23 These also are sayings of the wise.
Partiality in judging is not good.
24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
and a good blessing will come upon them.
26 Whoever gives an honest answer
kisses the lips.
27 Prepare your work outside;
get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house.
28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause,
and do not deceive with your lips.
29 Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:23-34 ESV
Solomon has already provided his sons with 30 wise sayings that he had collected and compiled. But it seems he discovered a half dozen more that he felt were worthy of publication. With these final six sayings, Solomon brings this section to a close and concludes his mission to equip his sons for life in this world.
I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
In this way, you may know the truth
and take an accurate report to those who sent you. – Proverbs 22:20-21 NLT
It seems obvious that Solomon never intended for the first 30 sayings to be comprehensive and complete. Chapter 22, verse 17 through chapter 24, verse 22 was not meant to be an exhaustive list of sage advice or Solomon never would have included the final six. But it is as if, when looking over all the sage wisdom he had collected, he ran across a few more that he felt worthy of inclusion.
These also are sayings of the wise. – Proverbs 24:23 ESV
In 12 short verses, Solomon discusses a number of seemingly unrelated topics; from the practice of partiality to the destructive nature of poor planning. He warns about falsely accusing someone else and encourages truthfulness at all costs. He discourages the seeking of revenge and warns against giving in to the desire to lite against an enemy just to get even with them.
These are all lifestyle messages, and they convey the idea that wisdom must show up in daily life. The sage advice that Solomon was sharing with his sons was meant to make a difference in the way they conducted themselves in every area of life.
Solomon wanted his sons to be honest, God-fearing men who displayed an appreciation for the divine wisdom he was sharing with them. He desired that they would put these time-tested truths into practice, but he knew that they would constantly face the temptation to follow the ways of the world. In a fallen world, disingenuous flattery and falsehood take precedence over the truth. Approval of the wicked seems to be more profitable than calling them out. That’s why Solomon warns, “Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations” (Proverbs 24:24 ESV).
Years later, the prophet Isaiah would also warn against the temptation to distort reality by purposefully confusing right from wrong.
What sorrow for those who say
that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes
and think themselves so clever. – Isaiah 5:20-21 NLT
In contrast, Solomon promotes a lifestyle of integrity and honesty.
…those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
and a good blessing will come upon them.
Whoever gives an honest answer
kisses the lips. – Proverbs 24:25-26 ESV
Twisting the truth may seem like a profitable tact to take, but it stands in direct opposition to the will of God. To turn a blind eye to the unethical and immoral behavior of others may pay off in the short term but it will have eternal consequences. As far as Solomon was concerned, honesty is always the best policy. There was no situation in which falsehood or deception would be the preferred course of action. And willingly distorting the truth in order to seek revenge was totally unacceptable.
Don’t testify against your neighbors without cause;
don’t lie about them.
And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for what they’ve done to me!
I’ll get even with them!” – Proverbs 24:28-29 NLT
Solomon wanted his boys to understand that unethical behavior was never to be an option for them. If they chose the path of the wicked and foolish, it would not end well. And Solomon closes out this section by giving a less-than-flattering description of a man who chose folly over wisdom and lived to suffer the consequences.
I walked by the field of a lazy person,
the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
It was covered with weeds,
and its walls were broken down. – Proverbs 24:30-31 NLT
Solomon describes a vineyard that is overgrown and in a state of disrepair. It is unproductive and unfruitful, displaying the consequences of years of neglect and poor management. The dilapidated state of this vineyard wasn’t due to some kind of natural disaster but was the result of negligence and laziness. It was the byproduct of a life dedicated to foolishness rather than wisdom.
One of the fallacies associated with the life of faith is that there is little we are responsible for in our Christian life. It is a life based solely upon grace and not merit. While it is true that we can’t earn our salvation through self-effort or work, it is NOT true that grace eliminates effort altogether. Grace is opposed to earning, not effort. We can’t earn favor with God and we can’t work our way into heaven. We can’t achieve a state of godliness on our own, but we are to strive for it.
Paul said, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT). Paul aggressively pursued the life of righteousness. While he knew that it was ultimately God’s responsibility to produce the life of godliness within him, Paul also knew that he had a responsibility to actively participate in the process. God makes the crops grow, but the farmer still has to till the ground and plant the seed.
The book of Proverbs contains repeated mentions of the sluggard or the lazy person. Sometimes he is referred to as the sloth, a slow-moving, sleep-loving, and work- avoiding individual who lacks initiative and self-motivation. In verse 30, Solomon combines the attribute of laziness with the lack of common sense. He presents a toxic blend of two character traits that are each bad enough alone, but devastating when combined.
In reality, the lazy person always lacks common sense or understanding, because they fail to recognize that their failure to act and desire to avoid work will always produce the wrong results. Solomon describes the visible outcome of the lifestyle of laziness and ignorance. This man’s refusal to use common sense and properly care for his vineyard produced devastating results: “…it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down” (Proverbs 24:31 NLT).
This guy’s field or vineyard was overgrown with weeds and the walls designed to protect it were in shambles. In other words, due to this person’s laziness and lack of common sense, his vineyard would fail to produce fruit. His ignorance and unwillingness to work had resulted in fruitlessness.
What a sad picture of the lives of so many Christians today. Due to spiritual apathy and laziness, their lives produce little in the way of fruit. They have neglected the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and the study of God’s Word. As a result, their spiritual walls are broken down and their lives are fruitless.
The lesson Solomon learned from seeing the field of the lazy person applies to us today.
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 24:33-34 NLT
The choice to take the lazy way will always result in spiritual poverty. The apostle Paul challenges us, “let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT). The godly life requires diligent effort and common sense. We must aggressively pursue the things of God. We must make the pursuit of His will our highest priority. He has placed His Spirit within us, but the Holy Spirit will not force Himself on us. We must make a choice to tap into His power and take full advantage of His presence in our lives.
But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. – Romans 8:13 NLT
Laziness and a lack of common sense are a dangerous combination in the life of a believer. God has called us to work hard and think wisely, which is why Paul encourages us to “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).