1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
2 The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.
4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
5 The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
6 Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
7 The righteous who walks in his integrity—
blessed are his children after him!
8 A king who sits on the throne of judgment
winnows all evil with his eyes.
9 Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin”?
10 Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
11 Even a child makes himself known by his acts,
by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the Lord has made them both.
13 Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
14 “Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts.
15 There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. – Proverbs 20:1-15 ESV
“Ears to hear and eyes to see – both are gifts from the Lord.” – Proverbs 20:12 NLT
There are a lot of things that can impact the direction and quality of an individual’s life, and many of them are external in nature. In this proverb, Solomon begins by mentioning the detrimental influence that alcohol can have.
Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
Those led astray by drink cannot be wise. – Proverbs 20:1 NLT
While the Scriptures don’t ban the consumption of alcohol outright, there are clear warnings as to its use and potential abuse. Here in the wisdom literature of Proverbs, we have an in-your-face warning included by Solomon that doesn’t mince words when it comes to the potential danger of alcohol. And he isn’t talking about distilled alcohol. No, he’s talking about the everyday, run-of-the-mill, average household wine that a Hebrew would consume.
He describes it as a mocker. Too much wine or alcohol in the system can turn anyone into an obnoxious, inebriated blowhard who is offensive to be around. The NET Bible puts it this way: “Excessive use of intoxicants excites the drinker to boisterous behavior and aggressive attitudes – it turns them into mockers and brawlers.”
You’ve seen them, been around them, and may have been there once or twice yourself. Alcohol clouds your senses, dulls your thinking, and distorts your perspective. The weak suddenly become strong, the timid feel braver, and the normally quiet ones become increasingly bolder. Inhibitions get tossed aside like a bottle cap and concern for decorum or reputation gets lost in the euphoric, alcohol-induced buzz. The Message has a not-so-subtle way of paraphrasing this verse. “Wine makes you mean, beer makes you quarrelsome – a staggering drunk is not much fun.” How sadly true.
But alcohol isn’t the only thing that can negatively influence an individual’s life. Solomon also mentions quarreling and strife.
Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
only fools insist on quarreling. – Proverbs 20:3 NLT
The fact is, we don’t live our lives in isolation. We are constantly surrounded by other people who may not always agree with or even like us, which can easily lead to disagreements and the potential for strife. But while the temptation to defend our rights and state our minds might be strong, Solomon suggests that it would be better to avoid conflict at all costs. In fact, it is a mark of honor and a sign of wisdom. Only fools insist on escalating a conflict to the point that someone is going to get hurt, either emotionally or physically.
Another negative influence on a man’s life is the tendency toward laziness.
Those too lazy to plow in the right season
will have no food at the harvest. – Proverbs 20:4 NLT
Essentially, Solomon is describing procrastination – the art of putting off until tomorrow what should rightfully be done today. Solomon was not a big fan of the procrastinator. In fact, in Proverbs 6, he describes this kind of individual as if he had one living in his own home.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
When will you wake up?
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. – Proverbs 6:9-11 NLT
But Solomon mentions another external temptation that we must avoid: The use of dishonest means to achieve personal gain.
False weights and unequal measures—
the Lord detests double standards of every kind. – Proverbs 20:10 NLT
When the Proverbs talk about false weights and unequal measures, it is describing a form of double standard that is aimed at others. It is designed to take unfair advantage of another person by means of intentional deception. The image is that of a vendor using inaccurate weights and measures in order to make the buyer think he is getting more than he is paying for. It is using deception to gain an advantage. But Solomon warns that God is watching and He is totally opposed to such actions – especially among His people.
God hates hypocrisy, and so should we. Yet the double standard is not only tolerated in our society, it’s actually admired. It has become an art form. Living the lie and masquerading as something other than what we truly are has become commonplace – even among Christians. And while we may fool others by our pretense and pretending, we never fool God. He sees and knows all. He is not impressed by our outward displays of righteousness or our Oscar-worthy performances that impress the crowds around us. He can spot duplicity and deceit of all kinds – even when we are trying to trick others into believing we are righteous. God desires honesty and integrity among His people. He wants us to say what we mean and mean what we say. He wants us to keep our word and live in such a way that our behavior is a true indication of our hearts.
Dishonesty has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. Instead, “the godly walk with integrity” (Proverbs 20:7 NLT). The Hebrew word for integrity is tom, and it means wholeness or completeness. It can convey the idea of a simplicity of mind. It is a mind with no deceit, free from mischief and misrepresentation. A life of integrity is a life of wholeness, health, and soundness. To live with integrity as a believer is to live your WHOLE life in a holy manner. It is to give God complete control over every area of your life – not just the convenient ones.
In time, a life of duplicity will always be exposed.
Even children are known by the way they act,
whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right. – Proverbs 20:11 NLT
As believers, we are to have one standard, not two. We are to live according to God’s righteous requirements, not our own. There is no place for a double standard in our lives. Yet, for many of us, duplicity is a daily companion. We have learned to live the lie, not intending to hurt those around us, but deceiving them all the same. When we act as if all is well and our lives are carefree, yet we are struggling with doubts and troubles of all kinds, we are being duplicitous. We are being dishonest. When we try to impress others with outward displays of spirituality, while on the inside we are wrestling with our beliefs, we are being duplicitous. When we preach to our kids about the importance of God and His Word, but we rarely spend time in it ourselves, we are being hypocrites. And our children are fine-tuned to spot hypocrisy in our lives.
God calls us to be honest, transparent, open, and above board in our relationships with one another. No lying, no deceit, no duplicity, no double standards. We are to be a people of integrity. Not faking it for the sake of those around us, but honestly and openly living our lives knowing that “the Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive” (Proverbs 20:27 NLT).
Solomon reminds us that we have been given two incredible gifts from God.
Ears to hear and eyes to see—
both are gifts from the Lord. – Proverbs 20:12 NLT
But Solomon’s mention of sight and hearing has little to do with the ability to see and hear. He seems to know that there are far too many people who have good hearing and great eyesight but who might as well be deaf and blind. Their problem is a spiritual one. Their organs of sight and hearing are perfectly fine, but they are spiritually deaf and blind. God used this imagery on many occasions, telling the people of Judah, “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear” (Jeremiah 5:21 NLT). They were unable to see the greatness of God and unwilling to hear the voice of God.
While sight and hearing are both gifts from the Lord, how much greater is the gift of being able to see and hear spiritually. The ability to see life from God’s perspective and to clearly hear His voice is a gift of inestimable worth. Every Christ-follower has been equipped with these God-given senses of spiritual sight and hearing. As a result, we have the ability and responsibility to listen more and talk less. I think it’s interesting that speech is not listed as one of the gifts. We put a high value on what we say, but God seems to put a higher value on our capacity to listen – not only to Him but to what is being said around us. We need to train our ears to hear the pain and suffering in the world. We need to hear and discern the falsehood and lies masquerading as truth. We need to hear God speaking in the midst of all the noise around us. But to hear, we have to stop talking.
And we need to see more clearly the world as God sees it. We need His vision and insight. We need His perspective. It is easy to be fooled by the false images of this world. But things are not always as they appear. God gives us the ability to see clearly and truthfully. He alone can open our eyes to the reality of what is going on in the world. When we see clearly, we see Him at work. We know the value of His righteousness and the greatness of His power. We view the world through the lens of the future. And our vision of the world is not limited to the here-and-now. God has given us a glimpse into the future and we can see that He has a plan that He is working to perfection. The scenes of this present world are not the end of the story. We see the world through the eyes of God and know how the story ends.