The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
This first verse…
To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth-
It is not enough to know your goal, be it to obtain financial security or to win the world for Christ. Knowing the goal is essential, but one must also be wise to attain it…
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
Note the supposition of Solomon. The wise can always increase in learning. They do not reach a stage of knowing all they need to know. Furthermore, it requires wisdom to learn. Two men may have the same mental…
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
To have right knowledge, one must have a right perspective on reality. The skills of a mountain climber avail nothing if the climber is ascending the wrong mountain. Indeed, they take him further away from the goal. Reality is grounded in God. Thus, knowledge begins with a right understanding of God. And yet…
Hear, my son, your father's instruction,
and forsake not your mother's teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
This is a good lesson for parents and children. First to children: what you may regard as chains around your neck, burdening and holding you down are really garlands and pendants to adorn you. Their instructions and rules are for your protection…
10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
11 If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot…
Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
Two notes to make: first, wisdom is cast as a woman. She will be contrasted with the forbidden woman who leads men astray. Men are attracted to the latter, but it is Wisdom who will prove…
"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored…
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose…
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
The precondition for wisdom is that you must desire it. You learn what you want…
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
If you truly seek wisdom, you…
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech.
For from being a burden, wisdom and its companions make great guests in your heart. Knowledge…
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.
Yes, there are men "out there" who want to harm you and take advantage of…
16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God; 18 for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed;
19 none who go to her come back,
nor do they regain the paths of life.
This is the first mention of…
20 So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it, 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.
What do you gain by walking the path of the good? You gain…
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you. How to live longer and healthier is vitally important in our society, especially to those entering retirement years. When we reach middle-age we begin to measure our life-span. We are at the halfway mark to death if we remain…
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
These are new words in the Proverbs - steadfast love and faithfulness. Note the overall focus on steadiness. We are to have a love that is steadfast. This same term for love…
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Here is the guide to life for the Christian. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Trust God in all circumstances to know what he is doing, to keep his promises, to bring all things to a conclusion…
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
Verse 7 presents a good definition of humility. First, be not wise in your own eyes. This is not false humility but a recognition of your limits. The essence of wisdom is recognizing how little you know. There are many scholars…
Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
This proverb is referring to tithing the firstfruits of all your produce. We talk about giving all of ourselves to the Lord and yet somehow find it difficult to part with ten percent of our income. Surely it…
My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.
Are you experiencing trials at this time? Do you feel like you are going through a specially difficult time? Then consider the "devotional" written by the writer of Hebrews on this proverb.
It is for discipline that…
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Essential for a meaningful life is knowing what to value. The cause of much unhappiness is prizing things that are either of little value…
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.
Wisdom proves her value. She provides long life. She keeps the possessor out of danger and provides discernment for knowing…
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; By his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.
Consider this proverb from two perspectives. For one, we are to understand that creation is not a cosmic happen-chance. It is the work of God, the intentional work of God. He founded the earth; he established the heavens, and brought forth…
My son, do not lose sight of these -
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
To lie down and not be afraid now that…
Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
It is the suddenness of destruction that strikes fear in us. One moment all is well; another moment and terror comes. And so will be the Day of Judgment. It will come suddenly, but it will…
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
Break this into three parts. First, we are told not to withhold good. We tend the think that as long as we are not doing evil, then we are being good. But here we are commanded not to withhold good. Apparently, we are guilty of transgression simply by…
Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it" - when you have it with you.
The previous proverb instructs us not to put off doing good. This proverb tells us not to delay doing what we can. The most effective means to avoid doing good for our neighbor is to procrastinate. Tomorrow usually ends up being never. But even if we…
Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.
This is certainly a heinous act. It is terrible to do wrong to anyone, but especially against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Arent we glad we are not like that!
Have we never desired for our neighbors, when they have offended us, to get their just desserts? Are we guilty of imposing motivations and…
Do not contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
Do not pick a fight. It seems an easy enough rule to follow, and yet we transgress it more than we may think. We don't consciously say to ourselves that we want to start a fight, but then our actions may reveal more than we care to admit. Just trying to have…
Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways.
Do not envy a person who violates the law of God. Our society exalts violence. TV shows are as popular according to the amount of violence, promiscuity, and rancor that can be displayed. Reality shows are only as interesting as the producers are able to manipulate conflict among the contestants. Shows awarded for…
for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence.
Do not choose the ways of a devious person, because in so doing you put yourself at odds with the Lord. The sinner forgets this all important factor. The person who loves to "stir things up," who finds it amusing to take advantage of others must stand before the Almighty God…
The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
Rewards and trials fall on us throughout our lives. Consider then by what manner you most want to receive them and from whom.
One minister of a large, popular church has received many rewards. He has one of the largest congregations in the country and is one of the most…
Toward the scorner he is scornful,
but to the humble he gives favor.
The difference between God's scorn and that of the scorners is that God's is just and directed towards those who deserve it. The scorners in this proverb are those who scorn what is good. You see this everywhere in the world where the righteous and the moral are mocked. The Ten Commandments are ridiculed. The…
The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace.
The wise inherit the honor often received for showing good judgment, rendering fair decisions, and coming up with good solutions. It is one thing to be famous, yet another to be liked, and another to be honored. Fools can be popular and liked (as can foolish activities such as TV programs) even as they are recognized as fools (often…
Hear, O sons, a father's instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
"Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
All that the…
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
Can the instruction from Scripture be any clearer regarding our attitude toward wickedness? Why then do we delight in entertainment that glorifies violence and immorality? Why do we put ourselves in compromising situations? Why do we…
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
Here we are given insight into the psyche of the wicked. When we come across crime, especially something like vandalism, we ask how someone could do such a thing, as though the perpetrators' conscience should…
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
Consider these words in light of Ephesians 5:8-14:
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit…
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.
"Where did that come from?" we will ask when we…
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.
Just don't do it. Don't try to fit in…
1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2 that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow…
7 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,…
12 and you say, How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.
These verses remind me of the old Roy Clark song, Yesterday, When I Was Young:
So many wayward pleasures lay in store for me…
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
The answer to illicit pleasure is legitimate pleasure, that which rightfully and delightfully belongs to the one who is married. I find this embarrassing to read publicly because it is so…
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son,
with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For a mans ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
and he ponders all his paths. 22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great…
1My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
have given your pledge for a stranger,
2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth,
caught in the words of your mouth,
3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:
go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.
4 Give your eyes no…
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty…
12 A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech, 13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;
in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.
The worthless man considers himself cunning, able to get away with mischief. And yet, all he is…
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.
What God hates, so should we; and yet, we may…
20 My son, keep your father's commandment,
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
21 Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline…
25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,
but a married woman hunts down a precious life. 27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet…
1 My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
2 keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3 bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister,"
and call insight your intimate friend,
5 to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with…
6 For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
7 and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense, 8 passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
9 in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness.
10 And behold, the woman meets…
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…
1 Does not wisdom call?
Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
4 "To you, O men, I call,
and my cry is to the children of man.
5 O simple ones, learn prudence;
O fools, learn…
12 "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;
I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule,
and nobles, all who…
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,
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;
1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn her seven pillars.
2 She has slaughtered her beasts;
she has mixed her wine;
she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her young women to call
from the highest places in the town,
4 "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!"
To him who lacks sense she says,
5 "Come, eat of my bread …
7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the LORD is the…
13 The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way,
16 "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!"
And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 "Stolen water is sweet, …
A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
A foolish son or daughter is a sorrow to parents. For whatever else they may achieve in life, it is in their children that they take greatest pleasure and pride. It is their children whom they love most and through whom they hope to leave a loving and honorable legacy. How…
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
Crime does not pay. Most likely the treasure itself will be the downfall of the wicked, as they are caught in their crime sooner or later. Perhaps they are not caught; nevertheless, they must hide their deeds and live in guarded fear either from the law or from others who are wicked. Perhaps they live without…
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
I once commented to a relative about the bad luck of an individual who kept having trouble holding down jobs. The relative replied, "Sometimes you have to make your own luck." That is the point of this proverb. We cannot control all of our circumstances, but more often than not, our success or lack of…
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
It is prudent to think ahead and "gather" while one can in preparation for the future. One of my more prudent decisions in college was to get the reading list for my fall course on American novels. I am a slow reader, and I knew I didn't…
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
I can't think of a better commentary on this proverb than Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
Philadelphia has many historic sites made famous because of great national leaders. The names of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and, of course, George Washington have been evoked in veneration time and again for their contributions to America. Their memory is a blessing to us American citizens. Contrast their names with Benedict Arnold…
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
This is a recurring theme in Proverbs and the basis upon which the proverbs are offered. Solomon wrote in chapter 1:5ff, "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles...fools despise wisdom…
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
David Skeel's book about corporate scandals, Icarus in the Boardroom, could be regarded as an exposition of this proverb. A man rises into the sky through energy and innovation, only to eventually fall because his pride, ambition, and greed drive him to compromise his integrity and commonsense. Crooked ways will…
Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
"Winks the eye" refers to one who plans mischief. He deceives his neighbor, perhaps in collusion with another. Even if harm is not intended, the winker may be making someone else the butt of a joke. The babbling fool appears again with the same result of verse 8: he comes to ruin. The babbler…
The wise lay up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
The wise build up storehouses of knowledge. Go to a wise person and he always seems to have a good answer, even if it is to lead you to where the right answer is. A wise person lays up knowledge through all of life's experiences. He lays up knowledge from his mistakes as well…
A rich man's wealth is his strong city;
the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
First, consider this proverb as an observation. The rich man uses wealth to build financial security, and if used wisely, to build a stable, productive life. The poverty of the poor can, and often does, break the spirit and well-being of the poor. They become entrapped in a cycle of poverty.
The wage of the righteous leads to life,
the gain of the wicked to sin.
Both the righteous and the wicked earn wages from their respective labors. But those wages lead to different ends. The contrast of the ends is not quite what we would expect. If the wage of the righteous leads to life, then shouldnt the gain of the wicked lead todeath? Isnt it redundant to…
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, But he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
This proverb is similar to the previous one. A contrast is made between the one who heeds instruction and the one who rejects reproof. The obedient one is on the path to life, but again, where we expect the contrast to be the path to death, it is about sin. This…
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And whoever utters slander is a fool.
The hater conceals his hatred through false flattery and false kind words. He will slander the very person he flatters. Hatred cannot be concealed completely. It will reveal itself in subtle ways, if we are alert.
We should be wary of the person who speaks well of another, but then will whisper to…
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
We have a similar saying: Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself. The more verbose we are the more likely we will say something to get ourselves in trouble or cause trouble.
The reason is simple. We are sinners. Sin is always looking for an outlet and the mouth provides…
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver for the words he speaks convey beauty and truth. From the heart of the wicked comes vulgarity and lies, worthless words.
What is the value of your tongue? Are you known for building up others through your words? Do they bring healing for…
The blessing of the LORDmakes rich,
and he adds no sorrow with it.
Perhaps the best way to understand this proverb is to contrast the blessing of the Lord with the blessing of the wicked. For they do offer blessing. The forbidden woman offers sensual blessings. If you join with them, the wicked offer the spoils from oppressing the poor, from taking advantage of the weak…
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.
As vinegar sets teeth on edge and smoke stings the eyes, in the same way the sluggard exasperates and irritates those who depend on him. In this case, he is sent to carry out a work for another - perhaps delivering a message or an item; perhaps retrieving an…
The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short.
I wonder if there is any life insurance company that uses this criteria in evaluating life expectancy. They do evaluate lifestyle. One who fears the Lord, diligently obeying his laws, should have better odds of living longer than the one whose wicked life invites danger and violence.
But the fear of the…
The hope of the righteous brings joy,
but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
Here is the Apostle Paul's commentary about the hope of the righteous: "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the…
The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
but destruction to evildoers.
Consider this proverb from different levels. The writer most likely is thinking of the "way of the Lord" as following God's law. For the keeper of the law, such a way is a stronghold, a fortress against the wicked who seek the righteous' destruction, and from the efforts of the worldly to lead…
The righteous will never be removed,
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
"The land" is the Israelites' inheritance in the Promised Land. No other possession was dearer to an Israelite than his land, and the whole land of Israel was identified with the kingdom of God. Thus, the righteous will never be removed from the kingdom of God, but the wicked will not dwell in…
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
The mouth is like a tree. The mouth of the righteous is like a strong, healthy tree: it bears (brings forth) good fruit (wisdom). But like a fruit tree which bears sickly fruit or is barren, the tongue of the perverse (those who twist what is true and good) will be cut…
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.
We have the popular expression today "_____ knows _____." "Bo knows music." "Julia knows food." "Michael knows basketball." It means that the person credited doesn't merely know about a subject, but that he knows it, or performs it, so well that he becomes identified with it. He is "at one…
A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
but a just weight is his delight.
God hates cheating; he delights in integrity. This is a good proverb to remember as we are tempted to cut corners on a job, to omit information on our taxes, to "get help" on a paper, or gain an advantage over a competitor. The end does not justify the means.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom..
Jesus parable in Luke 14:7-11 provides commentary for this proverb. The person, who out of pride, sits himself at the head of the table is disgraced when asked to take a lower seat; while the humble person ends up honored. It is interesting that the proverb connects humility with wisdom. It makes sense.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Like the previous proverb, verse 3 presents the connection between virtue and wisdom, and between sin and foolishness. We are often taught that to think we can maintain integrity in the business world, or academics, or whatever field is to be naive. Everyone else compromises or outright cheats; we must compromise our ethics…
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
In medical news a report was published that people with at least $70,000 in assets die better. Their last year of life is less painful, presumably because they can afford better healthcare and have more leverage in demanding good care.
But riches - be it $70,000 or $70 billion - will be of no…
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
How does the gymnast on the balance beam keep her balance? For one thing she keeps her head straight and eyes focused. To stay on the straight path, we must keep our head straight, following the righteous laws and commands of Scripture. Such laws steady us and keep us on the…
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
You should be picking up a theme by now: to be righteous is to be wise, which leads to success; to be wicked is to be foolish, which leads to failure. Because the focus of the righteous is to do what is right, God will deliver them; also, the focus on doing…
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
Pity the wicked. Their hope will perish. All their dreams, what drives them to live, will vanish. If they are fortunate, their hope will perish while in their lifetime. Then they might come to their senses like the prodigal son, repent, and turn to God. But if they are not shown such mercy…
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
The wicked does not read warning labels. He ignores danger signs. He doesn't look both ways when crossing the street and prefers to take shortcuts through alleys and dark parks. He does not think wisely about danger, not so much thinking that he will be safe, but not thinking about the subject at all. He…
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
Jesus is the best example of proving this proverb. He was followed by men bent on destroying his reputation and even seeking his life by either laying before him verbal traps or outright slandering him. And yet, because of his wisdom born out of righteousness, he always had a ready answer…
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
Is this proverb really true? It seems to us that the city mocks the righteous and exalts the wicked. But then, what we have in mind is the city mocking our morals. Righteousness, of course, includes morality, but the focus here is on that aspect of righteousness in…
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of wicked it is overthrown.
