We looked at the broad audience of Proverbs last week, but today let’s examine more specifically what types of people Solomon expects to be present in the community.
Various authors in Scripture view people through different frameworks. The author of Hebrews sees people as either immature or mature. From one angle, the apostle Paul divides people into Jew or Gentile; from another he considers them to be justified or condemned. Jesus often distinguishes people as having faith or not, being for him or against him, sheep or goats or wolves.
These differing frameworks are not mutually exclusive; they merely represent different perspectives or intentions on the part of the particular author.
In Proverbs, Solomon organizes people into three categories: the wise, the foolish, and the simple. These categories are not dependent on age, class, race, gender, or socio-economic status. Rather, they are determined by one’s direction in reference to the Lord.
1. Those who are moving toward the Lord are called wise. This person is not a perfect or intelligent person, but rather a person who will gain understanding and change his life based on what he hears in Scripture (Prov 1:5).
2. Those who are moving away from the Lord are called foolish. This person is not an ignorant or uneducated person, but rather a person who doesn’t want to change anymore. He thinks he’s doing just fine on his own and doesn’t need any more help, especially not from the Lord (Prov 1:7).
3. Those who are not moving at all with respect to the Lord, on account of age, inexperience, or incapacity of some sort are called simple. This person is not an unreligious or immoral person (at least not yet), but rather a child or child-like person who is just starting out on the path of life and thus is about to decide whether to move toward the Lord or away from him (Prov 1:4). The crossroads are before you; which fork will you take? It’s critical to understand, however, that we cannot remain simple forever. It’s okay for a baby to smear spaghetti in her hair, but by the time she turns 30, more will generally be expected of her. Or, more elegantly, “one does not stay still: a man who is emptyheaded will end up wrongheaded.”