“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.” -Proverbs 15.33
The Proverbs are full of wisdom and words to delineate between the wise man and the fool, but if we are to approach these sayings as a prescription for good living without any prerequisite conditions then we shall miss the point entirely. Before these words can profit us, before we may apply their pithy solutions to our lives, we must rightly assess our standing with God.
It is not the Proverbs that are instruction in wisdom, not the 31 chapters of “The wise man this, the fool that.” Instead, instruction in wisdom comes by fearing the Lord. ‘Our God is an awesome God!’ How shall we stand in his presence and not be crushed by the weight of our sins in light of his holiness. ‘He alone is worthy,’ and he alone is righteous in all he does. Failure to realize this, to take this to heart and apply it to all our thoughts and actions, will result in foolishness no matter how closely we adhere to the letter of the Proverbs.
Similarly, “humility comes before honor.” Men seek wisdom that they may be glorified by peers and subordinates. The image of a wise man in our understanding is someone deserving of honor due to their insight and intelligence. And yet God makes it clear that to be crowned with true honor one must first be caked with the dust of humbling their self at the feet of the Lord. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9.35). There is no room for competing lords in heaven. ‘You are God alone’ (2 Kings 19.19) and we are sinners saved by grace; may we reflect this in our lives.