The blessing of the upright may be the blessing that the upright give to the city. Thus, we bless the city when we pray for her, when we befriend our neighbors, pitch in to help the neighborhood, vote for good leaders, even run for public office. We bless the…
Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
Why is it foolish to belittle one's neighbor? He can get even! He can play his music loud, have his dog use your yard, etc. He can make daily life miserable. A wise person understands this. He keeps his views about his neighbor's habits and tastes to himself. He does not take it upon himself…
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
"Perhaps I shouldnt say this, but Tom told me..."
"I'm not suppose to say anything, but I thought you should know..."
"I wonder why Sally was going into..."
And the beat goes on. Note that the proverb says slandering reveals secrets. The viciousness of slander lies in that it spreads half-truths…
Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Our church government follows this principle. No one minister or elder may rule the church. Instead, it is through the prayerful deliberation of elders (ministers are Teaching Elders; lay elders are Ruling Elders in our denomination) that divine guidance is received and given to the church. In actual practice, the "system"…
Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
This is a proverb that many of us have learned the hard way as we tried to help out someone in need with a loan or signing for a loan. If you wish to help someone, then give. If you make a loan, or co-sign for a…
A gracious woman gets honor,
and violent men get riches.
An English teacher would have given this proverb poor marks for its attempt at making a contrasting parallel. It goes from singular to plural, from woman to man, and the objects do not match. One would think that violent men would get dishonor. But they get the money. And as far as they are concerned, they get the…
A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
What typically happens when you do a kind deed? You hold the elevator door open instead of letting it close on the person walking to it; you let the driver pull in front of you in heavy traffic; you help your colleague complete a task, carry the bag for your neighbor. Usually such kind deeds…
The wicked earns deceptive wages,
but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
This proverb is a commentary on the previous proverb: "A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches." The "riches" that the wicked earn are deceptive. They are but the precursor to disaster and misery, be it in this lifetime or the next. The honor that the righteous receive are a sure reward…
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
One half of this proverb seems easy enough to fulfill, while the other half is impossible. Most people claim that they do not pursue evil, but who claims to be steadfast in righteousness? No one is perfect.
The contrast is between states of attitude. There are those who strive to do the right thing…
Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
but those of blameless ways are his delight.
Meditate on what pleases God:
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:10-11).
Thus says the Lord: Let not…
Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
While watching a sporting event, such as a basketball or football game, you will usually notice a coach get extremely angry, sometimes for no apparent reason. He screams at the officials. His assistants may have to hold him back. Why is he so angry? He sees what he perceives to…
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.
A gold ring in a pig's snout is a waste of beauty and value. So a woman who acts foolishly, especially in the area of relationships and sexuality, wastes her beauty. Her very beauty ought to be an adornment that enhances her "value." And yet, through indiscretion she wastes it. A gold ring in…
The desire of the righteous ends only in good;
the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
Note first that the desire of the righteous is righteous desire. The righteous and the wicked may desire the same job and the wicked win out. They may both desire to win the game and the wicked triumphs. But in the end, because the righteous desire righteousness above all, their desires will…
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
The one who gives freely already is ahead because he is free from the control of money and possessions. His security and self-esteem is not bound to possessions; rather, his joy is in blessing others and in furthering the work of God's kingdom. To put it another way, it is…
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
"They bless me more than I bless them."
"I get a whole lot more than what I give."
These are the kind of statements that are common to hear from those who go on mission trips, do acts of mercy, and get involved in ministry. They know the truth of another proverb it is…
The people curse him who holds back grain,
but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
The crime here is not merely that one is a miser, but that he withholds what is needed for survival. He is not even being asked to give, but to sell. Instead he hordes the grain, perhaps to run up the price; perhaps he is fearful of not…
Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to him who searches for it.
Do yourself a favor; try to be good. The world's proverb is wrong: good guys finish last. The bad guys may think they have moved into first place, but they will only prove Jesus' proverb: the first shall be the last.
The "good guys" who live for God, who place others before themselves…
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
In _____ we trust. In whom? In what do you trust your welfare? Is it in your bank account? Perhaps your trust is in your skill or training. Perhaps it is in your insurance policy. Perhaps your trust is in your ability to call the shots. God has a way of shaking…
Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
Inheritance is the cause of many troubles in households. "Mom knew how much I always wanted the dining furniture." "You never cared about tools anyhow; I should have them." And then there is the money to quarrel over; should the home be sold? But then, it is not…
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life because good fruit comes from good trees. Jesus noted this. You can tell the heart of a person by the fruit he bears. One can try to imitate goodness, but if his heart is not good his outward goodness will appear superficial…
If the righteous is repaid on earth,
how much more the wicked and the sinner!
This proverb aptly sums up chapter 11. "Righteousness delivers from death"; "a gracious woman gets honor"; "a man who is kind benefits himself"; "the one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward"; "whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live"; "the desire of the righteous ends only in good"; "one gives freely, yet grows…
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
That's a blunt translation! It gets, however, to the essential difference between the wise and the foolish; indeed, it expresses the reason why the wise are wise and the foolish are foolish. The lover of knowledge loves discipline because discipline leads him to knowledge. He wants to be corrected when his thinking is going astray because…
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
but a man of evil devices he condemns.
This proverb seems to make the case that we do earn favor from the Lord, that he will accept us into heaven according to our goodness. Those who are good obtain favor; those who are bad lose out.
That last sentence is actually true. God does not receive the unrighteous into heaven…
No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
No one is established by wickedness because the soil of such a heart is too poor to sustain strong roots. The soil is rocky and prevents roots from burrowing deep; it is barren of nutrients that feed the roots; it is infested with weeds and thorns that choke whatever may be lasting…
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
An excellent wife is her husband's glory (1 Corinthians 11:7). She is the fulfillment of the original intention of being a "helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18). She is her husband's joy, and he delights in praising her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all"…
The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
To whom do you look for counsel? Where do you go for advice? You may unwittingly be using counselors who present to you a deceitful view of life. Your counselors may be TV shows through whom you are learning about relationships. They may be movies from which you are learning to accept violence and…
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
The intent of the wicked is to harm. Out of anger they may try to ruin another's reputation, perhaps to coax the other to anger and sin. That is what Jesus' enemies tried to do with their questions and slander. The wicked use words to draw blood. Sometimes, though, the…
The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
Good guys finish. The wicked may think that such persons finish last, but what matters is that - first, second, or last - the good guys are left standing in the end. The wicked, no matter how fast and how tough they may be, will eventually be overthrown. Someone faster and stronger…
A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
This proverb presents a virtue that is often overlooked and underestimated, but may be the most important in success. It is the difference maker for ability to manage people and to achieve any goal that involves people. It is good sense; also known as commonsense.
A man may possess tremendous knowledge and…
Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread.
It is better to have shown the wisdom and done the labor to provide for oneself and one's family, than to give the appearance of prosperity and yet in truth have nothing that is secure. Thus, it is better to not be able to join the fashionable crowd that spends freely…
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
The righteous has regard for his beast because he is just, compassionate, and wise. It is a matter of justice to protect and preserve life. God is Creator of the animals, and we must have just cause to harm his creatures, especially those whom he has given to serve…
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
This proverb distinguishes between the persons who seem to have the good luck of keeping work and having enough provisions and those who keep running into the bad fortune of not finding the right job or getting the fortunate break. I once commented to a relative about another relative's "bad luck"…
Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
The wicked sees the ill-gotten gain of other wicked persons and concludes that their way is the way of success. The wicked respect successful wicked people. They want to be like them. In a perverted way, they think that obtaining "success" by evil deeds is clever, even honorable, as they desire above…
An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.
However he might, the evil person will ensnare himself because he cannot always keep up a false appearance. A powerful political person was caught on tape speaking threats against those who would oppose him. He apologized for a lapse of character, but in truth, the image he tried to convey publicly…
From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
and the work of a man's hand comes back to him.
When a person learns the truth of both statements, he will find so much of the contentment and success he finds missing. "From the fruit of his mouth" - from speaking words that are wise, words that are loving, words that are wholesome - from…
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
This is the problem of the fool. Because he has a foolish perspective about himself, he cannot learn and escape from his foolishness.
He thinks he is charming when he is boorish. He believes he knowledgeable about things of which he is ignorant. He cannot read the faces of those…
The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
"What did you say about me?"
"Are you laughing at me?"
"Don't ignore me!"
The vexation of a fool is known at once because his focus is on himself. He is bothered when his opinion is not highly regarded; he is attentive to the attention he receives or doesn't receive. His primary concern…
Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.
The two lines seem redundant, but the focus appears to be on the end result of each person. The truth speaker gives honest evidence. Dont you feel good by that expression honest evidence? Your inner sense of justice is aroused, even you aesthetic sense of beauty. Honest evidence yes, this is right; this is good…
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
We need to understand the consequence of our rash words words which we speak without giving consideration to the person to whom we are speaking. Rash words are the ones we speak in anger. They are the flippant remarks we make. They are the speaking my mind words and the…
Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
A lying tongue creates a momentary sensation. It riles the emotions as it makes the headlines. But the lie eventually is buried, along with the liar. It is not the lies that are recalled from history, but the words which are noble, which are inspiring, which spread light on truth. And so those who speak…
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
Delve into the heart of the evil-doer and you will find a heart filled with lies. There are the lies he has in store for others lies by which to cheat, to manipulate, to do whatever he thinks necessary to obtain joy.
There are the lies he tells to himself lies…
No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.
The ill addressed by this proverb is the ill of retribution. The wicked are filled with such trouble because they continually rile up grievances. They must protect themselves from the enemies they have created by their stealing and cheating and offending. Their rash tongues invite angry words. Their acts of deceit result in distrust. Their greed…
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.
Do you read such a proverb and give thanks that you are not a person who lies? Consider what the Larger Catechism has to say about breaking the ninth commandment.
Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving…
A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
Why would it be prudent to conceal knowledge? It would be prudent to conceal knowledge from people who will misuse that knowledge. They may publicize what ought to be kept private. They may maliciously use the knowledge to hurt others or obtain ill-gotten gain. It would be prudent to conceal knowledge from the foolish, who may…
The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
The students who do the best work are the students who are most diligent in their labor. They are the students who excel in grades, get the awards, and win the scholarships. The employees who are most diligent find the same kind of results; so do rulers, athletes, musicians. Indeed in every…
Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
We can say, "Amen," to both of these statements for their verity. Anxiety weighs a person down. He feels drained; he lacks enthusiasm. He has difficulty sleeping; his attention span is short. He can even physically look weighed down as though carrying a burden on his back, which is truly what he is…
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
For good or ill we are all guides to our neighbors. Whether we are vocal or silent, withdrawn or sociable, we guide our neighbors and they guide us. This is called life experience. Some neighbors are consciously guided by us; some are unaware that we affect them at all…
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
When I was principal of a high school, each year the valedictorian had the same characteristic. Most years, he or she was not the smartest student. But every year he or she was the most diligent student. Diligent people know the truth of this proverb; slothful people don't get it. They blame…
In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death.
The best commentary on this proverb is Jesus' statement: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). Or consider another statement: "I am the way, and the truth, and the…
A wise son hears his father's instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
The attention here is on the order of authority. Whereas, our society exalts the maverick who rejects authoritative instruction, Scripture upholds an authority structure by which we are to live. A wise son listens to his father and his mother because of their position over him. A wise employee listens to his supervisor…
From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
We reap what we sow, and we sow what we desire. If I desire peace with my neighbors, I will sow seeds to bless them and thus obtain peace. If I desire to gain advantage over them, or if I desire only my interests, I will sow…
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Every time we speak we provide opportunity for trouble. We might insult someone; we might offend; we might lie; we might speak folly; we might gossip; we might ignorantly pass on wrong information; we might speak out of turn or what is inappropriate for the moment. It is perhaps easier to sin…
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
The sluggard lacks the basics of physical provision because he does not work, whereas the diligent applies himself. But there is a deeper craving that is not satisfied as well the craving of the soul for a purposeful life. Whatever the sluggard may claim or disclaim, because he is human…
The righteous hates falsehood,
but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
The righteous person hates falsehood, whether it be to hear it or to disseminate it. It is distasteful to him. The wicked person is intrigued by falsehood. He appreciates a good lie; he likes to see how he can use falsehood to his advantage. Inevitably he will bring upon himself and those connected with him shame and…
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
but sin overthrows the wicked.
Righteousness is not only a standard to meet, but armor to wear and protect us from the enemy who would destroy our souls. A garment of sin not only doesn't protect us from the evils of life, but strengthens the power of evil to harm us.
The Christian has failed already, who, thinking it necessary to…
One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
One can take this proverb negatively or positively. We look down on the person who pretends to be what he is not. We consider him foolish who pretends to have wealth he does not possess by spending himself in debt or going to great length to look like he has wealth…
The ransom of a man's life is his wealth,
but a poor man hears no threat.
The wealthy person is more likely to be kidnapped for ransom. His wealth becomes both his danger and his ransom from danger. The wealth he accumulates for pleasure must also be used for protection. But the poor man hears no threat since he has nothing worth taking and no wealth for a…
The light of the righteous rejoices,
but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Note the contrast between the light of the righteous and of the wicked. It is not merely that the light of the righteous will continue to shine and the wicked's will end, but that the righteous' light "burns merrily." Righteousness is not merely about living right but about living well. The wicked…
By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.
This is insolence of pride. The insolent person rudely rebuffs help and counsel, especially from others whom he deems below himself. He believes it is beneath his dignity or a sign of weakness or a giving in of his authority. Thus the insolent professional does not need advice, especially from a nonprofessional. The person…
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
This is a proverb we don't like. We all dream of being surprised by a large inheritance from an unknown relative or winning the lottery (from a ticket someone else bought for us). If only I could get rich now! But this proverb teaches that wealth gained quickly without effort is likely to dwindle…
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Remember this proverb on motivation. If you desire a person to work hard towards a goal (produce more, win a competition, be nice to you, etc.), then see that desires are fulfilled along the way. Provide rewards. Positive motivation is more effective than negative motivation.
What are desires that can be fulfilled? Receiving…
Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
The proverb sums up Jesus' parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. Because the rich man did not heed "Moses and the prophets," he brought destruction upon himself in Hades. Lazarus, though he suffered in his earthly life, was rewarded with heaven, no doubt as a keeper of the commandments.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
How well are you tuning into wise teaching? Are you reading daily the wise teaching of Scripture? Do you read the wise teaching of the Gospels, of Christ himself? Do you listen to the sermons of wise preachers, to the lessons of wise teachers? Do you read the…
Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
There are two reasons the "treacherous" come to ruin. The first is justice. Usually in this lifetime, always in the next life, justice punishes wrongdoing. The other reason is that wrongdoing is not wise. It can seem to be clever to lie, to plot ways to get ahead of a competitor or take advantage of…
In everything the prudent acts with knowledge,
but a fool flaunts his folly.
