“I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you.” – [Personified Wisdom] Proverbs 1:26
Good guys aren’t supposed to be vindictive, right? When the hero has his enemy in his grasp, when personal vengeance is at his fingertips, what does he do? He…. desists. He draws back. He allows the hand of justice to take its course, not his own. His goodness recoils instinctively from the poison of cruelty. The Wisdom of Proverbs later warns against vindictive pleasure: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” (Prov 24:17-18)
So how do we make sense of Wisdom, in this proverb, laughing at your misfortune? Although wisdom is personified in this section (Prov 1:20-33), it is perhaps worth stating the obvious—wisdom is not a person. But the incongruity can still be upsetting. No virtuous person would ever descend to dancing on someone’s grave.
We can best understand this proverb through one of our own: “He who laughs last, laughs loudest.” Wisdom has called out to any who are interested, without discrimination. Her doors are open to all comers. Here she engages with someone who despised that offer, who spurned and laughed at Wisdom. She is saying that although her offer is free, its refusal is not. There is a steep price to be paid by anyone who turns up his nose at Wisdom.
We have two sobering lessons to learn here. The first is that we do not naturally possess wisdom. Left to your own devices, you are not in good hands. God has offered us wisdom personified in Jesus, and preserved in his Word, but we need to look and learn.
The second troubling lesson is that there is something inside us that is actually disinclined to wisdom. Wisdom promises to litter our apprenticeship with life, happiness, and all manner of good things. But in verse 22 of this section, she laments: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” (Prov 1:22) There is something bizarrely alluring about folly, like the desire to walk along the edge of a cliff.
This impulse makes us despise and laugh at good sense. Wisdom sounds uncomfortable. I would have to change, or give up something I like. But wisdom reminds us that she will have the last laugh. If you reject the friendship and teaching of wisdom, it is no loss to wisdom, but to you.
In our fallen state of mind and heart, we will see submission and discipleship to Jesus as a foolish waste. It is a life full of humility, dependence, and short-term sacrifice. But God is warning us that if we ignore this offer, then we are the ones who will look foolish in the end. The worst punishment God can inflict is to give us up to our own desires. (Rom 1:24, 26) Let’s choose to hear what wisdom has to say instead.