Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
Is anyone worse than a fool? Yes, a proud person who thinks he is right! A fool is stupid, but he may be able to learn a few simple things. There is little hope for a scornful man, one too proud to be corrected. How will you help him? He is convinced he has no faults.
Self-confidence and self-righteousness are damning. They lock a person into the conceit of their own deceived heart and mind, for they cannot imagine that their ideas and thoughts could be wrong. They arrogantly ignore and reject advice, no matter how worthy of their consideration. Safety from such folly is by humbly mistrusting yourself.
The fool has only one hindrance to wisdom – ignorance. The conceited fool has two – ignorance and self-delusion. He must first learn he knows nothing, which is the hardest lesson in the school of wisdom, and it 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 consider such people. You may learn by watching these proud and haughty wretches. They assume they are already 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.
In this proverb, conceit is of your own thoughts. Once you believe you are a great thinker and usually right, who 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 cure is to humbly admit you now know little more than you did as an infant and you are totally dependent on God and His word to learn anything of value at all. The lesson of wisdom in this proverb is to identify haughty scorners and avoid them. They are beyond hope, so do not waste your time trying to teach them. Get away from them (Pr 22:10).
The only absolute truth in the 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 They have convinced themselves the Bible is foolish, hopelessly outdated, or written by religious fanatics.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 how educators, the media, and entertainers all fulfill this proverb for you to see. Their bloated conceit from learning, power to influence public opinion, and social status cause them to despise and reject truth. So God has blinded them to even basic wisdom, as their dysfunctional lives prove to wise observers (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. They are fools without any hope.
But the Most High God is not amused by their arrogant stupidity. He laughs at their ignorance and coming judgment, but He is not amused by their rejection of the truth He offers (Ps 2:4-5; 37:13; Pr 1:24-27). He darkens their hearts and removes even common sense to commit abominable acts with each other that he considers right for their deeds.
He sends them down below brute beasts to sexually defile each other (Rom 1:18-27). Good men will agree with Paul that their base sexual perversion is a fitting reward. Are they ashamed? No way! They glorify it, promote it, and protect it (Pr 5:23; 26:11; Ps 49:13). They cannot grasp that they have been found out and cursed by their Creator.
The first lesson of this proverb is to identify such people. When you meet fools, you rebuke their folly in order to keep them from conceit (Pr 26:5). But when you realize they are the haughty scorners of this proverb, you should 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 Jesus 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 before they reach thirty. 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 admits he knows nothing. Such a man can be taught, and quickly.
Children must be taught that only the Bible 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 today are worse than idiots, for idiots do not have a rebellious agenda of hatred for God, authority, and righteousness.
The second lesson of the proverb is to avoid being such a scorner yourself. Paul warned, “Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom 12:16). You should 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). You should 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; Jas 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, especially if they are your own (Ps 119:13; Jer 17:9).
He that thinks he knows something does not 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 obtained.
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 to allow the infallible Word of God to arrest and condemn your 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 you must esteem the safety provided in a multitude of good counselors (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 reasons you give, he will invent all sorts of excuses to justify himself. This is a terrible evil for you to avoid and to avoid all infected by it.
A man hasty in speech is also worse than a fool (Pr 29:20), for his only desire is to belch and bark his ignorance (Pr 15:28). He would rather hear himself talk than learn anything from others. Rich men also 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, you must consider spiritual folly. Jesus severely rebuked the church at Laodicea for its haughty opinion of itself, and He warned them how much they needed Him and the danger of imminent judgment (Rev 3:17-22). You should 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).
Jesus Christ ridiculed the arrogant Pharisee who prayed conceitedly in self-righteousness about his superiority to the publican (Luke 18:9-14). He rebuked 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. Get down!
He who comes to Jesus helpless, naked, and poor will be received into everlasting pleasure above. Those who boast about their good deeds will be cast out. You should say humbly and sincerely with the songwriter, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn 6:37).
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