How will you act today at work, at school, the home? Will you speak without thinking, merely reacting to others and circumstances? Will you lose your temper because traffic is bad or a sales clerk is rude? Will you express your frustrations to whoever happens to be near? Or will you go through the day…
A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
I can't help but apply this to preaching. I tremble for the preacher who uses his pulpit to preach that the Scriptures are not reliable, waters down the Gospel to a formula of good works, and assures sinners and unbelievers that they have nothing to fear.
I tremble for the preacher who uses his pulpit to…
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
The downfall of the person who ignores instruction comes about for two reasons. One, he remains an ignorant person. Those with knowledge will pass him by in competition. His ignorance will expose him to danger and traps. It will lead him along the wrong paths. Two, he loses respect before others. Only the…
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
The key to this proverb is knowing what should be our desire. John Piper's book, Desiring God, has seemed misguided, even heretical, to some because of his strong emphasis on fulfilling desire. His argument rests, however, on having right desires, namely the enjoyment of God. We are often…
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
There are individuals who were foolish in their behavior and beliefs, yet fell into friendships with mature, godly believers and came to a strong faith that turned them around. There are also individuals who professed Christ and seemed mature, yet came into the circle of unbelievers and/or foolish people and then fell away…
Disaster pursues sinners,
but the righteous are rewarded with good.
Sinners do not merely flirt with danger; they place targets on their back to make sure danger does not miss the mark. Furthermore, they do not see that disaster is already upon them. They are unaware of the seeds of destruction they have sown: a marriage destroyed before they know it; a job loss before the notice has…
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.
Much could be said about what the inheritance of a good man entails. Foremost is leaving a legacy of faith in Christ and of walking in righteousness. But we should not be quick to lay aside the subject of money. Indeed, Christians are quick to do so, somehow…
The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
but it is swept away through injustice.
Here is a sobering observation, not to make us cynical but to make us compassionate and zealous for justice. It is a reminder that righteousness is not merely to be about personal holiness, but about how we care for others, particularly those who are poor and defenseless.
Somehow, evangelical Christianity has…
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Understand the message here. It is that parents - because they love their children - will exercise appropriate discipline to correct them. They teach their children that sinful behavior brings punishment.
The message is not that parents must always use physical punishment for discipline.
Wise parents will choose the appropriate means…
The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
but the belly of the wicked suffers want.
The righteous has enough because: 1) his lifestyle curbs immoral and unethical impulses that lead to trouble and loss; 2) he curbs his appetite so that it does not control him; 3) God blesses the righteous; 4) his appetite is for God and God satisfies such an appetite.
Like the person who…
The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.
Though the proverb may be contrasting two persons, one who is wise and another who is foolish, it can be describing a person who starts off wise and later turns foolish. Solomon himself is an example. By wisdom, he built Israel to its greatest height; and, yet, in foolishness he prepared its…
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
C. S. Lewis writes of this fear phenomenon in his Narnia Chronicles in the reaction of characters when they first meet Aslan. The good are drawn to him. As the horse Hwin said to him, "Please, you're so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by…
By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
When David was still on the run from Saul, he asked for food from a rich rancher named Nabal to feed his men. Nabal, as a fool, rebuffs the messengers sent to him. As a miserly, harsh man, Nabal does not consider the ancient custom of showing…
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
When there are no oxen, the farmer does not have the trouble of feeding them or cleaning up after them. He can keep his barn nice and neat. His one problem is that he cannot plow his fields! If he desires abundant crops, then he needs his oxen and…
A faithful witness does not lie,
but a false witness breathes out lies.
For some people, lying makes them uncomfortable, while for others it is second nature.
I think of a movie in which a "city-wise" cop is teamed with two "do-it-by-the book" cops. All through the movie, he tries to loosen them up and tell lies whenever necessary to keep out of trouble with the police department…
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
The sad irony that Proverbs teaches is that the people who need wisdom the most - the fool, the scoffer, the wicked - are the ones least likely to attain it, while the wise are the ones who find it and profit from it.
The scoffer/fool just doesn't get it. Like Simon the…
Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
We can save ourselves much frustration if we would heed this proverb. There are times in which, literally, we need to walk out of a room in which foolishness is spoken. There are many times in which we ought not to answer foolish words, be they spoken or written. With the advent of…
The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Here is the great prize of the prudent - he can see where he is going. If he has strayed from the path of righteousness, he will catch himself and turn back to the path. If he is heading into trouble, he can see the danger ahead and act accordingly. Thus…
Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.
Fools never apologize for their foolishness; even when they make an attempt (which they do only from pressure), they always add "but" - but I did not intend to harm anyone; but I am trying to do my best; but I am misunderstood. Fools see admission of sin and mistakes as a sign of weakness. They want…
The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
Ultimately we are alone with our hearts. Even now, as you read this, sadness or joy that only you know lies in your heart. The closer we are to others, the more open our hearts; but even in the most intimate relationship, the other person cannot see, and more to the point, cannot feel all our…
The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
The end of the wicked is seen every day. They cheat their way to success and yet end in jail, are killed, or experience some other kind of calamity. Because they build with worthless materials and through unethical practices, their very works lead to their downfall. But the upright, though they may…
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
This proverb makes two matter-of-fact statements that, depending on who we are, we tend to ignore. One is that the man of the world lives the way he does because it seems right to him. We Christians seem to forget this.
We get angry with nonChristians who live what we…
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
Not all is what it seems. That neighbor who is laughing may be experiencing immense anguish. That couple who seem so happy may be filled with sadness. The news of joy may be setting in motion great grief. This is the character of life in this world - that joy is either mixed…
The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
Once, I commented on the poor luck a certain fellow seemed to keep having. My companion replied that sometimes a person makes his own luck. He could have quoted this proverb. We often question why we are having so much trouble. It…
The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
The simple believes the advertisements that happiness, sex appeal, and popularity are found in merchandise, especially expensive merchandise. The simple buys into the messages of pop music and media, because they are expressed with passion. The simple believes whatever appeals to his senses and promises him happiness without change or cost. He believes everything, not because…
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.
Our culture today, at least our popular media culture, disdains such a proverb. It celebrates those daring to live on the edge because the one virtue that truly matters is passion. It makes no difference what one is passionate about. One person is passionate about serving the poor; another is…
A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
This proverb points out the danger that comes with anger: we make fools of ourselves. More times than not, we regret our words spoken and actions committed in anger. We harm people we love; we lose or destroy possessions valuable to us. Anger makes us dumb. All the more trouble then for a…
The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
The simple complains about his bad luck. He can't seem the find the right job; he always gets the unfair teacher; he never gets a break. He can't see what everyone else sees - that his folly leads him into further folly. The prudent, on the other hand, because he is prudent learns and benefits from his…
The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
How galling for the wicked! They are wicked precisely because they refuse to bow down before the good. We may be quick to point out that many do not bow down, that they get away with their wickedness; perhaps, but many also do have to bow down. Typically, the good do not end…
The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
This is an "observation" proverb, not one intended to instruct us on how we should be. It makes the unpleasant observation that a poor person must go through extra effort to prove himself to be a "good" person, while a rich person would have to make the effort to prove himself not a good…
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
This proverb is likely intended to complement the previous proverb:
The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
The poor may be disliked by his neighbor, but that neighbor then is sinning. Here's the point. Our attitude towards out neighbor is not to be controlled…
Do they not go astray who devise evil?
Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
Those who devise evil certainly go astray from the path of righteousness; they also go astray and miss what they desire (unless they believe such things do not exist) - steadfast love and faithfulness. Who does not desire to have friends and family who love them and will remain faithful to…
In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Or to put it in modern terms - just do it! Be reluctant to make promises; be resolved to carry out commitments. And definitely let the making of excuses be rare. If you demonstrate through your actions that you keep commitments, that you labor conscientiously, taking pride in your work, then you do not need…
The crown of the wise is their wealth,
but the folly of fools brings folly.
Wisdom often leads to literal financial wealth, for though the wise do not prize wealth, they nevertheless prize the behavior that is conducive to building wealth. They are not spendthrifts, wasting money on what is trivial, vain, and of low quality.
They set money aside, saving it for lean days, which rarely come…
A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
The witness who truthfully testifies to the innocence or guilt of a suspect...the witness who brings to light criminal conduct...the witness to truth who is willing to expose false teaching and refute false reasoning or accusations...the witness who speaks the whole truth, not merely what is critical or congratulatory...the witness who led by the Witness…
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
The fear of the Lord produces confidence, for to properly fear the Lord is to recognize him as the Sovereign God who rules over his creation for his glory. It is to recognize that nothing takes place outside his control and that he always carries out his will, a will that…
In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
A king cannot reign without a people. Indeed, without a people to rule over he is not a king. By its very definition, kingship is about relationship. A person may have great qualities, but if there is no one over whom and for whom to exercise those qualities, then he…
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
It requires wisdom to control anger. One must be wise enough, first of all, to know what circumstance calls for anger. Jesus knew when to act in anger and when not. Thus, he spoke in anger at the proper times against hypocrisy and injustice; and yet, when the greatest injustice was…
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
This is a good proverb to post on your mirror or refrigerator, wherever you are going to see it daily. The apostle Paul who faced more troubles and deprivations than most people found the blessing of a tranquil heart. Read what he says in Philippians 4:11-13:
"Not that I am speaking of being in…
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
God takes personally how we treat our neighbor. Here are other verses making the same point.
"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconiled to your…
The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
This is a recurring theme in proverbs. The wicked, who is seeking his advantage through evildoing, is actually causing his undoing. He is working against himself. Most of the wicked experience downfall in this life. They create enemies and make themselves enemies of the state, so that often they get caught and brought…
Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
The person of understanding possesses wisdom in his heart. He is wise because he is understanding of truth, of the ways of others, and most of all of God. To understand - to have the ability to listen and observe well so as to discern truth -…
Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
Righteousness exalts a nation. It is good for a nation to excel in liberty; it is good for a nation to become prosperous and enable its people to prosper. It is good for a nation to protect its people from threats. But, as ultimately an individual is judged by his righteousness, so a nation.Thus, above…
A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.
The servant who has the king's favor deals wisely in two ways. The work that he carries out on behalf of the king is wisely done. He is efficient and fruitful in his labor; he makes wise decisions that benefit the king's welfare. Secondly, he is wise in his dealings…
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Harsh speech only breeds resentment and stirs up anger. Indeed, the harsh word will stir up anger where there is peace. Many Christians are guilty of stirring up anger both within the Christian community and outside it, because of the harsh manner in which they speak. It is not enough to value truth; one must…
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The thought here is that the wise make good use of knowledge in their communication. Unwise use of knowledge is devastating and has a long history. From the childhood friend who shares that the other girls don't like you to the misuse of statistics and research, abuse of knowledge can wreak havoc. The…
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
This is either bad news or good news, depending on who you are and what you are doing. For the wicked, this is bad news. They can get away with nothing. God sees all; he cannot be deceived, cannot be mocked. For the righteous, this is good news. God sees all…
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Seek a gentle tongue, which is another way of saying seek a gentle spirit. Seek a tongue/spirit that is a tree of life to the broken, the downtrodden, the person weighed down in suffering and/or in guilt.
And this is the case of more people than you realize. It is often the case…
A fool despises his father's instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
The fool despises his father's instruction, thinking that he is smarter than his father. In some ways he may be. He may know more than his father about technological gadgets. He knows more than his father about what is fashionable. He may have more street smarts. But what the son (or daughter) doesn't know as well…
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
There may very well be financial wealth in the righteous, because he will be prudent with his money, will not spend it foolishly, and will put savings aside. He will also use his money righteously, tithing ten percent or more, being generous to the poor, not defrauding others, and so…
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools.
The wise spread knowledge that is useful, that makes one wiser, that is good. Fools spread information that is false or perverted or that harms. Fools often think they are spreading knowledge, not realizing that they are revealing their foolishness. They like to hear themselves talk and think others like listening to them. The wise…
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
It is bad enough to act wickedly and ungodly and to think you can get away with bad behavior. But to feign reverence for God, to pretend to love God, or pretend to repent? God will not be mocked. And if it is possible for him to…
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
God is not lukewarm, neither about sin nor righteousness. He does not look upon us with indifference; he does not find sin humorous, nor does he regard righteousness mildly. He hates sin and will judge in his wrath the sinner; he loves the righteous, preparing for them a place of…
There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die.
Understand clearly, there may be two options to choose for how you want to live, but there is only one option if you want eternal salvation. Forsake the righteous way of the Lord, and you will suffer punishment. Reject the reproof intended to put you on the right path, and you will die…
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
how much more the hearts of the children of man!
For the writer, Sheol and Abaddon represent the places of the dead, that which is beyond human sight and knowledge. They are the uttermost places, far from human existence. If Sheol and Abaddon, then, are open before the Lord as though meadows under broad daylight, how much more then are…
A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise.
The cynic, or scoffer, thinks he is wise because he is able to find fault in others, especially those in authority. And the greatest scoffers are those who have never held position of authority or responsibility. They despise reproof, they think, because of the faults they find in authority figures such as parents…
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
This proverb can be taken as both descriptive and prescriptive. It describes the effect of the heart on the outer being and welfare of its owner. A glad heart cheers up the face and the spirit. It promotes well being. Sorrow, on the other hand, crushes the spirit, makes the face downcast…
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
The point here is that the wise earnestly desire knowledge. Reading is not something they do merely when there is nothing good on TV. They do not catch up on the latest news in order to be conversational. They do not learn trivia to be competitive in games or make themselves…
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
It seems here that the proverb is not contrasting those who are afflicted and those who have good things happening to them; rather, it is between those who live feeling afflicted and those who live counting their blessings.
Every life has its share of affliction and blessings. The question for us…
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
than great treasure and trouble with it.
In truth, the one who fears the Lord is the one who is wealthy, and the one without such fear is impoverished. To truly fear the Lord is to believe in Christ; to believe in Christ is to be born of God, adopted as his child, made an heir of the…
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
The message of the proverb is that love is supreme over wealth. Better to only afford a skimpy diet than to dine luxuriously if love comes with the former and hatred with the latter.
This proverb can also teach us an important lesson about hospitality. True hospitality is not the ability…
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Note the opposite effect each man has. The hot-tempered man stirs up strife. Have you ever been in a Bible study where the discussion has been interesting and then, by the way one person interjects his opinions, an argument ensues? A hot-tempered man stirs up strife when there has been no tension present…
The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
but the path of the upright is a level highway.
For a lazy person there always seems some kind of obstacle to prevent him from making progress. He is an "unlucky" person. For some reason he can't get ahead. For each job he takes, he somehow gets an unreasonable boss or works with people hard to get…
A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
This proverb presents a contrast between the wise and the foolish. The wise are the pride and joy of their parents; the foolish are their shame. But I want fathers to consider what they should be looking for in their children.
