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Proverbs 15:20-21

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

The wisdom literature in the Bible is full of all kinds of little snippets like these. Sometimes they are verses structured similarly to these, with a positive virtue followed by a negative vice, which are related to each other. Sometimes the order is reversed. And then there are others in which the whole verse is entirely vice or virtue. Regardless, it’s pieces of advice, penned by Solomon but given from God.

Two uses for joy can be found in this pairing. The first is the kind I like to see, joy that a wise son brings to his father. The second is empty joy, the type found only in stupidity and foolishness. I think a more common rendering of this idea is “Ignorance is bliss.” That’s definitely NOT the joy of the Lord. It’s interesting to me that in the first verse, the positive “joy” is compared to the negative “despise” while the second pairs a negative “joy” with a positive “straight course.” Neither of these are ways I would pair up “joy” with an opposite.

But that’s the beauty of Scripture, and the beauty of the word joy. I can give joy to someone or I can be hateful to them. I can live in blissful ignorance or I can stay on the straight and narrow (which can be hard). Each day I have a choice to live in the Lord’s joy or in the foolishness of my own sin. Each day I do both, because I can’t follow God perfectly. But I get up the next day and try again. And that is the joy of the Lord.

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