Bible Thought

When the Wise Is Instructed

When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.

Proverbs 21:11

I Can’t Learn That!

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not good at that kind of thing”? Or, have you said it yourself? We probably all have at some point. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true.

Pay attention to how often people self-limit what they supposedly can and cannot do. You might be surprised by how often you hear people say they can’t do certain things. Or, how they tried something once and decided they were lousy at it and could never learn to do it well.

No one has ever picked up a pencil for the very first time and turned out an amazingly accurate architectural drawing. Or dabbled with oil painting and created something that would make Monet jealous. It takes learning and experience to build skill. Or, in the language of Proverbs, it takes knowledge and understanding to have wisdom.

“Learn a language? Not me!”

A friend of mine teaches people how to learn other languages. He was speaking to a group of missionaries when I heard him say something that has stuck with me many years later. He said that he often hears people say, “I’m no good at language learning.” To which he replies, “What language expert told you that? Or, did you decide that yourself.”

The conversation goes on and he finds out (almost every time) that they took a few classes and decided it was too hard. It’s not that the teacher told them they should quit because they were incapable of learning. It is that the student decided on their own that they could not do it.

People so easily limit themselves on what they can learn and do without regard for whether God would have them learn that skill. I wonder how many people have walked away from God’s calling on their life to be a missionary because they believed they could not learn a language?

The Best of the Best

Does everyone need to learn a language or learn to paint like Monet? No. But don’t limit God’s will in your life by saying you can’t learn something that you haven’t really put an effort to learning. Will you ever be as good as a professional translator or painter? Probably not. But you might be. You will never know if you never put in the effort to build the skills.

It would be better if you would just admit that you really don’t care about learning a certain skill. There is nothing wrong with that if that is not God’s will. Not everyone cares about being a great musician or carpenter. That’s OK.

Just don’t limit your God-given abilities due to laziness; or worse, to being a scorner. If God wants you to learn it, then it is worth the effort.

When the Scorner Is Punished

Remember that a scorner is someone who “moves the mouth in a mocking way.” If God has given you a task to do, don’t blow it off because, “I’m no good at that kind of thing.” That is like turning your back on God, rolling your eyes, and mocking God’s Word.

We’ve probably all heard preachers talk about how they ran from God’s calling on their life because they didn’t think they could do what God had called them to do. I am thankful that they eventually returned to following the Lord’s leading. But we should not glamorize that path.

I’m certain there are people in other professions who could give the same testimony. We just happen to hear preachers talk about it much more often.

What is God calling you to do? Are you like the scorner who has to be beaten to get him to do the task? Oh, how I want to be the man who is instructed by God to do something and then jumps right into the task; whether I think I am good at it or not.

In the past, you and I many not have eagerly followed the Lord’s leading, but we can start today to become like the wise one who builds the skill (wisdom) in what he is instructed to do. Don’t be like the scorner who must be punished to get him to move onto the right path.


As an aside to this post, notice the language in the verse. It says, “when the scorner is punished,” and “when the wise is instructed.” These are individual scorners and wise (“scorner is,” “wise is“). This, like almost all of Proverbs, is intended to be read by a person and applied to that person. Most of the book is not written to a theoretical “whoever.”

Proverbs is written for me to apply to me. And for you to apply to your own life. Continue to read the book with this thought in mind: “How should I apply this to my life right now?”

Bible Thought

An Ignorant Soul is Not a Good Soul

A Soul Without Knowledge

Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.

Proverbs 19:2

It is difficult to go through life without an education. We can see babies constantly looking to take in as much information as they can. We often hear parents say that their baby is like a sponge. This is a true statement of any baby. It is their nature. They desire information (knowledge) so they can make sense of the world (understanding).

This verse says that it is not good to be without knowledge. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to have a university education, but they need to have a desire to learn. Self education is what we participate in for our entire lives. Now it is a matter of how much work we actually put into it.