Look, of course, for wisdom. More than athletic achievement and even more than…
Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
We may wonder how a person can play the fool, acting and speaking in embarrassing ways. The answer: he enjoys it. Most often he thinks he is demonstrating his sophistication or coolness or daring spirit. He enjoys the attention he gains, even if it is notoriety. What matters is being in…
Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
Many of our plans seem right - the house to buy, the job to take, the strategy for carrying out a project, the method of settling a dispute, etc. But we show a plan to a friend or someone with more expertise, and surprisingly see glaring mistakes in our thinking. Indeed, what were we thinking, we wonder. Or…
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
It is a blessing to give an apt word and to receive it. The blessing of possessing wisdom is giving an apt word that encourages a neighbor; or that saves the neighbor from disaster; or gives guidance that leads a neighbor along the right path. That is the…
The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
The prudent is defined as a person who thinks through what he does. He considers his ways, where the path that any decision he makes leads him. He is careful with his remarks that they do not come back to haunt him. He is discerning in regard to the friends he…
The Lord tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow's boundaries.
The contrast of what the Lord does in each situation helps explain who the proud is. He is not merely someone with an ego problem who looks down on others such as the widow; rather, he seeks to take advantage of the needy such as the widow. He is after her property; he enlarges…
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
but gracious words are pure.
The thoughts, the words, and the deeds of the wicked are detestable to God. However witty they may consider themselves, however clever and fashionable they may seem to themselves, even how right they believe they may be, their behavior is odorous to God who will not be mocked. The great illusion of…
Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household,
but he who hates bribes will live.
It is bad enough to be greedy. Such a person cannot be satisfied with having his needs met, and he is always discontent, wanting to have more. But to be greedy for unjust gain magnifies his own troubles and the troubles he creates for his household.
Now his discontent is mixed…
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Note the contrast between the heart of the righteous and the mouth of the wicked. Jesus says that it is out of the heart that evil things pour out. Evil pours out of a heart filled with evil. Evil pours out also because the unrighteous heart fails to check…
The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
"Why won't God answer my prayer?"
"Why won't God listen to me?"
"Why is God so distant?"
Such questions are usually spoken as accusations against God for being indifferent. God is on trial. They would be wonderful questions if asked as a matter of personal examination. "If God is good and powerful, should…
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the bones.
This proverb gives two practices that make for good health. The first is a cheerful look. We speak of the "gleam in the eye." It is the look that expresses happiness, approval, love, fun. It is the look of approval that the young student hopes for in the teacher as she looks over his…
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise.
Here is the key to wisdom - simple as most deep truths are. One grows in wisdom as one is able to listen well and heed correction. All scientists know that the road to knowledge is paved with mistakes and then learning from those mistakes. So it is with wisdom. We are all born sinful; all…
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
This proverb states what every teacher has said sometime to his students, "If you don't study/if you cheat, you are only hurting yourself." The fool thinks he is cleverly getting away with something by "outfoxing" the teacher or the system, not realizing that he is only keeping himself ignorant and, indeed, is falling behind others…
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (1:7). Listening to and reading the words of wise men and women will make you wiser. The keener you observe and learn from the experts in their fields, the more you will grown in knowledge and the more skillful you will become. But until…
The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
The mystery of how this truth takes place is deep, beyond our understanding. Our question is not how this can be, but why we are being told. What message is God conveying to us?
If you are rebelling against God, if you are plotting against him, then know that your…
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
All our ways, even our sinful ways, seem right at the time. Our anger seems justifiable; our fudging of the truth seems reasonable; our pride feels more like concern for God's honor; our idolatry seems harmless.
But we are to remember, it is the Lord who weighs the spirit. And…
Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
Literally, the term for "commit" is "roll." We are to roll to the Lord what we do. The idea is similar to the expression "put in the hands of the Lord." We are to commit to the Lord what we do, placing in his hands the outcome of our actions, trusting him to preserve us, cause…
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
This proverb is for us to turn to when the wicked commit violence. Such events cause us to ask, "Where was God?" "Why did this happen?" "Is God in control?" "Will the wicked get away with this?" This proverb says that the wicked get away with nothing. It says that even their…
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Who is arrogant in heart? He is the one who is assured of himself. He is assured that his success is the result of his cleverness, his natural ability, his taking charge of his own life. He may even be assured that he has outwitted God and is able…
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
Yes, you can have a second chance. You can put the past behind you. You can turn from being identified with sin to being a child of God. You can have the ending of Scrooge. All it takes is a change of the heart. And God joyfully…
When a man's ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
We are quick to assert that being obedient to the Lord will bring persecution by the world. Certainly there is much truth to that. But it is also true that pleasing the Lord leads to peace. Christ commands us to love our neighbor, even to love our enemy. He commands…
Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
Consider the little wealth of righteousness.
There is the wealth of a good conscious before the Lord, which brings great peace.
There is the wealth of a good name and peaceful relations with one's neighbors.
There is the wealth of truly enjoying what one possesses.
There is the wealth of knowing and valuing what is of true…
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Such words should be of great comfort to believers. It is comforting to know that however foolish my plans may be, ultimately the Lord will establish my steps to lead me to him. My heart always seems right to me, and yet will always lead me astray if not for the Holy Spirit. Many of…
An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.
Such it should be for those in authority; the higher in authority, the greater the responsibility to conduct oneself in integrity, speaking with wisdom. He should speak as one representing the great King.
Do you pray for those over you that they will exercise wisdom in integrity? It is easy to sin…
A just balance and scales are the LORD's;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
All ways in which justice is carried out comes from the Lord. Anywhere and anytime there is fair play, its source is the Lord. The very idea of justice and fairness comes from him, and, indeed, serve as evidence for his existence and reign. Every time a charge is…
It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
for the throne is established by righteousness.
It is terrible enough to do evil. Man was made in the image of God, and every wicked act is a reminder of the great Fall. But to do evil from a position of authority magnifies evils perversion. Whether one be a king or a low-level manager, such positions are created to…
Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right.
Do you wish to give delight to your King? Then let your speech be that which promotes justice and good. Speak the truth in love, as you are taught in Ephesians 4:15. How can you know what to speak?
Speak what is of Scripture. Read it and study it so that…
A king's wrath is a messenger of death,
and a wise man will appease it.
It is wisdom to recognize danger and to take measures for safety. We recognize the signs of a thunder storm and take appropriate cover. So we should do the same when we observe the wrath of one who has power over us. Take measures to appease one with authority, especially when his wrath…
In the light of a king's face there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
If the previous proverb impresses upon us the danger of being under the thunder storm of our Kings wrath, this one stirs us with the refreshment of being under his favor. To know Gods favor is to know life. And that is what Christ came to…
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
Gold and silver are good for providing financial security. As long as one possesses these metals, he can feel confident that he has something of value if
- he is willing to part with them when he is hungry or needs shelter or medical care
- they are not stolen…
The highway of the upright turns aside from evil;
whoever guards his way preserves his life.
The upright, when it comes to temptation, heeds the warning of his conscience, "don't go there." He does not listen to the various rationalizations that would take him into temptation and danger - curiosity, to become stronger, to protect others, to see what others struggle with, and so on. "Just don't go…
Pride goes before destruction
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
This is a proverb that has proven itself time and time again, yet seems to be the hardest to learn. Its principle is behind most of the upsets in sports events, in which the clearly better team loses. One reason attributed to the "miracle" win of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team is that it was soundly…
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud.
The second line gives the context for this subject of pride and humility to divide the spoil with the proud. It is better to be oppressed than to be an oppressor; it is better to be without, than to take away from others. The proud, or arrogant, in…
Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
This proverb presents a recurring theme in Proverbs a mark of a wise and godly person is being a good learner. Just in the last chapter and a half, there are six proverbs that refer to this theme:
A fool despises his fathers instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent…
The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Here is our sweet talker. A wise person will be recognized for his wisdom, and, because he is wise, he will know how to speak in a persuasive manner. Our sweet talker is a wise guy! Do you want to be the person who, when you speak, people listen? There are two routes you can…
Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
The good sense spoken of is good common sense, and certainly it is a fountain of life to the one who possesses it. Good sense is what makes one take heed to instruction and be able to detect the wise from the foolish. It puts knowledge to practical use…
The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
After the wise person speaks, his hearers believe they have heard someone who is fair and insightful. They benefit from his words; they admit where they have been wrong. Perhaps they were upset, and they walk away peaceful.
What happened? The wise person spoke from a heart that was right. The heart of…
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Consider the sweet effect of gracious words.
Complement: This is a word we often deny we want, but we certainly do enjoy when we receive it. Isnt it nice to receive an honest complement, especially to get one totally unlooked for? You really look nice today. You made a great contribution. That…
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
With apologies to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, let me read a famous song that this proverb addresses so well.
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.
A workers appetite works for him;
his mouth urges him on.
Our appetite motivates us to produce. Hunger will drive even the laziest of persons to work to satisfy his hunger pain. How can you get a stubborn mule to walk? Hold an apple in front of him. It is a basic principle that success is predicated on hunger. It has become a sports clich. Who will be…
A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
Literally, the worthless man digs up evil. Like an archeologist diligently digging for precious artifacts, he labors to come up with something evil to do. Talk about bad breath, his is like scorching fire. He uses speech for wicked ends, to do harm. This is the first of three proverbs that speak of the "bad…
A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
"Did you hear about Joe?"
"I know I probably shouldn't be saying this, but I thought you had a right to know."
"What's going on between that couple? I bet it has to do with..."
And so the poison works in creating doubt, suspicion, resentment. All it takes is a remark supposedly in innocence, even under the…
A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.
First the violent man must entice his neighbor. Somehow he must win his neighbor over, pretending to offer something pleasurable. How does he do that? The neighbor must either be completely deceived into thinking that he is being offered something honorably good, or his sinful desires must be stirred. Thus, we…
Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things;
he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.
Be aware of the subtlety by which the wicked deceive - the unscrupulous salesman and the stranger who seem overly familiar with you; the caller who has a "great deal" for you; the "friend" who wants to show you something new. There are many people who wickedly want to harm you or…
Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life.
Gray hair is a crown of glory. We think it is gained in a trying life. You kids are enough to give me gray hair! I didnt have gray hair until I took this job. We envy the man or woman able to enter middle age with no gray hairs. If Solomon is trying…
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
This is an important principle to learn, and the ones who have learned it (both the righteous and the wicked) have achieved great success in life. Even the wicked know the truth of this proverb. Anger is a powerful passion. Anger can increase strength due to…
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
And so we can have peace. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to sort out providence, but Scripture teaches providence and God's sovereignty so that we might give due honor to God and that we might learn to trust (and rest) in him.
Yes, your decisions today matter. They have real consequences for…
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
This is not a contrast between homes of quiet, mild-mannered families and those of boisterous families, but rather between home of peaceful relations and of conflict. Quiet homes can have their share of conflict. But this kind of quiet is the quiet of peace. It is the home of families who are peace…
A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
This is another way of teaching the primacy of wisdom. Other resources can put us in position to succeed, but it is wisdom that takes us to the top and keeps us there. As talented as pro athletes may be, there are others as athletic…
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
If the Lord knows our hearts, why does he need to test them? Consider Peter's teaching:
In this (our inheritance) you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes…
An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
Have you ever been frustrated trying to convince others that a rumor is false? You encourage them to think positively about others, but they assume the worse. Maybe you are trying to clear up your own name. You think that if you can only explain clearly the facts, they will listen. If you…
Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
This is a sober warning for us all. First, we should not be quick to mock anyone. Mocking may have its place, but such times are far fewer than we tend to think. We are quick to mock those whom we do not know and those with whom we differ. As…
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
This is a good reminder of what family relations should be. It is not merely a matter of having children who then have children. It is about investing in your family relationships so that there is a strong, loving bond, and that your children live lives that are deemed honorable.
Fathers can forget…
Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
Fine speech from the mouth of a fool comes out as mockery and sarcasm. That which should be deemed honorable is made to seem silly. The speaker is embarrassing. Having said all that, even worse is for a person of high and noble position to lie. Thus, as bad as it is…
A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
This proverb is translated in different ways, and this particular translation can be given two different interpretations: it is observing the way and perspective of the wicked briber but does not agree with him, or it is commenting on the effective use of gifts, another translation of…
Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
"I probably shouldn't tell you this, but..."
"He didn't want me to tell anyone, but..."
"Did you know..."
"We should be praying for..."
And so begins many a repeating of a matter that creates anger and suspicion that never should have occurred. Every day we say and do things that we should not…
A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
The ultimate distinction between a man of understanding and a fool is not how well they do on an aptitude test but in how well they receive correction. Everyone will make mistakes; everyone sins. What then do they do when their mistake or sin is pointed out?
The fool insists he did…
An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
Such a person looks at life from the perspective of me versus everyone else. He is in rebellion against everyone because he sees everyone as competitor. The competitor may be someone over him; thus he looks at the competitor as an oppressor, someone whose chains must be thrown off. The competitor may be…
Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
We laugh at the fool and dismiss him for his nonsensical behavior. But just as we would run for cover when a gun is placed in the hands of a child who thinks he has a toy, so we need all the more to be careful around the fool.
If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
Wickedness is troubling in any form. Even so, there are degrees even for evil to climb. It is condemning to do mischief. It is wrong to take advantage of the innocent. But to return evil for good; to harm someone who has done you good is it possible to sink lower?
The scam artist who…
The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
When a container of water cracks, when it is opened only by a hair, water seeps out and cannot be retrieved. Cover it with your hands, put a cloth tightly around it, the water continues to seep. It cannot be contained. And even if you do seal the crack, you cannot reclaim…
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the L
God is not a moral relativist. There are the wicked who do bad, who break his moral law; and there are the righteous who do good, who follow his moral law. To flip them around to justify the wicked and condemn the righteous is an abomination to him.
Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
Even if wisdom could be bought, it still would do the fool no good. But isnt wisdom exactly what a fool needs? True, but the fools problem is that he does not know what to do with wisdom even when given to him.
He may obtain wisdom now. He may turn…
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity
How good it is to be a friend and to have a friend, a true friend. A friend always loves; i.e. he always desires the good of his friend. To love at all times is to seek the best for ones friend at all times. That means sticking by him when others desert him. It…
One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
This is one of several proverbs warning against putting up security for another person (6:1; 11:15; 22:26). The concern is putting ones self at risk. Putting up security for another person is saying that I will make good what that person cannot, even though I will reap no benefit from what…
Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
Consider the transgression of the Ten Commandments in reverse order. One who covets will experience strife with his neighbor through competition and resentment. One who lies presents opportunity for strife by deceit and breaking trust.
