Proverbs 1:4 "To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion."
The fourth and final reason behind Solomon’s compilation of Proverbs is the first verse to officially identify his target audience. Here in verse four, the simple and the young man are identified as Solomon’s target audience. They were his target audience not because of what they had to offer him but instead because of what he had to offer them. Solomon didn’t compile his proverbs in order to make money or to get wealthy. He didn’t share his wisdom in order to make friends or to become famous. He offered his counsel not to get something but instead to give something. He didn’t see the simple person as an easy way of making money nor did he see the young man as an easy way of selling books. He saw them through the eyes of God – he saw them as souls in need of godly assistance.
How we see people reveals how God sees us. If we see the uneducated and the inexperienced as easy targets for some level of self-improvement, then God sees us as selfish and insensitive. If we see the simple as easy targets to manipulate for some level of self-gain, then God sees us as cold and cruel. If we see young people as prime candidates to brainwash in order gain fame or followers, then God sees us as evil and callous.
On the other hand, if we see the uneducated and the inexperienced as ideal candidates for some level of selfless ministry, then God sees us as kind and caring. If we see the simple as prime candidates in need of Biblical teaching, then God sees us as helpful and beneficial. If we see young people as great candidates for godly mentorship, then God sees us as wise and loving.
Wisdom that is from above (as was Solomon’s wisdom) will lead us to see others as God sees them. Heaven’s wisdom enables us to see the needy as God sees them and moves us to offer them the advantage of virtue – it certainly doesn’t move us to take advantage of them. Heaven’s wisdom helps us to see the weaknesses of others as needs and not as opportunities to fulfill our selfish desires. James refers to this wisdom in the 17th verse of the 3rd chapter of his letter and describes it among other things, as being pure, gentle and full of mercy. Those blessed with wisdom from above do not seek to capitalize on those lacking in knowledge and discretion. Instead of taking from the inexperienced, the wise seek to gently give prudence, knowledge and discretion.
Heaven’s wisdom stands in profound contrast to this world’s wisdom. Those infected with worldly wisdom master the art of sucking the weak dry of any resources they have to offer. Using their intellectual power and their slick sales tactics, the wise of this world have no intentions of giving anything to the simple. Armed with proven techniques and impressive words, the wise of this world see young people as easy targets to increase their wealth or their power. It is for this reason that James describes wisdom that is not from above as devilish in James 3:15.
Worldly wisdom says “get” while heavenly wisdom says “give.”
Worldly wisdom sees the unlearned as prey fit for their consumption while heavenly wisdom sees the unlearned as needy fit for their ministry.
Worldly wisdom sees the inexperienced as an opportunity to benefit from while heavenly wisdom sees the inexperienced as an opportunity to minister to.
Worldly wisdom puts self before others while heavenly wisdom puts others before self.
Worldly wisdom is responsible for plenty of books, seminars, classes, conferences, videos and podcasts but it is motivated by getting, not giving. Whenever an author is motivated by wealth or by fame, he is motivated by wisdom from below. Whenever an author or speaker is motivated by the good of others, he is motivated by wisdom from above. Intelligence is not the same as wisdom. Charisma is not the same as wisdom. True wisdom is found at the well of charity. Find a man or woman who is sincerely driven to help others in need and you’ll find a person who is sincerely blessed with heavenly wisdom.
Proverbs 1:4 reiterates the need for young people especially to be consistently reading the words of this book. It is intended to give them what they need – knowledge and discretion. The stakes are high in this life for the simple and for the inexperienced. If they fail to get subtilty, knowledge and discretion from the heavenly wise, they will inevitably give the little resources they have to the earthly wise. Without the sound counsel of the wise, the young man or woman will become financial, emotional, spiritual or even physical prey to the complex and intricate schemes of this self-centered world.
Simply put, if the unlearned and the inexperienced don’t gain from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, they will give to the Boatload of Predators in the World.
And for the learned and experienced, how do you see those in need: as opportunities to gain or as opportunities to give?