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Wise and Simple

Proverbs 9:6 (ESV) … “Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Where is the great educational institution today that opens its doors to the simple, that advertises especially to attract the simple? I have friends who graduated from Harvard and Princeton, and they are among the brightest people in the land. They did not gain acceptance to these Ivy League institutions by being simple. What great university combs its lists of applicants to weed out the simple so that they can be given priority in enrollment?

Not one! The world’s great schools send their recruiting officers out to comb the campuses for the bright students, not for the simple.

We all know what the world thinks of the simple. Even its nursery rhymes reflect its attitude:

Simple Simon went a-fishing

For to catch a whale;

But all the water he had got

Was in his mother’s pail.

Poor Simple Simon accosted the pie man on his way to the fair; Simon hoped he could get a taste of one of those pies. The pie man said, “Show me first your penny.” Simon was a simpleton, we would say. The world laughs at simpletons, or if it is too polite or too charitable to laugh, it quickly decides it has bigger fish to fry. The Simple Simons are left to the philanthropists or the sociologists.

But God loves the simple. That is why He uses so many uneducated and unsophisticated people to get His work done in the world (1 Corinthians 1:26). D. L. Moody, for instance, was a simple man. He was uneducated, unsophisticated, not much bothered by what people thought of him, and not unduly impressed by cultured people. Furthermore he had a disconcerting honesty and directness that often ruffled his more polished neighbors’ feathers. This direct manner contributed in no small degree to his success as an evangelist.

The religious establishment shuddered at Moody and cold-shouldered him. He had no ecclesiastical standing and was not ordained. People were appalled at his grammar and the newspapers made fun of him. But as was said of his Master, “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). He spoke their language. He spoke with authority and not as the clergy. His tremendous sincerity and complete simplicity attracted crowds.

In spite of his simplicity, some of his greatest triumphs were with agnostics in the great universities. One afternoon in 1874 two of the cleverest men in England went to hear Moody: Gladstone, four times the prime minister of Britain, and Matthew Arnold, the famous educator. “I thank God I have lived to see the day,” said Gladstone, “when He should bless His church on earth by the gift of a man able to preach the Gospel of Christ as we have heard it today.” Arnold replied, “And I would give all I possess if I could only believe it.”

D. L. Moody, essentially a simple man, heard Wisdom’s call. He ate at her table and drank her wine. He was so wise that even the great ones of this world wondered at him. They said of him what had been said of Jesus: “Whence hath this man this wisdom …?” (Matthew 13:54) [1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring Proverbs 1–19: An Expository Commentary (Vol. 1, Pr 9:4–6). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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