Most of the Proverbs 15, which we began looking at last week, is made up of individual segments of wisdom, with a few repeating themes. Solomon notes the importance of perspective, which is more influential than wealth when it comes to happiness. Careful planning, seeking advice, hard work, and righteousness are all commended. Laziness, impatience, arrogance, and hypocrisy are condemned. The chapter ends (Proverbs 15:13–33) with three proverbs echoing the recurring theme that sensible persons listen to godly wisdom—and this only comes through a reverent honor of God.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
A high intelligence doesn’t equate to having true knowledge, just as a fast processor on a computer doesn’t equate to having lots of data stored on the hard drive. Real knowledge comes by those who study the world with a mind towards helping others. Some people, who claim to be very smart people, end up saying very dumb things and creating foolish theories because they lack wisdom to look at how they can help others. They ignore the what the Bible says to twist God’s Word until that they come up with ideas that align with their own hateful ways and are actually useless and even harmful. Their foolish hearts cause them to want to feed on error, so they study other people’s error and further advance error. Thinking they are wise, they have become fools (Romans 1:22), for they loved the wisdom of the world which is foolishness before God (1 Corinthians 1:20). They preferred the approval of man rather than the approval of God.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
Jesus said that we will have trouble in this world. Some Christians spend much of their life in pain, depression, anxiety, or any number of forms of suffering. Much that is bad characterizes their lives. Yet, even so, their hearts can have a continual feast and celebration that this life is not all that there is. The believer has Jesus Himself in his heart in Whom there is fullness of joy and eternal pleasures and treasures. What is earthly affliction compared to that? In the heat of the battle and in the depth of affliction, that may be tough to remember, but it is something we should keep in our thoughts because God is always with us.
18 A wrathful man stirs up strife,
But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
This verse corresponds to verse 1 by emphasizing that those who are quick to anger add fuel to the fiery rampage of violent men. Those who don’t get worked up quickly and easily because they don’t like fighting and prefer to be peacemakers tend to calm disputes and help leveler heads prevail (Matthew 5:9). Christians are to do whatever they can to live peaceably with others, not to stir up strife (Romans 12:18).
21 Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment (heart),
But a man of understanding walks uprightly.
Fools like their sin and doing dumb things. They like to try to get others to approve and validate their foolishness and idiocy. Their passion and desire are for dysfunction, sinful pleasure, and destruction. Those who have understanding hate sin, error, and the devastating effects of sin because they know it grieves God’s heart and saps their joy. They long to see others understand the true nature of God and begin to take His Word seriously. But fools enjoy the error of their ways, and it is very difficult to make a person who is happy being stupid see joy in being wise.
23 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season (in its time), how good it is!
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure are pleasant.
It is an offense against God to ponder wrong thoughts and start plotting evil deeds. Rather, we should meditate and reflect upon the pleasant words of Scripture, for they will help us to purify our hearts and not be double-minded (James 4:8). Christians are to think on what is good, noble, right, and pure, not on what will defile our minds and consciences (Philippians 4:8). From a pure heart come good and edifying words that please God.
27 He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.
Those who gain by illicit means will often suffer as a result. Obviously, there are eternal consequences, but when committing crimes and cheating people out of money, one should not underestimate the wrath of other evil people. Even family and loved ones can be harmed on account of taking shortcuts and stealing. Taking a bribe means entering a world of deception, lying, and looking the other way when evil is committed. If somebody thinks that the bond of secrecy is broken, it might cost a person his life. Wickedness doesn’t pay, even if people get away with it in the short run. It is not a peaceful way to live, but it is a life of fear, bondage, and looking over one’s shoulder.
28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
Being a wise person doesn’t mean that we always have the right answer. It may mean that we need to slow down, meditate, and think through what the best solution is. A fool is quick to open his mouth and give dumb advice that will likely have some rather adverse consequences. Sometimes we need to keep searching things out according to the Scripture until we know for sure what we must do. God promises to give wisdom to His children who ask Him in faith without doubting. God will never hold back wisdom from those who need it and ask Him for it (James 1:5-7). He wants us to know what we should do, but sometimes we must be patient.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
And a good report makes the bones healthy (fat).
True joy is contagious, and people who are encouraged in the Lord are the best encouragers of others. Being a Christian is not about the power of positive thinking and just trying to always put a rosy spin on life. Joy is sourced in truth and the promises of God, and it is the gospel, the Scripture, and the testimony of believers as they have seen God deliver on His promises that provides the best encouragement (Psalm 32:11, Psalm 35:9, Philippians 4:4).
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
Those who are humble enough to have ears to hear the wisdom from God will turn from their sins, love Jesus, and seek to grow in wisdom according to His Word. John 10:10, says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
Wise people respond to the teaching of Scripture. To refuse to humble oneself before God’s Word and His authority is not just to hate God but to hate oneself because sin always destroys. The result of heeding sound teaching, and reproof is growth, joy, wisdom, and understanding so that a person can be ready for every good work that God has for him to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:10).