Three Blind Mice

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Throughout July we’re taking an in-depth look at Proverbs, the Bible’s one-of-a-kind book about our never-ending need for wisdom.

Lots of notable things come in threes.

There are three primary colors, three Newtonian laws of motion, and three persons in the Trinity.  Baseball hitters get three strikes, basketball players shoot three-pointers, and hockey players in search of hat tricks dream of scoring three goals.

We wear three-piece suits, eat three-minute eggs, and occasionally experience life at home as a three-ring circus.  Hollywood has introduced us to Three Coins in a Fountain, Three Days of the Condor, and Three Men and a Baby. 

Children learn about the three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears, and baa-baa black sheep’s “three bags full.”  Rock fans celebrate Three Dog Night and Three Doors Down, psychoanalysts appreciate Freud’s three aspects of the personality, and anti-nuke activists lament Three-Mile Island.    

Teachers sigh deeply when they report that 59% of Americans can name the Three Stooges, while only 41% can identify the three branches of government. 

Early in the book of Proverbs we encounter another memorable triad.  We’re introduced to three problem people.  They appear together in 1:22: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?  How long will mockers delight in their mocking and fools hate knowledge?” 

The simple person, the fool, and the mocker are living illustrations of what happens when people fail to be wise.  They’re the Three (Spiritually) Blind Mice of the book of Proverbs.

The speaker in verse 22 is Wisdom, a female personification of the book’s primary spiritual virtue.  Later this week we’ll tackle the controversial question of her identity.  Is it possible that Proverbs is suggesting that Wisdom is an actual Person – perhaps a foreshadowing of Jesus himself?

We read in 1:20-21: “Out in the open Wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square.  At noisy street corners she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech.” 

Notice the places where Wisdom is trying to get our attention: the public square, noisy street corners, and the city gate (the latter being the spot where life’s big questions are discussed and economic wheeling and dealing goes down). 

The “noisy street corners” of the digital age include the big screen TVs that serve as the wallpaper of so many American homes; the never-ending dings of our smartphones, notifying us that we’ve received another must-see text or urgent sports update; and the social media rants that practically dare us to tell those speakers, who are complete strangers to us, that they are mindless idiots. 

In the midst of such never-ending noise, Wisdom is calling. 

Is anybody listening? 

The simple person, the fool, and the mocker represent a crescendo of unresponsiveness, going from bad to worse. 

According to Proverbs, the simple person isn’t a bad person.  He or she is simply clueless (note 7:7 and 14:15).  When they receive an email that a Nigerian prince wants to make them very rich (in exchange for their bank account information), simple people can’t believe their good luck.  This lack of basic common sense – what Proverbs calls “prudence” – is curable, if only the simple person is willing to enroll as a student in the school of wisdom. 

Being a fool is a different matter.  Fools have barreled through the intersections of wisdom and common sense and are quite certain they’re on the high road to happiness.  They dismiss the advice of others (15:5) and trust their own brilliance (18:2).  In the end, life is all about taking care of Number One.

According to the Bible, fools are not dumb.  They are not lacking in formal education or IQ.  A fool is foolish because he or she thinks their own moral compass is an infallible guide to the Good Life.  Unless they come to their senses, fools are going to be gravely disappointed – both in this world and the next.

Entering the realm of the mocker is to experience the spiritual Dark Side.  Proverbs describes this person in 21:24:  “’Proud,’ ‘Haughty,’ ‘Scoffer’ are his names, who acts with insolent pride.”  Mockers make fun of “good people.”  They cynically dismiss even the notion that such things as Good and Evil exist.  “Don’t try to correct a mocker, or he will hate you.  Correct a wise man, though, and he will love you.” (9:8)

Although Scripture makes it clear that no one is beyond the hope of God’s grace, mockers come pretty close.  That’s because grace must be received.  And mockers would rather die than believe in such fairy tales.   

The slippery slope of ignorance leads us to conclude, “Hey, I can handle life by myself.”  Before we know it, we’re brushing off even the idea that there’s a God worth thinking about. 

The simpleton, the fool, and the mocker. 

Proverbs tells us, “Keep your eyes out for such people.” 

Even more important:  “Never forget that this could be you one day.”