The Good & Bad of Proverbs

Have you ever taken the time to read through the book of Proverbs? The whole thing in one sitting? There are thirty-one chapters chock full of wisdom. In these pithy sayings is a storehouse of knowledge, contrasting wise or righteous living with foolish and evil living. In the opening lines, we read that these proverbs can help show us how to live well. Below, I have written out a series of descriptors of a fool, an evil person, and a wise person pulled directly from Proverbs. Take some time and think through these characteristics in terms of your own life, and in terms of the culture you see around you. To whom are you exposing yourself? What do you value in others? Who are you becoming?

What are the characteristics of a fool?

A fool despises wisdom and instruction (1:7); hates knowledge (1:22); delights in mocking others (1:22);  uses words recklessly (12:18; 13:3; 29:20); blurts out folly (12:23; 13:16; 15:2); delights in airing opinions (18:2); answers before listening (18:13), lashes out pridefully (14:3); refuses to be corrected (5:12; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5); believes his or her way is right/is wise in own eyes (12:15; 26:5; 26:12; 28:26); is boastful (27:1); lacks discipline (5:23); lusts after another’s spouse (6:24, 32); cozies up to evil (7:6-23); uses flattery (26:28); feeds on folly (15:14); often speaks poorly of others (10:10); enjoys wicked schemes (10:23); destroys his or her neighbors with words (11:9); ridicules his or her neighbors (11:12); places trust in wealth (11:28); chases fantasies (12:11); believes anything (14:15); is easily annoyed (12:16); is quick tempered (14:17; 14:29; 20:3; 29:9-10); and mocks attempts to make amends (14:9).

What are the characteristics of an evil person?

Take note: there is assuredly overlap between the evil person and the fool. This list simply extends what characterizes unwise living.

An evil person delights in wrong doing (2:14; 6:19; 17:11; 21:10); listens to liars (17:4); gloats over disaster (17:5); is devious (2:14); pours out lies (6:19; 12:20; 12:22; 14:5; 20:23; 25:18); speaks corruptly/mouth gushes evil (6:12; 15:4;15:12); stirs up conflict (6:14; 6:19; 10:12;15:18; 16:28; 18:1); like a maniac, lies and then says “I was only joking” (26:18-19); plots evil (16:27; 24:2); lies in wait for blood (12:6); is cruel (12:10; 15:1); his or her teeth are swords (30:14); is hot-headed (14:16); has an appetite for violence (13:2) gulps down evil (19:28), loves to quarrel (18:1), is duplicitous (11:3); looks down upon others (6:19; 16:18; 18:12; 21:4; 30:13); mocks others (9:7; 21:24); is proud and arrogant (8:13; 11:2; 21:24); ignores and resents correction / refuses to do right (10:17; 15:12; 21:2); is selfish (18:1); exalts him or herself (25:6); makes him or herself a stench (13:5); closes eyes / shuts ears to cries of the poor (21:13; 28:27); oppresses the poor (14:31; 22:16; 30:14); acquits the guilty while condemning the innocent (17:15; 17:23; 18:5; 22:22; 24:23); accepts bribes (17:23); detests the upright (29:27); and builds a high gate (17:19).

Conversely, what are the characteristics of a wise or righteous person?

A wise person applies his or her heart to gaining understanding and insight (2:2-3; 14:8; 18:15; 20:18) and acts according to knowledge (13:16); shares knowledge (15:14); heeds discipline (10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:31); does not trust his or her own cleverness (23:4); seeks out and listens to advice (12:15; 13:1; 13:10; 15:22; 16:20; 24:6; 27:9), yet chooses friends carefully (12:26; 20:19; 22:24; 23:9; 23:20-21); trusts in God’s wisdom (3:5-6); shows discernment (17:24), humility (3:7;11:2; 15:33; 18:12), gentleness (15:1), even temper (17:27), integrity (11:3), honesty (16:11; 16:13), trustworthiness (12:22; 25:13), prudence (16:22), patience (15:14; 16:32; 19:11), perseverance (24:16), and generosity (3:9; 22:9); is kind to the needy (14:21; 31; 19:12); feeds the hungry (25:21); cares about justice for the poor (29:7); speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves (31:8); stands up for the rights of the destitute (31:8,9); does what is just and right (21:3); does not plot harm against another (3:28-29); does not withhold good from another (3:28-29); promotes peace (12:20); brings calm (29:11); rescues those being led to death (24:11); keeps lips from corruption and perverse speech (4:24; 13:3); guards/holds his or her tongue (10:19; 12:12; 17:27; 21:23); has a healing tongue (12:18; 15:4); uses gracious words (15:26; 16:24; 22:11); overlooks insult (12:16); avoids strife (20:3); turns away anger (29:8); sees danger and takes refuge (22:3; 27:12);  hates wickedness (8:7; 13:5);  hates dishonesty (29:27); shuns evil (14:16); and shows a strong work ethic (10:4-5; 12:11).

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