On Friday you might have caught the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on television. Most likely, if you watched that and continue to watch the events, you will be exposed to all the different kinds of people in the world. You will be exposed to different cultures, particularly the culture of the hosting nation. Sometimes you might be shocked at how different they will seem. You will find that these people enjoy different foods, fashions, and different types of entertainment. And you may come to find out that some of their personal tastes are radically different than yours.
And the funny thing is, when you read the Bible you should have the same sort of experience. In the Bible we are sometimes reminded that, as Christians, we are foreigners. We are people who do not belong in this world. We belong to a heavenly country. And because we are foreigners we will often find that we have radically different tastes.
That is indeed what we find in the book of Proverbs. We find that our orientation for a lot of things will be—or at least should be—polar opposites. It is no less true this morning. Here in this proverb we find that what we find personally pleasing radically differs from someone who does not follow Christ. On the one hand, we find that the fool delights in depravity while on the other hand the wise man delights in decency.
I. The foolish man delights in depravity
You see that it says in the first half of the verse, “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” It’s his pleasure. He gets a good laugh out of wickedness. He finds sin hilarious.
And let’s be clear about this: This is not just frivolous teasing or a practical joke. This is something that is out and out wrong. Your version may use the word “mischief.” This is talking about deliberate, unabashed disobedience.
Matthew Henry says, “When he [i.e. a fool] has sinned, instead of sorrowing for it, he boasts of it, ridicules reproofs, and laughs away the convictions of his own conscience.”
Have you ever seen one of these people? (Are you one of these people?)
This week I read about an incident that happened while some kids were Trick-or-Treating. A mother had agreed to take her nephew along with her children as they went door to door. When they were done they were waiting at a park for her brother in law to come and pick up his child.
As they were waiting her toddler said he had to go to the bathroom. While they were gone, her brother-in-law came, but he didn’t come empty handed. When the mother returned she found her son, had been doused with shaving cream and eggs. Apparently her brother in law wanted a little laugh.
Now we might say to ourselves, that was a harmless thing. But the boy was only 9 years old, and he was humiliated in front of his friends. He was ambushed by someone older, someone who was a part of his own family—someone he was supposed to trust. His uncle simply made sport of him right there in the open.
The mother was aghast at what had happened. She confronted her brother in law about it. But he would not express remorse. He had thought that it was hilarious.
You can even imagine the guy before he set out to pick up his kid. He gets the bright idea, and he chuckles to himself. As he goes around the house to gather his weapons he thinks, “Ah, this is going to be great.”
That’s the kind of perversity that this verse is talking about, this shameless sinning. Love your neighbor as yourself? HA! To the fool a neighbor is just an object from which he might get his amusement. His pain is my gain!
Young people, I want you to remember that sin is never a laughing matter. Getting our kicks at someone else’s expense is evil. Acts of depravity are never things we should delight in. Sin is something we should grieve over. If it violates another person’s wellbeing we shouldn’t be giggling, we should be crying.
People are never to be used. God doesn’t put people in our lives so that we can have some laughs. People are precious to God, and we should never insult their dignity.
So make sure you guard against any sort of joke that might come at another person’s expense. Whether it be practical jokes or a silly comment, if it is in any taking away from someone’s good name or going to affect their personal esteem we should have nothing to do with it. The Lord says in Ephesians 5, “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place.” The Lord says that they are “out of place.” It is not becoming of a Christian. Moreover, it is out of accord with God’s law, therefore we shouldn’t have anything to do it.
You see, as Christians we have a standard for beauty. We have a standard by which we judge what is funny. And some things just shouldn’t make us laugh. There should be times where we find ourselves infuriated while other people laugh.
In our day we have seen an explosion of stand up comedy. We have comedy clubs. Stand-up comedy is on the Television. A lot of the morning shows on the radio are simply trying to be comedians. But what are most of their jokes? It’s poking fun at someone or delighting in what is vulgar.
Some of the people you may find yourself around might be just trying to be one of these comedians. Whether it’s a comedian or a coworker, sometimes you should be thinking to yourself, “You know what? That just isn’t funny.”
Delighting in depravity is a trademark of a fool, not a Christian. As a Christian we are supposed to follow the wise man. It says that a wise man does not delight in depravity, but he delights in decency.
II. The wise man delights in decency
Read with me the second half of our verse. It says, “Wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.” Now, your version might be a little different. Yours may say something like, “A man of understanding has wisdom.” And that would be a good literal translation. The idea is that since he has wisdom, he delights in it. It is almost like wisdom is his hobby.
You may have a fishing pole. Why do you have that fishing pole? It’s because you like to go fishing. That’s what is meant in this proverb. The man has wisdom. He loves to practice wisdom. He finds pleasure in it.
