People often get used to variation and expect to fall short of perfection. I am sure that most of us were content with an “A” on our schoolwork (sometimes we were just thankful for a “B” or a “C”). However, that “A” did not typically represent 100%, but as long as it was an “A,” we were happy. I have yet to see a target that just has the “bulls-eye” (no rings around the bulls-eye). Being comfortable with imperfection pervades the spiritual and ethical thinking and practice of the West today. Claiming that there is only one path that leads to God seems too constricting and suffocating in our current, less than ideal, spiritual environment. Yet, is it beneficial and productive to be content with just being on a path (no matter where the way leads)?
The fourth chapter of Proverbs contains the words of a father urging his sons to embrace the way of wisdom. In this context, the direction of wisdom is what this father had learned from his father (Proverbs 4:3-9). Handing down wisdom to the next generation is what God instructed the people of Israel to do (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 78:5-8). The same attitude toward the value of wisdom surfaces again at Proverbs 23:23, when the author wrote, “Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding are supremely valuable and should be the things that we seek to acquire.
Yet, it is not enough to hoard wisdom. Wisdom must be practiced; it must be lived. Staying on the path of wisdom is what the father urges the sons to do in Proverbs 4:10-19. Living by wisdom is a lifetime commitment and requires reaffirmation and rededication. Staying on the path of wisdom is not an easy task; it means being focused on using wisdom to navigate through life in the right way. “Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:25-27). To walk wisdom’s path, one must keep one’s eyes fixed ahead and not be distracted. The warning to not veer to the right or the left, but to stay “dead center” is a common idea in the Bible (for example Deuteronomy 5:32-33; 17:11, 18-20; 28:13-14; Joshua 1:7; 23:6; 2 Kings 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 34:1-2). One must focus all of one’s energies on staying on the path of wisdom, thus avoiding the evil way.
Taking one’s eyes off of the goal will cause one to veer off of the path. To deviate from “dead center” is to start on another track. The only option to the path of wisdom is the path of evil (Proverbs 4:14, 27). The path of wisdom reminds one of the “two-path theology” of the Bible. Jesus taught the “two path theology” when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
We can set the course of our lives. We can act responsibly. What path are you attempting to walk? How “dead center” are you on that path? Does your life demonstrate an extreme commitment to the right path and radical separation from the wrong way? Or are you content with veering off the road of righteousness and not being “dead center”?