The Power of Wisdom & the Danger of Folly
13 Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me.14 There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded. 17 The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
10 Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.3 Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool. 4 If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.
5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler— 6 folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit in humble places. 7 I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land.
8 He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall. 9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them. 10 If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. 11 If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer. 12 Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; 13 the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness. 14 Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him? 15 The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to a city.16 Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. 17 Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength and not for drunkenness. 18 Through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks. 19 Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.20 Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known.
How do we evaluate leaders—both past and present? What makes a wise leader? And how can we spot a foolish leader who might say things we want to hear but ultimately lead us astray? This passage helps us to answer these questions as it emphasizes the power of wisdom and the danger of folly with a focus on leaders. But the text doesn’t stop at leaders; it addresses all of us as followers and how we respond to all leaders in our hearts and with our mouths.