Proverbs 17:16, 24
Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he has no heart to it?
There is everything in use, we say. And certainly a man's position at any time depends far less upon his bestowments and advantages than upon the use he has made of them. The wise man, in these verses, laments the fact that the price of wisdom should so often be in the hand of a man who fails to turn it to account (ver. 16), and that the foolish man wastes his capacities by directing them to things at a distance instead of giving his attention to that which is within his reach. The facts of human life abundantly justify the lament.
I. THE PRESENCE OF OPPORTUNITY. The price of wisdom, and also of worth and of usefulness, is "in our hand." It is not afar off, that we should ask - Who will ascend to the height or travel across the sea to find and fetch it? Opportunity is amongst and even "within us." We find it in:
1. Our natural capacities; here represented by the eyes of a man (ver. 24). We have the power of vision, not only bodily, but mental and spiritual. God has given us the faculty of perception, of observation, of intuition; we can see what is before us - our interest, our duty, our possibilities.
2. Our various advantages; the education we receive, the friends and kindred who surround us, the literature which is at our command, the resources we inherit, the openings and facilities that are offered us as we move on into life. These are "the price" wherewith we may "buy wisdom" and happiness, usefulness and power. "The gift of God" is a valuable opportunity (see John 4:10).
II. OUR FOOLISH AND GUILTY NEGLECT OF IT. Those who have the very fairest chance of attaining to wisdom and usefulness sometimes wantonly throw it away. The foolish boy, at the best school in the land, will refuse to learn, and comes out a dunce. The foolish apprentice, with the best sources of technical or professional knowledge at his command, wastes his hours in frivolity, and when his time is up is utterly unfit for the occupation of his life. Information of what is happening all over the world may now be had for a penny a day, and, what is far more precious, the knowledge of the will of God as revealed in the life and by the lips of Jesus Christ may be had for twopence; but, with "the price of wisdom" at these figures, there are those who know nothing of the hopes or struggles of mankind, and nothing of the way to eternal life. Duty, secular and sacred, is immediately before the eyes of the foolish, but their gaze is fixed upon anything and everything else; they are dreaming, by day and by night, of impossible or of hopelessly improbable fortune, and while they might be patiently and successfully building up a good estate, the chances of life are slipping through their hands. Such neglect of God-given opportunity is:
1. A most serious sin. It is the act of hiding our talent in the earth which calls forth the strong condemnation, "Thou wicked and slothful servant" (Matthew 25:24-26).
2. The greatest possible folly. It is a practical renunciation of the fair heritage of life which our heavenly Father offers us; it is the act of flinging the price of wisdom "into the waste."
III. OUR WISE USE OF IT. The wise man is he who makes the most and the best he can make of that which is within his reach, that which is "before his face." He does not spend time in looking and longing for that which is "at the ends of the earth;" he sets himself to cultivate the patch of ground, however small and poor, that is just outside his door. He puts out his talents, however mean they may be. He works his capital, however small it may be. He reads well his books, however limited his library may be. He tries to serve others, however narrow his sphere may be. So doing, he is in the way of constant growth and of a large reward (Matthew 25:20-24). - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?