On a recent trip to New York City, my wife and I wanted to brave a snowy evening and hire a taxi for a three-mile ride from our hotel to a Cuban restaurant. After entering the details into the taxi service’s app, I gulped hard when the screen revealed the price for our short jaunt: $1,547.26. After recovering from the shock, I realized I had mistakenly requested a ride to our home—several hundred miles away!
If you’re working with the wrong information, you’re going to end up with disastrous results. Always. This is why Proverbs encourages us to “apply [our] heart to instruction and [our] ears to words of knowledge”—God’s wisdom (Proverbs 23:12). If we instead seek advice from those who are foolish, those who pretend to know more than they do and who have turned their back on God, we’ll be in trouble. They “scorn . . . prudent words” and can lead us astray with unhelpful, misguided, or even deceptive advice (v. 9).
Instead, we can bend our “ears to words of knowledge” (v. 12). We can open our heart and receive God’s liberating instruction, words of clarity and hope. When we listen to those who know the deep ways of God, they help us receive and follow divine wisdom. And God’s wisdom will never lead us astray but always encourages and leads us toward life and wholeness.
God, bend my ears and heart toward wisdom. Help me be open to Your truth and push away every kind of foolishness.
Proverbs 23:9–12 point to the interrelated principles of seeking wisdom from those who can be trusted (v. 12) while discerning who cannot be trusted (v. 9). This principle of discerning others’ character and limiting contact with the foolish—due to the profound influence of close relationships—is echoed in 26:4–5. However, these verses show a subtle difference of the principle by placing side by side opposite guidelines! First, we are told not to answer according to a foolish person’s folly (v. 4); then, we are told to answer, lest by silence we become complicit in their harmful ideas and character (v. 5).
These seemingly contradictory guidelines illustrate a principle central to the Proverbs: true wisdom is not a set of rules to be applied blindly but requires continual reliance on the Lord’s guidance to discern each situation.