The foolishness of man perverts his way: and his heart frets against the LORD.
Men are apt to charge all the afflictions which befall them upon God, whereas they bring most of them upon themselves. God is no further accessory to them than as, in the nature of things, and in the course of His wise providence, He hath established a connection between folly and suffering, between sin and misery. Homer observes that "men lay those evils upon the gods which they have incurred through their own folly and perverseness." "The foolishness of man" signifies his want of thought and reflection; his indiscretion and rashness. It "perverts his way," leads him aside from the path of wisdom and prudence, safety and happiness; by this means he brings himself into trouble, is reduced to necessity, perplexed with difficulties, or oppressed with sorrow. Then he committeth this grand error after all the rest, that "his heart fretteth against the Lord." He is vexed, not at himself, but at Providence. "Fretteth" expresses the commotion and uneasiness there is in a discontented, ungoverned mind.
I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE ON WHICH MEN ACT IN THIS CASE IS RIGHT AND JUST. When they fret against the Lord they suppose that there is a God, and that He observes and interests Himself in the affairs of His creatures; and that it is a considerable part of His providential government to try, exercise, and promote the virtues of His rational creatures by the discipline of affliction.
II. THE CONCLUSION THEY DRAW IS GENERALLY WRONG, AND THEIR CHARGE UPON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD GROUNDLESS AND UNJUST.
1. It is often the case with regard to men's health. Many complain that God denies them the health and spirits which He has given to others. But health very largely, and very directly, depends on men's management of themselves, by indulgence, fretfulness, inactivity, too close application to business, etc.
2. With regard to their circumstances in life. We see men impoverished and reduced to straits and difficulties. They complain that God brings them into straits, and embarrasses their circumstances. But most persons are really in straits through their own negligence, carelessness, or extravagance. Many are ruined in this world by an indolent temper. Cardinal de Retz used to say that "misfortune was only another word for imprudence."
3. With regard to their relations in life. How many unhappy marriages there are! But they are almost always the consequence of foolish and wilful choices. Many complain that their children are idle, disobedient, and undutiful. But this is generally the result of parental inefficiency in training or in example.
4. With regard to men's minds and their religious concerns. Many who make a profession of religion are uneasy and fretful, without any external cause; but this is usually owing to their own negligence or self-willedness.
III. THE FOLLY AND WICKEDNESS OF SUCH CONDUCT. It is very absurd, for in most of these cases they have no one to blame but themselves. It likewise proceeds from ignorance of themselves. Fretfulness only tends to aggravate our afflictions and to hurt our minds. It may provoke God to bring upon us some heavier affliction. Application:
1. How much prudence, caution, and foresight are necessary for those who are setting out in life!
2. What a great and mischievous evil pride is!
3. Inquire to what your afflictions are owing.
4. Guard against the great sin of fretting against the Lord.
Parallel VersesKJV: The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.