Proverbs 16:21-22 (NIV)
21 The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.
22 Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools.
One of the general themes in Proverbs is to live a righteous life. Many verses detail the advantages of living such a life - Proverbs 11:5-6 for example.
As I read these verses, I really thought about those two qualities: discernment and understanding (or insight as the HCSB translates it). What is discernment? What is insight? And how do these two help in living a righteous life?
Discernment: As I think about discernment, I think about the ability to look at a situation both at and beyond the surface to make the right decision. A discerning heart has the ability to know what to say or do in that situation. Not only does a discerning person know what to say/do, he also knows when and how to say/do it. When this person speaks, people listen, because his words are measured to reflect what he wants to say and what the Bible says. Correction and instruction are most successful when the words are chosen carefully and said with the correct feeling or emotion given the situation and person. The wise in heart have this discernment, and as such, others will listen to the words they speak. The wise person has influence because he can communicate effectively and bring others along.
Insight/Understanding: Insight, to me, is having additional knowledge beyond what is basically known. Why are color commentators for sports (generally) ex-players? They have insight. They have knowledge of the sport beyond what the average person knows. To have insight is to have more knowledge or experience. To have that extra bit of information makes a big difference. Why is it a fountain of life for those who have it? Because extra knowledge gives you an edge. In the context of the spiritual life, having insight guards us from making bad decisions. You gain insight by gaining more knowledge, which for us comes from more time spent with God. Insight is our fountain of life because we have the spiritual knowledge to avoid the pitfalls of life that the fool falls into over and over.
That leads to some questions to chew on. Do I possess a discerning spirit? Does my fountain of life flow from understanding? Do I value discernment and understanding? Do I recognize that to live a righteous life and be transformed I must possess discernment and insight? In what areas of my life am I weak in discernment and insight? Am I working to strengthen those areas under the Word of God?
Have a great day!