One who steal causes strife with the victim. One who commits adultery stirs up strife with the fellow adulterer(ess), the…
A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
The problem for such a man above is not bad luck, as he would think is the cause. Nor is the problem one of circumstances - if only he had money, a good job, a job without a boss, neighbors who appreciated him, etc. Jesus stated clearly his problem: it…
He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
Too many parents can nod their heads to this proverb. Others may laugh at a fool, shake their heads in disdain or pity. The parent (father or mother) weeps. The father hangs his head in shame and the mother in sorrow. They had hopes for their child; their delight was in…
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Centuries before the advent of scientific medicine, this proverb recognized a key element of good health and even for curing illness - a joyful heart. Being happy is not a cure-all, of course, but it does play a significant role in reducing the ill effects caused by stress, depression, anger, self-pity, and resentment.
The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
Truly there is nothing new under the sun. The giving of bribes has a long history. Bribes are given to sway judges' rulings; to fix betting events; to obtain advantage over business competitors; to gain money and power. It is wicked to give such bribes, but as this proverb points out, it is also wicked…
The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
The contrast here is between the discerning who keeps focused on wisdom and the fool who chases after each fad that pops up from everywhere. Today he would be the one fascinated with the "new discoveries" of the "Da Vinci Code." His home library is an archive of…
A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
Fools annoy others; they make others angry. Others enjoy fools, finding them to be entertainment. But fools grieve their parents who are filled with shame by the public disgrace and filled with sorrow for the path their children are following. They may also be angry, but their anger is stirred by disappointment…
To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
Injustice occurs in two ways: not punishing the guilty and punishing the law abiding. It is one thing to be lax about prosecuting the guilty, but it is more grievous to take action against the person who is upright. Indeed, this proverb presents not merely a person who is…
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
How is being few with words connected with being knowledgeable? First of all, the person of knowledge and understanding knows that his value is not found in making others see how knowledgeable he is. He is not compelled to speak louder, quicker, and more often than others. His self-esteem is…
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
The point of this proverb and the previous one is that the best use of words comes from a measured restraint, or to use a common phrase - think before you speak. The problem with the fool is that he speaks quickly without considering his words. He speaks on impulse…
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
The thought here is not that it is wrong to seek solitude or even to work alone. Rather, it speaks to the person who has fortressed himself against companionship. He may be like the hurt lover of Paul Simon's song "I Am a Rock," who isolates himself from relationships so that he might not…
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
It is hard to get in a word in a conversation with a fool. Even when he asks you a question, he interrupts before you can say much. He must give his opinion, tell his story, listen to his own voice. And all the while he thinks that he is earning your good opinion of…
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.
One would think that a truth so obvious would have a sobering affect on the wicked. And yet, far from avoiding behavior that leads to disgrace, they all the more pursue their immoral and wicked ways, even basking in the notoriety that results. For the wicked are also fools who mistake shame for honor and contempt for…
The words of a man's mouth are deep waters;
the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
This proverb seems to be presenting a contrast between the words of sinful man that hide motive, like the deep waters which hide what is underneath, and the words of the wise which is refreshing and clear like a bubbling brook. We are as likely to use words to miscommunicate than…
It is not good to be partial to the wicked
or to deprive the righteous of justice.
Surely we all agree with this proverb, but then, how might we be guilty of such injustice? By placing ourselves before God and others. We will ignore political policies that hurt others but either help us or at least do not harm us. We will avert our eyes when confronted by…
A fool's lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
What a funny proverb and so true! The fool will even be warned: "You're asking for it. You'd better stop talking." But he won't stop. He must rant and rave; he keeps provoking, keeps sounding off until the listener either literally or figuratively gives him his beating.
Why does the fool invite punishment? Because he…
A fool's mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
By his mouth the fool shows lack of wisdom and thus loses the respect of others. He irritates others with his thoughtless remarks; he offends; he makes himself a bore; he betrays confidences; twists the words of others; shows arrogance; stirs up trouble. And all the while is troubled that he does not…
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Such is the danger of the whispering tongue. We are enticed by it. We like hearing secrets "confided" in us. We like being in the know, of being brought into the inner circle. But those words go into our "inner parts." We mull over them, and they begin to…
Whoever is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys.
The slacker destroys productivity. Products, service, goals are sacrificed. He destroys morale, as others are influenced to have the same attitude or frustrated so that they become less productive. He destroys teamwork, as others become not only angry with him but with supervisors for not managing him well. He destroys his own future, his laziness…
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
What's in a name? How can a name be a strong tower? What's in a name is what is in a person. According to that person's character and relationship to us, the name may evoke joy or sadness, peace or fear. And so it is with the LORD - Yahweh…
A rich man's wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
Note the contrast with the previous proverb. The righteous man looks to the LORD to be his strength; the rich man looks to his wealth. The righteous man turns to the LORD and finds safety; the rich man turns to his wealth and finds an illusion. For wealth can save no one…
Before destruction a man's heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
There are several reasons why this proverb bears out, but consider one reason today. Haughtiness is foolishness; humility is wisdom. To be haughty is to be "scornfully and condescendingly proud." It is not merely to recognize your own skill to be better than others, but to actually consider others as lesser beings. You despise them merely…
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
Strong but true words. We do this on different levels. There is the surface level in which we actually begin answering before the person has completed the question, only to find that we wrongly anticipated what the question would be. "No, that is not what I was trying to ask."
We give unasked for…
A man's spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
Undoubtedly many reading this proverb will sadly nod in agreement because of your own crushed spirit. The weight of depression, of anxiety, of feeling unloved feels unbearable and you focus on merely surviving each day. This proverb lets you know that God understands. It is placed in Scripture for you to know that you do…
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Note the precondition of the person who gains knowledge. He is already intelligent, already wise. It is his intelligence and wisdom that spurs him on to attain knowledge. He becomes knowledgeable because he values knowledge. Unlike the student who raises his hand in class and asks the teacher, "Is this going to be on the…
A man's gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great.
What is the difference between a gift and a bribe? Is this proverb permitting the offering of bribes to get one's way? The proverb may not be giving permission for anything. Many proverbs are mere observations about life, adding no comment about the moral value. That is true of this one.
And yet, there are…
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
What a true observation! How many times have we heard one speaker lay forth an argument that seems the epitome of commonsense, only to hear someone else give a different opinion or exam the first speaker, and we completely change our opinion? Perhaps the first speaker omitted pertinent information; perhaps he operated…
The lot puts an end to quarrels
and decides between powerful contenders.
It is interesting how the casting of lots or drawing straws or flipping coins settle matters that could produce controversy or are already controversial. Rival teams let a coin flip decide who gets the ball first; kids arguing over who has to take the worse job will meekly accept the result of drawing the shortest straw…
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
The closer a relationship the deeper an offense is felt. It may or may not be easier to offend a brother, but when he is offended the wound goes deep, as is the witness of many, many family divisions. The offense only goes deeper and the brother more unyielding…
From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
This proverb is based on the assumption that the fruit is good. When our speech produces good fruit by blessing others and conveying wisdom and knowledge, then we receive blessing, as when satisfied by a good, healthy meal. Conversely, when our speech stirs up trouble and offense, we…
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Bad and good result from the power of speech; those who love speech will reap the consequences of how they use it. This proverb carries the weight of a warning to those who love to talk and those who skillfully use speech for bad ends. Sooner (usually) or later…
He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the Lord.
God instituted marriage as a blessing to man. It was "not good" for man to be alone, and so God created and brought the woman to the man. And he realized it was good, for "she is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone." Marriage is not a trap; it is…
The poor use entreaties,
but the rich answer roughly.
Our status often determines our behavior. If we are poor, we will rely on entreaties to coax help from others. If we are in a position of power or wealthy enough to procure the help we need from many, we are likely to speak roughly or be more demanding.
Think about this in our relationship with the Lord. It…
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
It is not the number but the depth of relationships that matter. It is good to have many companions. We are meant to be social creatures, and we should seek and enjoy the acquaintance of many people. And yet, what will sustain us through the trials of life…
Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
There is too high a price to pay for crookedness. The lost of integrity is worse than the loss of money and position. The world considers a person not willing to compromise the truth to achieve a goal to be a fool. So be it. God, through…
Desire without knowledge is not good,
and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
Is this not the cause of our troubles? We desire without knowledge. The young man desires the Forbidden Woman, not knowing that she leads to death. The fool desires fortune and fame, not knowing that he chooses ignominy and destruction. The wicked desire to take advantage of others, not knowing that they…
When a man's folly brings his way to ruin,
his heart rages against the Lord.
This is so true of Christians! Why can't I get a job? Why are my workplaces always so difficult? Why is this ministry by which I serve God filled with so much trouble? Why, when I am devoted to God, am I having so much trouble in my marriage, in my family, with…
Wealth brings many new friends,
But a poor man is deserted by his friend.
If the writer of this proverb had access to quotation marks in his day, he would have added them around friends and friend. In each instance the friends are nothing of the sort. The friends of the wealthy person hang about to get what they can. The poor person has but one other person…
A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
The irony in this proverb is that people lie for the express purpose of escaping punishment. We lie to cover up other sins. We fudge the truth so that our spouses will not get upset; so that our bosses will not blow up at us, etc. We will lie so that suspicion…
Many seek the favor of a generous man,
and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
"Generous man" could be translated "nobleman" or "prince." Whatever the case, the point is that the person in a position to bestow gifts - be it of money, of position, of power - will have many "friends" who in truth are lovers of what he can give. The person…
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.
If a wealthy generous man has many friends, a poor man with nothing to give has none. They not only do not hang around him; they stay far from him. Of course, such "friends" are neither true friends of the generous…
Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;
he who keeps understanding will discover good.
Do you love yourself? Do you want what is good for you? Then pursue wisdom! Seek commonsense. Value understanding and discernment. Get knowledge. For it is through attaining good sense - the skill to discern what is right and true and good - that you will discover and enjoy the good in life.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who breathes out lies will perish.
This is the same proverb as 19:5, except that it spells out what is alluded to in the previous one which states that the liar will "not escape." He will perish. However much he may try to lie his way out of such a destiny, his lies only serve to secure that destiny…
It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.
It is not fitting for a fool who has done nothing to earn or deserve wealth to live in wealth. Like a pig with pearls, he will treat his wealth with disdain, not merely indulging in worthless pursuits, but turning what is beautiful and…
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Here is a good measure for how much good sense you have: How do you respond to offenses? Are you quick to retaliate? Do you quickly throw back a verbal jab? Do you get easily flustered? Do you dash off curt emails or text messages? Then good sense…
A king's wrath is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.
Consider the wrath of our King. When he acts in wrath against the wicked, no one can withstand his ire. For it is not that he acts with an uncontrollable rage, but precisely because his anger matches justice. God is to be feared because he…
A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
The way to break the spirit of a man is through his family. It may be through the folly of a child or through the grumbling of a wife. There is much to be said in Proverbs and Scripture to admonish the husband and father, but…
House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
If a foolish son and a quarreling wife are ruin to a man, all the more blessed it is to have a prudent wife. Why prudent? Why not loving? A prudent wife is a loving wife, for she takes care of her husband and home. The epitome of such…
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep,
and an idle person will suffer hunger.
Laziness makes a person weary. Inactivity slows down the body's metabolism. Taking it easy causes even the easy to become laborious. And as activity grows more wearisome, so then one is unable to produce a living.
We see this in the workplace. There is the employee who drags into work…
Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life;
he who despises his ways will die.
Most likely the sense of despising one's ways is that of being careless about how one lives. Such a person is not so much defiant against God's commands as he is uninterested in the subject. His motto is "go with the flow."
Such a person ultimately is defiant, and he…
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.
The lesson of this proverb is not about how to place God in our debt and make him give us what we want. It is about caring for the poor. It shows the compassionate heart of God for the poor, what we often lack.
Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death.
The principal of a high school learned the ability to discern which poorly performing students had potential of turning things around and which were likely to remain mired in their self-defeating behavior. It was the response of their parents to discipline. If their parents were…
A man of great wrath will pay the penalty,
for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.
You will have to bail the angry man out of jail again, or defend him in the principal's office again, or speak up for him at work again, or whatever the circumstance may be. A person whose temper explodes gets himself into trouble time and again…
Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.
The wise understand this principle, for it is what led them to a higher plane of wisdom. Their desire to learn allowed them to seek instruction in the first place. Their interest is not in being perceived as knowledgeable, but rather they value knowledge itself. Furthermore, they understand that what may seem to be…
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
What a humbling and comforting statement. It is humbling to remember that, however clever and powerful we may think we are, our plans only serve the plan of the Lord. The rebellion of the wicked serves God's purposes. The service of the righteous is carried out…
What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
and a poor man is better than a liar.
It is better to have a poor friend who shows steadfast love through all circumstances than to have wealthy friends who are false. It is better to be a person who shows such love than to attain wealth and friends through deception. Money cannot compare in value to friendship, and…
Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
Strike the scoffer and at best he will curtail his behavior; yet he will not learn. As Proverbs 9:7, 8 note: “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse...Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.” A scoffer is someone to be controlled. His attitude prevents him from…
He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother
is a son who brings shame and reproach.
Rebellion against parents is an especially grievous offense in scriptures. Striking one's father or mother is punishable by death. Rebellion against proper authority is wrong, but there something more involved in the rebellion against parents. Proverbs speaks of the sorrow, bitterness, and shame that parents of a foolish…
Cease to hear instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
Stop hearing instruction and you will not only stop learning more, but you will stray from the path of knowledge. Ceasing to learn more is not a matter of slowing down and letting others pass you by. Rather, it is straying off the path of knowledge altogether. A patient who stops receiving physical…
Condemnation is ready for scoffers,
and beating for the backs of fools.
Condemnation and beating is what scoffers and fools prepare for themselves. Scoffers will not win hearers (unless they are other scoffers and fools). For a brief time, some may try to listen to them, but will quickly realize that the scoffers have nothing constructive to say. They will see that scoffers delight in mocking rather than…
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
The drinker takes on the personality of what he drinks. He becomes silly, turns foolish, and loses all sense of control so that he becomes a brawler. Many drink because alcohol releases natural inhibition. The shy person becomes extroverted, but he also loses control of his common sense. He may…
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
This proverb is giving warning to those subject to another's power. Just as the person with power should take heed not to be provoked, so the person under their power needs to exercise proper wisdom not to provoke. Many persons have lost jobs, they claim because of principle…
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.
To a fool it is dishonor to walk away from a fight. It is shameful to "back down." The fool believes he is protecting his dignity to respond to every perceived slight. The fool believes that he must correct every perceived error, that he must argue every point. He is…
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The sluggard does not plow in the time when the cold begins merely because it feels cold. No season is a good time for him to plow. Either it is too cold or too hot; too dry or too wet. And if the weather is ever right, then it is too nice…
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Every counselor should know this verse by heart. But the skill is not reserved for professional counselors. It is for anyone with understanding - understanding of what? The biblical teaching about the human heart. That it is sinful and deceptive even to the owner of the heart. That even…
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
This is a proverb that would have been as an arrow into the heart of Peter, who after proclaiming his willingness to die for his Lord, denied him a few hours later. It is a proverb that haunts us all. Over and again we profess our steadfast love for God, and then each…
The righteous who walks in his integrity -
blessed are his children after him!
