A lot more preparation required

My wife loves to host people.  She is a great cook, and will often spend most of the day preparing a meal for our dinner guests. My participation in the preparations is decidedly less.  Maybe all the guests are thankful for that.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about how to prepare a great meal for guests.  But I have watched someone who does!

In a parable-like format, Proverbs 9 presents two different women inviting people to a meal.  The same invitation rings out in both Prov. 9:4 and Prov. 9:16:

Let all who are simple come to my house!

The first invitation comes from Wisdom and the second one is extended by Folly. When I read this passage recently, I noticed a stark difference in the amount of time, effort and money expended by the two hostesses.

Proverbs 9:1–3 – 1 Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city,

Proverbs 9:13–17 – 13 Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way, 16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, 17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!”

Both wisdom and the unruly woman give out an invitation to a meal. But Wisdom spends a lot more time and money in preparations than Folly.  She has built a large house with seven pillars to host her guests. She has purchased or slaughtered an animal, and has prepared a tasty meat dish for the meal.  She has mixed wine to just the right proportions, and then set out the sumptuous feast on her table.  She has sent out messengers with the formal invitations.

In contrast, Folly makes no special preparations. She just sits at the door of her house and invites whoever might come by.  Instead of wine, she just offers water, and she hasn’t even purchased that for it is stolen. No mention of meat, messengers, or even of a proper table setting.

In this parable, Wisdom’s invitation is an invitation to learn, to walk in the way of insight. She offers life, but to accept her invitation will require a person to change (Prov 9:6). Folly, on the other hand, does not requires her guests to do anything but enjoy the forbidden, the sinful pleasures of the flesh.  But this pleasure ends up in death (Prov 9:18).

Now it is clear from the chapter, and other verses in Proverbs, that despite all the time, effort and money that Wisdom had put into preparing her banquet, people still ignored the invitation and even mocked it.  Notice what immediately follows the invitation from Wisdom:

Proverbs 9:7–8 – Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.

Apparently, not everyone was delighted that they were invited to Wisdom’s banquet.  Not only were the invitations ignored.  Some of those invited were downright abusive.

So what kind of application do I see to our work of discipling the nations (teaching and training)?  To invite people to learn and then to prepare something worth learning requires a lot of time, expense and effort.  It is simpler, easier and less expensive to invite people to do whatever they find pleasurable.  It is a whole less taxing to invite people to a pizza and movie night than to prepare a Bible study or sermon.  For those of us who have prepared Bible studies and sermons in another language, we can appreciate how much time and effort can go into what looks like a fairly simple presentation.

Sometimes we want to take shortcuts in our training and preparation for our task.   The path of wisdom is to put in the time and work to prepare well, even if this means that we have to invest time and money in that preparation.

But we also need to remember that for the diligent teacher/ trainer, there are no guarantees that their efforts and preparations always will be rewarded with willing and eager learning.  Sometimes what we prepare is a flop, and we need to go back to our Bible and desk, and try again.  But sometimes, as in the case of Wisdom’s banquet, people refuse to come and learn – or come and look bored – because they do not want to change.  They do not want to leave their simple ways.

That doesn’t mean we stop preparing.  That doesn’t mean we stop inviting.  Wisdom personified didn’t find everyone ready to come and take in what she had prepared. We should not expect any more success than she did.

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