The Complacency of Fools Destroys Them

The Christian journey is a beautiful and complex thing. It is bursting with blessings and promises that make our darkened hearts glow with hope and at the same time fraught with peril and pitfalls that prompt us to call out in desperation for God’s grace. Thankfully, God has given us his word – particularly books of wisdom, like Proverbs – not as a guidebook that tells us how to stay away from sin, but as a revelation of who God is and how we can draw near to him.

In the first few weeks we’ve spent studying Proverbs at Providence North, we’ve learned a great deal about what Godly wisdom offers us. Solomon teaches extensively in Proverbs about the blessings of wisdom, but he also brings attention to the pitfalls of foolishness. One of the passages about the latter that Sean has highlighted was particularly challenging to me…

“The simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.” (1:32)

Ouch. When scripture challenges the so-called “big” sins, like murder and adultery (that we totally have a handle on, right…?) or the “little” sins, like gossip and gluttony (that are really no big deal, you know…?) we cozy up and hide in our complacency. But when God calls out complacency itself, we have nowhere to run.

Sean has mentioned repeatedly in this series that our default position is not wisdom or holiness, but foolishness and rebellion – that we naturally cling to the “counterfeit ease” of complacency – and I’ve been reminded of this quote from D.A. Carson:

“People do not drift towards holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate towards godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift towards compromise and call it tolerance; we drift towards disobedience and call it freedom; we drift towards superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch towards prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide towards godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

Complacency is such a sneaky thing, but the beauty and challenge of Proverbs is that it confronts complacency directly in an either/or framework. Solomon says “look, either you are growing in wisdom or you are growing in foolishness; either you are seeking God or you are slouching into sin.” I’m reminded of a tagline from an old Crest White Strips ad: “if you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing.”

So, what are we to do? How are we to overcome our natural bent toward the complacency of fools? Solomon answers this in Proverbs 2: we take his example of “grace-driven effort” and ask…

“If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God” (2:3-5).

James puts it even more simply: “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5).

We don’t need a complex formula to overcome our foolish complacency, but we can’t be passive about it either. As Sean has pointed out, what God is telling us is simple: if you ask, you will receive; if you seek me, you will find me.

Before we continue on in Proverbs, let’s ask God to make our ears attentive to wisdom and incline our hearts to understanding (2:2). Let’s be intentional as we dive in to all He has for us.