There has never been a time in our world when a person could so easily obtain knowledge than the times we live in today. Even without access to the internet, there are free resources available in just about any community.

I’ve traveled in many countries and love going into public libraries to see what they might have available. Sadly, free access to information is not a privilege every citizen of the world has available to them through a good public library system. But, that doesn’t mean that self-education is not possible. With curiosity and a desire to meet wiser and more experienced people, a person can obtain a better education than what they have now.

However, if you are reading this, then you have access to information. Avail yourself to that information. An ignorant soul is not a good soul.

A Soul With Wisdom

He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.

Proverbs 19:8

The one who works to obtain wisdom is one who loves himself. This is not an inappropriate self-centeredness; rather, it is a desire for improvement. It is a desire to learn how to understand the world and make wise decisions in light of that understanding.

Getting wisdom requires work. After knowledge is obtained, there has to be some experience with that knowledge to bring about understanding. The application of that understanding brings wisdom. Work is required.

The word translated getteth in verse 8 means to buy, trade, obtain. The idea is like that of a merchant who is always on the hunt for products to buy, sell and trade. He doesn’t accidentally find something that he can take to the marketplace. He is actively in search of new products.

We should always be searching for wisdom. Remember that Proverbs 4 says we can get wisdom and understanding. It is not something outside our abilities to obtain.

The second half of the verse says that the one who keeps a guard on his understanding will find those good things he has been searching for.

Bible Thought

Through Desire a Man Has Wisdom

1 Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

15 The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.

Proverbs 18: 1, 2, 15

Again we see that knowledge, wisdom and understanding are things that can be obtained. Don’t fall into the false belief that you are either smart or you are not. Certainly some people have had more opportunities in life to get a better education than others, but acquiring knowledge, understanding and wisdom come through desire and work.

Not everyone has the same capacity for obtaining knowledge, but everyone has the ability to try harder to make use of the knowledge and understanding they already have. My point is that you don’t need to be self limiting and think that the wisdom found in Proverbs is only available to someone else. God put it in His Word for each of us.

Through Desire

Verse one tells us that we must have a desire for wisdom. We can obtain wisdom, but it doesn’t happen if we aren’t seeking it. Wisdom comes to those who are seeking for it.

The word translated intermeddleth means to fight with, to quarrel. Wisdom isn’t something you casually pick up along the way of life. It is something you have to strive for and maybe struggle with to obtain.

A Fool Has No Interest in Understanding

While a wise man desires to obtain understanding, verse two tells us that a fool has no desire to understand. Certainly this understanding would be applied to an understanding of God’s wisdom—His Word. But I think we see it demonstrated in many other areas too.

Have you met people who have no interest in learning new things? They have no curiosity or ability to wonder at something for the sheer joy of learning. While not everyone needs to be interested in every subject, these people seem to be interested in nothing.

When I see a Christian who seemingly takes no joy in learning anything new, I have to wonder if they are even interested in learning God’s Word and benefiting from the understanding that obedience to Him brings.

Getting and Seeking Knowledge

The prudent one (literally the understanding one) seeks for more knowledge. They aren’t satisfied with what they have. They want more understanding. They are constantly working to obtain more understanding. Understanding with the experience of application of that understanding brings wisdom.

This is not to say that a person needs to seek facts and figures for the sake of just knowing information. The goal is wisdom—an understanding of the facts that helps him apply that knowledge in life.

Not knowledge for knowledge’s sake; rather, knowledge that leads to wisdom for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Bible Thought

Wisdom Can Be Found by Those Who Are Seeking

Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

Proverbs 17:24

As we’ve seen before, wisdom comes from understanding and understanding comes from knowledge. We see these three words (knowledge, understanding and wisdom) over and over in the book of Proverbs. In the case of Proverbs 17:24 we are told that the person who has understanding will see wisdom all around them.

