Monday, May 12, 2008

Just joking...

Meditation on Proverbs 10:23 - "Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding."

I recently went back to a familiar way of reading the Bible on a daily basis. Each day, whatever else I read in the Bible, I try to read 5 psalms and a chapter in Proverbs. On Saturday, the 10th, I was scheduled to read Psalm 46-50 and Proverbs 10. It was on that afternoon that I ran into this verse.

Proverbs are unique from things like narratives. Often, it takes the span of a couple of paragraphs, or maybe even a whole chapter, to feel the impact of a narrative's teaching. Narratives can also be read fairly quickly. Proverbs, however, are different. Each one must be taken in slowly and thoughtfully, or the point will be missed altogether.

I remember a show on TLC called "I Can Make You Thin". Being on the last 20 pounds of a long weight loss journey, I was interested to see what the host had to say. One of the things he suggested was after taking a bite, put down your knife and fork and chew twenty times before swallowing...getting all the flavor out of it. For a speed eater like me, this is an unusual concept, but I get the point. Eating slower means getting more satisfaction out of what you eat...therefore, you don't have to eat as much.

I think we should learn to read Proverbs this way. Read one verse, put the Bible down, and chew on the truth in the comparison or contrast put forward. Get all of the soul satisfaction out of it you can! Then, move on to the next verse.

Now, this has nothing to do with the actual subject of Proverbs 10:23, but I wanted you to know the way in which I was trying to approach my reading. It was a gloriously warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, and I was in one of our Adirondack chairs on the back porch for my Bible reading. I was working my way through Proverbs 10, trying not to "swallow verses" without adequate chewing. Verse 3...the Lord does not let the righteous go hungry...tastes good. Verse 11...the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life...a tasty reminder of the importance of our words. Verse 19...when words are many, transgression is not biting into a burritonot realizing it's full of jalapenos - WHOA! That really got my attention!

Then verse 23 - "Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding." When is doing wrong like a joke? Where is the trap that I want to avoid? I certainly don't want to be a fool, but where is the temptation to treat wrong doing like a joke?

Then, it hit me. The place where it is easiest for us to treat wrong doing like a joke, sadly enough, is when we are surrounded by close, Christian friends. Our guards are up in the office, where unbelievers are all around. Our guards are up at the gym, at the ballgame, and even at church...making sure we avoid wrong doing. After all, we want to conduct ourselves wisely toward outsiders (Col. 4:5a).

However, when it's just us and that other couple...just two deacons...two elders...two Christians...then, we feel some sort of need to "be real" and "lighten up". We would never make a joke out of that (pick a wrong doing) with Bill from accounting! But...with John from Sunday School? He's a Christian. He understands. He knows I'm just kidding. He knows it's just a joke.

I don't want to travel down some legalistic pathway here, but joking about wrong doing is a slippery slope. Laughing about an unbiblical, immoral life choice breaks down a barrier that may keep us from hating a sin as we should. The problem's not "just a joke". Proverbs 10:23 says it's the mark of a fool, and when take a glance through Proverbs (and the rest of Scripture) to see how fools are spoken of, we should quickly want to distance ourselves from even the appearance of foolishness.

So...I sat in that Adirondack chair on my back porch, and I chewed and chewed. The more I chewed, the more conviction I felt about my own "just joking" attitude about some things. Today, I sit in a burgundy, swiveling office chair, and I continue to chew. How I long for less foolishness in my life and more wisdom! I want to laugh...but I don't want foolish laughter. I want to be called a "man of understanding" by the Lord. May wisdom be my pleasure...our we walk through life.