I remember my first attempts to be a hostess. I had watched my mother feed guests for 20 years. She seemed to do it effortlessly, not that she didn’t work at it, but it never seemed to stress her out. Me? I was always worried that my recipes wouldn’t turn out, that I had chosen something no one liked, and that the house wasn’t clean enough.
For several years I kept a file with an index card for each family we had invited for a meal. I listed the dates they came, what I had served, and at the top a list of things I knew were disliked. Roger Pink hated liver, I remember—not that I would ever serve specially invited guests liver, but you can see how concerned I was with being a good hostess. These days you get pot luck, and I don’t worry so much any more.
Being a good host or hostess had almost sacred connotations in the scriptures. Inns were few and far between. Everyone depended upon the people they encountered in their travels to put them up, and those people knew they would someday have similar need, so they readily offered the hospitality. You cannot read Genesis without seeing the importance of hospitality—a host laid down his life for his guests.
So the metaphor in Proverbs 9 was an apt one for the times. Two hostesses seeking guests, one named Wisdom and the other Folly. A quick reading will only obscure some of the finer points. This is too short a venue to touch them all, so sit down some time with a pen and paper and make two columns. Go through the verses yourself and find the contrasts between the hostesses, their offers, and the guests who take advantage of the proffered hospitality. Then figure out which side you are on.
But three quick points: Wisdom offers a great feast—“she has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine,” v 2. Folly offers only bread and water, v 17, but notice how enticing she makes it sound: Stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. Not only is her meal scanty, it’s forbidden. If the only reason I want to do something is because someone else told me not to, the proverb writer says I “lack sense,” v16, as do all of Folly’s guests.
Wisdom offers her feast to all, but specifically to “those who lack understanding” and are wise enough to realize their need. Folly offers hers to those who are “going straight on their way,” v 15. They already think they know what they need to know. They may indeed be simpleminded, v 16, but they don’t realize it. Going to someone to ask for advice is beneath them, unless of course it’s someone who will tell them what they want to hear.
Wisdom tells her guests that they must break off from bad company, v 7-8. Folly, on the other hand, loads her guest list with the worst company of all, and bids the fool to come join them, but he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol, v 18.
You won’t find a more chilling metaphor, but if you insist on ignoring good advice, trusting in those who scorn the word of God, and whooping it up with the Devil, you will find yourself exactly where Folly holds her parties, consorting with the spiritually dead, and killing your own soul in the process.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived, 2 Timothy 3:12-13.