For five summers during and after college I worked at a Christian camp in northern Wisconsin. The staff were mainly other single college kids like me, and we had plenty of energy by the weekend. One time a friend and I came across an old mining cave in a town not far from the camp. The fact that it had a fence around it with a No Trespassing sign just made it more tempting to us. It wasn’t a huge cave; it went in probably 50 feet, but it was a neat find that had an element of danger to it that was attractive to two young men.
My friend, Will, and I came up with a plan for showing some fellow camp counselors the cave on the next weekend and making it even more exciting. We decided we’d bring four or five female staff members there and stage a hold up with some guy staff members playing the role of hoodlums. To say this was not wise is an understatement; however, at the time it seemed like a surefire, exciting experience for us.
The first indication that this wasn’t a good idea was that several of the girls didn’t like the idea of climbing a barb wire fence with a No Trespassing sign on it. We convinced them it was okay and kept going into the cave. A second indication was just inside the entrance there was a huge boulder that wasn’t there the first time we came. It fell out of the ceiling in the intervening time! But we pressed on.
Soon our friends came into the cave behind us with ski masks on and started threatening Will and me. I was further in the cave and coincidentally had my girlfriend on one side and my ex-girlfriend on the other side of me. Both grabbed my closest arm, and they were both crying. My ex was whispering, “Dear Jesus please protect us” over and over and over. My girlfriend was shaking which I mistook at the time for sobbing. This was when it finally dawned on me that this was a dumb idea. I literally had no idea up to that point that some girls’ greatest fear is being assaulted.
The “hoodlums” demanded money and pushed Will around. At that point my girlfriend grabbed the stocking cap off of one of them and said, “Is this Danny?” What I thought was my girlfriend sobbing was actually her stifling giggles.That girlfriend eventually became my wife and has been for 30 years. 🙂 But she was the only one. The rest of the girls did not forgive Will and me for quite a while.
That was a foolish idea from beginning to end. It was illegal (climbing over the fence), unsafe physically, unsafe emotionally, and unkind.
You know what Will and I didn’t do? We didn’t run this idea past our Camp Director, or Program Director, or really anyone that might have told us no. Why? Well we really didn’t want to hear anyone that would push back on our idea. We didn’t want to listen. We had a week to plan this, and at no time did we ask a more mature person what they thought of this idea.
There’s one chief characteristic of the wise person over the foolish person in the Book of Proverbs, and it’s simply this: wise people listen. Foolish people don’t listen. You can really summarize Proverbs that way. A wise son or daughter listens. That is taught by how often Solomon tells his sons to hear him. All passages from the ESV.
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching…. Prov 1:8 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Prov 4:20 (cf. 4:1, 10; 5:1; 5:7; 7:24; 23:19)
We’re taught this when wisdom is personified in chapter eight and tells the naive to hear her.
Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, Prov 8:6 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. Prov 8:34
We’re taught this truth generally.
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Prov 15:31 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, Prov 22:17 (cf. 23:9; 25:12)
But most clearly it’s taught when fools and wise people are contrasted.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Prov 12:15 A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Prov 13:1
There are other marks of wisdom in Proverbs—the fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom for example (Prov 1:7). But the primary mark is a wise person listens.
It’s easy for us forget this simple lesson. Give me a little ministry success, a little success in my family, maybe some actual spiritual growth over a besetting sin, and I start to think that I don’t have to listen. I can become less teachable. Not really unteachable, but I’m less teachable. I start to pick and choose whom I hear. Those that I think are spiritually less than me I ignore. I think “What could they teach me?” I become more defensive. I don’t hear rebukes (Prov 13:1) because I don’t think I could need them.
Are you in a spiritual place where you can listen to others? The foolish son doesn’t listen. Neither does the foolish parent. He’s condescending to those that share truth with him. Heed the Book of Proverbs. You must be a person that hears wisdom, that seeks for wisdom. Be a listener; be teachable, and you will also be wise.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…. Prov 2:1–6