External Influences

1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
    and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
    whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
    but every fool will be quarreling.
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
    he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
    but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
    but a faithful man who can find?
The righteous who walks in his integrity—
    blessed are his children after him!
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
    winnows all evil with his eyes.
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.

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Life of Integrity

Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
    than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
Desire without knowledge is not good,
    and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin,
    his heart rages against the Lord.
Wealth brings many new friends,
    but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
Many seek the favor of a generous man,
    and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
All a poor man’s brothers hate him;
    how much more do his friends go far from him!
He pursues them with words, but does not have them.
Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;
    he who keeps understanding will discover good.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and he who breathes out lies will perish.
10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury,
    much less for a slave to rule over princes.
11 Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
12 A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion,
    but his favor is like dew on the grass.
13 A foolish son is ruin to his father,
    and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
    but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep,
    and an idle person will suffer hunger.
16 Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life;
    he who despises his ways will die.
– Proverbs 19:1-16 ESV

What does a person of integrity look like? Our modern culture has diluted integrity down to a one-dimensional idea of honesty. If you tell the truth or keep your word, you’re referred to as a man of integrity. But the biblical view of integrity is so much deeper, fuller, and all-inclusive. And the Proverbs help us see what the life of a person of integrity looks like. Using comparisons and contrasts, it paints simple word pictures of what the person of integrity does and doesn’t do.

The biblical concept of integrity carries the idea of wholeness or completeness. A person of integrity is sound in mind, body, and spirit. Their life is well-integrated and non-compartmentalized, and lived entirely for God, with no parts held back. To live a life of integrity is to give God every aspect of my life, not just the convenient parts. And it is allowing God to transform every area of my life, including my speech, attitudes, and actions.

Solomon tells us over and over again that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. God is the source of all we need to live a godly, whole, and complete life. The person who refuses to acknowledge this reality is designated as a fool in the Proverbs, and a fool is simply one who actively spurns the ways and the will of God. The fool says there is no God or lives his life as if there were no God, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And the fool is one who hears God’s call but refuses to listen. As a result, his or her life is incomplete and lacking in wholeness. It exhibits a glaring lack of spiritual vitality and soundness.

According to Solomon, even a poor man can display integrity because it has little to do with material possessions or one’s position within society. Wealth can’t buy integrity. Power and prominence don’t naturally come equipped with integrity.

Wealth brings many new friends,
    but a poor man is deserted by his friend. – Proverbs 19:4 ESV

Money can buy a lot of friends, but when it runs out, so do they. And wealth is a poor substitute for integrity. The man who “has it all” may appear to be sound and whole, lacking in nothing, but without integrity, he is operating at a serious deficit.

Simply put, integrity is righteousness lived out. It is godliness made visible and tangible. When the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding we receive from God begin to influence our behavior and speech, others can see it and be influenced by it. Integrity makes us willing to do the right thing and suffer loss rather than lie in order to get ahead (Proverbs 19:1).

Without integrity, we tend to rush headlong into decisions, letting our enthusiasm drive our choices rather than wisdom.

Desire without knowledge is not good,
    and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. – Proverbs 19:2 ESV

People of integrity still make mistakes, but when they do they refuse to blame God for the consequences. But “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord (Proverbs 19:3 ESV). Those without integrity or wholeness tend to make unhealthy choices and then refuse to take responsibility for the unpleasant outcomes they encounter.

People with integrity don’t practice “fake” friendships, pursuing relationships purely for what they can get out of them.

Many seek favors from a ruler;
    everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts!

The relatives of the poor despise them;
    how much more will their friends avoid them!
Though the poor plead with them,
    their friends are gone. – Proverbs 19:6, 7 NLT

Instead, they view others through God’s eyes, loving the helpless and hopeless the same way He does.

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord
    and he will repay you!
Proverbs 19:17 NLT

The integral life is marked by honesty and truth-telling at all times and at any cost.

A false witness will not go unpunished,
    nor will a liar escape. – Proverbs 19:5 NLT

A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and a liar will be destroyed. – Proverbs 15:9 NLT

A life of integrity is the only acceptable form of self-love because it ends up rewarding those who practice it with great benefits.

To acquire wisdom is to love yourself;
    people who cherish understanding will prosper. – Proverbs 19:8 NLT

A person of integrity lives their entire life for God, so they are less likely to get angry when offended or when things don’t go their way. They have a greater capacity to overlook a wrong committed because they understand the fallen nature of man. This God-given patience provides them with respect and protects them from harm.

Sensible people control their temper;
    they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.

The king’s anger is like a lion’s roar,
    but his favor is like dew on the grass. – Proverbs 19:11-12 NLT

Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty.
    If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again. – Proverbs 19:19 NLT

Integrity understands that God is sovereign and in control of all the affairs of life and, ultimately, His sees that His will is done.

Fathers can give their sons an inheritance of houses and wealth,
    but only the Lord can give an understanding wife. – Proverbs 19:14 NLT.

The integral life is marked by obedience to God, hard work, the constant pursuit of wisdom, and a fear of the Lord (Proverbs 19:15, 16, 20, 23, 24). Integrity encourages parents to create an atmosphere in their home where instruction is God-centered, and discipline is practiced in order to raise children who are God-fearing (Proverbs 19:18, 25, 26, 27, 29.

In the very first chapter of this book, Solomon provides his reason for compiling and cataloging all these words of wisdom.

Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
    to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
    to help them do what is right, just, and fair. – Proverbs 1:2-3 NLT

But then he adds, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge” (Proverbs 19:7 NLT). It all starts with God. We must understand that only He can provide us the wisdom, insight, understanding, and discipline we need to live lives of integrity. We can’t manufacture these things on our own. No amount of money can buy them. They don’t come with success or social prominence. No, they are the byproducts of an integral or well-rounded life. Solomon was interested in helping people do what is right, just, and fair. But he knew that good behavior was impossible without a healthy reverence for God. He alone can provide the wisdom and discipline necessary to transform a person from the inside out. And when God transforms the heart, it shows up in tangible expressions of righteousness and godliness. When we put Him first and allow Him to guide and direct our lives, others will see the change taking place within us as it flows out from us. Our integrity will be visible to all those around us.

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Wisdom: The Can’t-Miss Investment Strategy

24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
    but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
    but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
    and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
    but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
    but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
    but envy makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
    but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
    but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
    but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
    but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
    but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.
– Proverbs 14:24-35 ESV

Solomon strongly suggests that there is tangible fruit that accompanies the life of wisdom. But it isn’t necessarily what we would expect. While he states that “The crown of the wise is their wealth” (verse 24), the context would suggest that he is talking about something other than monetary or material abundance. Godly wisdom is not a guarantee of financial success. No, Solomon is once again juxtaposing the way of the wise with the way of the fool. The crown of the wise is their wisdom. It represents their greatest asset and their most significant achievement in life. But for the fool, folly is their crowning achievement. An abundance of godly wisdom is of more value than silver and gold. Solomon has already made this point perfectly clear.

Tune your ears to wisdom,
    and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
    and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
    seek them like hidden treasures. – Proverbs 2:2-4 NLT

Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her. – Proverbs 3:13-15 NLT

Those who seek wisdom discover something of far greater value than precious metals or rare jewels. A personal treasury filled with godly wisdom is more profitable than a portfolio filled with high-yield stocks or a savings account filled with money.

And one of the things that makes wisdom so valuable is its ability to have a positive impact on others. Unlike material possessions and monetary treasures, wisdom is almost impossible to hoard. A wise person can’t help but have a beneficial influence on the lives of others. They speak the truth and save lives (verse 25). They exude confidence in God that provides a sense of security to others (verse 26). They show concern for the poor (verse 31) and display an understanding heart (verse 33). And a nation that is blessed with the presence of godly people will stand a far higher chance of achieving greatness (verse 34).

With this last proverbial statement, Solomon provides a timeless truth that applies in every generation and across all cultural bounds. It isn’t a particular candidate, party, or platform that makes a nation great; it is godliness. Politics is never a reliable savior. There is no candidate who will ever be able to make a nation great because he or she lacks the ability to change the human heart. They can set agendas, enact policies, and attempt to direct a nation on to a particular path, but without a change of heart, their efforts will prove futile in the end. It is godliness that will make a nation great. A powerful military and a thriving economy are no match for a nation that destroys itself from within because of moral decay and uncontrolled unrighteousness. And the proof can be seen all throughout history. Rome was great but fell. Its mighty army and vast empire were insufficient to deal with its own moral inadequacies. Nazi Germany was powerful but ultimately collapsed under the staggering weight of its own decadence and godlessness. Nation after nation has experienced an ignominious end due to their rejection of God and a growing love affair with sin.

There is no doubt that a godly leader would be the better choice for a nation, but without a godly people to lead, his efforts would prove futile in the end. The people of Israel provide ample proof of this truth. No, what any nation needs s godly people who desire the will of God more than they do the temptations of sin. They turn to God for salvation and security rather than to the government, the economy, or the military. Their hope and trust are in God. They view sin as something to be avoided, not applauded and entertained by. They practice personal and corporate confession, calling on God to forgive their sins and cleanse their unrighteousness.

The godly are not religious people, they are God-dependent people. He is their ultimate authority and determiner of all things. The presence of the godly in a nation can have a tremendous impact. They can act as a preserving agent. Even in small numbers, they can have a positive and listing influence. A relatively small remnant can make a big difference in the direction of a nation. God sees them and preserves them. God has spared nations due to the presence of a handful of the faithful and godly. But those few must recognize that the hope of their nation lies in the hands of God, not men. They must call out to and depend upon God for renewal and revival, not a party or a particular candidate. They must understand that God is their hope, help, and ultimate healer. He alone can save a nation from destruction. He alone can bring about individual and corporate restoration.

Godliness is simply a recognition of these facts. It is a life lived in complete dependence upon and trust in God. That is what will make any nation great. While a nation that rebels against God will soon end in disgrace.

The way of the wise has far-reaching benefits that can extend to a family, a community, and even a nation. It is a fountain of life (verse 27). It brings peace to the heart and health to the body (verse 30). It honors God (verse 31). It exalts a nation (verse 34). And it incurs the favor of the powerful (verse 34).

The pursuit of wisdom is far from a personal and purely selfish endeavor. It is God-focused and other-oriented. Those who desire and passionately pursue the wisdom of God will find their heart’s treasury overflowing with an abundance of gifts with which to bless others. They will become a conduit of God’s mercy, grace, and love; leaving a lasting impact on all those around them, for generations 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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Audacity of Autonomy

The wisest of women builds her house,
    but folly with her own hands tears it down.
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
    but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
    but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
A faithful witness does not lie,
    but a false witness breathes out lies.
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
    but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
Leave the presence of a fool,
    for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
    but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Fools mock at the guilt offering,
    but the upright enjoy acceptance.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no stranger shares its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
    but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.
– Proverbs 14:1-12 ESV

Solomon continues his differentiation between wisdom and folly. Yet, with this particular collection of proverbial sayings, it’s more difficult to find a consistent theme or singular heading with which to summarize them. It’s clear that Solomon is still juxtaposing the life of righteousness with the life of wickedness but he seems less intent on categorizing or arranging the content in a systemized manner. Nonetheless, the reader has no trouble assessing which lifestyle Solomon is recommending. He blatantly promotes the way of the wise because it leads to a constructive rather than a destructive life (verse 1).

