The Battle for the Mind

‘Proverbs’ (מָשָׁל mā·šāl) means ‘comparison’

Proverbs 10:23–25 (NASB)

23 Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool, And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.

24 What the wicked fears will come upon him, But the desire of the righteous will be granted.

25 When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

These three verses form a triad in that they have a common focus on what I call ‘the battle for the mind.’ Each verse compares the mental struggle raging in two types of people 1) the fool (כְּסִיל, kecil) – those who give God no thought, and who (eventually) are caught up in evil – (רָשָׁע rasha) the wicked, and 2) the man of understanding (תְּבוּנָה tĕbûnâ) – one who, although not perfect, acknowledges and follows God leading to righteousness (צַדִּיק ṣaddîq).

In verse 23, it is not wickedness (zimmah זִמָּה, plan, device, cunning) per se that is being discussed but it is the contrast of mental attitude or occupation of the mind. The Hebrew word sport ( שְׂחוֹק śeḥôq) has the connotation of entertainment or diversion. While the foolish attempt to entertain themselves and divert their attention from life’s drudgery, disappointment and pain (tending, almost always, downward from diversion to foolishness to wickedness), the wise man instead seeks solace, love and growth in God’s Wisdom. This idea is so important, David begins the Psalms with this same contrast, in Psalm 1:1–2 “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.”

In verse 24, Solomon contrasts the day-to-day theme that dominates the lives of the two described in the previous verse. The wicked have no time for God and end up constantly running from the haunting fear of punishment. Their desires are employed toward trying to dull the pain and enjoy sin while avoiding its consequences. They will forever be double-minded and are not only acting foolishly but actually harming themselves, (James 1:8).

The ‘righteous’ person has a completely different thought pattern. Their desires are engaged in seeking what God wants – what is real and permanent. This leads to a relaxed mental attitude in regard to the affairs of life; consistency and unity not shattered and scattered. A person of Integrity has her whole self (mind [emotions, intellect, will], body [senses, desires] and spirit [consciousness, conscience]) all unified and pulling in the same direction. Not only is this common sense, it brings peace, not frustration, confusion and madness. As Isaiah reminded Judah in Isaiah 26:3-4 (NIV)

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”

In verse 25, Solomon expands on the previous teaching, showing that our daily life must be consistently based on the same foundation as our whole lives, i.e. our worldview. When the storms of life come, what do we cling to? Upon what is built our understanding of reality, existence and our plans, hopes and dreams? The wicked have intricate castles built foolishly; the righteous have a sure foundation. Jesus restated this same message in plain and forceful terms:

”Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matthew 7:24–27 NAB)

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