Blessed are his children who grow up in a home under his influence. They have a father who models the righteous life before them. They have a father who instructs them in the way of righteousness. They have a father who shows them steadfast love and faithfulness, who loves his wife, and who fears…
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
winnows all evil with his eyes.
So is the task of a just king or a just judge. He listens well and he is a keen observer. He notes the wink or eyes averting his gaze. He sees the smile of arrogance and the nervous twitching of the liar. He sees through the exterior into the heart. Such is…
Who can say, "I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin"?
Let us give thanks now that there is one man who in his human nature was able to say this - Jesus Christ. And because he was able to do so, he qualified to be our sacrificial lamb who made atonement for our sins. Because his heart was pure, he was able to…
Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Cheating customers is an abomination to the Lord; so is cheating clients and cheating anyone to gain an advantage. What is particularly offensive here is cheating through means that of themselves signify fair play. What can be trusted if we abuse the very seals and symbols that are meant to guarantee good faith?
Even a child makes himself known by his acts,
by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
How do we "make known" what is in our hearts? How do we reveal our faith? By our behavior.
But one can deceive through his actions. One can pretend to be pure and upright. Not a child. He invariably gives himself away even if he wants to deceive. And not even…
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the Lord has made them both.
"Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" So spoke the Lord to Moses (cf Exodus 4:10-12). What do we have that is not from the Lord? And what has he given us that is not to be used for his glory…
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
Don't suffer sleep deprivation, that is, the sleep that deprives you of being industrious. It is healthy to get a "good night's" sleep, but it is hurtful to linger in bed and block the sun out of your eyes. However comfortable you may feel for the moment, you are robbing…
"Bad, Bad," says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts.
The savvy shopper does not reveal how much he truly values the object he wants. He is critical of the object. He points out its flaws. He doesn't need it and certainly can't afford what is being asked. All the while he inwardly prizes it. When he does acquire the object, he then may boast…
There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Like the previous proverb, this one presents a scenario that goes against the common wisdom of the marketplace. There are those who train to become experts in identifying pure gold and costly jewels. Such items are valued for their beauty, but their market value is based on their rarity. However beautiful…
Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
Consider the gravel. There is the gravel of a painful conscience. What at the moment seemed to be exciting comes back to haunt the heart that is not given fully to wickedness. The transgressor worries about breaking God's law and its consequences. If he is not too far gone, he…
Plans are established by counsel;
by wise guidance wage war.
What are the benefits of counsel? One, the mere act of pausing to seek counsel reduces impulsive behavior. You are likely to give the matter more serious attention and to think more deliberately. Two, consulting with others sharpens your thinking as you explain your thoughts and as you listen to the thinking of others.
But this proverb is…
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
Be a realist when it comes to confiding in certain people. The proverb does not advise that we be careful how we tell something confidential to a babbler. We are not given tips on how to assure that the babbler will not reveal our secrets. We are simply to stay away from him. We…
If one curses his father or his mother,
his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
Should this proverb be interpreted to mean if a child curses his good father or mother? Certainly the Scriptures instruct fathers and mothers to be good, and the premise in Proverbs is that fathers and mothers have wisdom that their children should heed. Even so, it is the specific family bond…
An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
Sudden wealth, whether it be through inheritance or winning the lottery or some scheme, as often as not creates trouble. Wealth, as with power and fame, carries its own dangers of corrupting the owner and creating anxiety over its protection. Jesus noted how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom…
Do not say, "I will repay evil";
wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
The sense here is not about bringing the wicked to justice, which we are to promote. It is about exacting our personal revenge. This is a proverb for the worker outmaneuvered unjustly for a job promotion. It is for the student who is beat out for an award because of another student…
Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and false scales are not good.
Just thirteen verses before there is an almost identical proverb: "Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord." Perhaps the repetition is to reinforce the seriousness which God attaches to cheating.
Consider this proverb with the one preceding it: "Do not say, ‘I will repay evil' wait for the…
A man's steps are from the Lord;
how then can man understand his way?
How can a man understand his way apart from the Lord who works all things for his glory and purposes? The secular philosopher, despite his intellectual prowess, takes the wrong first step in his contemplation as he tries to understand his way. One may build insight upon insight, but if the foundation is not…
It is a snare to say rashly, "it is holy,"
and to reflect only after making vows.
Be cautious in making vows. Be cautious saying that you will set something apart for God, which is what saying “it is holy” means. Be cautious because God takes seriously your word. He will hold you accountable for what you say.
Because we are only as good as our word, our…
A wise king winnows the wicked
and drives the wheel over them.
The wise king is able, first, to discern between the wicked and the righteous (or innocent). Secondly, he is able then to act against the wicked in judgment. Many rulers exercise power but do so indiscriminately, harming both wicked and righteous; indeed, many rulers are especially brutal against the righteous. And there are rulers who know…
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,
searching all his innermost parts.
This spirit is our conscience which bears witness that the law of God is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). God has placed within all of us - those inhabited by God's Spirit and those who are not - his inner moral compass, or, as this proverb notes, his inner moral lamp…
Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king,
and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.
This is certainly a different perspective from the world's understanding, which is that what preserves a king or anyone else in a position of power is power. Also needed are shrewdness, the willingness to eliminate the competition, a large ego to fuel the drive for fame and power.
Consider what this proverb…
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
There is glory and joy in being young. It is good to be young and strong, and the young should delight in what their youthfulness gives them strength to do. They have vitality; they are idealistic. They act with passion. They are able to move mountains by their strength.
Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.
Blows that come from one who loves you and hates the sin that binds you are essential for your welfare. It is right to be concerned with abuse, but it is as deadly to be denied the chastisement that awakens you to your sin and spurs you to action. It is deadly to be denied love…
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.
As a farmer irrigates his fields by creating canals to control the direction of the water, so the Lord provides for the fields of the earth by directing the hearts of rulers. Whether these rulers may be righteous or wicked, devout or profane, they nevertheless serve the deeper…
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
Note two insights in this proverb in relation to a Christian. First, a Christian will defend his behavior either through using scripture for justification or by appealing to conscience. There is the husband who defended being critical of his wife by appealing to Ephesians 5:25-27, which refers to Christ has sanctifying…
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
For commentary, read these other scriptures:
"When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations--
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your…
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
Scripture makes clear God's displeasure of pride which is the root sin of the wicked. They will not humble themselves before God. This is played out in various ways, most notably through the violence committed against others.
The proverb reveals how pride mars their perspective on reality. Pride is the lamp by which the wicked…
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
This is a practical proverb to guide you today. It could make the difference between an action that leads to long-term blessing or long-term regret. Like a beautiful house built on poor land, many options look appealing but hide disastrous consequences. Many ideas seemed good "at the time," but proved…
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The liar thinks he is setting a snare or escaping it by lying. To gain treasure he thinks he escapes like a fleeting vapor. He tells his lies in order to snatch the treasure. But he is merely setting up his own snare and insuring that his treasure will escape. Ask…
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.
As we have learned in other proverbs, the wicked bring on themselves their own destruction. They suffer the consequences of their own violence. It is easy enough to see how they create trouble for themselves, but the consequence is that they place themselves under the judgment of God who will not…
The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.
What is within us will come out in our behavior. The guilty's way will be crooked; the conduct of the pure will show in their very demeanor - standing upright with a clear conscience. The guilty must lurk about, hiding in the shadows, checking their backs, slipping across from side to side of…
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
Husbands, of course, can also be quarrelsome, but since this proverb speaks specifically of the wife; let's consider her case. Someone has made the wry comment: "A man marries a woman and is surprised to find that she changes. A woman marries a man and is surprised that…
The soul of the wicked desires evil;
his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
Some people are simply mean-spirited. They laugh at the misery of others. They derive pleasure at insulting anyone. They revel in being bullies, connivers, and cheaters. To see a neighbor in need arouses spite rather than sympathy.
It is our responsibility to protect others from them and to seek justice against them. And…
When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
This proverb parallels 19:25:
"Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge."
Punishment has its place, though its effect will differ according to the individual. The scoffer is punished and at best is restricted from further wicked behavior. His…
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he throws the wicked down to ruin.
The critical mistake of the wicked is to believe that he is keeping unobserved. Think of the image of law officials staking out a house hoping to see or hear something that might give evidence of the wicked's guilt. The great challenge of the law is to come up with clear evidence…
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.
In a way, this proverb is more sobering than the previous one that warns of being ruined. There is a unique fear of being alone, of calling out for help and receiving only silence. The wicked may scoff at such a thought but that is only because they have yet…
A gift in secret averts anger,
and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
This proverb speaks of a specific purpose in the use of bribes – averting anger. Most likely the situation is that of averting unjust anger. The king, or some other authority, has become overly angry and is about to harm someone. The offender, or a friend who steps in, gives the gift that appeases that anger.
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
When justice is done, the righteous are vindicated and the wicked are punished. But the righteous also rejoice in justice for its own sake. They do not obey God's laws to keep from being punished, but because they actually delight in God's law. The wicked fear punishment, but they also are disheartened to…
One who wanders from the way of good sense
will rest in the assembly of the dead.
Do you want rest? Do you want to escape the hassles of life? Then wander away from good sense. Throw off your responsibilities and act according to instinct, and you can live a contented life. It is fairly easy to be contented when you have no…
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
This would seem to be a proverb supporting the ascetic, stoic life. Its emphasis, however, is not contrasting pleasure with stoicism, but warning about a life devoted to physical pleasure. In such a pursuit the individual loses common sense. He thinks only of today and…
The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
and the traitor for the upright.
There is a sense in which the wicked receive the punishment that was to have been visited on others, including the righteous. Thus, Judah was spared when Sennacherib was moved by God to attack the Egyptians rather than his covenant people. And God could say,
It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
Consider Peter's counsel to wives in light of this proverb:
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- when they see your…
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it.
The wise person saves and exercises restraint. For that reason he accumulates an abundance. The fool consumes whatever he gets.
Compare this proverb with verse 17: "Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich." The…
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor.
This is the promise of the Gospel - our pursuit of righteousness and kindness will not be in vain. However you may feel at the moment; if you despair of good winning out; if you see about you only death, wickedness, and shame; know that life, righteousness, and honor is what you…
A wise man scales the city of the mighty
and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
Wisdom is stronger than physical strength. In sports, the smarter team is more likely to defeat the better athletic team. So it is in the military. In business, it is the company that is cleverer that wins over the company with more money and resources.…
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.
Do you seem to get enmeshed in trouble a lot? The problem may be your tongue. Don't be quick to deny it. The denier claims that the real problem is that he is misunderstood. Other people are too sensitive. They misread his intentions and need to examine themselves. He is sure…
"Scoffer" is the name of the arrogant, haughty man
who acts with arrogant pride.
The arrogance of the scoffer goes beyond believing that he is better than others. Even the prideful man can respect the accomplishments and ability of others. Indeed, his pride grows greater with the more credit he gives to those who come in second to him. The scoffer disdains others.…
The desire of the sluggard kills him,
for his hands refuse to labor.
All day long he craves and craves,
but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
How is it that desire kills the sluggard? Being lazy is the obvious cause. Being a slacker is a serious flaw, to be sure, but combining that flaw with ungodly desire is…
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination even when he does so with (in his mind) good intent. The wicked will contribute to charity. They will attend church and contribute to its causes. They will offer up prayers and even volunteer to help others. But because they do…
A false witness will perish,
but the word of a man who hears will endure.
Yet another unexpected contrast. We would think the second clause to say something like, "but the word of a man who tells the truth will endure." This contrast draws out the heart condition of the false witness. Such a person lies because he is not interested in a…
A wicked man puts on a bold face,
but the upright gives thought to his ways.
Wickedness does take a certain courage. After all, the wicked man risks getting caught and punished. He is willing to incur the wrath of others. He takes these things upon himself all for greed and spite. And so he puts on his bold face to deceive and…
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the Lord.
Let Psalm 2 provide the commentary for this proverb:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
"Let us burst their…
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
It is good to make plans. It is good to prepare well for whatever battle one faces. But always remember that the victory belongs to the Lord. His will will be done. With such knowledge, you should:
1. Maintain an attitude of prayer throughout…
The rich and the poor meet together;
the LORD is the maker of them all.
Here we have two groups of people: rich and poor. They are opposites, which often do not overlap. Sometimes it’s because of opportunities, privileges, and access or the lack of these. It’s as if these two groups of people are journeying down two different roads in opposite directions…
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
This is the same message as the proverb: Fools rush in where angels fear to dread. The simple "go on" either because they do not see the danger or because they estimate themselves too highly, thinking they can withstand harm.
The prudent does not hide…
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
is riches and honor and life. -- Proverbs 22:4
Paul writes in Philippians, “Have this mind among you which was the mind of Christ,” and in Colossians, “Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” As we dig deeply in the word, God blesses us from his spiritual realm and we reflect his humility. There is no…
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
This proverb has the similar message of 22:3: "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." The new contrast is between the crooked (the wicked) and the righteous who take care to guard their souls. But…
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Literally, the first line reads "according to the way he will go." Some then have interpreted the meaning to be that if you raise a child according to his inclination, he will set on a crooked path that he will not depart.…
The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
The rich man rules over the poor man who is dependent upon him. The lender has control over the man who borrows from him. This is the disadvantage we should strive to avoid. What difference does it make that I owe money to someone else? That someone else…
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of his fury will fail.
We reap what we sow. The employer who sows injustice among his employees will reap poor performance. The seller who sows injustice among his customers will reap business failure. The parent who sows injustice within the family will see his children turn rebellious. The employer may threaten to fire,…
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor.
The above proverb speaks of a heart that is motivated to benevolence. It is the heart of love that triggers the eye to see a need…and to meet that need. It is the heart of love that moves us to perform acts of compassion. For years, one…
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease.
This is a proverb that has been proven many times in all kinds of settings. One person can sow discord throughout a team, a staff, a class, any group. He does not have to be openly rebellious. All he needs to do is consistently say a few words…
He who loves purity of heart,
and whose speech is gracious,
will have the king as his friend.
Note the addition of gracious speech. Shouldn't purity of heart be enough for friendship, even with a king? It is speech that conveys what is in the heart. Speech can be used to deceive and other proverbs warn of flattery, but the point here…
The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
God watches over knowledge as a shepherd watches over his flock. Far from fearing knowledge, Christians should above all nurture it and strive to grow in knowledge, for God is the God of truth. It is good to grow in all the fields of knowledge, except…
The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside!
I shall be killed in the streets!"
He does have a point. We may not worry about lions, but there are cars and trucks that could hit us. It may be best not to go outside to work. And, for that matter, there are dangers in the home - tripping down the stairs, stumbling over…
The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit;
he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.
