Some Convicting Comparisons.
“A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” – Proverbs 25:28 NLT
While the Proverbs are about wisdom, knowledge and understanding, they are written in a fairly simple and easy-to-understand style. Contrasts and comparisons are used throughout and figures of speech like metaphors, similes and hyperbole help make them come alive. Sometimes the best way to make a point is by use of comparison. Even today we use terms like, “You’re as stubborn as a mule!” or “He was as mad as a hornet!” While most of us have never been around a mule, we get the point and the visual image helps paint a picture that is hard to forget. In Proverbs 25, we find a number of similes used that compare one thing to another in order to make a point. Well-thought-out, well-crafted-words spoken at the right time are like apples made of gold placed in a silver receptacle. Those kinds of words are priceless, beautiful and valuable. Like an apple made of gold, well-timed, wise words are far more valuable than normal, everyday words. The words have value, but then so do the source from which they come. The person who speaks these kinds of words is like a silver basket – practical and priceless at the same time.
Another simile found in this Proverb compares the person who fails to keep their word regarding the promise of a gift to a cloud that brings no rain. The image is that of a rain cloud driven by the wind that is headed your way. You expect it to arrive any minute and bring with it much-needed rain. But it fails to deliver. That is what it is like when we promise to do something for someone or give something to someone – we get their hopes up, giving them false expectations that never get fulfilled. Imagine the farmer who is in desperate need of rain who spies what appears to be a rain crowd on the horizon headed his way. He gets excited. He begins to hope for deliverance from the drought he is suffering. He starts dreaming of relief, only to have his hopes dashed when the cloud arrives, but the rain is nowhere to be found. The result is disappointment, discouragement and despair.
One of the most graphic and memorable comparisons in this Proverb found in verse 19. “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” What a picture! The idea being conveyed is that of someone who has no choice. They have to eat, so they have to attempt to chew their food even with a broken tooth. They have to walk, so they have to try and do so with a broken or injured foot. The pain associated with these two situations is graphic. And the point is that there are times when we are forced to place our confidence in someone we KNOW will not come through for us. We have no choice or no other alternative, and the pain associated with that decision is real. But the real point of this saying is to encourage us NOT to be that unreliable person. When people can’t count on us to come through, we do real damage and cause tremendous pain to those who are forced to trust us. We make even the simplest act painful because of our failure to come through.
The way we live our lives has implications – not just on us, but on all those around us. Our behavior has consequences. When we gossip it results in anger, as surely as the north wind results in rain. When we bring good news to someone who is struggling, it refreshes them like cold water to someone who is thirsty. When we sell out our spiritual integrity under pressure from godless people, it is like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring. The one thing we have to offer that could bring life – our integrity – gets polluted or destroyed. These comparisons are meant to be convicting. They are also meant to encourage a certain kind of behavior. As believers our lives are to be different. We are to live according to a different set of standards. Our words are to lift up, not tear down. Our promises are to be kept, regardless of the cost. Our integrity is to remain firm, in spite of pressure from the godless around us. Every day, we choose to become like God or like the world around us, and our choices always have consequences.
Father, I want my life to be a reflection of my relationship with You. I want to live differently. I want my speech and actions to be positive, encouraging, life-giving and God-honoring. May what others say of me always be a result of my relationship with You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men