Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 9:9 – Don’t Be A Fool

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;

teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

– Proverbs 9:9

In his book, Developing the Leader Within You, John Maxwell talks about a common principle in production known as the 80/20 rule.  The rule says, in most cases, 20% of the people in your organization, church, family, etc. will do 80% of the work.  However, Maxwell then takes it one step further when speaking to leaders and encourages us to spend 80% of our time with the productive 20% doing the work.

He makes a great point.

If you are going to spend energy developing, challenging, encouraging, or equipping anyone let it be on the people that it will make a difference on!

Ironically, most of our energy as leaders is expended on the 80%.  We spend so much time, resource, and stress on the group of people that need the most direction, are the most needy, but never do anything with the direction given.

Solomon gives all of us leaders wise counsel in dealing with the 80% in Proverbs 9 when he says:

  • Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult, whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.” – Proverbs 9:7
  • Do no rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.” – Proverbs 9:8

In short Solomon is saying, “Don’t waste your time on fools.”  This may be a little harsh to read, but it comes from someone that has been a leader for over 15 years and has seen this first hand.   A fool is someone that acts unwisely or imprudently so spending time on fools that don’t want to change, refused to be led, or have a calloused spirit is a fruitless pursuit.  In my experience, the effort you expend nearly always comes back void and you look like a fool for wasting the time.

But the key verse for us a leaders is Proverbs 9:9

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;

teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

I love how Eugene Peterson phrases it in the Message translation,

“Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it;

tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.”

As leaders, we are doing ourselves a disservice by not investing the best part of our time in people that will profit from our involvement with them.  There are people all around us that are hungry for wisdom, but we have to get past the crowd of “mockers” to meet them.  By switching our focus to the men and women who are willing to learn, we not only better the organization we are part of, but we advance the Kingdom of God.

Very rarely do you see a person eager to learn and grow that doesn’t at some level then pay that forward to someone else.  As a result, the fruit of your teaching is seen generations from now as it is passed from leader to leader to leader.

I want to close by posing a few questions to two camps of people out there.

Camp #1 – Leaders:  Who Do I Spend My Time With?

  1. Who are you spending the majority of your time with this week and is there a high return for that investment?
  2. Who are the top 1-2% of the 20% doing the work and how can you invest more time in them?

Camp #2 – The 80%:  You Might Be A Fool If

  1. If you never reach out for ways to improve yourself …You might be a fool.
  2. If you bristle or laugh when corrected…You might be a fool.
  3. If you are in the group of people complaining all the time, but with no action steps to make it better…You might be a fool.
  4. If you make fun of people that come early and stay late…You might be a fool.
  5. If the last book you read was the manual to your Xbox360…You might be a fool.
  6. If you want all the success without any of the hard work to get there…You might be a fool.

I completely believe that people in the 80% can change to the 20%, but it has to come with a heart change and a desire to want to work hard.  There has to be a realization that God didn’t design us to coast through life, but rather to work hard at whatever we do.

There is a call from God to all of us to gain wisdom and apply direction from solid leadership.  That isn’t John Maxwell or me speaking that is the God of the Universe so if you don’t agree…take it up with Him.

For my fellow leaders, we have to sometimes let the 80% wallow in their own mediocrity until they decide they want to get out of it.  In the meantime, we should put laser focus on the 20% that are willing to learn, lead, and are not fools.

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