Wisdom vs. Folly
About the Guest
Has your life been marked more by wisdom or foolishness? Author Lydia Brownback points us to the Proverbs, the Old Testament tweets of their day, to discover new wisdom for everyday living. Lydia shares what the Proverbs teach about our tongues, and how to use our words to give life, rather than to destroy. She also discusses what Proverbs says about our closest relationships, especially those with our friends and parents.
Lydia BrownbackLydia Brownback (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the author of several books and a speaker at women’s conferences internationally. When time allows, Lydia blogs at lydiabrownback.com. She has served as director of editorial for Crossway’s Book Division; writer-in-residence for Reverend Alistair Begg; and broadcast media manager for Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, where she produced The Bible Study Hour radio program with James Montgomery Boice. Some of Lydia's books include th...more
Author Lydia Brownback points us to the Proverbs to discover new wisdom for everyday living.
Wisdom vs. Folly
Bob: There is a difference between intelligence and wisdom; right? So, is it possible to be intelligent and still be foolish? Lydia Brownback says it is.
Lydia: Fools can be some of the brightest people around—in terms of intellect—but they want their own way—they refuse to take advice. They don’t listen to godly counsel. They don’t immerse themselves in Scripture. They are not informed by the Word of God. So, it is not about brain power. It’s about all the traits, that go into wisdom, and seeing ourselves in relation to God—that’s humility.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to zero in on the subject of wisdom today and talk about how we acquire that kind of skill in everyday living. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, when did you move from being foolish to being wise? [Laughter] Or when do you—
Dennis: Is that—
Bob: —plan to?
Dennis: That’s where I was going with you! [Laughter] I was going, “You’re assuming that I’ve made it.”
Bob: That you’ve been there.
Dennis: In fact, I read something, recently, about some fresh research that was done—when men truly grow up and are no longer boys.
Dennis: Forty-two—forty-two years of age.
Lydia: That’s really depressing. [Laughter]
Dennis: It really is depressing. I forget what it was for women; but I think it was in the 20s or, maybe, early 30s—
Bob: —which just means that they are not going to match-up well together.
Dennis: I would say—back to trying to have some integrity to answer your question—I would say, “When I said, ‘I do,’ and took responsibility to love and to care for Barbara, was the point in which I commenced to begin to move from foolishness to wisdom.”
Bob: There is something about that “I do” moment that does kind of force you into a new path of wisdom because you’ve got a lot of responsibility now.
Dennis: Well, wisdom calls us away from self into a dependence upon God—
Bob: So does marriage!
Dennis: Well, that’s where I was going with that, too. There are two things that are going to do it—marriage and children—
Dennis: —they are going to press you hard against God and really force you to seek God for wisdom on an everyday basis. And we have a guest who believes that whole-heartedly. In fact, she’s put—I hate to say that you put your heart between two covers in the form of a book—but that really could be what A Woman’s Wisdom is all about—written by Lydia Brownback. Lydia—welcome back.
Lydia: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Dennis: Lydia is a writer. She is a speaker—travels across the country, speaking for women’s groups—and lives in Syracuse, New York. In her book, she talks about wisdom, and foolishness, and folly. One of the things we want to talk about today is really what the majority of the book is about—which is: the six major areas that the book of Proverbs really equips us to have godly skill in everyday living.
Bob: Well, I have to ask you about these six areas, too, because one of the things that has always frustrated me about Proverbs is that I’m a sequential person. I like things to kind of: “This follows this….This follows this.” Proverbs is a crazy-maker for a guy like me—
Lydia: I can imagine.
Bob: —because I’ll be reading something that’s about weights and measures—and the next verse I’m reading—
Dennis: It’s about ants!
Bob: Yes! And it’s like, “How does that high-end to that?” Some of it just seems really random.
Lydia: Well, it is put together that way. There are paragraphs and different poems throughout. Theologians will break all that down for us. I think most of us just go to it, though, and look at the little snappy proverbs as a self-contained unit.
Bob: These are tweets; aren’t they?
Lydia: They are very much like tweets, yes. I would say of these six I chose were those that I think women of every age—but maybe, especially, now, at the beginning of the 21st century—where we need wisdom.
Bob: And you started off saying, “Where women need help from Proverbs is with their tongues”?
Lydia: Yes; yes. There are so many proverbs about our tongues—about what we say—our words. There is either wisdom or folly in our words. We see that in the Epistle of James, in the New Testament, and how the tongue is—it sets a whole world on fire. We can destroy our lives and relationships with our tongue, or we can build up with our tongue.
