Today, we turn to Proverbs 14, specifically Proverbs 14:15. Here we find a contrast between naiveté and sensibility. This is different from the usually contrasts in Proverbs which fall between the righteous and the wicked. Instead, we see a contrast between one who has learned to pay attention, and the one blundering through life.
Naive, or simple, in the context of Proverbs refers to those folks who are essentially blundering through life. It is the natural, original status of man and the Proverbs are written to help us rise above that status (Proverbs 1:4). In fact, the testimony of YHWH is provided to make the naive into the wise (Psalm 19:7), capturing one of the purposes for God’s Word in our lives.
There is no fault found with the naive in Proverbs until they choose naiveté over wisdom. As parents should recognize, there are times people make mistakes in ignorance and innocence. Consequences remain, but the willfulness of the heart matters here—while the naive person needs to learn, they do not earn the punishment of fools.
Sensible people are contrasted with the naive here. The sensible person is perhaps not quite wise, but has begun the process of learning and growing. This man may not be wise, but he is working on it. Further, “wise” in Proverbs carries a definite moral connotation of following YHWH well. The sensible person may not be there, spiritually, but is still working toward it.
This contrast, then, is not as strongly about spiritual and moral character as it is about old-fashioned horse sense. The naive and sensible can be assumed to intend to do right in the eyes of God, otherwise they would be recorded as fools, but here they illustrate how intentions are not all that matters.
The indicator of naiveté is the one who believes everything. You know a few naive people, especially on the Internet. They repeat everything that comes into their inbox: that the fish are toxic, the Republicans are out to rule us all, the Democrats are out to tax us to death, everybody wants a gun, everybody wants to take our guns away, and so forth.
That is not to say there is not a kernel of truth at the heart of many rumors, but the naive believe every last bit of it. They not only believe that man has an impact on the environment, but that specifically only white men in SUVs are killing us all. Or not only do they believe that President Obama ignored Benghazi and tried to use it for his own political purposes, but that it’s all part of a long-running plot, devised by him, while he was an elementary student in a Muslim school.
The naive are the people who were on the Atkins diet, binging on meat and avoiding all bread, right up until they shifted immediately to a vegan diet. Then they’ll shift and condemn the vegans as they have the meat-eaters. The willingness to blow about without an anchor is a mark of naiveté.
Sensible people, in contrast, think through things. They may be slower to engage, but they are more durable in the end. The sensible person knows that the thoughts of man are only evil all the time (Genesis 6) and so trusts no governing officials. Sensible people consider all the facts, then render an opinion. This is what we want to be, who we want to be.
Studying the Word of God helps the naive outgrow their simple-mindedness. Dig in and grow!