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Monday, December 27, 2010

Simpleton or Wise?

11 Simpletons only learn the hard way, 
   but the wise learn by listening. 
(Proverbs 21:11)

Yesterday, I spent a little time speaking of the value of listening - developing the skills that make us good listeners.  Listening is really a two-way street.  We have open ears to hear the message - but we also ask clarifying questions so as to get the full meaning of what is being shared.  That is how God intends for us to be with our spiritual "ears" - listening with the intention of getting the full meaning of what he is sharing.

Our passage today deals with the difference between being a "simpleton" and being a wise learner.  We rarely use the word "simpleton" anymore - in fact, I cannot remember hearing it used in the past several years.  A simpleton is a fool, a knucklehead, a ninny - he does not seek to understand - we call him ignorant.  I grew up with the idea that a fool was some kind of ninny that just did not get what was going on.  I think we need to focus on the fact that the fool is one who is "ignorant".

First, I'd like to look at the root of the word:  Ignore.  The fool is one who ignores what is right in front of his face.  He spends very little effort attempting to grasp what he have evident in his path.  The fool is ignorant because he will not learn from what is available to him - he has the tools, but he lacks the initiative to use them.

Second, the fool is oblivious - ignoring the obvious.  Even when there is clear evidence, he chooses to ignore it as not pertinent to him, the situation, or the future.  Being oblivious is really because of two traits of the fool - being inattentive and being easily distracted.  The ability to distract a fool is really quite easy because he lacks to "focus" that is required to stay on task - not because he does not have the ability to focus - just because it is the path of least resistance.

The warning is that the simpleton (fool) only learns things the hard way!  Ouch!  That stings!  Ever feel like you could have learned a lesson just a little quicker or a little easier?  The obvious conclusion is that you were submitting to the path of least resistance (the fool's path) and had to learn that lesson the hard way.  So, the tendency to be "foolish" in our response to life events is apparent in all of us.  We make the choice - live as a fool, taking the path of least resistance, or live as a wise man, submitting to the path of learning.

Keep one thing in mind:  The "hard way" is evident at the end of the path of least resistance.  The path of learning may seem "hard" at first, but in the end, it is really the path of "least resistance".  Submission to the process of learning is paramount to avoiding the life-course of a simpleton.  Learn on!