Out of reverence for God, the wise person lives a “straight” life, while the one who despises God ends up living a “crooked” or perverse life (verse 2). For Solomon, a healthy relationship with God was vital to living a productive and satisfying life. There was no hope for the godless.

Strangely enough, the fool, who lacks wisdom, tends to have an overabundance of pride (verse 3). And his excessive and unwarranted hubris expresses itself in insufferable boasting that eventually turns everyone against him. Unlike the wise person, whose words are filled with grace and humility, the fool displays a pretentiousness and pride that comes back to haunt him.

A wise person would rather deal with the inconvenience of a dirty barn that comes from owning a hard-working ox (verse 4). But, in a sense, the fool would cut off his nose to spite his face. Out of laziness, he would sell off his ox just to keep from having to clean up its stall and, in doing so, he would forfeit his means of survival.

The fool ends up lying for a living (verse 5). His words can’t be trusted. Lying becomes as natural and necessary to a fool as breathing. Deceit is like oxygen to a fool; he can’t exist without it. The context seems to be that of a trial. Solomon describes two kinds of witnesses; one who is a pathological liar bent on self-preservation and the other is a trustworthy witness who refuses to lie, even in his own defense.

Solomon puts a high premium on wisdom but points out that the pursuit of wisdom for wisdom’s sake is useless. “A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it” because he seeks it apart from a relationship with God (verse 6). Solomon uses the Hebrew word, lûṣ, which refers to someone with an overinflated sense of self-worth. As a result, they deride and dismiss others, even God Himself. And Solomon’s father warned him about people like this.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt; their acts are vile. There is no one who does good. – Psalm 14:1 BSB

True wisdom is impossible to find apart from a relationship with God. If you say there is no God, you will never know wisdom. It’s as simple as that. And, according to Solomon, that is all the reason you need to avoid the fool.

Stay away from fools,
    for you won’t find knowledge on their lips. – Proverbs 14:7 NLT

He is not suggesting that fools are stupid or devoid of intelligence. It is just that they lack the kind of knowledge that only God can provide. Their wisdom is man-made and of this world. It lacks divine depth and an eternal perspective. Human wisdom tends to be myopic and focused on the here-and-now. Without God, it is devoid of vision and divine insight. This leads fools to deceive themselves (verse 8). Believing themselves to be wise, they end up becoming increasingly more foolish (Romans 1:22). Their dismissal of God leads to an ever-increasing sense of superior intelligence that fuels an ever-diminishing capacity for true wisdom. But because the wise know God, they can always know where they’re going because He directs their path (Proverbs 16:9).

One of the characteristics of a fool is that they never seem to feel guilt or shame for their godless behavior (verse 9). They view their way as the right way. They see no need to confess sin or seek atonement because they have become like God, knowing right from wrong. While “Fools make fun of guilt,” deeming it to be an unnecessary burden, “the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation” (Proverbs 14:9 NLT). It was Jesus who told the arrogant and self-righteous Pharisees of His day, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:31-32 NLT). Fools see no need for repentance because they refuse to acknowledge their actions as sinful and reject their need for God’s forgiveness. But the godly respond like the tax collector in a parable that Jesus told His disciples.

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Like 18:13-14 NLT

The beauty of forgiveness is that it relieves the heart of sorrow and despair. While the fool may try to dismiss the reality of sin, its presence and consequences are inescapable. Man is hardwired to feel shame and guilt for living in violation of God’s commands. That is why Solomon states, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (verse 10). Guilt and conviction settle in the heart, creating an overwhelming sense of culpability that must be dealt with either by confession or denial. A fool refuses to assuage his guilt and release his burden through repentance. This leaves him no other choice than to seek escape through further disobedience. In desperate search of release from the weight of sin’s condemnation, the sinner sinks deeper into a lifestyle of rebellion against God. And the result is bitterness rather than joy.

But this futile path leads to destruction, not release from the inescapable guilt and shame.

The house of the wicked will be destroyed – Proverbs 14:11 ESV

The fool is building a house of cards, a flimsy structure that cannot withstand the rigors of this life and the reality of eternity. Jesus described the sad plight of the individual who refuses to heed the Wisdom of God.

“But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:26-27 NLT

The fool believes his house to be well-constructed and built on a solid foundation but, in time, the shaky state of his life will be exposed for what it is: A rickety bundle of sticks and stones built on an unsteady foundation of lies. Yet, as Solomon points out, the wise and righteous man dwells in his temporary tent with utter confidence knowing that it rests on the unwavering foundation of God’s unfailing Word.

The author of Hebrews reminded his readers of the faith of Abraham, the patriarch of the nation of Israel. He describes Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan, the land God had promised to give to him as an inheritance for his descendants. But Abraham never had the pleasure of building a house in Canaan. Instead, he lived in tents and waited for something greater that God had in store for him.

…even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. – Hebrews 11:9-10 NLT

Abraham could have acted the fool and built for himself a beautiful house in the land of promise. He could have easily justified his actions by claiming that God had given him the land. But that is not what God had called him to do. His “house” would come later. His dwelling place would be made by the hands of God, not man. And he was willing to wait for God’s best rather than settle for a home built on sand.

