A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
The path of life leads upwards for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
For the thought in 20, see 10:1. No man lives to himself. His wisdom or folly will inevitably affect others, especially those that are nearest to him. The second part of the verse goes further than 10:1: here the foolishness has an element of moral turpitude and heartlessness in it. The foolish son despises his mother, sitting loosely to the grief and the hurt that his attitude causes her. The thought seems to continue in 21, where the 'playboy' attitude to life is compared with the straight course of the purposeful man. There is something important here: the trouble is that when this attitude settles and becomes hardened in a young life, so that he grows up to think that the world owes him a living, he will eventually become a psychological misfit in the world, and become incapable of responsible behaviour. Hence the phenomenon of the man who, though intellectually and physically mature, is an emotional juvenile, a psychological cripple. This is a good backcloth against which to see the force of 22: we need to get all the advice we can, so as to learn about our weakness and waywardness, recognise the danger spots, and take remedial action. In this connection, we must surely applaud and appreciate the sentiment expressed in 23; many a useless and wasted life might have been rescued and rehabilitated by a word spoken at the right time, bringing a home truth which, though unpalatable and blunt, would have jolted a man into a new frame of mind. And when we think of the issues of life in terms of the upward and downward in 24, what responsibility this places on the wise to speak the right word at the right time.