Problems of the Heart, #2
THE PROBLEM OF FOLLY
1. The newspaper site I mentioned this morning – the one inviting readers to comment on the best advice their fathers ever gave them – got some responses quite different from the ones that made us smile or nod in agreement.
a. “It wasn’t anything he ever said in particular, it was what he did. And it told me to never, ever be like him.”
b. “I don’t take any of my dad’s advice. He is wrong in so many ways.”
c. And the sender of that one was “Jim4peace”!
2. One probability is that some extremely poor fathering took place – and took quite a toll on hearts as they grew. That happens way too much, and, as you can hear in the responses I’ve read, the hurt hangs around.
3. But there is also another possibility we have to face: there can be a problem in the heart that shows itself through an extremely poor response to fathering.
a. I don’t know which produced the sad cases we’ve mentioned, but I do know this sometimes happens.
b. It is a long-standing fact of human experience, as is pointed out in out text, Proverbs 30:11-13....
c. That is a good introduction to what I mean by “the problem of folly.”
1. Folly is a problem of the heart noted often in the Proverbs.
a. A summary of the theme might be that an attitude of foolishness and pride that leads a person to ignore instruction and engage in unwise behavior is sure to end with disastrous consequences.
i. Notice 30:17, 32
ii. “Folly” is a combination of unfortunate traits: 1)immaturity; 2)ignorance; 3)arrogance; and 4)stubbornness. How would you like to try a cake made of those four ingredients? When mixed together in a life, the end product is even worse!
iii. It is said to be “the instruction of fools” (16:22), “a joy to him who lacks sense” (15:21), something “a fool flaunts” (13:16), “loud, seductive and [knowing] nothing” (9:13).
b. Consider for a moment how prominent and problematic folly is in human experience, according to the Proverbs.
i. 22:15 – “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child...”
ii. 19:3 – “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.”
iii. 17:12 – “Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.”
iv. 14:29 – “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
v. 14:8 – “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.”
vi. 14:1 – “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.”
vii. 12:23 – “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.”
c. You can think of a few examples from Scripture of individuals in whose lives folly was dominant: wicked Haman in the days of Mordecai and Esther; the proud king Nebuchadnezzar, with hair like feathers and fingernails like claws, eating grass like a beast of the field; the Pharisee who justified himself before God and in comparison to other people. The story of folly is a sad one!
2. Folly is a heart problem addressed in the search for meaningful living.
a. I’m thinking of the observations offered in Ecclesiastes.
i. Remember that it is the diary of a man who has looked for what a man gets from all his toil under the sun.
ii. He wanted to know what his life meant.
iii. He discovered that there are many things that don’t make sense to the observer, and one event that will happen to us all, and that meaningful living will have to take place in view of these two facts.
b. It’s in that framework that “folly” is addressed. The writer believed that a large part of the answer is found in recognizing the difference between what we know and what we cannot know. Several chapters in chapters 10 and 11 will show what I mean.
i. 10:14 – “A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell what will be after him?”
ii. 11:2 – “Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on the earth.”
(1) In a passage encouraging the reader to “cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (v. 1).
(2) You don’t know what disaster may happen, and if you did, you wouldn’t be able to change it (v. 3).
(3) Preoccupation with what you cannot know will only keep you from doing what you can do (v. 4).
iii. 11:5 – “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”
iv. 11:6 – “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
v. 11:10 – “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”
1. I love the life story of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. His teams won ten national championships in twelve years with no hint of scandal. He made $35,000 a year without demanding raises. He and his dear wife built a long and devoted marriage without disloyalty. So much to admire!
a. He had some memorable sayings that may help explain his life.
b. One went something like this:
“Talent is God-given. Be grateful.
Praise is man-given. He humble.
Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
c. Very wise advice!
2. James 4:6b-10
a. James was not offering a recipe for dreary personalities and gloom living.
b. He was taking on the problem of folly and pointing to the escape from it.
c. Let us humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God – by obedience to the gospel, and by walking in the light with him, and by prayer.