Wise in His Own Conceit
1. So far, this chapter has been all about fools.
a. Vs. 1– Honor is not seemly for a fool
b. Vs. 3 – A rod for a fool’s back.
c. Vs. 4-5 – Answering a fool.
d. Vs. 6 – Sending a message by the hand of a fool.
e. Vs. 7 – A parable in the mouth of a fool.
f. Vs. 8 – Giving honor to a fool.
g. Vs. 9 – A parable in the mouth of a fool.
h. Vs. 10 – God pays back the fool.
i. Vs. 11 – A fool returns to his folly.
j. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about fools. The word “fool” appears 61 times and the word “folly” appears 13 times. It is a major theme of the book.
k. Yet in all of these verses, Solomon doesn’t have one good thing to say about a person who is a fool.
2. Vs. 12 – But when we come to verse 12, Solomon mentions a kind of person that is even WORSE than the fool: a man who is wise in his own conceits.
A man wise in his own conceits
1. First of all, we should note that Solomon speaks of a MAN who is wise in his own conceits.
a. Interestingly, Solomon uses the term “man” that usually refers to men in particular – males.
b. He seems to focus on proud men in this verse.
c. That does not mean that women cannot make application—but the terms indicate that the interpretation refers to men.
d. Pride is not the exclusive possession of males. Women can also be proud.
2. Wise in one’s own conceit
a. Wise: This term can have either a good or bad connotation, depending upon the context.
• Bad: Cunning; subtle, crafty, shrewd.
• Good: Prudent, skilled.
b. In this passage, Solomon is obviously using it in a bad light.
c. Conceit: (The English words “in his own conceit” are one word in Hebrew.)
• The meaning of this term is not a synonym to pride.
• The expression speaks of pride, but not this term.
• Conceit = outward appearance; countenance; in one’s own eyes.
• The expression means a man who is wise in his own sight… in his own eyes.
• It refers not to a man who actually IS wise, but rather to a man who thinks he is.
d. It is bad enough to lack wisdom. It is far worse to lack wisdom and not know it—and actually believe that you are wise.
3. The Bible COMMANDS us not to be wise in our own sight.
a. Prov. 3:7 – Be not wise in thine own eyes.
b. Rom. 12:16 – Be not wise in your own conceits.
c. This is basically a command against PRIDE.
• Pride is the broader umbrella category under which are found several particular types… including thinking of self as being “wise in our own sight.”
• Pride blinds us to spiritual reality.
• Pride blinds us to the truth.
• Pride causes us to think more highly of self than we ought.
• Pride causes us to look down on others.
• Pride is a root of all kinds of evil.
d. The command to “be not wise in thine own eyes” is obeyed through repentance which means humility.
e. James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
• What a contrast to our proverb.
• It is possible for a man (or woman) to exalt self through pride and to become wise in their own sight.
• Or we can humble self in the sight of the Lord.
• The difference is a matter of whose SIGHT we are concerned about: ours or the Lord’s?
• Whose opinion of self really matters to us: ours or the Lord’s?
f. James 4:6 – The good news is that God gives special grace to the humble… but He resists the proud.
• It doesn’t make sense to maintain a proud attitude – an attitude that causes God to resist us.
• We might try to push against that resistance, but we are never going to win. God is bigger than every one of us!
• Spiritually, humility is the only sensible way to live… but then again, pride is not sensible.
• It is wise to be humble; it is foolish to be proud.
4. There are certain things that LEAD towards being wise in our own sight.
a. Prov. 28:11 – Riches.
b. Prov. 3:7 – A lack of godly fear.
c. Prov. 26:5 – Engaging a fool in his folly leads him to think he is wise and that his foolish arguments are worthy of discussion.
d. Rev. 3:17 – A lack of spiritual discernment. The Laodiceans thought that they were spiritual, mature, and pleasing in God’s sight because their pride had blinded them to reality.
e. I Cor. 3:18 – Acceptance in the world. Paul addressed the issue of those who assumed that they were wise because the world considered them wise. Paul’s point is that the wisdom of the world is really folly in God’s sight.
5. Note how the verse begins: “Seest thou a man…”
a. Solomon holds this proud man up for us to take a good look at… to think about what we see in him and in his character.
b. There are good lessons to be learned by observing BAD examples.
1. The proud man IS a fool. Pride is foolish in God’s sight.
2. Solomon states that there is more hope of a fool than the man who is wise in his own conceits.
3. Both are foolish, but the suggestion here is that it is possible for a man to be engaged in foolish behavior and be either proud or humble.
4. A humble fool may be engaged in foolish behavior, but is open to listening to wisdom.
a. A humble fool will respond to rebuke and correction.
b. Prov. 3:7 – “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
• This command is obviously directed to someone who IS wise in his own eyes. He is commanded to stop!
• He is to take his eyes off himself and focus on the Lord and fear God. Focusing on the Lord always results in godly fear.
• And he is to depart from evil – he is commanded to leave his folly behind.
• Thus he is commanded to repent (be not… is a change of mind) and to bring forth fruits of repentance (depart from the evil and foolish behavior)
• That is the way of wisdom. A fool can change and become wise… but it requires humility.
c. Thus, a humble fool can eventually leave his folly behind and become wise.
5. A proud fool is far worse than a humble fool.
a. A proud fool will not listen to correction.
b. A proud fool refuses to acknowledge that he might be wrong—and thus will never turn around.
c. A proud fool thinks he is too smart to listen to the words of wisdom from God’s Word. He knows it all already—or so he thinks.
d. This is far worse because his pride blinds him to the real nature of his folly… it blinds him to the danger of his folly… and most importantly, it blinds him to the truth: his need for wisdom, repentance and humility.
e. As long as he holds on to his pride, he will never change. He will live his whole life that way and go to the grave as a blind, proud, old fool.
f. Being wise in one’s own eyes is dangerous because it prevents a man from improving… from changing… or from correction.
g. Some fools are fools and they know it. There is hope for them.
h. But other fools are fools and don’t know it. They are blinded by self-conceit. There is no hope for them.
i. As Jesus pointed out in Matt. 21:32, there is more hope of a foolish publican than a proud Pharisee.