Twenty-one years ago, The Discovery Channel followed a group of sailors in their quest to become US Navy SEALs. The program, known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, is one of the most physically and mentally challenging endeavors in the world. One particularly painful evolution in the training is known as Log PT. Candidates must work as a team to hoist, press, and maneuver telephone poles on the sandy beaches of Coronado, California. An average log weighs about 200 pounds, boat crews are comprised of about six men, and Log PT lasts for roughly two hours per session. I get out of breath just thinking about it.
If during the torment, performance is found to be less-than-satisfactory, SEAL instructors will cheerfully assign the offending boat crew to the log known as Old Misery. Misery tips the scales at a devastating 400 pounds. She basks alone on the sand, happily awaiting her next batch of victims. On the side of Misery are imprinted the foreboding words: “Misery Loves Company.”
Although we do not meet Old Misery within its pages, the book of Proverbs introduces us to a new character: Lady Wisdom. As we will see, the dreaded 400-pound log and Lady Wisdom share a rather unexpected bond.
Aside from Wisdom, there is another, more sinister woman lurking among the Proverbs. She is Lady Folly, and she desires your destruction. Proverbs tells us that both women are calling out to you. Wisdom has opened her home and longs for you to come and eat at her table (Proverbs 9:1-6). You must beware, however, of Lady Folly’s deception. She has crafted an invitation of her own, and the choice of which house to enter is now laid at your feet. We will take a brief look at the battle between our two personified parties, along with one surefire strategy to push Folly aside and pass through Lady Wisdom’s gate.
A War of Two Women
Before you can enter Lady Wisdom’s house, you must know who she is. Simply put, wisdom is the skill of walking in God’s way of living. It is choosing the path of righteousness, godliness, and holiness. This is easy to say but difficult to do. Luckily, God’s Word gives us a path to Lady Wisdom’s table. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that in order to have wisdom, one must start with a fear of the Lord. This is not fear in the common sense of the word, meaning an emotion of distress. Rather, it is a deep respect and reverence for God.
In order to obtain wisdom, then, we must first have a fear of the Lord. How does one get that? Lady Wisdom tells us plainly: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil…” (Proverbs 8:13).
Why would the path to Wisdom’s house be hating something? Doesn’t God desire us to love?
It is here, in the “hatred of evil,” where Lady Folly steps in and the battle begins. I believe the negative language of the “hatred” of evil is intentional. Lady Wisdom is reminding you that the stakes are higher than merely choosing an invitation to a house party. Lady Folly’s invitation sounds sweet, but it is riddled with lies.(Proverbs 9:16-17). She will offer you the world if only you will abandon the way of Wisdom. Folly is a master deceiver. If you enter her house, you will be walking the path to death, led away like an ox to its slaughter (Proverbs 7:21-22; 9:18).
Lady Wisdom knows these schemes. This is why her way, one that fears the Lord, involves a hatred of Folly. Wisdom’s desire is for you to have a wartime mentality, one that actively fights against the temptations and sins that cling so closely (Hebrews 12:1). Fighting against Folly may not be fun, but it is necessary. This is because, in the end, a choice to do nothing is a choice to enter Folly’s house. After all, her way is wider and easier (Matthew 7:13).
How do we win the fight and choose Lady Wisdom’s invitation? The answer lies in the nature of our two characters.
Proverbs chapter nine tells of Lady Wisdom’s preparations before asking you over. She readies her main course, mixes her wine, and sets the table. Then comes the invitation: “She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town” (Proverbs 9:3).
Lady Folly also prepares her invitation, but it is here where the contrast occurs. We are told that Folly “…sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way” (Proverbs 9:14-15).
Did you catch the difference? Wisdom is surrounded with her women, while Folly calls out alone.
Through simply being who she is, Lady Wisdom fills us in on a critical idea. The fight against Folly is not won alone; the path to Wisdom is found in community. Like the 400-pound log awaiting its next batch of sailors, Wisdom too, it seems, loves company.
Find Your Circle
Being in community with other believers may look slightly different for everyone depending on church and context. For me, community is found in my couples’ small group. Our church likes to call the arena of small groups ministry “The Circle,” and it is one of our essential components of discipleship. My wife and I have been a part of our group for over two years now. I can say without reservation that joining a small group has been one of the most spiritually formative choices in my life. It provides a space where I can be honest about my failures, receive prayer, ask for accountability, and be encouraged toward Christlikeness. Plus, it’s just a great group of friends. If I weren’t immersed in a community of others who are also pursuing Jesus, I would almost certainly stray off Wisdom’s path. Lady Folly’s invitation would simply be too enticing. Whether it is a group of other men, women, couples, or a few trusted friends, walking in the way of Wisdom is nearly impossible without company.
The streets are noisy, but you listen carefully. Two voices rise above the rest, pleading with urgency and sincerity. Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are calling. They have laid their invitations at your feet. Who will you choose?
Daniel J. Estes, “Wisdom and Biblical Theology,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 854.