top of page

The DEFINING Difference Between The Wise & The Foolish Is…

Several years ago I was told that if I wanted to gain wisdom, I should read a chapter from the book of Proverbs everyday! I will tell you that is true!

It’s actually easy to do because there are thirty-one chapters in the book of Proverbs and if I read a chapter each day then I will complete the book in one month. But if I commit myself to that everyday of every month of the year I will have read it twelve times in one year - something is bound to stick in my memory! RIGHT? I have found that doing this challenges my thinking to be more focused in pursuing God’s truth, and as I do, I gain both wisdom and understanding that I can apply to my everyday life.

If we want to understand the difference between the wise and the foolish, we need to define these words, not by what we THINK they mean but by going to the original language that Father God spoke to us!

Here they are in the Hebrew roots:

  • WISE Ḥāḵmâ; pronounced khok-maw' (feminine noun)

Strongs - skilful, wisdom, wisely, wit.

Lexicon - It comprehends various learning, is intelligent, is endowed with reasoning and using it, wise from experience of life, and skillful with regard to affairs both human and divine; endued with the ability to judge; strong and steadfast in mind

  • FOOLISH iûeleṯ; pronounced iv-veh'-leth (feminine noun)

Strongs - silliness:—folly, foolishly(-ness); impiety

Lexicon - impiety

So there we have it - what now? We have an IF/THEN situation to deal with:

IF we are not going to pursue wisdom;

THEN the alternative is that by apathy, neglect or denial, we will give way or resign ourselves to foolishness.

There is no gray area! We can say we don’t want to pursue either one, but we know that apathy, neglect or denial will lead to nowhere and eventually has a cost that leans into foolishness.

So how do we learn the difference between the wise and the foolish? Try using these tips and tools to help you get started:


Preparation will equip you to record questions, answers, thoughts, or other notes by writing down what you are learning that is important enough for you to remember.

4 C’s


Avoid cherry-picking Scriptures without context, it will lead to confusion.

Merriam Webster defines CONTEXT like this:

1-the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning

2- the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs

When you study in context, you will begin to personally experience what was going on in and around the topic or passage that you are studying.

CROSS-REFERENCES AND CONCORDANCE are tools in your Bible that will help you see how God can direct you from a topical point of view in more than one passage of Scripture.

The Matthew Henry COMMENTARY is one of my favorites and is a great help in grasping cultural clarity but we must remember that while commentaries are helpful, they should never replace the Scriptures!


I use the Blue Letter Bible to define the words in the original language in a passage of Scripture. (I am always surprised at what I thought words meant and what they really are in the root definitions!)

Here is an example of how I recently studied Proverbs 14:1 using these tools in the NASB translation:

“The (a)wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears

it down with her own hands.”

>(Reference a - Ruth 4:11; Prov. 31:10-17)

Ruth 4:11

All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.

Prov. 31:10-17

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands ]in delight. 14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong.

>I used the Blue Letter Bible to study the original language and break down to root definitions for each word or phrase

>I wrote out the verse according to root word definitions

Hebrew Root Definition:

The intelligent woman who is endowed with reasoning and using it, is wise from experience of life, and skillful with regard to affairs both human and divine; is endued with the ability to judge; is strong and steadfast in mind, builds her home and family. But the one who lacks reverence for God breaks, destroys, and beats down her home and family using her power to do violence and inflict harm.

Read the NASB translation and then the Hebrew Root Definition again. Do you see and grasp this passage with greater understanding from what God spoke? The phrase “Lost in Translation” is evident!

According to Proverbs 14:1, the wise woman builds her marriage, family, and home! Her wisdom comes from her reverence or piety towards God! The foolish woman lacks that reverence for God and as a result everyone in her household suffers.

This brings clarity in our choice on whether or not to pursue wisdom, and the investment of time and patience to gain it! Do you see how this makes sense and lines up with God’s word in other Scriptures? When we have regard for or piety towards God, we gain wisdom! James validates this by telling us that we have wisdom as often as we ask for it if we do not doubt!

James 1:5-8

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I don’t know what you will choose to do but I am going to ask for more and more wisdom in faith, thanking God that He gives it generously! I don’t want to be doubtful in any measure and be driven and tossed by whatever winds of change come, unstable in all of my ways! I will agree with King Solomon and James:

WITHOUT A DOUBT the defining difference between the wise and the foolish is…

…Reverence for God!