Solomon reminds us that “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (verse 12). Every human being faces the temptation to deem their way to be the right way. Ever since the fall, we have been plagued with an insatiable desire to be like God, with the sole power to decide what is right and wrong. We are obsessed with the need to pursue a life of autonomy, acting as the sole arbiters of our fate. But, as Solomon warns, that way leads to death and not life. And God would have us remember:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

Christ, the Wisdom of God

22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

32 “And now, O sons, listen to me:
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
    and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
    watching daily at my gates,
    waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
    and obtains favor from the Lord,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself;
    all who hate me love death.” – Proverbs 8:22-36 ESV

Wisdom has an impressive pedigree, and it isn’t shy when it comes to talking about it. According to verse 22, Wisdom is literally older than dirt. It has been around since the beginning of time.

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. – Proverbs 8:22 DRB

The Hebrew word, qānâ, can be translated as either “created” or “possessed,” and various Bible translations use one or the other to describe Wisdom’s relationship with God at the point of creation.

The LORD created me as His first course, before His works of old. – Berean Study Bible

“The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.” – New Living Translation

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. – New American Standard Version

“Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, Before his works of old.”  – American Standard Version

But if God created Wisdom, then that would suggest there was a point in time when it did not exist. Like the rest of creation, it was formed out of nothing. But that would infer that  Wisdom exists independently of God. Like the sun, moon, stars, plants, and animals, it owes its existence to God’s divine power. But that would seem to contradict the idea that Wisdom is an attribute of God Himself.  So, given the context established in Proverbs 8, it makes much more sense to translate the word qānâ as “possessed.”

“As Creator, God counted wisdom most important. Wisdom is older than the universe, and it was essential in its creation. Nothing came into existence without wisdom. Wisdom leads to joy because creation produces joy (vv. 30-31) both for the Creator and for the creature. God made and did nothing without wisdom. Therefore it is very important that we obtain it. That is the point.” – Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Genesis

Wisdom boldly claims to have been “set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth” (Proverbs 8:23 ESV). Again, understanding the meaning of this passage is dependent upon a proper translation of the Hebrew word, nāsaḵ. It carries the meaning “to pour out,” as in the pouring out of a libation or in the anointing of a king. God poured forth His Wisdom in the process of forming the universe, anointing all it contained with His unsurpassed intelligence, skill, and creative prowess. Nothing was left to chance. Everything God made reflects intelligent design and symmetry of order.

Before God made the oceans, seas, rivers, and streams, Wisdom was already in existence. Long before there were mountains and hills and the dirt and rocks from which they consist, Wisdom was there. The sun, moon, stars, heavens, clouds, and atmosphere surrounding the earth were all made according to God’s infinite and incomparable wisdom. And the apostle John explains how this Wisdom manifested itself.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. – John 1:1-3 ESV

In his first letter to the Corinthians church, the apostle Paul declares that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24 ESV). In other words, He is the wisdom of God personified. Just a few verses later, Paul asserts that Christ and Wisdom are synonymous and inseparable.

For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. – 1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT

And the prophet Isaiah, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, predicted that the Messiah would be the greatest expression of God’s infinite wisdom.

And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. – Isaiah 11:2 NLT

Paul firmly believed that Jesus Christ was the wisdom of God in human flesh. And his greatest desire was for all believers to “have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself” (Colossians 2:2 NLT), because  “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NLT).

So, when Wisdom boldly claims, “I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (Proverbs 8:30-31 ESV), you can hear the voice of Jesus speaking. Because of his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, Solomon would have had some idea of the promised Messiah of Israel. But much of the Messiah’s mission and role would have remained a mystery to even the all-wise King of Israel.

But after the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the apostles were able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and form a more cohesive and cogent explanation of Jesus’ divine role as the wisdom of God made manifest.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together. – Colossians 1:15-17 NLT

Solomon may not have had a comprehensive grasp of Jesus as the embodied wisdom of God, but he fully understood that Wisdom was indispensable and vital to living a life that brought glory to God. That’s why he spent so much time pleading with his sons to make the pursuit of godly wisdom a high priority in their lives. He even portrayed Wisdom as a human being, calling to his young sons and begging them to avail themselves of her gift.

“And so, my children, listen to me,
    for all who follow my ways are joyful.
Listen to my instruction and be wise.
    Don’t ignore it.
Joyful are those who listen to me,
    watching for me daily at my gates,
    waiting for me outside my home!
For whoever finds me finds life
    and receives favor from the Lord. – Proverbs 8:32-35 NLT

The words of Wisdom are reminiscent of those spoken by Jesus centuries later.

“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:27-30 NLT

Jesus offers all those who are worn out from trying to earn their way into God’s good graces, the gift of peace. Peace with God. He alone can provide sinful men and women restored access to God’s presence. Through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross, fools can receive “wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV). By accepting Christ as our Savior, we receive all that He is, including His eternal wisdom and spotless righteousness, as our very own.

But Wisdom has one final word of warning that should leave us shaking in our boots.

“But those who miss me injure themselves.
    All who hate me love death.” – Proverbs 8:36 NLT

And the apostle Paul described a similar fate for all those who turn their back on God’s Wisdom. They suffer serious consequences for refusing to embrace the gift that God has made available.

…they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. – Romans 1:21-26 NLT

And all those who refuse to accept Jesus, “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV), will suffer a similar fate.

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

Deadly Desires

1 My son, keep my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
    keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
    and call insight your intimate friend,
to keep you from the forbidden woman,
    from the adulteress with her smooth words.

For at the window of my house
    I have looked out through my lattice,
and I have seen among the simple,
    I have perceived among the youths,
    a young man lacking sense,
passing along the street near her corner,
    taking the road to her house
in the twilight, in the evening,
    at the time of night and darkness.

