, it's still a problem for us. Even so, even if you live in the realm of a verse, sixteen, "King", the preacher says, "be careful even in your thoughts." In verse twenty, "Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter." The point in all of this is that the more authority you have been entrusted over others, the further the consequences of your wisdom and your foolishness will stretch. If the king is wise, all the people are blessed. If the king is a fool, that foolishness will curse the entire realm.
So the question that the preacher is asking us is about your authority, the authority that you wield, whether it's a small amount or a large amount. Are you like Solomon acknowledging that you are a child on your own and that you need God's wisdom to teach you? Are you spending your time productively? Are you burning the daylight hours well, to build up your house? Are you delaying gratification and leisure and entertainment and feasting and drinking to the proper and wise time and for the proper and wise purposes?
Also in all of this toward those who are in authority over you, are you blessing them with your words or are you cursing? The word of the king is still supreme. A little bird will still carry your voice to him, which will get you into trouble. Be careful how you live.
Now, all this time, as we've been studying chapter ten, I've been talking about wisdom and foolishness without precisely defining those terms. What is wisdom? What is foolishness? So as we come to the point where we're going to apply this text to our lives. I want to urge us toward wisdom and away from foolishness as God defines it in his word. So I'm going to give you verses to ground what we think about what God says about wisdom and what God says about foolishness.
So our application to apply all of this is wise, lest you perish in your foolishness and be wise, lest you perish in your foolishness. This comes from Psalm two. One of the great texts of the Bible. It's one of those opening Psalms that sets the stage for everything that the Psalter is going to tell us. In Psalm 2:10-12, we read this,
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:10-12, ESV
There's a very simple definition of wisdom. Wisdom means taking refuge in the Son, taking refuge in Jesus Christ. The preacher has been trying to get out here and not only in chapter seven, eight and nine where he's talked about wisdom, but now chapter 10, where he talks about foolishness, is that there is much at stake here. This isn't a small thing. This isn't a light thing. This isn't an I'm sure it will be fine thing. Everything is at stake, by the way, that we conduct our lives.
The preacher says that folly is a crisis with terrible consequences, especially for the fool himself. Plus worse consequences for any under the authority of such a fool. It's so easy to think that a little carelessness, a little selfishness, a little negligence, a little illicit pleasure won't carry severe consequences, but the scriptures warn you in the strongest possible terms, don't be a fool. Don't be a fool.
Earlier, I quoted Psalm seven, which that was that passage that talked about the mischief coming back on the head of the evil wicked man who tries to dig a pit for someone else and he falls into that same pit. Well, I read verses fourteen through sixteen. Now I want to read the two verses that come directly before that and versus 12 and 13.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.Psalm 7:12-13, ESV
The picture of God here is of an avenger, of a warrior who has a sharpened sword and a drawn bow. The point is, don't be a fool. Don't continue in your foolishness. Repent from this, be wise, take your refuge, not in your own foolishness, which you think to be your wisdom. Instead, take refuge in Christ.
Now we see this warning amplified throughout scripture. For example, Proverbs 14:16, "One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless." Or in the New Testament, Jesus in Luke 12:20, tells a story about a man who had everything and put his trust in his riches, yet even that rich man couldn't delay death. Jesus says that God said to him, "Fool this night your soul is required of you and the things you are prepared. Whose will they be?"
The whole Bible is saying, do you see the danger of this? This isn't light. This isn't small. Do you see the danger of your recklessness and your carelessness? There's a warning in all of this, namely that we should not mistake wisdom for being wise in our own eyes. We don't define the terms of wisdom, God does. Wisdom in our own eyes is not wise. There is there's a big part of us, deep down in us that wants to see our sin as clever as strategic as justifiable. We want to pat ourselves on the back and say, you deserve this. You want a brilliant strategy to figure out how to get away with this.
However, God is not deceived. Repent from your foolishness. Proverbs 12:15, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 16:25 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." Proverbs 28:26, "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered." Leaky wisdom sinks a kingdom. Lean then on true wisdom.
The Bible calls us again, Psalm 2:12, "Blessed are all those who take refuge in him." So what is true wisdom? It's abandoning all hope in yourself and in your wisdom, and it's taking refuge in Christ by faith. We've talked about the fear of God. The fear of God is, on one hand, being afraid of God in the sense of recognizing that you are undone before him, that you are guilty before him, that you are condemned in your sins before him, almighty God, the judge of Heaven and Earth. Then anyway, to believe his promises and to throw yourself at his mercy, taking him at his word in the Gospel of Christ.
In Proverbs 1:32-33 God pleads, he says,
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
Flee the wrath to come. True wisdom is here in God's word, calling us to escape God's judgment. Not by exploiting some loophole from our own cleverness, but by receiving the gracious gift of Christ crucified by faith. Until you fully appreciate and recognize the danger of your foolishness, it's not really easy to appreciate the goodness of the gospel. So long as you see your problem as small, the gospel is just as small or smaller. However, when you see the bigness of your problem, the depths of your problem, the true danger that you face before the Lord, perhaps then the safety that Christ offers through faith becomes more precious than all the gold and the silver and the blessings of that this world has to offer.
How do you live your life? Is your life a constant gamble? Is your motto, "I'm sure it'll be fine", or do you see how precarious your life is? Are you running to Christ for shelter from the storms of life? Blessed are all those who take refuge in him. But are you going to? Do you turn to Christ away from your own ways, leaning on your own understandings and instead putting your faith in him, trusting in him to direct your paths? The promise of scripture is clear, blessed are all those who take refuge in Christ.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we pray that you would give us Jesus. We pray that you would build us up in the Gospel of Christ. We pray that you would take away our foolishness and instead replace it with the wisdom of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Give us faith for all those here today who have not yet put their faith in Christ. I pray that he would give them eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand Jesus Christ and him crucified. In his name we pray. Amen.