The pursuit of common sense

5/15/19 1:30 AM

Proverbs 19.8, 11
“Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good … Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

In these two verses Solomon makes two simple statements that summarize much of the book of Proverbs. If you care about yourself, you will seek common sense and wisdom, and good things will happen. The flipside, of course, is that if you ignore common sense and act foolishly, then you are simply inviting bad things into your life.

The example he gives is how you manage your anger (or any emotional impulse). The sensible thing is to press pause. Common sense tells us that our first reaction is rarely our best response. Don’t let anger push you or rush you into saying or doing something that would only make the situation worse.  

How you feel is not always the best reference point for what you should do. Despite your initial impulse of emotion, you have options available to you other than getting angry, and the wise person carefully considers those alternatives. Common sense tells us that a thoughtful response is far better than an angry reaction.

Sadly, despite this sage advice, common sense is increasingly uncommon.

Proverbs 19.10
“It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.”

Foolish people will squander and abuse wealth. Money and power amplify the reckless things that foolish people do. If a person does acquire their wealth through integrity and wisdom, then they will not spend their wealth with integrity and wisdom. The second part of this verse is not intended to justify slavery; rather, the message is that slaves (in general) are not qualified to rule over those who do have experience and expertise.

Keep in mind that in ancient times the steward who managed the household or estate was typically a slave who was qualified to lead and manage. Real leadership is earned, not given. The position doesn’t make the person; the person makes the position.

Proverbs 19.12
“A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.”

Respect for leaders is a principle of wisdom. Because they are in a position of authority, leaders can hurt you badly or help you greatly.  If you will recall, Solomon gave a similar message in chapter 16: A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.” (Proverbs 16.14-15)

Two things to keep in mind here:

  1. This principle is true of earthly kings, and it is true of our Lord, the King of Kings. It is foolish to disrespect earthly leaders, and it is exceedingly foolish to disrespect God.  As the book of Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10.31)
  2. While the primary message is addressed to followers, this verse has an important truth for leaders, as well. Because you are in a position of authority, it is essential that you wield your authority wisely and effectively. As Proverbs says in several places, unwise and unjust leaders do great damage to people and societies. “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor.” (Proverbs 28.15-16)

With great authority comes great responsibility.

Tim Kight

Written by Tim Kight

Founder of Focus 3, Tim focuses on the critical factors that distinguish great organizations from average organizations. He delivers a powerful message on the mindset & skills at the heart of individual & organizational performance.

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