Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
The good sense spoken of is good common sense, and certainly it is a fountain of life to the one who possesses it. Good sense is what makes one take heed to instruction and be able to detect the wise from the foolish. It puts knowledge to practical use and makes sense out of information.
The opposite is true for the fool. This second line about the fool can be taken in one of two ways. One, as is represented by the ESV, KJV, and NKJ, is that instructing or punishing fools is fruitless. Unlike people with good sense who profit from instruction, fools will not learn, no matter how they are taught. The other sense, as indicated by the NIV, is that the folly of fools brings them their own punishment. Whereas the good sense of the wise is a fountain of life to them, the folly of fools is their punishment. The word for instruction could be translated as correction or punishment.
Whatever the case, the point is this it is what a person has within him that determines what he gains from lifes lessons. Two individuals can attend the same classes, have the same parents, and be given the same opportunities. The one with good sense will learn and benefit from what he is taught and experiences; the foolish one will not benefit and even pervert the lessons so that they are harmful to him. The one with good sense credits others for what he has learned and accepts responsibility for his mistakes. The foolish one congratulates himself for his cleverness and blames others for his errors.
In the western novel Shane, a farmer and his wife discuss hiring Shane as a farm hand. By his dress and manner they know that farming is not his line of work, and the wife comments that Shane probably doesnt know a lot about farming. Her husband, who has sized up Shane as a man of integrity, replies, What a man knows isnt important. Its what he is that counts. Knowledge is important, of course, but the farmer understood that knowledge can be learned; what matters is the person having the spirit to learn.
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