The Wise and the Fools
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI
Proverbs 3:35: “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”
Solomon presents us with another contrast. The contrast is stark. In this verse, we do not face a broad spectrum of possibilities. We face an either/or situation. There cannot be anything in between. Glory and shame are the only possibilities, and there is no transferring from one to the other. The wise inherit glory. Fools ascend no higher than shame.
The wise who inherit glory are not the men and women of renown in society. Although God has given some of His people great talent and ability, and although some have even risen to positions of prominence and wealth, such is not the general condition of God’s people. Being wise has nothing to do with one’s standardized test scores or IQ. Wisdom is not the intellect so valued in the world of how to ascend to the higher rungs of the social ladder through the dedicated use of one’s wits and cunning. Wisdom is the fear of God which leads to faithful, diligent study of His Word which the wise recognize as the standard of all truth.
Solomon tells us about who these wise people are in the preceding verses where Solomon has given us instruction by means of other contrasts. The wise are the righteous of verse 32. When God’s people confidently affirm their righteousness, there are spiritual confessions to make. Our righteousness is Christ’s. Just as our sins have all been laid upon Him, His perfect obedience is laid upon us through faith. Because of Christ, we can stand before our heavenly Father as those who have kept His law perfectly.
The wise are the just of verse 33. The just strive to deal with their neighbours as Christ instructs them. The just try to keep God’s law throughout all the interactions of their day-to-day personal relationships. They will not take advantage of people or figure that as long as their behaviour is legal in the eyes of men, everything is fair game. The just live by the higher standard of God’s perfect law.
The wise are the lowly of the verse 34. The lowly know what they are of themselves. They cannot be proud when they examine their innermost hearts in the light of God’s perfect law. There is no boasting from those who know what it means to be the corrupt fruit of a fallen Adam.
The wise know to live according the great reality which is denied, often vehemently, by the wicked. The great reality is that there is a God in heaven who is just and who will not be mocked. There is a God who when He speaks of the consequences of sin, He means it. The wise also confess the reality about themselves, their need of a Saviour and their obligation to live thankfully before their merciful heavenly Father.
The wise inherit glory. Nobody inherits the fruit of their own labour. Someone else has done the work, and in their love for those dear to them, gave others the benefits of what they have earned. That is true regarding the glory we inherit as the children of God.
The wise inherit glory. This glory is not a perishable good. This glory is not subject to the ravages of time. Moths cannot damage it and make it useless. Rust cannot take away its lustre. This is the glory of being with God and experiencing His fellowship without the fear of it ever being lost again because of sin. This is the glory of being a living member of the perfect church of Christ. This is the glory of being perfectly suited for the work which God will give to each of His redeemed children in His everlasting heavenly kingdom.
Fools will not have it so good. The fool says that there is no God. A fool lives life as though there is no sovereign Judge who knows all that the fool does and thinks. This denial of God is made despite the fact of the clear testimony of all of creation, as well as of Scripture and the true church.
The greatest height which can be attained by fools, is shame. That is their promotion, the highest rank they can achieve: shame. This is what they have earned, unlike an inheritance. A promotion is something you have worked for long and hard. You exerted yourself and made sacrifices to earn your promotion. Fools worked hard to achieve shame. Shame makes us want to hide our faces and not be seen by anyone again. You just want to creep away and disappear because now people have come to realize what you really are. There will be no more proud lifting up of the head. Fools will know the shame pronounced upon them by God is the sad condition which they have so richly earned. It takes a fool to work so hard and long for the ultimate rank of shame.
That is quite a contrast. The fool has earned his terrible destiny. The fool’s everlasting shame has been won through hard work. It takes much hard work to convince one’s self that there is no God. Many smart people have earned high-powered engineering degrees to design and build very expensive equipment to try to learn the basic principles of the observable universe, when all the while they deny the most fundamental truth of matter, the fact that God made everything.
The truly wise, those who take God and His Word as truth, receive glory, a glory they inherited because of the hard, sacrificial work of their Saviour on the cross.