I think, for women, one of the amazing things is— is in our role as helper in marriage. If you think about: “What is the main way we help?”—it is with our tongues. It is through influence; and this isn’t manipulative influence to try to get our own way. It is using our tongues to build up—whether it is to build up with encouragement—it is always to build up, in God’s Word. That is a majestic calling by God.
Bob: I want to make sure we don’t rush past too fast what you said. It is possible for someone to destroy her life through her words.
Bob: She can choose words to say that will ruin her life, or she can say words that will bring life to her life; right?
Lydia: Yes; yes. We are known by our words. You know somebody by what they say. And if you think—there are so many different types of speech that are highlighted in Proverbs. There is lying. There is flattery. There is gossip—
Lydia: —slander, angry words. Then,—it’s amazing how Proverbs even talks about how we talk. It talks about tone of voice and the wisdom in giving thought to our words and having a gentle tone of voice versus the folly of being quick to speak and slow to hear. It talks—it equates relational health with our words, too.
An interesting link that Proverbs makes is between lying and hatred. It says twice that liars hate the people they are lying to—that underneath lies, there is hatred. If you think that sounds kind of extreme—until you realize, “What is lying about?” It’s hiding a truth from somebody. It’s, basically, saying: “I don’t want to let you in here. I don’t want you to know the reality.” It’s creating a barrier. In that sense, it’s the opposite of love, which is why it’s hatred.
So, if you really think about what these proverbs are saying about our tongue and the consequences for foolish words versus the benefits for wise words, you see why it shapes the course of our lives.
Dennis: Sometimes, the problem can be too many words.
Dennis: Early in my ministry, I was working with high school students. Barbara and I were starting out our marriage. We were working together on a team that had a single woman who talked a lot. Now, I had my own issues; okay? So, this was a long time ago. So, we’ve all grown a good bit since this occurred; but I remember, after just hearing her talk, incessantly—and just almost beating everyone to death with words—I’m going to call her Pam. I said: “Pam, I’d like to give you an assignment. I’d like you to go to the book of Proverbs and study what God tells you and who God tells you to listen to.”
Lydia: That’s a great lesson.
Dennis: Well, you know, truthfully, it was one of those inspired moments that had to be God speaking to a young man, trying to help this young lady, because she needed the help; alright? She went off and did the homework. She came back, about a month later, with this vast study of the book of Proverbs about who to listen to.
It was—first of all, it was built around listening to God and His Words through the book of Proverbs, listening to a godly father—Solomon to his son—listening to godly counsel of friends and acquaintances—who have got a good sense of what God expects of us in daily living. Honestly, her life began to change. She began to change, in terms of talking too much, to beginning to listen a little bit more.
I think, whether it is men or women—this book—the book of Proverbs is going to aid them in really having greater skill in knowing how to use their words to build up and not tear down.
Lydia: And there is wisdom. So, it is wise ears, as well, as wise tongue. That’s really what your story illustrates.
Bob: When you were working through this and looking at all that the Proverbs have to say about different kinds of sins of the tongue, were there any places where your toes got particularly stepped on?
Lydia: Oh, probably every single one. [Laughter] You know, I think gossip is a big one, in terms of not just speaking it, but we’re guilty of gossip every time we are a willing listener. Proverbs tell us why gossip is such a hard thing to avoid—why we all fall into it so easily.
Dennis: What is gossip, first of all? I mean, I think, sometimes, we, maybe, misunderstand the definition.
Lydia: That’s a great question.
Bob: Yes. When you say, “I want you to pray for So-and-so because here’s what’s going on;” isn’t that gossip?
Lydia: We can spiritualize gossip and call it prayer concern, yes.
Lydia: I think gossip is taking the light and sharing a truth, or a falsehood, about somebody else that we really shouldn’t be talking about. I get asked sometimes: “Well, how do I know? Is it wrong—is it gossip if I go get third-party help when I’m having trouble with a friend, or with my husband, and I need some advice? Is it gossip to share the struggle I’m going through?”
I would say, “No, think about your heart motivation.” That’s what makes the difference between gossip and the desire to build up and to bring healing to a problem area. If we go to our pastor or a close, trusted friend and tell them about a situation, then, that is—there is wisdom in that. We want advice on how to solve a problem.
When we are sharing it—just because it is enjoyable to talk about it—then, that’s gossip. And you know what? I think our hearts always know the difference.
Bob: Here has been one of the ways I’ve helped guard my own heart in this area. I’ve always thought to myself, “Would I share what I’m sharing the way I’m sharing it if the person I’m talking about was standing right here with me?” If there was any deviation—if I would share it differently, if I would slant it a little different way or use a little different tone—then, I’m probably gossiping, at that point.