It’s not evil that we are supposed to take pleasure in. We are to take pleasure in what is wise—what is in accord with God’s will. Doing good is supposed to bring us happiness.
A man by the name of Derek Kidner points out how odd this may be. We are used to thinking that the one who does what is good is a “kill joy.” We are used to taunts by our friends who say, “Come on, let’s just have some fun.” when they are about to do something that you know is wrong. And so we think, “OK, if I want to have fun, I have to do this. If I don’t do this, I’ll be a kill joy.”
But that is false logic. We are to be people who delight in God’s law. We are not simply to delight in the reading of it. We are to delight in the doing of it. Doing what is right ought to give us a high.
You know, whenever someone goes on a short term mission trip, you often hear the same sort of response when they have returned. If you have ever heard someone give a testimony about what they did, you would probably hear them say, “It felt so good helping those people.” You might have known someone who went down to help out with the hurricane relief efforts. When they got back they might have said to you, “The work was hard, but I’m so glad I went.” Those are just some examples of wisdom delighting someone.
We even talk like this sometimes. Sometimes we will do something for someone, and what will we say? They will say, “Thank-you for ____.” We will respond by saying, “It’s my pleasure.”
So, for a godly person, wisdom is delightful, but if you are honest you’ll readily admit that it is defective.
For some reason we often find it hard to obey don’t we? Obedience is something we delight in, but we don’t always obey. We often play the fool and delight in foolishness—even while at the same time we delight in God’s law.
Paul talks about this in the 7th chapter of the book of Romans. He says, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Basically he says, “I delight in wisdom, but I keep on doing foolish things.” Then Paul blurts out in consternation, “What a wretched man I am! Who will same me from this body of death?”
How does he respond? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Where did he find comfort? It was in Christ. Why? Because Christ can deliver him, because Christ was the man who delighted in decency.
Our proverb points us ultimately to Jesus Christ. He is the wise man. He delighted in God’s law. It is said of Jesus, “Behold, I have come…I desire to do your will, O my God”—that is, I delight to do your will.
Jesus found it no problem to do good. It was his joy in life. Even as God’s will for him was to face humiliation and death. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:5
I think that we could say that Jesus actually took pleasure in dying! Think about it. Why would you subject yourself to death? Jesus could have easily escaped the clutches of his captors. When they came to get him, what happened. His disciples started a rebellion. The disciples were outmatched, sure. But don’t you think that Jesus could have taken care of them? In John’s gospel it says that the mob asked, “Where’s Jesus.” When Jesus responded, “I am he” John says that the crowds stumbled back and fell down. He was really saying, “I Am.” He was declaring himself to be the LORD (YHWH). He could have easily taken them out.
And when he was on the cross. They jeered at him, didn’t they? They said, “He saved others, let him save himself.” And they said, “If he is the Son of God, let him come down from there.” They were right, he was the Son of God, and he could have come down, but he didn’t. He stayed on the cross. It was more satisfying for him to die.
It gave him more pleasure to suffer that excruciating pain and then to give up his life. He knew through that his people would be delivered. The dominion of sin would be broken.
And that is where you see the conclusion of the matter. For the wise man, wisdom is definite. And so we’ve come full circle. The wiseman finds wisdom delightful. He’s frustrated because it is defective, but in the end, through Christ, it is definite.
If the dominion of sin is broken, what is going to happen? Righteousness is going to take the throne. If death is conquered, life is going to be there in its place, isn’t it?
When Lazarus was raised from the dead, he didn’t say, “No thanks, I really prefer it here. It’s quite nice.”
Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death… By sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk according to the Spirit.” (italics added for emphasis)
That’s saying that now, because of God’s work in us, we move in a new direction. Things change. There is a definite turning around. Because the Spirit now lives in you, you crave the things of God.
After his conversion, one of his old friends said to him, “Bill, I pity you—a man that has been such a high-flier as you. And now you have settled down; you go to church, or stay at home and read the Bible and pray; you never have good times any more.”
“But, Bob,” said the man, “you don’t understand. I get drunk every time I want to. I do all my old things whenever I want to.”
“I say, Bill,” said his friend, “I didn’t understand it that way. I thought you had to give up these things to be a Christian.” “No, Bob,” said Bill, “the Lord took the ‘want to’ out when He saved my soul, and he made me a new creature in Christ Jesus.”
We are going to be different. When we are born of God we receive a new life and that life has its own new nature—a nature that hates sin, but delights in holiness and goodness.
If we are in Christ, people ought to find us strange, because we are strangers. We are to have a radically different orientation because we walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.