It was in the context of a high-school graduation event recently that I thought and spoke about the fact that before all of us is the opportunity to choose one of two ways. It came to my attention in reading through Proverbs again at this particular time. Right from the beginning of this great book of ancient wisdom one is hit with this reality: that there is the way of wisdom and the way of folly. There is no grey; it is either one or the other. Some will choose the way of wisdom and others will choose the way of foolishness.
As I have said in another blog (April 22, 2007), the lengthy introduction to the Proverbs climaxes in the presentation of two women in Proverbs 9, who themselves are really caricatures throughout the Book of Proverbs of the two ways — one is the woman, wisdom; the other, the woman, foolishness. Furthermore, in the opening chapters of Proverbs, these two are respectively represented as the loyal wife and the adulteress. Men, constituted as they are, end up being pulled variously in both directions; it’s the nature of human nature to want to do what’s good and right, while often also being tempted to lust for sexual fulfillment otherwise.
I find it so interesting that the author of the Book sets up the difference between wisdom and foolishness in this way. As Proverbs 14:12 puts it: There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. This, is the path of foolishness, the path of pursuing lustful temptation, the path of sinners. Again and again, this is the choice that is before all of us. Sometimes the way of sin can seem so good and right, but if we look deeper, if we consider it from the perspective of God’s truth and the way of wisdom, we will know the appeal of the path of foolishness is really a mirage. It doesn’t satisfy what is promised. In fact, in the end it is devastating and eternally destructive.
It is no accident that all of the Proverbs are cast in an expression that calls for the reader to have to choose between two alternatives representing either wisdom or foolishness. And, of course, there are many kinds of situations and opportunities to which this applies. In fact, I believe, it is in the praise of wisdom that Proverbs ends with a description of the virtuous woman (Proverbs 31). While this speaks beautifully of the nature of a virtuous wife, the larger image is in summation of all that has been said in the Book of Proverbs concerning the beauty and blessing of true wisdom. Like wisdom, the virtuous wife of chapter 31 represents all that wisdom is able to do in our lives, rewarding us with abundant blessing compared with the vanity of deceptive charm.
There is a sense in which this concept of two alternatives represented by wisdom and foolishness in the Book of Proverbs is really the theme of the entire Bible. Psalm 1, for example, as an introduction to all of the Psalms, sums up the difference between two kinds of people in terms of, the blessed, and, the ungodly. This is the contrast that ultimately applies to every person in the world. Either they are righteous or wicked in God’s sight; either they choose the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness; either they are redeemed and justified, or lost and condemned.
Granted, we do not have the ability or the insight to see people as one or the other. Furthermore, we all know something of each of these choices in our own lives from day to day — even as those who profess to have believed and to have been redeemed. The lines are not always drawn as clearly as we would imagine. Yet from God’s perspective, we are known in one way or the other.
That is why Jesus spoke of the broad way and the narrow way in Matthew 7:13 and 14. One is large because it involves more people since most never find the way of wisdom found in Jesus Christ. The other is narrow because it is less traveled since fewer people, due to their own inclinations in one way or another (ultimately a work of God’s grace), actually find the way of righteousness in Jesus.
There are other caricatures of these two ways in the Bible about which much more could be written. Paul, for example, speaks of the way of faith vs the way of works in Romans 2 and 3, and otherwise. In Galatians 4, he speaks further of two kinds of offspring (Isaac and Ishmael, one from the freeborn wife and the other from the slave wife), of two covenants (the law and grace) and of two mountains (Sinai and Jerusalem). And then there is the difference biblically noted between Cain and Abel, of Noah and the people of his generation, or of Jacob and Easu.
Some time, as God permits, I would like to develop this very prominent theme of the Bible further, because I truly believe it is important for us to see life with these two options in mind. I give praise to God for making this idea clear in the Bible so that we can see life for what it is and have the opportunity to choose the way of eternal life in Jesus Christ instead of death. Furthermore, by the grace of God, I would like my own life to speak to the choice that people have between these two alternatives. As Jim Elliot expressed it so well so many years ago (1956), Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.