Daily Proverbial, 28 October 2011

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Proverbs 27, verse 12.

“Stupid is as stupid does:” remember that quote from ‘Forrest Gump’ (which for many years I considered to be the story of my life; in some ways I still do)? I think it’s a step-child version of at least part of this verse. But think about it: if the dark clouds outside are starting to rotate, go get in the shelter. Unless you’re a paid storm chaser, you’re acting pretty stupid to stand outside saying “man, this is so COOL!”

In what follows, please note the substitution of “stupid” for simple because my read on the verse is that “simple” here doesn’t mean “lack of flourish or fancy.” In this case, simple just means stupid.

So without getting either political or preachy, can we agree that it’s the case with so much in life that stupid is as stupid does. This verse seems to be another common-sense observation on something pretty obvious. Bad choices lead to bad endings; bad choices are often stupid choices. I take away from it a number of equally obvious observations. In the case of this verse, Scripture neither condones nor recommends foolishness or stupidity. It also says there are consequences for foolishness and stupidity. I read, too, that it implies that simplicity is not stupidity but stupidity is pretty simple. Prudence is the opposite of stupid simplicity. Stupidity often leads to suffering whereas prudence leads to refuge and safety. Last, stupidity and prudence are both active choices, and stupidity isn’t necessarily driven by ignorance just as prudence isn’t necessarily driven by wisdom.

That’s a lot to swallow, especially on a Halloween weekend Friday when it’s been a long work-week and you and I are both ready for a weekend. It’s also a good reminder on that weekend. If there is danger, heed it because, if you don’t, you may just end up stupid. Could someone please pass this on to the government in Washington? If there’s no money, please stop spending. If there is danger, please take action to do something about it. If the room is silent, Mr. (and Miss) Politician, there’s no need to pollute it with your voice.

But I digress, shying away from sounding too harpy because, after all, it’s Friday. We all know that stupid is as stupid does; I keep reminding you of it (at the risk of harpyness even!). So, if you or I go out and drink too much (or even stay in and drink too much) then it’s probably unsafe to drive, operate a SkilSaw, or try to hang those orange Halloween lights that seem so popular these days. If you don’t know how to swim, it’s probably a bad idea to go boating without a life jacket. The list goes on and on; you probably are thinking up your own examples by now, so it’ll be a good time to just drop it, right? Besides, we’re back to the idea that stupid is as stupid does. If you’re acting stupid, then you’re at risk; if you’re acting prudent, then you’re near safety.

If…then: the verse is a kind of if/then statement, don’t you think? It’s an if/then, stated as a positive statement instead of just an if/then consequential statement.

Yes, my political and social views lean more to one side than the other. Without endorsing his rather shrill demeanor (or his political views), though, I was listening to right-wing bombthrower Glenn Beck on the radio this week and he was trilling about preparedness. His message was non-political actually, namely “take active measures to prepare yourself for coming dangers because there could be some.” Educate yourself, store food, engage your neighbors, be responsible, pay down your bills, save, and a host of other traditional, almost Puritanical, ideas that are good ones whether you’re on the right or left. They seem to fit nicely with today’s verse in that they are measures of active prudence versus active stupidity. Ours really is a dangerous world, you know, and it would be a really dumb thing to ignore that, especially if people depend on you.

At risk of sounding harpy (yet again), I’ll add in my own: get to know God. He knows you. Get yourself in touch with His grace and see how it transforms your thinking, your attitude, and your life. See how it prepares you to be prudent in matters of real life and death. See how it is the opposite of stupidity and will pull you away from staying mired in the swamp of stupid.

As a personal devotion, I’m reading Ecclesiastes, the book that comes after the Proverbs. Chapter four, verse thirteen says “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.” I believe it was no coincidence I read that verse yesterday when I was preparing to write this Proverbial. It, too, is another way of stating the same point. Better to follow a prudent kid than a stupid old man; better to be prepared than not be prepared. Prudent is as prudent does, you see, just as it’s willfully uninformed and unprepared opposite does the contrary. Even an idiot like Forrest Gump – or me – can understand that.


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