This is a warning to all men against sexual allure, temptation, and lust. Matthew Henry’s Commentary states, “As they regard the welfare of their souls, let them take heed of strange women, lewd women, whom they ought to be strange to, of the…
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Training a toddler not to touch household chemicals needs no explanation of merits in terms of parental discipline, nor demands any rationality to offer the child. However, Proverbs 22:15 goes way beyond this simple imperative to address “stupidity and stubbornness” (Kidner) which assumes…
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
Some become wealthy by taking advantage of the poor (i.e. those who do not how to or are incapable of making wealth). Some increase their wealth by knowing to whom to give and so open doors for getting even more back. Proverbs does not…
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
That your trust may be in the LORD,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.
Have I not written…
Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate,
for the Lord will plead their cause
and rob of life those who rob them.
How can one rob the poor? Why bother to crush the afflicted? Why bother, even if one is wicked, to do what brings no gain? Perhaps there is a robbery…
Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.
We ought to be wise (and wary) about the friends we choose. Scripture says we should take heed to ourselves, how we live—putting off the old, and putting on the new. We should also take…
Be not one of those who give pledges,
who put up security for debts.
If you have nothing with which to pay,
why should your bed be taken from under you?
To unscramble this verse, some background is needed.
Pledges = collateral for a debt.
Cloak = doubled as a blanket for comfort and warmth in bed…
Do not move the ancient landmark
that your fathers have set.
This refers to the property lines marking the property belonging to a family. Its application is that we are to honor all contracts and agreements made before us. We do not move property lines; we do not revise contracts - i.e. not without appropriate agreements. An appropriate agreement is not merely a…
Do you see a man skillful in his work?
He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men.
In his volume entitled Works, Martin Luther asks, “What is the greatest work?” What he answers is “Salvation.” He was pointing to the greatest work in accomplishing the greatest gift. Christ gave his all—for the benefit of others. His work…
When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
observe carefully what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies
for they are deceptive food.
The setting for these verses is a dinner or a banquet put on by a ruler. (Think final…
Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.
When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.
A visiting scholar from China commented about the goals people set for themselves. He took a dollar bill from his wallet and said, “People in China are…
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
"Eat and drink!" he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words.
We come back to…
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
for he will despise the good sense of your words.
The proverb is almost comical in the picture it connotes. The hero/guide shouts words of instruction, only to be ignored by the fool who then lands in the hidden trap…which if filled with tigers!
But how does this work out in everyday…
Do not move an ancient landmark
or enter the fields of the fatherless,
for their Redeemer is strong;
he will plead their cause against you.
In ancient times, as still some places today, landmarks were stone pillars that marked property lines. To move them was essentially an act of stealing property. God had commanded the Israelites, “Do not move your neighbor’s…
Proverbs 23: 12
Apply your heart to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.
The work of applying our hearts and ears to the Word of God is not easy and requires the work of the Holy Spirit. The heart needs to be forcefully applied to good instruction because it is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). The heart, on its own, is only…
My son, if your heart is wise,
my heart too will be glad.
My inmost being will exult
when your lips speak what is right.
How wonderful it is to see that children who have learned the good things they are taught. Earlier the writer of Proverbs penned, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he…
Proverbs 23: 17-18
Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
The writer of Psalm 73 had a problem envying the unrighteous and for very visible reasons. The wicked prospered and everything went well for them. They had no…
Hear, my son, and be wise,
and direct your heart in the way.
Be not among drunkards
or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and slumber will clothe them with rags
Do you think with your stomach? I have certainly rearranged my schedule because I’ve been hungry…
“Listen to your father who gave you life,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy truth, and do not sell it:
Buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
He who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad:
Let her who…
My son, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.
For a prostitute is a deep pit;
an adulteress is a narrow well.
She lies in wait like a robber
and increases the traitors among mankind.
Understand the motivation of the prostitute - it is to get your money. That is all she is about and…
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end…
Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
For their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.
No matter where you work, live, and play it’s a temptation to envy those who cheat to get ahead. Every day, driving to and from center city, I see people getting far ahead of me because…
By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
with all precious and pleasant riches.
The wisdom books of the Bible (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon) provide wonderful “technical” help for home architects (cf. Ps. 127; Prov. 9:1; 14:1). Have you considered how your home will be constructed? Are…
A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
The first half of the proverb seems to be extolling individual wisdom. The wise man alone is full of strength. But the latter half unveils more about wisdom. The…
Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the gate he does not open his mouth.
The image here is that of men sitting at the gate of a city. This is where the elders of the town gather to discuss the Law and judge disputes. The fool does not join in because he cannot follow the discussion. He cannot comprehend their logic.…
Whoever plans to do evil
will be called a schemer.
The devising of folly is sin,
and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.
The dictionary defines “a schemer” as someone who is always trying to pull a fast one, or get by through shady, under-handed methods. Here it is coupled with the words evil, folly, and abomination. Now, that is…
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprove to a listening ear.
While enjoying this proverb and its obvious theme of the preciousness and value of a wise reproof, memories have flooded back of moments when my life has been enriched by the wisdom our Lord has provided for me through others. It is one of the reasons…
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
Many of us struggle in the heat! My two favorite lifelines in the hot Philadelphia summer are shade and an Arnold Palmer. I will abandon all social and societal norms to procure both. It’s easy…
Like clouds and wind without rain
is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
Those who have gone on a short mission trip from Tenth to Barranquilla, Colombia and have experienced a rain storm can tell you how serious rain is there. I have been living in Philadelphia for more than four years, and I have not seen a…
With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.
Are you a patient person? Do you get all stressed when waiting for something? Do you give up easily when you do not see things going in the direction you wish?
Patience is a gift few people have, particularly in our current society. Most of us…
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
Many of us might be hard-pressed to write an enemies list, but Christians actually have many enemies. Whoever is an enemy of Christ and the gospel…
The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
The slanderer and backbiter are character assassins and murderers of a person’s good name and reputation. These offenses are a clear violation, by extension, of the sixth commandment—"Thou shalt not kill." The slanderer hurts more than his immediate prey, he also hurts himself and his hearers. If you are approached by someone…
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
This exact same wording is found in 21:9—and I would encourage you to see Rev. Clark’s comments there. Is there more to extract from this proverb? Of course! Rev. Clark rightly focused upon a wife’s negative (quarrelsome) interaction with a husband (and did so…
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
Have you ever spent hours working or playing in the sun? Have you ever spent those hours without water? I certainly have — multiple times! Although I was disastrously forgetful, not remembering my water helps me understand the feeling that this proverb conveys. This “good news” is like a…
Proverbs 25: 26
Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
When evil is unchallenged, it spreads and prospers. It does not go away or does not remain conveniently penned up. By its very nature, evil pushes boundaries and tests our resolve. If we do not stand up to it, evil will eventually win the day.…
It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory.
Now that spring is here, I greatly look forward to a double-dip ice cream cone. What if, however, I were to have this every day for all summer? Without question, the ice cream cone would become quite distasteful to me.
Proverbs 25:27 warns us of two things: (1)…
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
How many men or women can you count who are able to “rule” their responses to others? I know very few. If we are honest with ourselves, we cannot either.
This proverb compares one who does “not rule over his own spirit” to a city with broken walls. Consider several…
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
One does not have to read much history to know that the life of a nation is often very complicated by the rule of a poor leader. Think of a Nero in Rome, a Henry in France, or a Stalin in the Soviet Union. Though God allowed these to rule and ultimately he…
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.
Have you ever been in the presence of someone with power who seeks to angrily intimidate you for something of which you were fully innocent? It is a frightening experience and leaves one helpless before the other. Nothing one can say or do will ever…
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.
How do we begin to comprehend the depths to which sin can lead us? Sometimes the best way is through an analogy.
In the proverb, a wicked man (fool) is compared to the horse and donkey. In Solomon’s times, these animals were not as domesticated as…
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Our post-modern society finds no contradiction between contradictory statements because everything is seen as relative. So these proverbs may seem to be expositing post-modernism in a pre-modern age! However, these two apparently contradictory proverbs juxtaposed next to each…
Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
When I was in high school, if a teacher handed me a note or form to turn in to the main office, the note or form certainly reached its destination, but it didn’t always travel the most efficient route! I would stop and get a drink at…
Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool.
In the continuing rant regarding fools, the writer now promotes a smart proverb about honoring fools: he is against the idea. As one commentator pithily wrote, “the stone is there to be slung out. So is the fool.” (Kidner, Tyndale OT, p. 155)
So how are…
Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
One would not normally think of a thorn bush as a weapon of choice. Here, the drunk is not merely grabbing a thorn bush and injuring himself. Rather, this insensible man somehow gets hold of a prickly thorn bush and starts flinging…
Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
If you have ever seen a dog slurp up its own vomit, you will not need to be reminded what a disgusting sight it is! We will not dwell on this part of the verse.
Rather, we will move on to ask the question: how is…
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Who in the world could be in a more precarious spiritual condition than the fool? Remember, the fool is the one who says in his heart that there is no God. Apparently, there is one who even outshines (so to…
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
There is a lion in the streets!”
The writer of Proverbs has some pretty uncomplimentary things to say about the fool and the myopian (the person who is wise in his own eyes). He also sets his sights against the sluggard—the lazy person. Here, the sluggard is described as one who won't…
As a door turns on its hinges,
so does a sluggard on his bed.
The thing about doors is that they don’t actually go anywhere. People will go in and out of doors. People will get somewhere, but the door itself just swings back and forth—open and shut and open again. Doors don’t get out much. They don’t accomplish much. People and life, so…
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
Could these proverbs—these didactic words of wisdom—be about me, the sinner? I easily assume that this sluggard is someone else, not me. I picture Jabba the Hut from Star Wars. Now that’s a sluggard. He can hardly lift his hand to even feed…
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
is the man who deceives his neighbor and then says “I was only joking”
What a strange and disturbing picture this is. A fire brand is a piece of burning wood. Throwing that or an arrow at a neighbor would surely declare an intent to harm. How then could someone throw these at…
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
Have you ever gotten caught inadvertently gossiping? It is not a pleasant scene. It is very embarrassing and even more shameful that one can do little to make amends for the wrongs. It only begins a more dangerous route of division and strife between people. Contention…
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
Have you ever watched the TV show, “My Wife and Kids?” One thing that strikes me about that show is the constant arguing between the husband and wife. Think of how each response adds to hostility between the couple. No doubt, every spousal abuse had…
The words of a talebearer are as wounds,
and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Having worked with high school students for over 40 years, I have often heard students discussing what they have overheard others saying about them. It may be a friend talking to another friend or a teacher talking to another teacher about a student. The words…
Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
Glaze can cover and hide what is underneath while giving the appearance of revealing its inner substance. We can see the clay, but the glaze covers over any imperfections and causes the clay to have an alluring shine that it really doesn’t possess itself. In the same way…
Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
We have a person described here who is hateful, yet covers up the…
Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
And a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
We have all heard the saying, “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword”. This proverb is a variation on that theme. He who starts trouble will eventually get caught up in its web. There are too many variables at…
A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.
Occasions arise where we have the opportunity to choose how we use our words: to help or to harm, to bless or to curse. Yet many mean-spirited people use words to hurt others at any given moment, deliberately hurling verbal slings and arrows at their victims. It becomes a lifestyle. Their…
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
It is common sense to know we are not guaranteed tomorrow. The epistle of James 4:13-16 reads, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do…
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.
"It's about you!" is a phrase often heard. For Christians, especially, our goal is to give God all the glory. Our Lord tells us, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven"…
A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
Fools have no common sense or self-control. They do not govern their actions. Thus, when the foolish person is provoked, he/she doesn’t care about the "weightiness" of thoughtless words or deeds. The natural consequences of foolish actions affect everyone nearby—like the heavy burden of a great stone…
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
We all know how it feels to be angry and to have those emotions rage within. Some of us know the state of wrath when, vengeful, we want to get even with someone who has hurt us. Both anger and wrath can be strong and consuming, and the verse says…
Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
This proverb is not about employing diplo-speak when a Reuben-esque woman tries on a tiny two piece swim suit and asks for your honest opinion. Nor is it about the hilarity which breaks out when a guy discovers his totally wrong decision in front of the clued-in friends who watched him crash and burn…
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Yesterday pitted a secret unspoken love versus an open reprimand. Today turns the tables to place the reader on the receiving end… and the relationship it defines. How would you define friendship? There is a saying about friendship I found online which is rather pithy:
One who is full loathes honey,
but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.
I am sure many of us can recall a time when we were “stuffed”. Maybe it was a Thanksgiving dinner or other holiday eating occasion; perhaps it was a second (or third?) dessert that you lived to regret. Kids can stuff themselves with candy and spoil…
Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home.
The bird’s nest is for protection from predators and shelter from the elements. It is for raising the young in security. The home is also a place of security, trust, and support. Anyone that strays from home will, like a bird, be alone, likely end up…
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Friendship is often portrayed on sitcoms as a group of people continually taking verbal jabs at one another or laughing at someone’s expense. That is not friendship.
God brings you gifts in the form of true friends to enjoy life with and…
Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend,
and do not go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is near
than a brother who is far away.
One of the great joys of the summer months is seeing family members as well as special friends. In many of…
Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
that I may answer him who reproaches me.
It is always a blessing to see my 27 year old son make right decisions. Only recently, he agreed to do some work for a friend. When he got into the job, he realized it was much more involved and would take more time and…
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must confess that at some times in our lives, we have been able to see evil coming. Can you think of a time when this was true in your experience? This is not always the case; sometimes, we…
Take a man's garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.
Some years ago a former student of mine did work for me over a series of years. This young man, I believed, was so trustworthy that at one time I said to my wife that I…
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
will be counted as cursing.
A bit of encouragement and recognition goes a long way. This is true of ourselves as well as others whom we love and work with. Too much undue encouragement, however, is not helpful; sometimes it can be very damaging.…
A continual dripping on a rainy day
and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
to restrain her is to restrain the wind
or to grasp oil in one's right hand.
Once again, I find myself a cultural dinosaur. For those few of you who remember Henny Youngman, the title of this essay makes sense. For the rest of you, there…
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
One good book written by Christians about how to watch movies as a Christian makes the claim that the reason why superhero movies are so popular is because American culture today has given up on real solutions to real problems. They claim that this gives rise to the tendency to look to the fantasy…
Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and he who guards his master will be honored.
This seems strange. Shouldn’t we be watching out for the little guy? Can’t the big guy (the master, so to speak) take care of himself? Why does Proverbs admonish the wise person to watch out for (to guard) his master? And how is it…
As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.
Some, like Forrest Gump, would reduce a person to his or her actions. Others might reduce a person to his or her motives, “Well she meant well,” someone might say. Still others might reduce a person to words, “But you said…………..” What all of these have in common…
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and never satisfied are the eyes of man.
