The Choice is Obvious

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    but a just weight is his delight.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
    but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
    but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
    and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
    and the wicked walks into it instead.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
    but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
    and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
    but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
    but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
16 A gracious woman gets honor,
    and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself,
    but a cruel man hurts himself.
18 The wicked earns deceptive wages,
    but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
    but he who pursues evil will die.
20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21 Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
    but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
    is a beautiful woman without discretion.
23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
    the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered.
26 The people curse him who holds back grain,
    but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
    but evil comes to him who searches for it.
28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
    but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
29 Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
    and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
    and whoever captures souls is wise.
31 If the righteous is repaid on earth,
    how much more the wicked and the sinner! – Proverbs 11:1-31 ESV

This Proverb, like the one that precedes it and many of those that come after it, provides a series of one-liners that provide timeless lessons contrasting the way of the wise and the far-less-productive way of the fool. Solomon is simply trying to illustrate the vast difference between the two and provide his readers with a clear and compelling incentive to choose the right way – God’s way.

He compares pride and humility, honesty and dishonesty, as well as wickedness and godliness. He contrasts the fool with the sensible person and the lover of money with the one who loves God. The entire Proverb is a series of couplets contrasting one way of life with another. And any conclusion reached from this exercise is intended to be a no-brainer. The life of godliness or righteousness is meant to be the obvious winner, and verse 5 sums it up well.

The righteousness of the good man will make his way straight, but the sin of the evil-doer will be the cause of his fall. – Proverbs 11:5 BBE

As New Testament believers, we know that our righteousness is a gift provided to us by God through the death of His Son Jesus Christ. With His sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sin. The apostle Paul put it this way:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

On the cross, Jesus took on our sin, and, in exchange, He made available His righteousness to all those who would receive it through faith or belief in His atoning death on their behalf. And it is that righteousness that allows us to live a life that pleases God. In his letter to the Roman, Paul further clarifies the life-altering implications of this “great exchange.”

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.…God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. – Romans 3:25, 26 BKT

This Proverb is not about human effort and our ability to keep a set of rules or standards. It portrays the life of the individual who has made God his highest priority and is willing to allow Him to transform them from the inside out. The result is a life marked by honesty, integrity, knowledge, joy, wisdom, trustworthiness, generosity, discretion, and the love of God.

To be godly is to be God-dependent. It is an awareness that our righteousness comes from Him, not ourselves. It is an understanding that left to ourselves, we are nothing more than fools, displaying a penchant for pride, arrogance, a love of money, cruelty, ruthlessness, stinginess, a lack of discretion, and a complete inability to truly change our behavior or our hearts.

This Proverb is not just a list of lifestyle choices. It is a description of two diametrically opposite ways of life. One is our natural tendency, the inevitable and inescapable outcome of the fall. The other is the life of an individual who has discovered God and fallen in love with His grace, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. Righteousness is not a goal we strive towards. It is a gift made available to us through a relationship with God. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, we can have a right relationship with God, and the fruit of that is a life of righteousness. God changes our hearts and, as a result, our behavior. Our godly lives are proof of our restored relationship with Him.

Wisdom, generosity, discretion, honesty, and integrity are not the result of our own effort, but the fruit of a loving relationship with God. He shows us the kind of life that honors Him, then gives us the capacity to live it through the power of His Spirit. He produces in us what we could never pull off on our own. So, why would we ever choose any other way to live our lives? There’s no comparison.

Solomon’s list of comparative or contrasting life choices is anything but subtle. He tells it like it really is and, like the rest of the Scriptures, his message is rather blunt. Sometimes just reading through God’s Word can cause us to cringe at what appears to be the politically incorrect nature of some of the statements that flow from its pages. The Word of God pulls no punches. It takes no prisoners. It isn’t afraid to get up in your face and tell you what you need to hear, whether you want to hear it or not. It’s painfully honest at times. But honesty is exactly what fallen men and women need to hear.

It is the word of God and it speaks the truth – refusing to sugarcoat the hard facts or soften the impact of its message on the souls of men. Verse seven of Proverbs 11 is one of those “I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that” kind of statements.

When the wicked die, their hopes die with them, for they rely on their own feeble strength. – Proverbs 11:7 NLT

The Message puts it this way, “When the wicked die, that’s it — the story’s over, end of hope.” There is nothing more. Their petty efforts at achieving success in life are proved to be what they have always been – futile and pointless. Any happiness they have enjoyed is short-lived and temporal, rather than eternal. Instead of trusting God for their eternal well-being, they relied on their own “feeble strength” and learned that no amount of money, success, achievements, accolades, or toys will help them when this life is over.

Evil people get rich for the moment… – Proverbs 11:18 NLT

They live for this life. Their actions and attitudes are self-focused and temporally-based. They may enjoy all that this life has to offer, but this life is not all that there is. Yet, Solomon provides a stark counterpoint that is meant to encourage a different choice of lifestyles and life outcomes.

The reward of the godly will last… – Proverbs 11:18 NLT

Those who choose to live their life according to God’s standards and in His strength, not their own, will discover that their reward is long-lasting.

Godly people find life; evil people find death… – Proverbs 11:19 NLT

The godly can look forward to a reward, while the wicked can expect only judgment… – Proverbs 11:23 NLT

Wow! That’s blunt, cold, and seemingly heartless. But it’s the truth. It’s a matter-of-fact wake-up call designed to remind us that we are eternal creatures, not temporal ones. Our focus needs to be on eternity, not the fleeting promises of this life. When we have an eternal perspective, we can give freely because we aren’t looking to the things of this world to satisfy us or keep us safe. We don’t look to money to bring us happiness or fulfillment. Solomon points out the painfully obvious: “Trust in your money and down you go!” (Proverbs 11:28 NLT).

No, those who have their eyes focused on God see life differently. Generosity comes naturally. Holding loosely to the things of this world is easy. They inherently know that “riches won’t help on the day of judgment, but right living can save you from death” (Proverbs 11:4 NLT).

These truths are hard to hear and even harder to accept. We hear a steady stream of propaganda telling us that this life is all that matters. We’re told to grab all we can while we can because this life is all there is. Our own present happiness becomes all that matters. We’re number one. It’s every man for himself. But God has a different perspective. And the godly recognize that there is more to life than pleasure, possessions, popularity, and prosperity. There’s eternal life. This world is not our home, we’re just passing through. The best is yet to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.


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