Learn on Someone Else’s Nickel

Learn on Someone Else’s Nickel

When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.
—Proverbs 24:32

Another important principle about learning from our failures is this: learn on someone else’s nickel. It’s good to learn from your failure. But it’s better to learn from somebody else’s failure.

Failure is like tuition we pay for a college course. Wouldn’t it be great to have somebody else pay that fee? That’s exactly what the Bible says. We can learn how to profit from other people’s failures.

Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived, illustrated the importance of learning from people’s mistakes. In Proverbs 24:30-31 he writes, “I passed by the field of the sluggard and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.”

Solomon was taking a walk, and he noticed a piece of property that had become an eyesore. The grass was overgrown, the fence was broken down, and the paint was peeling from the house. What was his response to that? Did he get angry and say, “I can’t believe my neighbor allowed this to happen; he is going to ruin my property value”? Or did he become prideful and say, “Ha, look at that sluggard. I would never let that happen to my property.” No, he didn’t respond that way. Instead of becoming angry or prideful, Solomon decided to learn from his neighbor’s mistake. “When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,’ then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man” (vv. 32-34).

When you see somebody who has failed in business or in a relationship, don’t gloat over it. We all have a tendency to rejoice in other people’s failures. It makes us feel better about ourselves. But the Bible tells us not to rejoice at the misfortune of others (Proverbs 17:5).

When somebody else fails, don’t become prideful over it and say, “I would never make that mistake.” Remember the warning of the apostle Paul to those who might be tempted to think they won’t make a mistake: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Don’t gloat, and don’t become prideful. Instead, Solomon says, learn from the failures of other people.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Don’t Mess Up for Free” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.