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The Crux

Proverbs 13:14-15: What Keeps the Wise from Death

Why teaching the wise is wise

Proverbs 13:14 is fairly straightforward, but not for those who can't, or won't, think spiritually. Within it, there is a single declaration:

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning one from the snares of death.

It may be singular, but there are two sides to that coin.

On the one hand, teaching the wise is a "fountain of life." On the other, that fountain turns an individual from the "snares of death." The focus here is on the response of the wise to sound instruction.

We've seen this theme multiple times throughout Proverbs. I suspect we'll see it a lot more. But what is this "fountain of life?

Source: Pexels

What's Up With Fountains and Snares?

The fountain of life is a significant image. Scripture consistently ties God, Jesus, and faith with life and sin with death. From the Garden of Eden to the last chapter of the Bible, we see this dual theme, this cosmic duality, play out. Repentance leads to life, sin leads to death.

In the middle of the Garden of Eden, for instance, God placed two trees. The Tree of Life was meant to give Adam sustenance. Life. But the other tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, brought death.

It should be noted that the second tree is not the tree of knowledge. It is the tree of a specific kind of knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil. Morality. Ethics. The idea that somehow man can obtain the favor of God through moral action. Knowledge of good and evil is what leads to death, for it is this knowledge that points out sin and sin is the mortal death-bringer.

In Acts 11:18, Peter explained to fellow Jewish believers in Jerusalem why he was eating with Gentiles. Upon hearing Peter's story, the Jewish Christians exclaimed,

So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.

That repentance, in short, was a proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ, who is "the way and the truth and the life."

In Ephesians 2:5, Paul contrasts the believer's life now in Christ with our lives before Christ. Long story short, those who believe in the sacrificial Lamb are "alive with Christ" while those who don't are "dead in their trespasses."

So, you see, to hear sound instruction and act on it leads to life because it leads to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. That is where the wise go. The fool continues to follow their own wayward path toward destruction. That wayward path is full of snares (aka traps), or pitfalls, designed to cause the blind to trip, fall in upon themselves, and stumble their way to self-destruction. The wise turn from those. Everyone else does not.

Faith is the Operable Word

Proverbs 13:15 is a fitting follow-up to verse 14.

Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the faithless is difficult.

Since the wise turn to God, repent of their sins, and look at Jesus in new light, they develop what the proverbial author calls "good understanding." This is another way of saying "insight" or "prudence" (aka wisdom). In fact, the Hebrew word used in that verse is sekel, which literally means "prudence" or "insight." Wisdom wins favor.

From whom?

Well, for starters, from our creator. God is no respecter of persons, but he favors the humble, and the humble are wise.

There is also good evidence that the wise win the favor of their fellow men. But not always. The world is full of foolish men and women who are disrespectful toward others just because. But those who show themselves to be good students of life, respectful, and willing to learn from their mistakes and the countless mistakes of others are often honored for their wisdom. If anything, they are honored for their achievements, which often follow wise action.

At the end of the day, those who act wisely can expect good things to happen, but faithless people can expect nothing but heartache, trouble. Hence their "way" is "difficult".

In my observations, wicked men and women are always looking for a hand out for a hand up. They want what others have but aren't willing to do what others have done to get it. They mock the wise, follow the foolish, and rely entirely on their own understanding, which is often lacking. Is it any wonder they have a hard life?

Faith in Jesus Christ doesn't make a man's life easier, but it does make it more bearable. Such is the beginning of wisdom.

The Crux is written by Allen Taylor for the purpose of encouragement and edification. I do not expect my thoughts to be taken as the last word on any subject. Rather, my hope is to inspire you to search your own heart and conduct your own search for spiritual truth. That said, I welcome comments.

Allen Taylor is the author of I Am Not the King.

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