The Nearness of Life's Interest and Work
Proverbs 17:24
Wisdom is before him that has understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

"Far fowls have fine feathers" — that is our modern rendering of the Hebrew proverb. Both proverbs are directed against a common weakness of human nature, our English proverb hitting it off with a good-natured smile, the Hebrew proverb rebuking it with the bluntness of a moral censor. To make little of what is at our door, and to magnify what is distant, is a familiar way in which the weakness of human nature shows itself. It is a weakness to which most of us must plead guilty, and it is a weakness which proves itself a formidable enemy of spiritual life. There is no chance of our achieving anything great in the spiritual life while we hug the delusion that greatness is to be found far off in space or in time, and that its only congenial surroundings are far different from those in which we find ourselves. The wise man knows where to look for the interest and grandeur of life; he knows they are to be found near at hand, even at his own door. Two directions in which this lesson is needed.

I. WE MAY LOOK FOR THE INTEREST OF LIFE IN THE WRONG PLACE. It is difficult to see the spiritual in what is commonplace, the great in what is near, the sacred in what is ordinary. Men go to far-off lands seeking beauty which can be found almost at their doors. The romance of life has often been sought far afield, while all the time a nobler romance was to be found around the door. The wisest delineators of human life have found its romance near home. One reason of the popularity of George Eliot's novels lies just here, that she has taken up the lives of ordinary people, and shown, with fine sympathy, how rich in interest is the common life of the common people. It is of supreme importance for the living of a Christian life that we should have our interest kept fresh and rightly directed. It is not only the flesh that wars against the spirit, but listlessness; not only positive sins, but the deadening weight of the conviction that we are set down in the midst of dull commonplace. Our enthusiasm needs to be aroused, and the rousing of our enthusiasm must spring from the conviction that there is something within our reach worth being enthusiastic about. That conviction often fails us just because we commit the folly which our proverb reproves. Immanuel Kant was never more than a few miles from his native Konigsberg. He found in the human mind a field of study exhaustless in its scope and interest. If the life of our town is dull it is because our own souls are dull. The insipidity and commonplaceness of which we complain belong to our own vision.

II. WE MAY LOOK FOR THE WORK OF LIFE IN THE WRONG PLACE. The one error is linked with the other. From false views of life there spring erroneous conceptions of the work we may accomplish. It is not circumstances that make a man spiritually great, but the way in which he handles the circumstances. Spiritual greatness springs not from without, but from within. It matters little what may be the rough material put into our hands. The spiritual product we turn out depends upon the spirit in which we work. Our work is not far off in the ends of the earth; it is close beside us. These are no tame, prosaic days in which we live. They may be days of trouble, and unrest, and upheaval, but the Spirit of God is moving as of old upon the face of the waters. We need not sigh for the opportunity of playing our part in the movements of other days. The movements of to-day are enough for our faith, and energy, and devotion.

(D. M. Ross, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

WEB: Wisdom is before the face of one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool wander to the ends of the earth.

Contrast Between a Wise Man and a Fool
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