The word of the day is “folly.” Yesterday, we heard Wisdom summon us to her banquet. Today, in our reading of Proverbs 9:12-18, we hear a corresponding invitation of a foolish woman. This woman, whom we will call “Folly,” calls out to all who pass by, “Whoever is simple let him turn in here” (NKJV vs. 16). Today we will contrast the appeals of these two representatives of Wisdom and foolishness and the consequences of answering each.
The Enticements of Wisdom and Folly
Both Wisdom and Folly offer enticements to visit them. Wisdom sends out her maidens with the invitation to “turn aside to me” (OSB 9:4). Likewise, Folly sits at the highest places of the city and cries out with the same words, “Turn aside to me” (OSB 9:19).
Both of these women speak to the “simple,” that is, the naïve who lack understanding (Strong’s Hebrew #6612, 2340) (OSB 9:4 & 10:16). Wisdom appeals to the undiscerning to forsake their immaturity (OSB 9:6). They should “walk in the way of insight” (OSB 9:6). But in contrast, Folly preys on the same naiveté. She offers the excitement of the passions saying that “stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is tasty!” (NKJV: vs. 10:17).
Inside the House of Wisdom
Both Wisdom and Folly lure the unwise into their house. But only when they are inside the dwellings will the naïve find out what the women have in store for them. In the House of Wisdom, are the delights of bread and mixed wine. This food and drink are metaphors for finding the nourishment of the heart in Wisdom. Thus, the sage writes, “Seek discernment and live” (OSB 9:6).
In other words, the ways of divine understanding are ways of life. When we feed our souls with Wisdom, we flourish in God’s righteousness, justice, and mercy. We are like the Lord who said, “My food is to do the will of God” (NKJV John 4:34). Accordingly, Wisdom promises, “For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you” (NKJV vs. 9:11). When we feast on the understanding of the will and ways of God, then we know how to “walk in the way of insight” (OAB vs. 9:6), and we will not stumble or fall.
Inside the Abode of Folly
On the other hand, those who come inside the Abode of Folly, discover that it is a house of horror. This home of foolishness is the dwelling place of the dead. The door to this awful place is the gateway to damnation. Once they enter, Folly’s guests find themselves in hell (NKJV vs. 9:18).
In other words, the ways of folly lead to death. The logic is plain. If the Living God gives life, then His ways are the paths of life. Outside His Wisdom, truth and righteousness is only the realm of death.
Thus, the pair of readings that we have considered offer us a choice of life or death. Both Wisdom and Folly urge us to “turn in here.” And, indeed, to grow in the faith and to mature in our Christian life, we need to “turn aside” from our thoughtless and superficial way of life. We need to become aware of the deeper things of the spirit. But what house will we choose to enter today?