In recent years, I’ve learned that much of parenting involves helping the children learn not to do dumb stuff that hurts themselves and others. One child destroys every tower and confiscates every treasure, then wonders why no other children want to play together. Another child leaps from couch to coffee table and back again, wondering how far the gap can widen before something bad happens. Yet another finds a bag of sweets, devours the entirety in secret, and moans over the ensuing tummy ache.
One glorious incident involved our basement’s air hockey table. One child, who was typically more curious than a PhD candidate, wraps the table’s electrical cord around the rear axle of a big wheel. This child then mounts the vehicle, hits the gas, and begins taking measurements. I’m not sure which hypothesis was being tested, but the experiment resulted in our household inventory becoming minus one air hockey table. And that child went on basement probation for a few weeks.
I scratch my head at these kids until I realize I’m no different. I do dumb things and act surprised when they don’t turn out well. I’ve already written of the time I photocopied my hindquarters at summer camp. With a broken machine, a gash on my thigh, and a humiliating confession behind me, a camp legend was born. Even today, I stay up too late at night and wonder why I’m too tired to carry out important tasks the next day. I belittle my wife in public and get upset when she’s not affectionate with me in private.
Solomon wrote Proverbs 6 to help fools like us: those in danger of harming themselves and ruining the people they love.
Now most people read Proverbs for its practical advice. They crave cuts of beefy counsel to sink their teeth into. They want help with their finances or career path or relationships, but by the end of Proverbs 5, these spiritual carnivores feel like the steakhouse is always under construction and never open for business. So in Proverbs 6, Solomon finally serves up dense shanks for thoughtful chewing.
Proverbs 6:1-19 digresses from the big-picture framework of wisdom to portray three specific kinds of fool. The “Savior” tries to rescue needy people himself rather than pointing them to Jesus (Prov 6:1-5). The “Sluggard” makes a series of lazy choices that take him farther and farther from the Lord (Prov 6:6-11). The “Sower of Discord” breaks up the body of Christ, risking God’s condemnation, which could be atoned for by the broken body of Christ (Prov 6:12-19).
This section is unique in Prov 1-9 in that it doesn’t contain a command to listen. Did Solomon omit the command because his audience should have internalized it by now? He’s given enough theory; now he gets painfully specific. And the assumed question hangs in the background: Will you listen to instruction, even if it hurts to do so?
Question: Which of the three fools can you relate with?