No, I’m not talking about choosing the right spouse. That’s important, too, of course; but Proverbs 7-9 contrasts two courses for a young man personified as women.
The adulteress — The first course a young man might take is personified as an adulteress; she is both literally an adulteress but also folly in general. Why is she personified as an adulteress? Because both a literal adulteress and moral folly are seductive, alluring, full of empty promises, and often motivated by passion (e.g., sex, greed, anger, hatred, and other visceral impulses and emotions). The adulteress sings the siren song, “It can’t be wrong, when it feels so right,” and many a young man (and not a few older men passing through a mid-life crisis) have fallen prey to her temptations. She’ll say all the “right” things to pull you in; she’ll be everything that you think is important — but isn’t. And before you know it, you can trotting after her with a silly grin on your face, thinking how smart you are. And again, I’m not just talking about sexual sin only here; it also includes “get rich quick” schemes, materialism, revenge, drugs/drinking, fame & fortune, violence, and more.
But choosing this woman will ruin one’s life. The benefits of short-cuts are short-lived. The consequences of the short-cuts tend, on the other hand, to be long-lived. There’s many a high school and college drop-out that regrets the opportunity he or she threw away. There’s many a young man who joined a gang and now has no way out alive. There’s many a middle-aged man or woman who destroyed their families with a brief fling. There’s many a “get rich quick” schemer who has to keep moving and looking over their shoulder everyday. There’s many an alcoholic or drug addict who now wishes that they had never taken that first drink or that first “hit”. Choose the wrong woman and you’ll regret it the rest of your life.
Wisdom — But choose the right woman, wisdom, and life will be much better. It’s not that she’s ugly, she’s just not as obviously seductive. She isn’t the “short-cut” but her benefits are much longer-lived. Proverbs 9:22ff points out that the LORD created the universe with this “woman” (wisdom) at His side with the implication being: “Don’t you think you could use some of this in living your life?” Choose wisely; choose wisdom.
I’ve a friend who’s really good at building and repairing things. He’s been a Christian for a number of years and has been associated with a number congregation and Christian camps over those years. One of his good-hearted, but consistent complaints is that the repairs done at a number of churches and camps (usually because of lack of funds and inexperienced volunteer repairmen) are “hammer-hacksaw” quality. Such “hammer-hacksaw” repairs have consistently been only short-term, short-lived solutions. It has often been his lot in life to follow up and repair the “hammer-hacksaw” repair, and as a result he has invented a motto in recent years: “No hammer-hacksaw!” The proverbs in our reading today are calling for “No hammer-hacksaw!” living — paying the rightful cost, putting in the time and efforts needed, avoiding the short-cuts, and doing it right.
A checklist for discovery — And one last thing thing… if most people were to be asked whether or not they are living wisely or not — choosing the right woman rather than the wrong woman — they’d mostly answer, “The wise woman, of course.” Proverbs (9:7-9) gives us a little inventory to take for our self-discovery:
“He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.” When you are corrected what is your response? Do you react angrily and insultingly? Does that person become your enemy now? Or are you thoughtful about what was said? Do you take measures to change? Are you appreciative of the person who offered the critique? It has been well said that we should appreciate our even enemies, because they will tell us things that our friends will not. Do you become wiser and better through the correction someone has offered? If your answer has pretty consistently been that you resent and shun correction, you may be choosing the wrong woman. If you have been open to correction, changed your life for the better, it would appear that you have chosen the right woman.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.