10 And behold, the woman meets him,
    dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
11 She is loud and wayward;
    her feet do not stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the market,
    and at every corner she lies in wait.
13 She seizes him and kisses him,
    and with bold face she says to him,
14 “I had to offer sacrifices,
    and today I have paid my vows;
15 so now I have come out to meet you,
    to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
16 I have spread my couch with coverings,
    colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
    aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
    let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
    he has gone on a long journey;
20 he took a bag of money with him;
    at full moon he will come home.”

21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
    with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
    as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23     till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
    he does not know that it will cost him his life.

24 And now, O sons, listen to me,
    and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
    do not stray into her paths,
26 for many a victim has she laid low,
    and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
    going down to the chambers of death. – Proverbs 7:1-27 ESV

When I was a child, whenever we would visit my father’s family in rural Pennsylvania we would always take one night to go out and look for deer. My dad had a high-powered flashlight that plugged into the cigarette lighter of the car and had a beam on it that would seemingly go for miles. At dusk, we would pile into our old station wagon and head out into the country in search of deer. My dad would cruise slowly down those one-lane roads with all of us kids hanging out the window, waiting in silence as he worked the powerful beam of that spotlight back and forth across the fields. Then suddenly, they would appear.

Pairs of glowing orbs mysteriously floating in the darkness. Then the spotlight would reveal their source: hundreds of deer standing like statues, ears up, tails twitching, and noses nervously sniffing the air for signs of danger. I was amazed by the power the spotlight held over them. It was like they were in a trance, transfixed to the spot on which they stood, unable to stand. It’s why, in most states, it is illegal to hunt deer using any kind of light source. It’s unfair. They can’t help themselves. They’re defenseless. And I can’t help but think of that scene every time I read the warnings that Solomon gives his son regarding the immoral woman.

He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, awaiting an arrow that would pierce its heart. – Proverbs 7:22-23 NLT

The innocent young man was transfixed and seduced by the mesmerizing allure of forbidden fruit and false flattery. Each and every day, young men AND old men get caught in the headlights of lust. The enemy trolls the highways and byways of life looking for men AND women who he can transfix with the bright light of sin. And unlike most law-abiding hunters, Satan ignores any and all rules, taking down as many innocent victims as possible, like stags caught in a trap. He finds his work easygoing because most men are easy prey.

But there is another factor involved in this scene that sets it slightly apart from my childhood memories of “deer spotting.” It’s subtle but significant. Solomon describes seeing a naive young man who lacked common sense. He is one of the simple ones, open-minded and foolish. He is gullible and lacking in common sense or moral character. He is incapable of making good choices or recognizing the danger of his situation. So he crosses the street near the house of an immoral woman. In other words, he puts himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. “It was at twilight, in the evening, as deep darkness fell” (Proverbs 7:9 NLT). He had no business being there, but he also had no sense to know better. He was a fool. He was like a deer strolling smack dab into a camp of hunters.

Deer are naturally wary. They have a built-in defense mechanism – a fright and flight response wired into them by God. But due to the effects of the fall, men have had their spiritual senses deadened. Our spiritual receptors have been dulled by sin and we no longer have the capacity to sense danger or know what to do about it if we do. And we become easy prey for the enemy, like deer tied to a stake with a target painted on our side. So, Solomon warns his son. He begs him to listen to his words of warning. He says, “Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her. Don’t wander down her wayward path” (Proverbs 7:25 NLT).

Stray away from what? Wander away from what? It is when our hearts stray from God that we become prey for the enemy. It is when we wander off God’s path that we find ourselves in the high weeds or like a deer in the headlights. The words of an old hymn summarize our situation well.

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Be warned. Be worried. Be wary. Keep your heart close to God. Walk His path. Keep close to His side. He will give you wisdom, discernment, and the sensory perception to see danger and run from it. His way is the way to true life.

You see, Godly wisdom has its benefits. That may sound like an understatement or an extreme case of overstating the obvious, but in either case, it’s true. When we seek God and follow His ways, we gain an extreme advantage in this life. Without Him, we are left vulnerable to the temptations that are guaranteed to come our way as we live our lives on this planet.

Solomon knew that and so he went out of his way to teach his sons to seek the wisdom and insight God had to offer them. In this Proverb, he warns his sons in very graphic detail about the one temptation that faces just about every member of the male side of the species: The adulterous woman. He uses a story to illustrate for his sons just how susceptible they will be without the wisdom and insight that God provides. He describes “some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense” (Proverbs 7:7 NLT). The Hebrew word translated “naive” here can also mean “open-minded, one easily persuaded or enticed.”

These young men lacked the capacity to defend themselves from temptation. They were naturally open-minded or, in a way, empty-headed, and unable to say no to the tempting offers this world throws at every young man. One of the young men, who becomes the focus of Solomon’s story, was “void of understanding” according to the King James Bible. He lacked common sense. He didn’t have any wisdom from God that would warn him of the dangers that lie ahead. So when the adulterous woman spotted him walking by her house, she pounced. One of the first things that should jump out at us is the fact that this young man was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It says, “He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house” (Proverbs 7:8 NLT). He had no business being there. Yet Solomon describes him as “strolling” along, completely unaware of just how much danger he was in. Without the wisdom of God, he was going to find himself defenseless to the temptations headed his way. He was going to buy into the flattering words from this woman’s lips that to a wise man would have been obvious lies. “You’re the one I was looking for!” she would say, and “like an ox going to the slaughter,” he would allow her to lead him to his own demise. He would be easily seduced by her “pretty speech” and suffer the devastating consequences of his mistake.

