Two Sides

October 3, 2018

Proverbs 18 is a fascinating and helpful chapter. Solomon shares wisdom that is helpful in relationships, politics, decision-making—you name it. At first many of the verses seem to be random and disconnected, but they actually give very significant direction about wisdom and opinions.

Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.“ The Hebrew word that is translated opinion simply means "heart,” "mind,” or "the inner person." Basically, Solomon says a fool neglects and rejects objective truth in favor of believing just what he wants to believe. His opinion may or may not be based on any kind of fact or evidence. It’s probably a conclusion that is convenient to his own self-serving feelings and desires.

Ever been there? I sure have. I can defend the Cleveland Browns and insist they will win the Super Bowl, and every other team is inferior. I have a RIGHT to think that, but it isn’t based on fact, just on what I want to believe. That’s a harmless rejection of truth, but I have done it before in significant areas. I am sure you have too.

Proverbs 18:13 further tells of the damage this kind of thinking causes. “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” Answering before hearing comes from personal arrogance of believing a conclusion before having all the facts. Amazing how we give ourselves permission to do this! Even in personal conversations or disagreements, we listen just long enough to believe we get the drift of what the other person is thinking, and then we dive in with our own opinions.

When we hear a story about someone, read the news, observe a situation, we elevate our own perceptions and instincts (mostly informed by our own arrogance and self-justification) and then allow ourselves to form conclusions. Our conclusions become the basis for accusations, rejection, and gossip that have no basis in fact, reality, or truth.

Proverbs 18:15 points to a new direction. “Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.” That word intelligent, means, "Gaining understanding and insight through the skill of close examination." Solomon tells us that our conclusions need to be the result of deliberate, close examination of all the available facts. How often do I slow down to do that before I express my opinion?

Proverbs 18:17 then finishes this little course on being ruled by my own opinions by recounting a scenario we all know too well. “The person who tells his side of the story always sounds right, until someone else comes along and starts asking questions.” We tend to throw down the gavel in our minds and declare, "Case closed!" after hearing only one side of the story; usually the side of a friend, or someone to whom we feel loyal. It's another way of saying that first impressions aren't always accurate. There can be more to a situation. Wisdom demands that in gathering knowledge and examining facts, we always wait to form a conclusion until we hear both sides of the story.

The principles of wisdom God saw fit to share in His Word aren't just good ideas. They are expressions of God’s own character. God never makes a judgment based on anything less than a full understanding of the facts. We're not all-knowing as He is, but we are obligated, made in His image, to seek knowledge and examine facts as much as possible, and withhold opinions until we have a clear and fair picture of what really happened. Our relationships and God’s reputation would improve if we believers worked harder at that.