Which group is your group?
Wisdom, common sense, and understanding all come from the Lord. Somehow we have this wrong in our thoughts because we think it is all about how much or how quickly we can learn stuff. We think if we "apply ourselves" to the books, we will learn the "stuff" we need to make it in this life. Although I am huge proponent of continuing education (because I don't think we ever stop learning), I know there is much more to learning than just what we glean from the books. A perfect example of this is all I have learned since I finished nursing school. Yes, I spent a great deal of times in the books and there were some pretty intense study halls. I even remember having to write up every disease process a patient had and plan their care. But...the real learning took place once I was actually putting that stuff into practice. When I heard the first extra little "swish" of the heartbeat, I discovered what a heart murmur sounded like. When I smelt the first grossly infected wound, I understood what Pseudomonas bacteria could do. There was much more for me to "learn" and "understand" - not just what was in the books. The same is true in all of life. We can gain much by study, but until we apply what we study into real life experiences, it is merely knowledge. Part of growing up is learning to make a way for ourselves. Maybe this is where we get it a little wrong in our relationship with Jesus. We think we have all the "learning" we need to walk right and then we set out on our own. All the while we are figuring we can make it because we have the knowledge of "how" to walk, but we forget walking involves things like balance, occasionally having a handhold on something or someone, and being able to judge the safety of the trail we traverse. We get a little too independent and we soon lose our balance, have no handhold, and eventually find ourselves traversing pathways where resistance and trouble seems to surround us.
All wisdom comes from the Lord, and so do common sense and understanding. God gives helpful advice to everyone who obeys him and protects all of those who live as they should. God sees that justice is done, and he watches over everyone who is faithful to him. With wisdom you will learn what is right and honest and fair. (Proverbs 2:6-9 CEV)
My pastor pointed out the audience of the Proverbs - the simpleton, the fool, and the wise. Three groups of individuals each with a specific set of character traits which were outlined in the recorded truth of the Proverbs. The simpleton is just someone who does things without any really thought as to what they are doing (probably never been exposed to the learning before) - they just do it and don't even really know much better or even care that there are outcomes which might not be all that great. The fool is the one who probably knows better (has had the book learning) and just does it anyway. It is kind of a choice to act contrary to what one knows. The wise are those who have both the learning and the desire to put into practice what they have learned. It is kind of like when I went to nursing school - I had to put into practice what I gleaned from the books to really make it "cement" my learning. Until I did, it was only philosophy! Maybe this is something we can learn from the simpleton and the fool - one has no exposure to the knowledge, the other possesses it, but simply chooses not to use it. Both are going to experience some rough spots in life they probably would have rather avoided, but they won't necessarily learn from them.
Considering this passage in light of these three groups of individuals, I see something of interest. The simpleton might possess a little bit of common sense, because we are all created with it. His common sense tells him not to jump out of a four story window because he will get hurt as he really cannot fly. Will his common sense keep him from reaching for a hundred dollar bill stuck on the side of the wall just a little out of reach from that window? It is not likely that he will avoid it. Why? He sees only the immediate fulfillment of his desire - the hundred dollar bill! He wants it and he will reach way beyond the window because of the desire burning within him. He reaches and topples from the window to his doom all because he did not really consider the risks of his actions - he was merely captured by the object of his desire. Common sense did him no good in that instance. Even book learning which showed him the effects of gravity on a falling object did not keep him safe. He needed something known as wisdom to actually "run interference" on his behavior. He needed to recognize the danger in the decisions he was making - realizing no one hundred dollar bill was worth the risk of leaning way beyond his level of safety from that window to reach for what was well beyond his reach.
The fool has much to learn from this lesson, as well, for the fool is likely in the room with the simpleton egging him on to get the bill! He probably knows it is a fool-hearty thing to do, but if someone is willing to give it a try, he will get behind him and encourage the folly. Why? The fool doesn't home to gain from the simpleton's actions, but he is enjoying the thrill of the activity. The fool won't necessarily put himself in the same place of risk, but he will encourage the simpleton to focus on the wrong values. He will talk about the money as though it were the ultimate prize, totally missing that a man's life is worth more than anything we can amass materially. The fool has common sense, but he chooses to ignore it when another might just do the work for him! He possesses a degree of book learning - knowledge - so he even might have a little bit of understanding. Yet, he doesn't let those things hold back his desire to see others hurt in the process of trying to get ahead himself. See, he will have talked the simpleton into reaching for the bill because he knows the simpleton won't live long enough to enjoy it! So, in the end, he benefits from the simpleton's actions because he is now left to enjoy the bill!
The wise, on the other hand, have learned to combine common sense and knowledge (understanding) with God's sage counsel. They listen to the niggling of the Spirit's voice within giving them just a little "check" in their spirit. They are not caught up in the lack of focus of the simpleton, or the selfish interest of the fool. Instead, they are concerned for the safety of the one about to plunge to his death. They will likely look out the window at the bill perched on the side of the wall so high up and then hook a water hose up to the faucet, spray the bill with water, see it waft to the ground and encourage the one blessed to receive it! Why? Their focus is not on the bill, but on the lives which will be blessed by applying wisdom in the circumstance! Life isn't always clear-cut, but the wise will learn to listen to the voice of God and focus not so much on what others around them seem to think is important, but on the lives which are being "lived out" all around them. They will take what God gives in the way of common sense and understanding, using it to better the lives of those they touch. The wise learn to walk with eyes on the one who guides their steps, not so concerned with the path as much as where it is leading them. The wise will accept counsel and avoid mistakes because they realize others have walked ahead of them on those paths.
We fall into one of these three groups. I have played all three "parts" in this life, but I know for sure that the one which has me most enthusiastically focused is the latter! Just sayin!