You Don’t Learn Wisdom From a Book Like Proverbs

Dog with spectacles sleeping on book, illustrating that wisdom is not gained through books

Let’s talk about the Book of Proverbs.

Hey, wait, where are you going? Get back here!

Sheesh, hear me out for a second. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but hang on, I’m gonna bring on the excitement in a minute.

Well, no, probably not, but hang with me for a second anyway.

The Book of Proverbs has been called “God’s Instruction Book for Life,” which sounds awesome.

Not content with that pithy title, another person said, “Proverbs is actually a book of instructions on how to live a life pleasing to God and how to be more peaceful with all of mankind. It is a wonderful book for people of all ages to study how to live moral, peaceful lives.”

More peaceful with all of mankind? So all along all those beauty pageant contestants who said they wanted world peace had to do was read the book of Proverbs? I bet they’re feeling pretty stupid right now.

So let’s jump in. Here’s one that’s particularly useful in today’s social media world where trolls abound: Proverbs 26:4—Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.

Right? How many times have you told yourself something like that when somebody says something ignorant on Facebook? And that little voice of Wisdom inside your head keeps saying, “Click away, go watch that video on kittens,” but you comment anyway and quickly find yourself spiraling down the Internet wormhole of Uninformed But Passionately Argued Opinions?

Or sitting at Thanksgiving dinner when Uncle Ted, who barely graduated from middle school, goes off on how the Apollo moon landing was a hoax to distract us from the alien spaceship that crashed in the Nevada desert, and you know the only thing you should say is, “Pass the mashed potatoes please.”

But you can’t resist, thereby ruining another holiday get-together.

See? This is good stuff.

Let’s look at the very next Instruction For A More Peaceful Life in verse 5—Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.


 <the sound of defeaning silence>



Look, the person who compiled the Book of Proverbs wasn’t an idiot. He could see he was putting two proverbs together that say the exact opposite thing.

And I doubt he thought his audience was a bunch of idiots who wouldn’t notice the two contradicted each other.

Just the opposite, in fact; he knew they were smart people who could see what he was doing. They were people who lived life and knew that you can’t boil a life pleasing to God and leading to more peace among humanity into a short book of pithy instructions.

Life just doesn’t work like that.

Wisdom isn’t gained through a book.

It’s gained through experience.

But not just experience. Some people go through life having the same experiences over and over and never seeming to learn anything.

No, wisdom is gained through reflecting on our experience.

If anything, the editor is saying, “You want short, pithy instructions leading to wisdom? Here you go: THINK!!!”

Sometimes a fool needs answering, and other times, perhaps most times, you need to let your silence be the answer, but nobody can tell you exactly when either is appropriate.

Certainly not some book.

You have to figure it out for yourself.

One thing is for sure, though—if you always do one or the other regardless of the situation, you’re the fool.

You have to think.

And learn.

And live.

And think and learn and live some more.

That is wisdom.

Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / vitalytitov

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