Lydia: That’s a great way to put a check on yourself.
Dennis: Proverbs 10: 18 says, “The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.” Slander is when you falsely accuse someone,—
Lydia: —or twist the truth a little bit, or just say something about somebody with malicious intent.
Dennis: That happens in marriage. Can you imagine? I mean, that can happen in the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife—when, in the heat of the moment, rash words can begin to destroy a partnership.
Lydia: Oh, absolutely!
Dennis: You know, I’ve never regretted my silence; but I have regretted my words. I want us to move to another topic that the book of Proverbs talks about. This is one that applies to all of us—but especially, parents, who are coaching their kids about how to find a good friend because we don’t have skill in really knowing how to select friends. Explain what the Bible talks about—about friendships—and spotting a friend who is wise and not a fool.
Lydia: You know, I think Proverbs is a great help in this regard. You can really sum it up in one proverb that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” I think what we need to find, in our lives, are those iron friendships. We’re going to have many different types of relationships in our lives, and friendships of different degree.
You know, we have acquaintances—and we want to be friendly to everybody—but those we let into our lives to the degree that they can hold influence over us—that’s the kind of friendship where you really want to have an iron friendship. And those—I think the best way to tell if we have one and what that is—is somebody else who loves the Lord, somebody who is seeking to grow in their faith, and someone we can be upfront about our sin, and be open to being called out on our sin, and who—that friend welcomes us pointing that out in their lives.
It doesn’t mean that every time we get together with that friend we have to talk about spiritual things; but it does mean that, after we’re with that friend and over the long-haul of the friendship: “Do we find ourselves spiritually edified?” and, “Do we find ourselves flourishing as a person—the person God has made us to be—or do we find ourselves diminishing?” That is—flourishing and diminishing—in terms of our walk with God and with our personhood. So, that’s kind of what we are supposed to look for in a friendship.
Dennis: The Proverbs repeatedly talk about the importance of with whom you spend time with. Paul talked about it over in First Corinthians 15:33. It’s one of the most-oft quoted verses, here on FamilyLife Today: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Proverbs 13:20 says, “The companion of fools will [emphasis added] suffer harm.”
Bob: “But if you walk with the wise”—
Bob: —“you become wise.”
Lydia: You become wise; right.
Dennis: And we want to train our children—our grandchildren—to be wise about who is a fool and who is a wise person. Describe a fool. Help a mom, right now, better and more accurately describe what a fool looks like to her son or daughter because moms and dads need to be equipping their kids to spot a phony and know what the real thing looks like.
Lydia: Dennis, you might read Proverbs 6:16-19. That’s where it tells us six things that the Lord hates:
One is “haughty eyes”. That’s a way of saying somebody is arrogant—somebody is conceited. They are not humble.
It talks about “a lying tongue”. Somebody who lies is not a good option for a friend.
And “hands that shed innocent blood” —that’s, basically: “Do we murder? Do we murder with our words? Do we murder with our attitudes and outlooks? Are we always slandering or putting people down?”
Another thing that the Lord hates is “a heart that devises wicked plans and feet that make haste to run to evil”. Does someone constantly want to go get in trouble, and is looking for trouble, and is drawn into things that they know their parents won’t like?
And another thing is a “false witness who breathes out lies”—there is that liar again.
And “one who sows discord among brothers”. That is somebody who is always stirring up fights, and quarrels, and disagreements, and gossiping—all those different things that come from the tongue—is egging other people on all the time.
Dennis: And if your child is running around with people who are demonstrating one or more of these characteristics—as a mom or a dad—what you need to do, I think, is take them to the Proverb—Proverb 6:16-19—read this. Instead of telling them—ask them—to say: “Now, how is So-and-so demonstrating any of these qualities here? Think that through with me.”
Lydia: That’s great advice. I think, also, to tell them what this is really saying—when it comes to friendship is—“We are always conformed to what we center our interest and love upon.” So, if we are going to choose friends that exhibit these qualities—in Proverbs 6—we are going to find ourselves conformed to that, eventually. It will rub off on us.
Bob: Do you remember—in the doctor’s office, when you were a kid, there was a magazine called Highlights?
Lydia: Yes, of course.
Bob: Did you ever read Highlights?
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: Yes. They always—I would always turn to try and find it. They always had a couple of panels with two kids—Goofus and Gallant.
Lydia: And Gallant.
Bob: Do you remember Goofus and Gallant?
