Proverbs 1:20-22 (ESV)
20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
How Long will the simple love being simple and fools hate knowledge? This question is posed in Proverbs by the personified wisdom of God, and it’s not asked for information. The point of the question is to call upon the simple and the foolish to stop being simple and to stop despising knowledge.
You might think to yourself, “Nobody remains intentionally uneducated.” If you think that, however, you’re simply not correct. Just as there are men and women who worship education, thinking the number of books they have read makes them super special, there are also men and women who refuse to ever read books, listen to teachers, take classes, or do anything that genuinely looks like learning. There are people who are simple-minded, and who actually wear their lack of education (not formal education, just education mind you) as a badge of honor. There are people who are proud of the fact that they don’t worry themselves with concepts that they consider to be over their heads.
Let me share with you the words of Mortimer J. Adler from an essay entitled “Invitation to the Pain of Learning” which was published in The Journal of Educational Sociology, February 1941
Not only must we honestly announce that pain and work are the irremovable and irreducible accompaniments of genuine learning, not only must we leave entertainment to the entertainers and make education a task and not a game, but we must have no fears about what is “over the public’s head.” Whoever passes by what is over his head condemns his head to its present low altitude; for nothing can elevate a mind except what is over its head; and that elevation is not accomplished by capillary attraction, but only by the hard work of climbing up the ropes, with sore hands and aching muscles. The school system which caters to the median child, or worse, to the lower half of the class; the lecturer before adults—and they are legion—who talks down to his audience; the radio or television program which tries to hit the lowest common denominator of popular receptivity-all these defeat the prime purpose of education by taking people as they are and leaving them just there.
Adler is saying this: If you never have to strain to learn, you never learn. If you never have to grasp what is over your head, you never grow. If all you will reach for is that which is easy to grasp, you will never have that which has ever been out of your reach. Learning is hard work, and we should eagerly do the hard work for the reward.
Wisdom might say the same thing. Don’t love being simple. Don’t reject knowledge. Don’t scoff at learning. Don’t turn your nose up at what is too formal, too hard, too complicated. Don’t shut down if teaching seems to be over your head. Don’t give up. Cry out for wisdom, and God will grant it to you.
Again, just because a topic seems scholarly and complicated does not make it valuable. There are many folks who think they are dealing with high-level issues who are really wasting oodles of time and energy. On the other side of the coin, just because something seems complicated or high-level does not make it not worth your time. Part of learning and growing in Christ is a simple faith. Part of learning and growing in Christ is a complex understanding of Scripture and doctrine.
Knowledge, apart from the fear of the Lord, will puff a man up and make him arrogant. Ignorance or mental laziness, however, displays that a person does not take the truth of God seriously enough to put forth disciplined effort to gain more knowledge of the Lord, his ways, and his teachings. Let us fear our God rightly. Let us answer the cry of wisdom. Let us not be happy being simple or foolish. Let us pursue wisdom and knowledge for the glory of our God and for the joy of our lives.