Wise Lips and Foolish SonsFr. Barnabas Powell
My grandmother used to confuse me when she’d comment about a particular friend of my grandfather’s. She’d look at the man as he was driving away from their home after a visit and say “He’s a smart boy but he ain’t got no horse sense.”
“Horse sense?” I’d hear that and wonder what in heaven’s name that could mean. It was years later I learned that this was a way of saying that someone may have a lot of education but they didn’t have the practical wisdom that comes from learning from your experiences.
Why do you think we constantly trip up over the same mistakes over and over again? Part of the reason is we simply don’t learn from the mistakes of the past. Or we foolishly think that “this time” it won’t turn out the same way it has countless times before! Ah, the “joys” of delusion! It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. No wonder the old saying states “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”
But attaining wisdom isn’t as easy as simply learning a lesson. Internal work has to be done first to develop a “wakefulness” (attentiveness) to your actions, attitudes, and choices. It takes a willingness to not spend your time comparing yourself to others, like “Why do they always seem to succeed and I always fail?” And then the deadly knife in the back of any hope of wisdom is uttered: “IT’S NOT FAIR!” Bye, bye, wisdom. Better luck next time.
Look at our Scripture Lesson today in Proverbs 10:1-22:
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. A son who gathers in summer is prudent, but a son who sleeps in harvest brings shame. Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. The wise of heart will heed commandments, but a prating fool will come to ruin. He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out. He who winks the eye causes trouble, but he who boldly reproves makes peace. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. Wise men lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. He who heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof goes astray. He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.
Just look at some of these life principles to embrace and pass on to your children, wisdom like “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. A son who gathers in summer is prudent, but a son who sleeps in harvest brings shame.” And like “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” Wonderful!
The whole passage is filled with these kinds of insights and head starts on living well. Come on, we all love a shortcut! Here’s a massive shortcut to the very wakefulness you need to break the back of bad behaviors AND pass on a strong example to your children. And you get the sense that the writer of these wise words has learned these lessons well, and perhaps even the hard way by experiencing the lack of wisdom in his choices or behaviors, and he doesn’t want us to have to go through those hard lessons ourselves so he warns us ahead of the wrong turns in our lives!
The passage ends with these words “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” Of course, these aren’t the temporary riches that pass away or lose value or are eaten up by inflation, but the riches that accrue in life becoming wiser, more peaceful, and more Christ-like. Those are the ONLY riches that outlast our own mortality.
The holy Martyr Sabine was from Hermopolis in Egypt and was known for his zeal and piety. During the persecution of Diocletian, he concealed himself with other Christians in a small dwelling outside the city. But when he was discovered and professed his faith in Christ, he was taken before Arian the Governor, and after he had been tortured he was drowned in the river. St. Sabine was wise enough to know that temporary life is not more precious than eternal Life in Christ. No wonder he was willing to stay faithful when all he had to do was deny the Lord to live.
Today, are you awake to wisdom? Are you sufficiently self-aware that you can see mistakes coming before you make them? Would you like to learn how to be awake like that? Read Proverbs and don’t simply press your eyes to the words, but actually ask God to drive this wisdom, this wakefulness, deep into your heart. Make the, admittedly scary, interior journey of discovery that allows you to examine your motives, your attitudes, your fears, and your choices, and make this journey toward wakefulness as a wise person with some “horse sense!” During Great Lent make an appointment with your spiritual father for confession. Attend the Pre-sanctified liturgies. Have someone in your life that you are able to share all your deepest thoughts. Get wisdom! Be the free person you were made to be! That’s a Normal Orthodox life.
P.S. Your Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for You received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from You, our immortal God. For since he possessed Your strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since You are merciful.
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