Bob: We used to cut out Goofus and Gallant from Highlights. We taped it into a notebook for our kids so that they could just read through because Goofus was always doing foolish stuff. Gallant was always doing the honorable—the high-character things. Our kids—we’d use that language around the house—we’d say: “Now, are you acting more like Goofus or you acting like Gallant; right now? Are you being wise, or are you being foolish? How about your friend? Is your friend being more like Goofus or more like Gallant?”
It was funny how many times they would bring that up. They would say, “You know what So-and-so did today? It made me think of when Goofus did…;” you know? It was just relatable for them.
Lydia: That’s great. I think all of Proverbs—all through—there are so many things about relationships and friendships—taking a child through the book of Proverbs and finding—isolating—
In the back of my book, I’ve listed all the proverbs that have to do with friendships and relationships—and then, maybe, doing a study of those Proverbs with your child to find out why—not just to—you’re not trying to say, “This kid over there is bad.” It’s, basically, to say: “This is where he is going astray. This is where he doesn’t line up with the Lord. This is why, as your parent, I don’t want you to be following that road.”
Dennis: Proverbs 27:9 says, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” Now, we’ve been looking at the counterfeit—the foolish—for a moment. This is a picture of the wise friend. These are the kind of friends you need to have, as an adult—but also, train your child to know how to spot, and spend time with, growing up—
Lydia: And to want as a friend.
Lydia: —to train your children to want this kind of friend. And” earnest counsel”; that is: “Do they steer us toward good things—positive things? Are they”—that flourish or diminish aspect, again—“Does this friendship cause me to flourish or diminish?”—and to help a child to crave—to desire that kind of influence in his or her life.
Bob: Proverbs talk about the wounds of a friend being something that is a good thing. It doesn’t feel good when you get wounded; but when you know it’s a friend, you know that it is a surgeon with a scalpel—not a mugger, with a knife—that’s coming at you; right?
Lydia: Yes. Whether you are a child or an adult, this is what we need in friendship.
Dennis: And back to what I said earlier—we all need godly skill in everyday living. That’s what the book of Proverbs gives us. It equips us with God’s perspective of friendships—of our words in our relationships—so that we can build up and not tear down. What’s the proverb about the woman who was the nag?—“It’s better to go in a corner”—
Lydia: “It’s better to dwell on the roof of a housetop than with a contentious woman inside”—I can’t think of the exact verse.
Dennis: I’ve often thought of that proverb.
Bob: You’ve often thought of that proverb?!
Dennis: I really have. I’ve thought, “Man! That’s really not speaking very well of somebody who’s contentious—who is nagging.” And of course, you know what—
Bob: Oh, you’ve not thought of that because of anything personal?
Dennis: Oh, no!
Bob: Okay. [Laughter]
Dennis: In fact, I just want to brag on Barbara—not that Barbara is perfect because she’s shared enough—here on FamilyLife Today—our listeners know that’s not the case—but as I was going through your book, I just kept thinking, “I’m really married to a good woman!” I mean, she is—
Lydia: That is wonderful.
Dennis: —really—she is really a good woman. I don’t ever have to wonder about her words. I don’t—I really don’t think I’ve ever heard her lie.
Lydia: Dennis, it’s interesting that you say that because one of the traits that I bring out—near the end of the book, about the Proverbs 31 woman—is that the only time it mentions her relationship with her husband in that poem is it talks about how her husband trusts her.
He trusts her because she keeps his confidences. She doesn’t put him down. She doesn’t pick on his faults and failures. She doesn’t try to use him to fulfill her own expectations and agenda for what she wants out of life. She builds him up. So, he trusts her to let him be who God made him to be and drive him toward the Lord. That’s what you are describing.
Dennis: So, maybe—for some of the men, who are listening today, who are married—maybe, they need to come home from work today—and after both of you have kind of settled in and you’re fully both home—take your wife’s face in your hands, look her in the eyes, and say: “You know what? You are really a great woman. You are a Proverbs 31 woman.” Then, don’t say anything, guys, because you may mess it up and you may not get a point! You may not get a single point out of the deal. [Laughter]
Bob: You know, I’m thinking—as we’ve talked about how powerful the Proverbs are—I’m thinking of moms, who are listening, who may want to get a copy of this book and, this fall, go through it with a teenage daughter—the two of you do it as a study together in the book of Proverbs. It would be a great tool for a parent and a young teen—or older teen—to go through together.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Lydia Brownback’s book, A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything. You an order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
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Now, I hope you can join us back again tomorrow. Lydia Brownback will be here again. We’re going to talk about emotions and what the Proverbs have to say about how we respond to our emotions. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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