And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
One of the greatest wastes of potential that you will read about in the Scriptures is often not seen as a great waste. When we think of wasting one’s potential, it is not hard to think about Samson who wasted his life in sin. It is not hard to think about Jacob who wasted his life in deceit. It is not hard to think about Adam and Eve who wasted their potential by eating of the forbidden fruit. It is not hard to think about Saul who rebelled against God by not killing all of the Amalekites. We read about these and shake our heads at the potential they wasted.
However, the one who wasted the greatest potential was Solomon. Solomon had everything given to him. He had the kingdom given to him, the name of a great king given to him, the wealth accumulated given to him, and a great spiritual heritage given to him. However, he wasted all his potential, and the end of his life is tragic as his heart is turned to other gods.
What was the mistake Solomon made that ruined his potential? Solomon’s mistake was that he gave his heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. This is the mistake that eventually led to Solomon’s compromise. Not only did he have poor associations, but he also wanted to learn the other side. We know he had wisdom, but he also wanted to learn about madness and folly. Solomon only needed to know the wisdom of God, and by knowing the wisdom of God, he would have known madness and folly.
Any believer that makes the same two mistakes will find their potential ruined. You cannot have bad associations and it not ruin your potential. How did Peter deny the church, the faith, and his God? He messed up by having bad associations. How did Samson mess up the potential of his life? He messed it up by having bad associations. Bad associations have messed up many good people. Anytime you read in the Scriptures that someone has messed up their life, you can always trace it back to bad associations. Your associations do matter, and they will affect you.
However, there are a plethora of people with good intentions who have gone the way of compromise by wanting to learn more about the other side. We don’t need to know or to investigate the wrong side; we need to learn truth and the truth will reveal what is bad. Too many are learning the bad side for the sake of knowledge, but they are pulled to that side because it is the knowledge of evil that destroys a man. Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit because they wanted to have the knowledge of evil to better avoid it. Solomon learned about things he had no business learning about because he had the wisdom of God in his life. I am sure Solomon would have said if he lived in our day, “I want to learn about madness and folly so that I can glean more truth, but I will spit out the bones.” Many have made this foolish statement only to choke on the bones of compromise.
The best way to ruin your potential is to associate with the wrong crowd and to investigate wrong with the intention of spitting out the bones. Always remember that when you learn madness and folly, you will gain bad associations along the way. The desire to see what the other side believes has pulled many to compromise. The only thing we need to learn is truth because truth exposes lies.