This verse could be read a couple of different ways I suppose. Both are valid and consistent with the text. It can mean that wisdom (personified many times in Proverbs) goes in front of and guides. Or, that wisdom is generally present with the person who has understanding.

Wisdom Guides

Wisdom is given personality in Proverbs. In the early chapters there are whole sections where wisdom speaks directly to the reader. She is there to guide those who are looking to her for direction.

To the person who has understanding, wisdom leads them to greater understanding. Knowledge is facts, but understanding is having experience with that knowledge to the point of the facts becoming intuitive. You spend less time thinking about the facts, but have a greater ability to use those facts when needed. That is understanding.

Wisdom—the skill that comes from applying understanding—will guide the person into making the right choices.

Wisdom Is Present

The more primary meaning of the words used in Proverbs 17:24 is that of wisdom being present with the person of understanding.

Do you feel comfortable in the presence of certain people? Are you uneasy in the presence of certain other people? It could be because the person has a higher perceived status than you or you just don’t like them for whatever reason. The main reason we are less comfortable with certain people is that we don’t know them as well as we do others.

We are comfortable in the presence of those we know well. Those who we consider friends or who just have a comforting presence about them. There are certain pastors that I have been with in more than 25 years of traveling church ministry that I love to get with any chance I can. I am comfortable in their presence. There are others that make me want to check to see if my tie is on straight and that I don’t have any stray hairs sticking up on my bald head. It is not because they are unkind or mean, but that I haven’t had as much personal time with them.

How familiar are you with wisdom? Has she been a consistent presence in your life to the point you are comfortable around her? Or, are you struggling to even find her?

The Bible says that wisdom can become a companion. A familiar friend. How? By learning what God’s Word says (knowledge) and gaining experience with it to the point of understanding. This is when wisdom can show up and guide. She can be part of your daily life.

But just learning God’s Word does not necessarily bring understanding and the presence of wisdom. You must apply it. Get God’s Word into your head (think right) and then apply God’s Word in your actions (do right).

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

At some point we will have to take a look at the second half of Proverbs 17:24 where it talks about the fool searching for something, but not finding wisdom.

Bible Thought

Commended For Wisdom

Here are three verses from chapter 12 that contrasts the wise and the unwise man. This is a theme we’ve seen already in Proverbs and will observe again and again.

Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.

Proverbs 12:1

We’ve seen that knowledge brings understanding. Understanding with experience gives wisdom. But how does one obtain knowledge? Through instruction.

This word instruction in verse one can mean teaching learned from a teacher, or it can be the lessons learned from punishment and harsh correction. Either way, the person who is disposed to learn welcomes the lesson and will benefit from it.

But those who hate reproof—translated from a word that only means harsh instruction—is brutish. Brutish is not a word that is commonly used today, but it (unsurprisingly) means like a brute. A brute means an animal.

This literally means that those who refuse to learn must be treated like an animal to get them to do anything. It isn’t that they can’t learn, but they refuse to learn.

A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.

Proverbs 12:8

The wise will be praised for their wisdom. But the crooked in heart will be hated.

The wise love instruction and knowledge. They are praised for their use of that knowledge. But the fool refuses to be taught and is hated for their perverse, crooked, twisted heart.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

Proverbs 12:15

The fool will look to himself for praise, but the wise will look to the counsel of others.

I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance that left me befuddled. In one moment he was telling me about how he is struggling financially and that the bad business practices of others in his line of work is driving him out of the market. In the very next breath he said that he is in demand as a speaker at conferences because he is so good at making a successful business of it.

He is clearly in need of help to keep his business afloat. Yet, by positioning himself as an expert in demand, he is saying that he didn’t need the counsel of others because he was the one other people turned to for advice.

Needless to say, he isn’t doing well and I don’t really know how to help him.

Questions to ask ourselves concerning instruction from others:

  • Am I willing to take instruction from others?
  • Do I welcome the counsel of others?
  • Do I refuse instruction even to the point that I have to be punished just to get me to move in the right direction?