But he would not be alone. “For she has been the ruin of many; many men have been her victims” (Proverbs 7:26 NLT). The list of names of the men who have become victims of this temptation is long and continues to grow. All because men continue to reject the wisdom that God offers. Even so-called godly men fall prey to the adulterous woman because they reject the wisdom God offers them. They refuse to listen to His Word. Instead, they choose to give in to their desires and satisfy their natural pleasures. They live for the moment and seek to meet the needs of their flesh, rather than live in the power of the Spirit. The wisdom of God could protect them, but they refuse to listen. Wisdom has its benefits, but only if we take advantage of all it has to offer. We have to want the wisdom of God more than we want the pleasures of this world.

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

A Healthy Hatred For Sin

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers. – Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV

There are many in our world who refuse to believe in God. There are others who believe in God, but their version of Him is of their own making. They have chosen attributes and qualities they find comforting and non-convicting. They worship a God who is nothing but love, all the time. They tend to reject the God as portrayed in the Old Testament because He appears to act in ways that are antithetical to their concept of Him. He is too angry, vengeful, and barbaric for their tastes. They prefer the more loving and compassionate God of the New Testament who is gracious, kind, and forgiving.

But when we reject the God of the Old Testament, we diminish the very One we say we believe in. God is loving, but He is righteous and just as well. He is holy and, because of that character, He is required to deal with all unrighteousness and wickedness. He must judge sin justly and completely. And the God of the Bible hates sin – all sin.

As uncomfortable as it may make us feel, our God does express hatred. Multiple times in the book of Proverbs we are reminded of His divine hatred. But we must never confuse God’s hatred with our own. His is perfect, holy, sinless, and completely justified in condemning and abhorring our sin. He understands the danger of sin and the damage it can produce in our lives.

So, in the middle of this proverb, Solomon provides his sons with a less-than-lengthy list of the things that God hates. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list but simply an abbreviated inventory of the kinds of activities God finds repellent and deserving of His anger.

There are six things the Lord hates—
    no, seven things he detests… – Proverbs 6:16 NLT

It is as if Solomon is recalling the six things that God hates and then suddenly remembers one more. This kind of numerical list is not uncommon in the book of Proverbs. In fact, Proverbs 30 contains several of them.

The leech has two daughters:
    Give and Give.
Three things are never satisfied;
    four never say, “Enough”:
Sheol, the barren womb,
    the land never satisfied with water,
    and the fire that never says, “Enough.” – Proverbs 30:15-16 ESV

Three things are too wonderful for me;
    four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a virgin. – Proverbs 30:18-19 ESV

Under three things the earth trembles;
    under four it cannot bear up:
a slave when he becomes king,
    and a fool when he is filled with food;
an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
    and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress. – Proverbs 30:21-23 ESV

Four things on earth are small,
    but they are exceedingly wise:
the ants are a people not strong,
    yet they provide their food in the summer;
the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
    yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
the locusts have no king,
    yet all of them march in rank;
the lizard you can take in your hands,
    yet it is in kings’ palaces. – Proverbs 30:24-28 ESV

Three things are stately in their tread;
    four are stately in their stride:
the lion, which is mightiest among beasts
    and does not turn back before any;
the strutting rooster, the he-goat,
    and a king whose army is with him. – Proverbs 30:29-31 ESV

Again, these lists are not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive. But the six-no-seven format is intended to convey the idea that there are more things belonging to the list than can be included. In other words, Solomon is telling his sons that there are just a few of the things that God finds unacceptable and worthy of His divine wrath.

Solomon states that God hates these things because they are an abomination to Him. The Hebrew word Solomon used is tôʿēḇâ, and it describes something that is morally disgusting to God. He finds these things shameful, unacceptable, and abhorrent. They are detestable to Him. And Solomon is quite specific in his language. He declares that they are an abomination to God’s “soul” or nep̄eš. In the Hebrew way of thinking, the soul was the seat of emotions and passions or the inner being. Solomon is saying that these seven vices cut to the very heart of God. They are an affront to His being or essence because they stand in direct opposition to His divine character.

Take a close look at the list:

  1. haughty eyes
  2. a lying tongue
  3. hands that shed innocent blood
  4. a heart that devises wicked plans
  5. feet that make haste to run to evil
  6. a false witness who breathes out lies
  7. one who sows discord among brothers

Not exactly a jaw-dropping, eye-popping list of sins. We expect to see a murderer’s row of life-sentence-worthy crimes. But instead, we read a rather bland list of pedestrian-sounding sins that just about everyone on earth has been guilty of at one time or another. The only one of the seven that seems worthy of inclusion is number 3. It describes those who take life without cause.

But all the rest appear to be rather innocuous. But Solomon states to God hates them all equally and vehemently. Only one seems to be what we would classify as worthy of hate, because it involves the taking of an innocent person’s life. But Solomon is showing that, in God’s eyes, all of these things are equally hated because they are all detestable to Him. He hates the pride in our lives as much as He does the taking of innocent life. They are both in violation of His law, and He hates them because He is holy and righteous.

His anger is His reaction to the breaking of His perfect law. As a just judge, He must deal with them rightly and righteously. Solomon is fully aware that his God hates sin and he wants his sons to know it as well. So, he warns them that these kinds of things are abhorrent and offensive to God. They are not to be tolerated, played with, excused, or minimized.

When we see the pride in our lives, we must remind ourselves that God hates it. When we lie, we must remember that God loathes it. When we find ourselves thinking about doing anything that God deems wrong, we must never forget that God hates it. The sad reality is that many of us do these things without thinking at all. They are second nature to us. But God will not wink at it or ignore it like we do. His holy character will not allow it. He hates them because He knows that they are destructive and each of them is really an assault on His sovereignty over our lives. He wants us to learn to hate what He hates and love what He loves. He wants us to know Him well enough that we share His heart. He wants us to get to the point in our relationship with Him that what He abhors, we too abhor.

