Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
Is there anything worse than a fool? Yes, a conceited person who thinks he is right! A fool is merely stupid, and you can hope he will recognize his stupidity and receive instruction. But there is little hope for a scornful man, one too proud to take correction. How will you help him? He has fully convinced himself he has no deficiencies!
The fool has only one hindrance to wisdom - ignorance. The conceited fool has two - ignorance and self-delusion. He must first learn that he knows nothing, which is the hardest lesson in the school of wisdom, and is usually only learned by severe punishment. The more confident a man is in error, the more ignorant and dangerous his condition.
The LORD wants you to see and consider such people. You may learn by watching these wretches. They imagine they are wise, and therefore they never will be. They do not even know what wisdom is, let alone the spirit and means to obtain it.
Conceit is a high and haughty opinion of yourself and your abilities. It is pride and arrogance. It is the New Testament sin of being highminded (II Tim 3:4). It is the curse of the devil (I Tim 3:6), who thought so highly of himself he chose to compete with God.
Here, conceit is of your own thoughts. Once you believe you are a great thinker and always right, who or what will persuade you otherwise? You go to bed and rise with the same thought - your opinions are better than anyone else's! You are hopelessly deceived!
The only absolute truth in our world is the Bible, but conceited persons cannot give ground even to it. They have convinced themselves the Bible is foolish, hopelessly outdated, or written by religious fanatics. If they say they believe it, they will argue that everyone else misinterprets it: only they truly understand the mind of God. They so love their own thoughts they will not accept correction from God or His ambassadors!
Consider our nation today - educators, media, and entertainers all fulfil this proverb. Their bloated conceit from learning, power to influence public opinion, and social status cause them to blaspheme against Heaven. So God has blinded them to any light or wisdom (I Cor 1:19-20; 3:18-20). They hallucinate in their proud minds that men came from monkeys, which came from amoebas, which came from an accidental explosion of cosmic gases! What wisdom! What glory! What an accomplishment! The God of heaven ridicules their thinking as "profane and vain babblings" and "science falsely so called" (I Tim 6:20). They make science their conceit, and conceit their science! Fools!
But the Most High is not amused by their arrogant stupidity. He has taken them below brute beasts to sexually defile each other (Rom 1:18-27). And we heartily agree with our brother Paul that their base sexual perversion is an appropriate reward! Are they ashamed? No way! They glorify it, promote it, and protect it (Pr 5:23; 26:11; Ps 49:13). They cannot even see that they have been found out and cursed by their glorious Creator.
The first lesson of our proverb is to identify such people. When we meet fools, we must rebuke their folly, in order to keep them from conceit (Pr 26:5). But when we realize they are the haughty scorners of our proverb, we leave them to their wicked fantasies (Pr 26:4; 9:7-8). Further attention, honor, or debate is unproductive and dangerous (Matt 7:6). Let the blind lead the blind into the ditch, as our loving Saviour would say (Matt 15:14)!
Children must be taught early that they know nothing, and teenagers know less. Do not worry about their self-esteem, for at birth they were all given a double portion of it from hell (II Tim 3:2). They came into this world messing on themselves, and they have not advanced much beyond that at any minority age. Teach them that a humble attitude of ignorance is necessary for true learning and wisdom. Knowledge is just around the corner for the man who learns he knows nothing! This man can be taught, and quickly!
They must be taught that only Holy Scripture has absolute truth and wisdom, and only parents and older godly persons have wisdom worth hearing. They must be taught that the rock and movie stars, athletes, and pseudo-intellectuals of our day are worse than idiots; for idiots do not have an agenda of hatred for God, authority, and righteousness.
The second lesson of our proverb is to avoid being such a fool ourselves. Paul warned, "Be not wise in your own conceits" (Rom 12:16). We want to follow Solomon, who told the Lord, "I am but a little child, I know not how to go out or come in" (I Kgs 3:7). We want to be like David, who said, "LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me" (Ps 131:1).
Dear reader, crave such humility and a low opinion of your own thoughts! It will save you from much trouble! Tremble before the Word of God with a poor, humble, and contrite spirit (Is 57:15; 66:2; James 4:10). Do not trust yourself or your thoughts. Suspect your every motive. Question your every opinion. Subject your every idea to Holy Scripture! Hate vain thoughts, even if they are your own (Ps 119:13; Jer 17:9)!
He that thinks he knows something doesn't know it yet as he should (I Cor 8:2). If you want to be wise, you must start as a fool (I Cor 3:18). A little knowledge is dangerous, for it puffs up the human mind (I Cor 8:1). True knowledge is recognizing and admitting that you know nothing at all! With such a premise, wisdom can and will be easily found.
The temptation is great to violate this proverb, for "every way of a man is right in his own eyes" (Pr 21:2; 16:2, 25). The only safety is allowing the infallible Word of God to arrest and condemn our foolish thoughts (Ps 119:128; Is 8:20). How do you know, vain man, that you do not hold a lie in your right hand (Is 44:20)? Turn the searchlight of God's inspired Scriptures upon your ideas and learn to categorically reject any folly.
Then we must esteem the safety in a multitude of good counsellors (Pr 11:14; 15:22; 24:6), but the scorner will not be moved even by seven good men giving solid reasons (Pr 26:16)! No matter what arguments are given, he will invent all sort of excuses to justify himself.
A man hasty in speech is also worse than a fool (Pr 29:20), for his only desire is to spout sewer like a gushing leak (Pr 15:28). He would rather hear himself talk than learn anything from anyone. Rich men tend to be wise in their own conceit (Pr 28:11), because they have achieved some measure of success, can buy themselves out of most trouble, and find themselves above the poor in most stations of life. Watch both of these men, and learn.
Now, dear reader, we must consider spiritual folly. Jesus severely rebuked the church at Laodicea for their haughty opinions of themselves, and He warned them how much they needed Him and the danger of imminent judgment (Rev 3:17-22). Let us carefully heed what the Spirit said to this church and throw off any ideas of spiritual self-sufficiency.
The glorious God of heaven considers self-righteousness smoke in His nose! What is self-righteousness? It is saying, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou" (Is 65:5). It is the older brother resenting a celebration for the prodigal's return (Luke 15:25-32). It is any thought you are not the chief of sinners (I Tim 1:15).
Our blessed Lord ridiculed the arrogant Pharisee who prayed conceitedly in self-righteousness about his superiority to the publican (Luke 18:9-14). He sliced those haughty religious pretenders by announcing that harlots went into the kingdom of heaven before them (Matt 21:31). Dear reader, there is nothing more dangerous to the salvation of your soul than conceited self-righteousness. Hate it with a fervent and perfect hatred!
He who comes to the Saviour helpless, naked, and poor will be received into everlasting habitations above! "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling." Amen.