1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
2 A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
but a man of evil devices he condemns.
3 No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
5 The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
8 A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
9 Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread.
10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
12 Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.
14 From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
16 The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.
18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
21 No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27 Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
28 In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death. – Proverbs 12:1-28 ESV
Wisdom isn’t just an intellectual asset that comes in handy when having to make difficult decisions. It is a way of life – the godly life. And it encompasses everything from our inner thoughts and cognitive capabilities to our spoken words and the way we conduct ourselves in daily life. In other words, wisdom influences our thoughts, words, and deeds. And this Proverb makes that point quite clear.
It all begins on the inside, in the heart and mind of the one who desires the wisdom that God offers. Wise living can only come from one who has gained the capacity for wise thinking. It’s interesting to note that when God made the fateful decision to destroy mankind through a devastating flood, it was based on the following assessment:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV
Yes, their behavior had become abhorrent to God, but it had all begun in their hearts. Ever since the fall, mankind had been on a trajectory away from God. After disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve had been ejected from the Garden. They eventually settled to the east of Eden. And their future descendants would continue to move increasingly further from God’s presence, both physically and spiritually. Their migration away from Eden left them increasingly alienated from and ignorant of God. In fact, in one of his psalms, Solomon’s father, David describes the plight of all those who lose touch with God and find themselves displaying the characteristics of the fool.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good. – Psalm 14:1 ESV
Solomon states, “The thoughts of the righteous are just…” (Proverbs 12:5 ESV). It all begins in the heart and mind. And this idea is consistent with Solomon’s earlier admonition:
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. – Proverbs 4:23 NLT
And Jesus Himself warned that the heart was the repository of all man’s thoughts and actions.
“But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you.” – Matthew 15:18-20 NLT
Notice how many times Solomon refers to the importance of our inner thoughts.
A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised. – Proverbs 12:8 ESV
Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others. – Proverbs 12:15 NLT
Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
joy fills hearts that are planning peace! – Proverbs 12:20 NLT
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down… – Proverbs 12:25 ESV
God’s brand of wisdom is meant to influence man’s heart because a heart devoid of God will result in a life devoid of godliness. The individual who has lost touch with God will display a lifestyle that is out of step with His will and in violation of His commands.
Near the end of the book of Judges, God provides an assessment of the spiritual state of His chosen people, the nation of Israel.
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 25:21 ESV
Throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites are shown to have a stubborn propensity for turning their backs on God. Their real problem was not that they lacked a human king, but that they refused to honor God as their sovereign Lord. In Judges 2, we are given a synopsis of the problem that plagued the Israelites.
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. – Judges 2:10-12 ESV
And before long, the Israelites began to act like fools, displaying behavior that was out of character for God’s chosen people and out of touch with His revealed will for them. So, God was forced to discipline them for their sinful behavior. They were destined to suffer the consequences of their unwise choices and learn the painful lessons that disobedience brings. And Solomon points out man’s need to love the discipline of God.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid. – Proverbs 12:1 ESV
When we step out of line with God, He lovingly reproves and corrects us. His discipline is never arbitrary or unwarranted, but it is always lovingly and justly administered. Solomon pointed out in an earlier proverb, “My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12 ESV).
Ultimately, God’s discipline is intended to produce godly behavior. And that seems to be the point of Solomon’s proverb. God wants to pour out His favor upon His people. He longs to bless them by rewarding their obedience to His will.
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
but a man of evil devices he condemns. – Proverbs 12:2 ESV
And as God redeems and restores an individual’s heart, that inner transformation begins to show up in their words.
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them. – Proverbs 12:6 ESV
The wicked are trapped by their own words,
but the godly escape such trouble. – Proverbs 12:13 NLT
Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit. – Proverbs 12:17 ESV
Truthful words stand the test of time,
but lies are soon exposed. – Proverbs 12:19 NLT
But God’s reformation of the heart also produces transformed actions.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. – Proverbs 12:11 ESV
…the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. – Proverbs 12:14 ESV
Work hard and become a leader;
be lazy and become a slave. – Proverbs 12:24 NLT
Lazy people don’t even cook the game they catch,
but the diligent make use of everything they find. – Proverbs 12:27 NLT
The godly tend to be well-rounded people whose lives display an inner strength that flows out in both words and deeds. Their hearts and minds produce attitudes and actions that convey their reverence for God. They are not duplicitous or hypocritical. God does not say of them what He said about the people of Israel.
“These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” – Isaiah 29:13 NLT
But instead, God recognizes their desire to obey His will and rewards them accordingly.
The way of the godly leads to life;
that path does not lead to death. – Proverbs 12:28 NLT
It is interesting to note than when Jesus was asked by the Jewish religious leaders which was the greatest of all of God’s commandments, He stated:
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” – Mark 12:29-30 NLT
Heart, soul, mind, and strength. God’s intention is to transform man from the inside out, and it is His desire that every area of a man’s life is renewed and radically altered to reflect his identity as a child of God.
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.