The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. – Proverbs 9:13-18 ESV
The book of Proverbs in the Bible is known for talking about how to be wise. Many of the proverbs talk about how to be wise, recognizing wisdom, etc. Many others talk about it from the perspective of warnings: what the foolish do and how not to respond to fools, things like that. In one particular case, it talks about folly (which means to have a lack of good sense or to be foolish) and gives us a story about what happens to those who listen to folly. It’s not a pretty one, but those who are wise can learn to avoid folly-filled behavior in others.
First off, it says that, “the woman Folly is loud.” I don’t think there’s any significance to it beiung a woman as Wisdom is also called a woman in Proverbs. What’s important here is the volume. Foolish people are drawn to hoopla. This can be in the form of exciting entertainment; it can just be drama, television or real life. The next line of that verse says, “she is seductive and knows nothing.” So not only is she loud, but it’s empty words. Foolishness is hot air and emptiness. This is doubly dangerous because, to keep from realizing there’s nothing behind the entertainment, it must always be getting bigger and larger and louder (Vegas, anyone?).
Wise people can see value in all ranges of moments of life, and don’t always seek out the high moments in life. In each and every moment of our days, there is beauty and joy and purpose, if our eyes and ears are attuned to it. The may not be exciting or seductive, to use Proverbs word, but it is far better to be filled with joy over real life than seduced by the joy of nothing real.
The next thing Proverbs tells us about Folly is that she likes to be seen. She not only is out of the house (aka: not being productive, think about it, back then, women weren’t known for working outside the home…), but she’s also put herself in the place of the most conversation. She takes a seat on the highest places of the town. Places to be seen, places to see. She wants to be involved and chatting with anyone and everyone.
Once she’s put herself in an obvious place, she tries to pull in (remember, folly is seductive) anyone she can. She starts with, “I know the easy way to do things! Come with me!” I’m all for finding better, more efficient ways of doing things, but Folly is asking for people who aren’t willing to work hard to pay attention to her. They want simply easy answers.
Once she has them interested in that, she takes it to the next level, straight up lies. She encourages stealing and secrets. If you won’t work for it yourself, the next easiest answer is to take it from someone else. In addition, she fosters interest in secrets and secrets revealed (tabloids, yuck!).
Finally, we have the plot twist at the end. All these things are bad, but we haven’t seen the cost of them yet. Now we see where all this is leading: death. She has lured them in with entertainment and easy answers and doing whatever you want to. What she doesn’t show them is the basement full of bodies. Her words are sweet and tempting, but her inevitable end is a slow death.
We know that this sometimes means a physical death. Crime doesn’t pay and in-fighting among criminals ends up in their own deaths sometimes, think Jimmy Hoffa or Al Capone. More often, this is referring to a spiritual death. As we listen to foolish advice and seek easy, selfish answers, little bits of the parts of us that make us able to love and connect with others begins to die. Slowly, the love of ourselves takes over and we die to love with others. Because connection and relationships with others is what brings deep and long-term happiness, this eating away at the core of us is what finally leaves us empty shells of what we could be.
Wisdom learns to avoid the alluring voice of folly and the temptation for easy and simple answers. Life is hard, good answers can sometimes be complicated. That’s ok. Let’s find the best way to life, the most connected and least selfish way to live. If there is folly driving your decisions, you must turn to the Lord and let fear of Him fill you. It is by knowing him that we can be wise and live long, healthy, lives.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. – Proverbs 9:10-11 ESV