Why is it wise to be cautious in our choices and decisions in life? It is because we live in a world that has fallen. I know that those of you who read this regularly in these posts may think that I emphasize this too often, but I fear that we do not fully grasp at times what mankind's rebellion against God has wrought in this world.
Today's proverb tells us that a wise man fears. That is the literal translation of the word "cautious" here. It refers to the fact that the wise man fears God. He fears God becasue he reads of God's Word - God's glory, power, majesty, and holiness - and he fears displeasing and dishonoring Him. Wisdom tells us to fear God's displeasure. Wisdom also tells us that there is a way that is evil.
Here is where we run into some very serious worldview problems with the world and its philosophies. The majority of worldviews do not take into account the fall of man into sin and the subsequent ruin of this world. They consider man's basic nature as good. As a result you will hear people tell others to, "Just trust what is in your heart." That is not wise or good advice. What is in our hearts is rebellion toward God and a bent toward sin. We will choose with an astounding regularity contrary to God's ways. This is because there is within us a bent toward selfishness - and a bent away from God. The wise man knows this - and as a result is cautious - and does fear making decisions and choices that run contrary to God's Word. This is the place he turns for wisdom - to the Word - because it gives us an objective revelation of Who God is and what He has said. Thus he takes time in making those decisions to check for God's will and favor in things.
The fool though is said to be arrogant and careless. He is arrogant because he thinks he does not need anything to make wise decisions. He doesn't need anyone to tell him what to do - especially a "God" Who knows all things. He considers the Bible to be an ancient document that has no bearing on his life or his decisions. His arrogance is manifest by how he views himself - as just fine and having NO need of refinement - let alone a fundamental change in who he is or how he makes decisons. Therefore he is careless - he does not care about God, about God's Word, about God's will. He will make his own way. His favorite verse is an interesting rendition of Proverbs 3:4-5. It goes something like this, "Trust in yourself, and lean heavily on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge yourself and what you want. Forge your own path - make it what you want."
These two paths definitely diverge from one another. One heads toward God and sees God's Word as a road map and a guide for decisions - for life itself. The other sees nothing but self and a pursuit of what the world says is valuable. Even in instances where the world is not used as the standard - this one turns to his own desires and his own ways. Correspondingly, one path leads to destruction and misery - the other to life and life abundantly.