What makes Solomon’s list so interesting is that it contains so many sins that we each commit on a regular basis: Pride, lying, slander, evil thoughts, a love of sin, and the spreading of discord. We all stand guilty as charged. So, Solomon is not describing the life of the serial murderer or hardened criminal. He is letting his sons know that these kinds of attitudes and actions stand in opposition to the will of God for their lives. From the smallest sin to the greatest, God hates them all because they each violate His will and bring sorrow to His heart. They are not what He intended for His children. So, we are to develop a hatred for them that matches that of God. We are to learn to hate what he hates. And notice that this list is self-focused, not other-oriented. Solomon is not suggesting that his sons hate all those who do these things. No, he is pleading with his sons to hate the sin so that they will not embrace it in their own lives.

Recognizing that God has high standards and a zero tolerance for these things is key to wanting to work hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit to see them removed from our lives. Our cry becomes the cry of David, “Create in my a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NLT).

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

The Way of the Wise

20 My son, be attentive to my words;
    incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight;
    keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
    and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
    and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
    and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil. – Proverbs 4:20-27 ESV

All this talk of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding could easily leave the impression that Solomon is obsessed with intelligence. It sounds like he is simply trying to encourage his son to get a good education, learn all that he can learn, and apply all that knowledge to living a good life. But Solomon is wise enough to know that there is more to this picture than increased intelligence or a high IQ. He is talking about a way of life that is based on much more than just book learning. All throughout the Proverbs Solomon contrasts two ways of life or two lifestyles. One is marked by wickedness and foolishness. The other is marked by wisdom and righteousness. But the difference isn’t just about one person knowing more than the other. It is the fact that one knows God better than the other. At the end of the day, this is a heart issue. When Solomon pleads his son, and all young people, to “get wisdom” and “don’t turn your back on wisdom,” he is really telling them to pursue God, because He is the source of all wisdom.

In this Proverb, Solomon repeatedly refers to “the way.” He describes life as a journey that offers a variety of different paths to take along the way. He says, “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers. Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving” (Proverbs 4:14-15 NLT).

He compares the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked. One ends in light, the other in darkness. But then Solomon provides us with the key. He says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 14:23 NLT). It is our heart that will determine whether we go the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked. It is our heart that will determine whether we seek God’s way or that of the world. So, we need wise hearts, not brave hearts. We need heart knowledge, not head knowledge. God wants to renew our hearts and change the way we think, act, speak, and live.

Without heart change, all efforts to live wisely will be short-lived and end up in nothing more than behavior modification. When Solomon says, “Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech” (Proverbs 4:24 NLT), he knows he is asking the impossible unless our hearts are changed by God. We will gravitate toward perverse talk and corrupt speech without wise hearts. And only God can give us wise hearts. Only God gives us the ability to make wise choices. Solomon closes his Proverb with these words: “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT). Without a wise heart, that is impossible. God gives us the capacity to know right from wrong, good from evil. He equips us with not only the knowledge to make good choices, but the ability to do so. He changes our hearts. Head knowledge is not enough. Heart knowledge is what we need. Wise hearts and brave souls – men and women living life according to God’s terms and in the power of God’s Spirit.

But even those with wise hearts need to be on constant alert because life is not only a journey that features two different paths, but it comes with a wide assortment of dangerous and, even deadly, distractions. Every day, we face circumstances, situations, and even individuals that can easily distract us from what really matters in life. And before we realize it, we can find ourselves on the wrong path and headed in the wrong direction.

There are fires to put out, problems to handle. difficult people to deal with, deals to close, opportunities to take advantage of, and a myriad of other things, both large and small, that can get our eye off of the prize. We can easily lose focus. We can become distracted and even disoriented, losing touch with what really matters. So, Solomon warns us to keep our eyes straight ahead. He tells us to not lose focus and allow ourselves to get distracted by all that life has to offer.

Look straight ahead,
    and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
    stay on the safe path.
Don’t get sidetracked;
    keep your feet from following evil. – Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT

And he is speaking from experience. Remember, he was the wisest and wealthiest king that the nation of Israel ever knew. Yet, consider how he describes his own experience with a loss of focus.

1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 NLT

Wow! Talk about distractions. Pleasure, wine, palaces, vineyards, gardens, parks, reservoirs, slaves, flocks, silver, gold, singers – but it was all like chasing the wind. Fleeting, ephemeral, meaningless and, ultimately, unfulfilling. Solomon had allowed himself to look in the wrong places for what he hoped would be the right solution to his problem. Instead of keeping his eyes focused on God, he got sidetracked and, ultimately, sidelined. And Solomon’s lack of focus wasn’t just a short-lived event, but a lifelong obsession that cost him dearly. Take a look at this recap of the last days of his life.

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. – 1 Kings 11:1-4 NLT

Solomon didn’t listen to his own advice. He refused his own counsel. He failed to look straight ahead and keep his eyes fixed on the Lord. He strayed off the straight path and found himself wandering around in the high weeds along the road of life. And the same thing can happen to us as believers. We too can lose our focus and become distracted by the cares and comforts of life. We can allow the things of this world to entice and entrap us, leaving us ineffective and a far cry from the victorious conquerors God intended for us to be.

So, Solomon warns us to maintain our focus. He encourages us to keep our eyes on the prize. “Don’t let God out of your sights” he pleads. And for Christ-followers that translates into making our pursuit of Christ our highest priority and greatest joy, because nothing else matters in this life or for eternity.

The author of the book of Hebrews provides us with advice that mirrors that of Solomon. He calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus and walk the same path that He walked.

