Posts Tagged ‘Proverbs’

How Lady Folly Dresses Her Children

The book of Proverbs is always an engaging read for me. Every time I go through it I find something new. I hope that means that I’m growing in wisdom. As I’ve been reading recently, I noticed that in chapters 1 through 9 Solomon warns his son primarily against the adulterous woman. I usually read these warnings as something to salt away in case I or someone close to me runs into that kind of situation. It just isn’t the kind of temptation I ever face so that advice goes into my pocket figuring I’ll give it to someone else some day.

In that section Solomon also warns his son about Lady Folly and he pushes him toward Lady Wisdom. I’ve always considered this advise and the warning against loose women as two different bits of wisdom but I’m not so sure that is what is going on. And, of course, it takes some wisdom to understand this kind of literature.

The adulterous woman is seductive and alluring. “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” (Proverbs 5:3) And so is Lady Folly, “The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive… (Proverbs 9:13) It seems that these are really the same woman doing the same thing. Adultery is used here as a metaphor for the allure of foolishness. That path is attractive because it looks easier and quicker. The adulterous woman is the same. She is seductive and pleasure with her is quick and easy to come by. In other words, a woman like that is a fitting picture of what foolishness looks like practically applied.

So the wise way to read this is to not assume we’re being warned only against the adulterous woman. We should avoid that kind of woman but we should do much more than that. The wise need to be weary of anything that is a seductive shortcut to pleasure through unrighteousness. Folly is like that. If folly were as repulsive as its fruits, few would choose that way. But she’s not. Compare these two descriptions:

Wisdom has built her house…
She has sent out her young women to call
from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, 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 9:1, 3-6)

The woman Folly is loud…
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” (Proverbs 9:13, 15-17)

They both sound the same call but you have to listen for a moment to tell which one is right and which is wrong. And don’t forget that Lady Folly is foolish but she is not stupid. Her call to pleasure via the shortcut is not always so blatantly wrong. Her words are chosen to seduce and so they can be very subtle; stealing isn’t the word she uses to describe stealing, adultery isn’t called adultery and greed isn’t called greed. They still are those things but they aren’t as enticing if she dresses them like that. It takes wisdom to discern the difference.

Proverbs for our Current Economic Times

Actually, this proverb is for all economic times and should have been heeded before we got in this mess, but still…

One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth – Prov 13:7

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Prov 13:11

The way to read a proverb is not like it is a plain statement of fact, but as wisdom. Read it and reflect on it. The fullness of its meaning may not be obvious on the first pass, you may need to reflect on it and chew on it for a while to get what it means. Ultimately, you need wisdom to understand wisdom but it is available to the foolish if they’ll turn and hear.

So in light of the housing bubble and burst and the current credit crisis, read and reflect.