Got Wisdom? Part 3

Woman carrying Louis Vuitton duffel bag, and wearing designer bracelet.

When you ponder current problems in the U.S., which issues come to mind? The pandemic? Poverty? Poorly performing public schools? Political divisions? (P is for problem, apparently!) Or how about violence against women, racism and discrimination, or sexual harassment? Any of these might top your list for the top concern of the day.

Did counterfeiting come to mind? I haven’t been to New York City since 2019, but when I would venture into Chinatown, street vendors selling “knockoffs”— fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags, Rolex watches, and Jordans, for example—would loudly call out to pedestrians as they wandered by. Compared with violent crime or children going hungry, it seems perhaps a benign infraction to sell a knock-off to an informed buyer (yes, people are knowingly buying the fakes—a “Gucci” bag for $80 instead of $3,000? Sign me up!). Full disclosure: I bought a fake LV years ago (me glam now!) and it fell apart within a year.

Counterfeiters are not creative people. They may be skilled, but they don’t have an original thought in their heads: they copy someone else’s idea. But, if a consumer is tricked into believing a copy is the real deal, it can be a costly or even tragic mistake.

Perhaps you have recently purchased one of the following items:

  • tires
  • airbags
  • brake pads
  • car battery
  • surge protector
  • software
  • prescription drugs
Stack of tires

These items are being faked every day in the U.S. and worldwide. The pandemic has only made the problem worse given the supply chain issue. The makers of these kinds of knockoffs are allured by easy profits and the low risk of being caught. But the buyers—usually unaware—are at high risk: a surge protector with faulty wiring can start a house fire. Driving a car with potentially defective airbags or tires, even a mile down the road, is dangerous. Vulnerable patients ingesting counterfeit drugs could die.

It is evident that God wants His people to think and act wisely. The Bible contains more than 200 verses about wisdom.  In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is mentioned over 50 times. When the word fool is used in Proverbs (over 70 times), it is often contrasted with a wise person’s actions (Proverbs 9 is a prime example: this chapter contrasts wisdom with its counterfeit, known as folly.) 

Got Wisdom? Part 1

Wisdom’s Counterfeit

It’s difficult to tell a fake Louis Vuitton bag from an actual one, but expert eyes know that something is off: the stitching is wrong, or it has a label where there should not be one. Yet, for most of us, the bag looks authentic.

Wisdom has an alluring counterfeit, too.

In Got Wisdom? Part 2, we learned that Wisdom—personified as a female and representing God’s perfect knowledge and understanding—stands at the highest point of her city and calls out to its inhabitants below. A lavish banquet in her beautiful home is being freely offered, an evening that promises to soothe the soul, enlighten the mind, and change lives. To receive such an invitation would be a thrill, but also a little intimidating to the average person unacquainted with the host (have you ever felt out of place at a high-end party or a lavish hotel? I have!). Some may not believe she really wants them there. Why would Wisdom want to give me anything?

But they hear another voice, one more familiar to them:

Folly is an unruly woman;
    she is simple and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house,
    on a seat at the highest point of the city,
calling out to those who pass by,
    who go straight on their way,
    “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
Prov. 9:13-16a   

Folly, like Wisdom (see v. 3), is at the highest point of the city, but she is seated, like a lazy hawker at a flea market. She calls to the distracted crowds to join her, but as with any fraud, the goods she will offer sound enticing but are just empty promises.

The Blind Leading the Blind

Proverbs 13:20 tells us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Folly is impulsive and makes poor choices (“unruly,” “simple and knows nothing”). To join her party would be a case of the blind leading the blind (another one of my mother’s sayings—see Got Wisdom Part 2). This is not a good thing: if we hang out with the foolish instead of the wise, expect some blowback.

The First Counterfeit

The first time we see a counterfeit in action in the Bible is in the garden of Eden—Adam and Eve heed the tempting whispers of the charming serpent, won over by the shadow of truth in its words.

The serpent tells Eve in Genesis 3,

"You will surely not die, For God knows that when you eat from the tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Eve or Snow White about to eat the apple of temptation

The fruit looks so good, thought Eve. The serpent must know what he’s talking about–God is keeping this secret wisdom back from us. And I want it. The idea of having such power delivered in one bite—they could be like God!

To those who have no sense [Folly] says, “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” Prov. 9:16b-17

Snow White and the poisoned apple

Like Satan, Folly knows well the perverse human desire to do the things we should not and how easily we can be deceived. Her food appears to be delectable, but it is rotting fruit. And deadly. As at the Hotel California, Folly’s guests may check in and out, but they may never leave:

But little do they know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead. 
Prov. 9:18

Respond “Yes” to God’s Wisdom

This need not happen to any of us!  We can RSVP “Yes” to Wisdom’s invitation to eat her authentic, good food into eternity. We can learn what God’s wisdom is all about and just Who this Wisdom truly is:

We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.  1 Cor. 23-24, 30, my emphasis 

I am so grateful that Jesus’s death and resurrection have reversed the curse of the counterfeit in the Garden! Through His Spirit, we can turn our backs on folly and sin and embrace faith and God’s saving love.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. 
Rev. 2:7 

Father, may we always choose to follow your wisdom. Teach us in your grace to turn from folly and empower us through the Holy Spirit to heed our Savior's words, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Lk. 11:28). Amen.

*With the exception of  Snow White, all images are from Click the image for source. 

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