…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. – Hebrews 12:10 NLT

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

The Good and Godly Life

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
    who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason,
    when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence
    and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful,
    but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor,
    but fools get disgrace. – Proverbs 3:27-35 ESV

At this point in his lecture on wisdom to his son, Solomon turns to some practical advice on wise behavior. It is not enough to seek wisdom; one must also be willing to put it into practice. The wisdom of God is intended to influence and inform every area of life, including our relationships with others.

“The Book of Proverbs is the best manual you’ll find on people skills, because it was given to us by the God who made us, the God who can teach us what we need to know about human relationships, whether it’s marriage, the family, the neighborhood, the job, or our wider circle of friends and acquaintances. If we learn and practice God’s wisdom as presented in Proverbs, we’ll find ourselves improving in people skills and enjoying life much more.” – Warren Wiersbe, Be Skillful

So, knowing that wisdom that remains un-applied is unhelpful, Solomon gives his former advice some practical application. He begins with five statements that each start with those two words that no young person likes to hear: “Do not…”

But it isn’t just young people who dislike being told what they can or cannot do. People of every age bristle at the idea of having any kind of restrictions placed upon their behavior. It goes against the grain and wreaks havoc with our fallen human nature. Ever since the fall, we human beings are inherently wired for autonomy. We want to be the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls. Yet, Solomon knows that the kind of wisdom God graciously grants requires that we behave in such a way that our actions reveal just how wise we truly are. Our actions give evidence that we have heard from God.

The first thing Solomon addresses is the goodness that the godly should display.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it. 
– Proverbs 3:27 NLT

This is an interesting verse. At first glance, it appears that any goodness we show others must be somehow deserved. The phrase “from those to whom it is due” might better be translated “from its owners.” The idea seems to be that acts of goodness rightfully belong to those who need them. If God has blessed us with resources, He has not intended them solely for our own benefit. They are to be shared with others, especially those in need. The apostle Paul provides further insight into this lifestyle of generosity and openhandedness that flows from a wisdom-filled life.

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
    Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. – 2 Corinthians 9:7-11 NLT

The next point Solomon addresses is deferred goodness. In other words, he warns about putting off you acts of generosity to another day.

Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you. – Proverbs 3:28 ESV

There is such a thing as delayed gratification, which is a good. It’s the idea of putting a hold on fulfilling a desire you have so that you might see if you truly need it. To put it more simple terms, it is the ability to wait to get what you want. But delayed goodness is something different altogether and, it is never the right thing to do. If someone is in need and you have the power to help them, do so. Don’t put it off. Don’t delay.

James dealt with this problem of delayed or deferred goodness in his letter.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? – James 14-16 NLT

To put of till tomorrow what you could easily do today is the definition of procrastination. But to put of doing an act of goodness for someone in need is the definition of wickedness. It is insensitive and evil, and does not reflect a reverence for God or a heart for the less-fortunate, for whom He cares greatly. Solomon’s book contains other proverbs that encourage timely care for the down and out.

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord
    and he will repay you! – Proverbs 19:17 NLT

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,
    but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed. – Proverbs 28:27 NLT

Don’t rob the poor just because you can,
    or exploit the needy in court.
For the Lord is their defender.
    He will ruin anyone who ruins them. – Proverbs 22:22-23 NLT

The third admonition appears to be directly tied to the second. It involves a neighbor in need.

Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
    who dwells trustingly beside you. – Proverbs 3:29 ESV

What Solomon describes is the opposite of doing good. It is the intent to do evil. And Solomon continues to us the illustration of a neighbor in need. As a wealthy individual, his son was not to allow his affluence to affect his relationship with the less-fortunate. He was not to use his wealth as a weapon to oppress or take advantage of the down and out. Another proverb describes this unacceptable relationship between the haves and the have-nots.

The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
    but the rich has many friends.
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. – Proverbs 14:20-21 ESV

Think about it. To purposefully delay your assistance to a needy neighbor is to “plan evil” against him. You know of his need and you have the ability to meet it, but you choose not to do so. And it would appear that Solomon is inferring that the one who delays his goodness has no intentions of ever helping is needy neighbor. You promise to come back to tomorrow, and he believes you, because he trusts you. But when tomorrow comes, he finds himself still in need and his “generous” neighbor a no-show.

Next, Solomon warns about unnecessary and unprovoked conflict between neighbors.

Do not contend with a man for no reason,
    when he has done you no harm. – Proverbs 3:30 ESV

Solomon continues to warn about the unjust treatment of the poor and needy among us. There is never a reason for a rich man to take advantage of someone who, because of his poverty, appears to have fewer rights. There is unacceptable and not in keeping with wise behavior. In fact, the last proverb on this book will promote a completely different attitude toward the marginalized and defenseless.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
    and see that they get justice. – Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT

Finally, Solomon warns his son about guilt by association. He begs him to avoid those people who lack wisdom and who are prone to behave in ways that are in violation of God Word and will.

Do not envy a man of violence
    and do not choose any of his ways,
for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the upright are in his confidence. – Proverbs 3:31-32 ESV

His son was to avoid these people like the plague. Instead, he was to surround himself with the upright and righteous. In fact, Solomon recommends a life of wisdom, righteousness, and humility. He promotes a lifestyle marked by generosity and care for the needy. Wisdom is not intended to be a self-centered attribute. First of all, it comes from God, and it is designed to reflect His nature. Wisdom allows us to live in keeping with His heart and in community with His people. It provides us with the insights we need to live in a fallen world and not be corrupted by its evil influences. Wisdom flows from the throne of God through the people of God and impacts the lives of all those whom God has made.

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.

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