Proverbs 9: The Hard Work of Being Wise
Close your eyes and imagine you are walking the cobble streets of a town. You walk through the market place and smell the fresh bread, you hear the chatter of people exchanging and buying, the clinging of coins, and perhaps even the latest gossip being whispered by a few women behind you.
Suddenly, one-by-one, the people stop what they are doing and begin to look up. You turn and look up to the highest place of the town. On one side, a group of fair young women are calling out harmoniously. On the other, a woman dressed in scarlet cloth and revealing attire sits beckoning to the crowd.
Both sides are calling out, so it is a bit difficult to decipher what is being said, so you turn to the young women to focus in what they are saying.
The Invitation of Lady Wisdom
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here! […] Come and eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Proverbs 9:4-5
Lady Wisdom has sent her young women to call out to the simple and the senseless, inviting them to come to her home and enjoy the meal she has prepared (vs. 3-6). This meal consists of beasts slaughtered by Miss Wisdom herself, and her own mixed wine (v. 2). She has even prepared her table ahead of time for her unknown guests (v. 2). We can already see that Lady Wisdom is no idle woman. She has even built her own house, which is large enough to contain seven pillars.
Lady Wisdom is a hard-working gal. This should come as no surprise—wise people are hard-working people. Earlier in chapter 6 of Proverbs, Solomon calls us to look to the ant to be wise “which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:7). To be wise is to work hard.
Lady Wisdom also calls those she is inviting to her meal to work as well: “Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight” (v. 6). The pursuit of wisdom is not passive. It requires diligence and effort. It requires studying God’s Word and working through the difficult passages we don’t understand. It requires prayerfully making decisions. It requires being discerning about what we listen to and what we take in. It requires putting off sin and putting on righteousness.
Lady Wisdom is the woman who loves God and is willing to obey Him even when it is difficult. Even if it means her reputation, having “fun” with her friends, reconciling herself with her angry enemy at church, or giving up her time to serve someone in need. Lady Wisdom is willing to be obedient to God even when it costs her life. Being wise is not an easy task, but Lady Wisdom promises that it is the way to life—both spiritually and earthly (vs. 11-12).
The Invitation of Lady Folly
At first glance, Lady Folly may appear to be making a very similar invitation to the simple and senseless. But don’t be fooled; they are as contrasting as night and day.
Lady Folly knows nothing, but tries to seem wise by being boisterous (v. 13). Unlike Lady Wisdom’s tall-standing young women, she takes a seat at the high place in her laziness to call out to the people. Though she too has prepared a meal, she did not work hard for hers but instead stole it (v. 17).
Lady Folly does not want to work hard for what she has, and she definitely does not want to work hard for her guests. Her laziness has made her foolish. Her laziness has kept her from finding an honorable job and has left her to the work of a prostitute (v. 13). In her laziness, she chooses unwisely to steal someone else’s meal rather than preparing her own (v. 17).
Of all these, the grandest point of contrast is what they truly have to offer: Lady Wisdom offers life to those who accept her invitation, but Lady Folly deceptively gives her guests death without them noticing. “But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (v. 18).
Lady Folly is the girl who wants to go her own way and do things the way she wants. Lady Folly is the girl who loves the world and the easy way of sin it offers. I was like Lady Folly before I was saved. I claimed to be saved yet I did not act like Christ. I hurt people and ruined many relationships. I dishonored my parents and yelled at my friends in public. Why did I do this? Because I was self-righteous and wanted the easy way out of the conflicts around me. Being an unredeemed, I didn’t want to put forth the effort of doing the godly thing.
Don’t be like Lady Folly. Though she promises greatness, all she truly has to offer is death and pain.
Which Will You Accept?
With this illustration in Proverbs 9, the choice may not seem that hard. “Sure, I’ll do a little work because I want to live. I don’t want to die!” But the choice isn’t always that clear or easy. Foolishness is seductive and deceptive; it knows how to tempt us to do what is sinful and irresponsible, all the while making it look irresistible. Wisdom, on the other hand, does often look like difficult work that requires tedious diligence. We want things quickly and with ease. We don’t want to put work into it. But wisdom often requires it.
Ultimately, wisdom is obedience to Christ and fear of God (v. 10). It’s making the wise choices that align with His will. It’s living and thinking according to His Word. This isn’t always easy. Loving and obeying Christ takes work and effort. Sin is our natural disposition, so of course it is easy to do. It is easy to give in to sin, but Christ has a higher call for us.
Which invite will you accept? The invite to sin and foolishness and death, or the invite to wisdom and salvation?