In the 1948 Humphrey Bogart classic, Key Largo, the Bogart character says to the gangster, Rocco, played by Edward G. Robinson, “What does Rocco want?” Rocco is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and he has difficulty answering the question. Bogart helps him out by saying…
Know well the conditions of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds,
for riches do not last forever;
and does a crown endure to all generations?
Its all too true that what we accrue in our lives, we can't take with us in death (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Christ had a very clear warning in Luke 12:15—"Take care and be…
The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion.
The wicked lose strength and courage when the odds are stacked against them. They thrive when they can lie, cheat, ambush, and rely on greater numbers to fight and win their battles. Their confidence lies in what they see and experience. When they are alone or cannot…
When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.
When a nation or people transgress they usually require a heavier hand, whether that takes the form of more police or more government workers overseeing many regulations. They require many leaders or officials showing them what to do and enforcing the…
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law strive against them.
I remember before my conversion to Christ that I took pleasure in the works of darkness and my rebellion against God. I even praised those working in it. How I wanted more! That was then. Now, we who respect the law of God do not want evil people…
Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.
Included in Webster’s Dictionary definition of justice is, "Fairness, justness, fair play, fair-mindedness, equity, evenhandedness, impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, honesty, and righteousness." None of these values are on the "map" of an evil-doer. Evil people have no desire to be fair. They do not even see why someone should want to be…
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
Aristides, a wise and just Athenian of long ago, was a great enemy to greedy men in government. As treasurer of Athens, he hated covetousness. He lived and died poor by choice. Once, reproached by an evil banker, he answered, "Thy riches do…
The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
There are natural consequences to our actions. A son who has understanding will, in most cases, seek to honor God with his attitude and actions. The one who lacks understanding and eats or drinks to excess will embarrass himself and shame his parents.
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination.
“I prayed, but it didn’t work.” How many times have you heard someone say this—or maybe even have said or thought it yourself?
“Great reason there is that God will refuse to hear him who refuses to hear God.” (Bishop Reynolds).
Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit,
but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
In Deuteronomy 6 and 7—and throughout the Old Testament—Israel is warned not to turn aside and go after other gods. Israel suffered from amnesia and distractions. We like Israel suffer from amnesia and distractions. Jason Bourne suffered from amnesia and struggled…
A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
"There are no greater fools than those who see their folly as wisdom."—New Geneva Study Bible
In Luke 12, the rich farmer who had abundant crops built bigger barns to contain his prosperity. What’s wrong with that? It seems rather…
When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
Who would you rather have ruling over you? A good man or a wicked man? Obviously, we all would desire to see the righteous one over us. We can trust that ruler and we feel protected and cared for.
In Proverbs 28:12, the…
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Have you ever had to deal with unconfessed sin your life? You knew what you did was not right, but refused to make it right with God or with others. It is miserable. It feels like it is there all the time and just…
Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always,
but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
What do you really fear? The Bible speaks of a proper fear, namely a reverence and great respect for who God is and what he has done. We tend to think that to be truly happy, fear should be absent. The opposite is…
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
If you remember some history, you may be able to identify several qualities of a wicked ruler. You need not go too far back in history to discover such a man—they certainly are not hard to find. The Scriptures speak about a “wise” ruler and…
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
I remember reading the testimony of Chuck Colson, the political aide of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandals in the 1970’s. Colson described his intense desire to be accepted by Nixon as a “lust for power.” Colson described how the more power…
If one is burdened with the blood of another,
he will be a fugitive until death;
let no one help him.
How serious is the crime of murder? The Scriptures speak quite clearly that to take one man’s blood requires that that man give his life for the innocent (Exodus 9:6). There is, too, consequences for the guilty…
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
This proverb is about focus and dedication. We do not like doing routine things because they tend to be repetitive, boring, and endless. But it is in the doing of those routine things that we find reward and fulfillment. Maybe you are tired of changing diapers, doing…
A faithful man will abound with blessings,
but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
The key difference in the character of the faithful man and the "get rich quick" person lies in integrity. The faithful man’s priority is to carry out his responsibilities and see them through to the end. He keeps his word and promises, he can be trusted to act…
To show partiality is not good,
but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
This proverb shows the depravity of mankind. The sin of partiality is a very common sin in our experience. We can all be guilty of it from time to time. And we can fall into this sin without much temptation (a piece of bread). It doesn’t…
Proverbs 28: 22
A stingy man hastens after wealth
and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
A stingy man has a death grip on what he owns and has no desire to share his wealth to help others. We usually think of a man like Ebenezer Scrooge when we hear the word stingy. Ungenerous people are unhappy people. They are so concerned…
Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
than he who flatters with his tongue.
"He won’t like that I’ve corrected him." That thought has prevented me and others from confronting a friend with their offense. We are such people pleasers that we fear doing right. Yet, it is our Christian duty build up (edify) those who need to be strengthened in their walk…
Whoever robs his father or his mother
and says, “That is no transgression,”
is a companion to a man who destroys.
A son or daughter might think getting all they can from their parents is no transgression, for it will soon become their inheritance. For how could they live "the high life"—now—without it? Such excuses are vicious. I’m reminded of Henri Nouwen’s…
A greedy man stirs up strife,
but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
Webster’s dictionary defines greed as, "an intense and selfish desire for something." This could be wealth, power, food, or even health. It could also include coveting what belongs to another. All in all, it is selfish and intense. Similar to anger, greed rages and stirs up strife.…
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
What is the character of a fool? The fool trusts his own heart, listens to his own counsel, and relies on his own strength and sufficiency. He trusts the good opinion he has of himself as if he had earned righteousness, yet he has deceived…
Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
Matthew Henry’s commentary states, "He that gives to the poor shall himself be never the poorer. If he have but little, let him give out of his little. If he have much, let him give much out of it, he and his shall not want…
When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,
but when they perish, the righteous increase.
The writer of the book of Proverbs will sometimes just watch. He will observe. He will notice. Such is the case with this proverb. When wicked rulers come to power, people will hide. They will run away. They will look to become invisible. They will seek to stay far…
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
Who in your life is a pain in the neck? Don’t answer that! The issue before us in this proverb is not family members, friends, or neighbors whom we might regard as a pain. The issue before us in this proverb is the pain that we sometimes inflict…
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
but when the wicked rule, the people groan.
A couple of days ago we looked at Proverbs 28:28, "When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase." Proverbs 29:2 provides a kind of flip-side observation: "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan."
He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
When I was twelve years old, I played Little League baseball. I was not a particularly good hitter, but there was this one at bat that I will always remember. It was the time that I hit my only home run right over the center field fence. My…
By justice a king builds up the land,
but he who exacts gifts tears it down.
A ruler who rules justly builds up his land. He encourages and blesses his people. This was true in the days of the Israel’s divinely ordained theocracy, and it is true today of governments of every variety. The promotion of justice fostered by those in authority is…
A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet.
Be careful of flattery! Someone may be flattering you or you may be flattering someone else. To flatter someone is to commend others either for the good they do in life or for the goods they have. In reality, however, the praise you give others may not be as good as you…
An evil man is ensnared in his transgression,
but a righteous man sings and rejoices.
My mother often reminded me growing up that one of the dangers of sin is that if committed once, it often is very easy, unless confessed and repented of, to commit the same sin again and again and again. After awhile, the sin becomes a habit, and our…
A righteous man knows the rights of the poor;
a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
What are the reasons for poverty in the world? Sometimes I ask my students that question, and frequently the answer is that they are poor because they are not even seeking work. It is an easy assumption, and though this may be the case, it certainly…
Scoffers set a city aflame,
but the wise turn away wrath.
Who would you rather have in your immediate community? A scoffer? Or a wise man? Obviously, we would rather have one who seeks to build up the public arenas rather than one who tears down the community. Poverbs 29:8 contrasts these two and their contribution (or lack thereof) to the fabric of…
If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
Is it worth our time and energy to dispute with a foolish man? We can all, no doubt, remember having to discuss and seek some resolution with one who had no intention to come to an agreement. Proverbs 29:9 directs the wise…
Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless,
and seek the life of the upright.
Anyone who has ever been to summer camp knows that there is one camper in every cabin who is the goody-two-shoes. They, usually unintentionally, spoil every prank or unsafe (but thrilling) activity by telling the counselor everything and, thus, become the object of loathing by the more mischievous campers…
A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
The proverbs are full of vivid contrasts, especially between the foolish and the wise. The picture painted in this proverb contrasts the fool—who never has a thought or emotion that he doesn’t express in words or actions—with the wise man—who is measured and prudent in giving voice…
If a ruler listens to falsehood,
all his officials will be wicked.
One of the common sense rules of economics is that supply often follows demand. When, for example, the iPhone created a huge demand for smartphones, dozens of others manufacturers attempted to fill the market with a supply of smartphones of varying quality. That same principle is the point of today's proverb…
The poor man and the oppressor meet together;
the LORD gives light to the eyes of both.
The book of Proverbs is very concerned with righteous and compassionate treatment of the poor and the downtrodden. This verse echoes several other proverbs that get at a similar message. The English Standard Version (ESV) gives a very literal translation of this verse that is, perhaps in this…
If a king faithfully judges the poor,
his throne will be established forever.
As Americans, most of us probably feel far removed from monarchy. Our presidents and other elected officials serve for limited terms that never go on forever. This was not true in Old Testament Israel and the nations that surrounded it: the ideal was for a king to rule for many…
This week in Proverbs is about discipline. Discipline is necessary because our hearts are wicked and inclined in the wrong direction. Through discipline comes wisdom and from wisdom comes righteousness and peace. In all this we must remember that Christ is our wisdom and righteousness and the Bringer of Peace.
When the wicked increase, transgression increases,
but the righteous will look upon their downfall.
This week in Proverbs is about discipline. Discipline is necessary because our hearts are wicked and inclined in the wrong direction. Through discipline comes wisdom and from wisdom comes righteousness and peace. In all this we must remember that Christ is our wisdom and righteousness and the Bringer of Peace.
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;
he will give delight to your…
This week in Proverbs is about discipline. Discipline is necessary because our hearts are wicked and inclined in the wrong direction. Through discipline comes wisdom and from wisdom comes righteousness and peace. In all this we must remember that Christ is our wisdom and righteousness and the Bringer of Peace.
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he…
By mere words a servant is not disciplined,
for though he understands,…
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
The one who is hasty with his words is prideful, conceited, and possibly, contentious. Scripture tells us, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint . . .”…
Whoever pampers his servant from childhood
will in the end find him his heir.
Webster’s Dictionary defines pamper: "to cater excessively to someone or to his or her desires or feelings." To pamper is to gratify appetites, tastes, or desires—to indulge, spoil, coddle, mollycoddle (archaic), and baby. Indulgence suggests excessive lenience. Spoil, coddle and mollycoddle point to overprotective care that often leads to weakening…
A man of wrath stirs up strife,
and one given to anger causes much transgression.
Wrathful people are difficult people. They “stir up strife.” They cause trouble for us and others. They bully, act aggressively critical, and puff themselves up. Their behavior is the result of choices, and they choose to live with unhealthy choices. Difficult people go past the limits of decent behavior…
One’s pride will bring him low,
but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
The prideful person will, indeed, “bring himself low” because of his behavior. This person is quick-tempered, boastful, arrogant, and rude. He insists on his own way, is resentful, rejoices in wrong-doing, and puffs himself up. Pride’s behavior is the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
The partner of a thief hates his own life;
he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.
If you’ve seen the TV show Law and Order, you have observed people aiding and abetting criminals by refusing to testify or actually perjuring themselves from the witness stand. Those people stand condemned if caught in their wrong-doing (TV never calls this a sin). The context of this proverb has to…
The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
We all, if we are really honest, must confess to “fearing man” at one time or another in our life, whether it is a coach or an employer or a teacher. We were tempted to think that if we said something or did something that these people did not…
Many seek the face of a ruler,
but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.
How do people hope to succeed and advance up the corporate or educational ladder today? Most feel, there is no better way than knowing someone who can help you. As we say, “It is not what you know, but who you know,” that determines our…
An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,
but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.
When I used to change the engine oil in my car, I would sometimes leave the old oil outside. After it rained, I noticed that a pool of water would collect on top of the oil but would never mix with it…
Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
In yesterday’s devotional we saw that when Agur received wisdom, he realized his own unworthiness before God. Proverbs 30:4 reminds us that to know God is to know…
Proverbs 30: 7-9
Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty or riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say,
“Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal and…
Do not slander a servant to his master,
lest he curse you and you be held guilty.
Slander is very damaging, and its effects can linger for many years. It can take the form of an outright lie; it can be an exaggeration of a supposed offense; it can be an accurate description of an event without considering the consequences; it can have…
Proverbs 30: 11-14
There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers.
There are those who are clean in their own eyes
but are not washed of their filth.
There are those-how lofty are their eyes,
how high the eyelids lift!
There are those whose teeth are swords,
whose fangs are knives,
to devour the poor…
Proverbs 30: 15-16
The leech has two daughters;
“Give and Give”, they cry.
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”.
We are given here vivid pictures from nature and life that illustrate a perpetual hungering for more; not so much from…
There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
This is the way of an adulteress:
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.
Do you know how to prevent earthquakes from occurring? Foundations from crumbling? The writer speaks…
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.
The lion is a mighty one, and does not turn back down from the face of other beasts…
If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been devising evil,
put your hand on your mouth.
For pressing milk produces curds,
pressing the nose produces blood,
and pressing anger produces strife.
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase reads, "If you're dumb enough to call attention to yourself by offending people and making rude gestures, don't be surprised…
The words of King Lemuel.
An oracle that his mother taught him:
What are you doing, my son?
What are you doing, son of my womb?
What are you doing, son of my vows?
The book of Proverbs started with wise words from a Father to his son and now concludes with the godly wisdom of a mother to…
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
This first section of the last chapter of Proverbs concludes with the effects of godly wisdom. In this case words of a mother to her son. Some more parental advice!
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
Here’s the section of scripture that puts most married women on a guilt trip. Who can live…
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food or her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a…
Proverbs 31:17 and 25
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
Once again, how do Christian women not read this and feel woefully out of shape in every way? This Proverbs woman looks intimidating in body and spirit!
Ladies, if you look at this description through Hollywood lenses…
Proverbs 31:23 and 26
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Have you ever been complimented by someone for an impact you had on their lives and been surprised? It could have been a small gesture of kindness or the…
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
This Proverbs 31 excellent wife is not some writer’s concocted ideal of the “Barbie Doll” woman that is totally unrealistic. She is a real woman with real challenges. She is also a woman of real character.
In this brief description we see a godly…
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.
To read this verse for many wives and mothers is a painful thing. It can bring up emotions of guilt and frustration. The challenge of motherhood is a precious yet heavy burden. So many times messages from the children are not blessings but disappointment and even rebellion.…
A poor man who oppresses the poor
is a beating rain that leaves no food.
There are times when a poor man becomes a leader. People raise such a person, poor like themselves, to power. But he does not use his power fairly. He is cruel. He does not remember that he is like the other poor people. He thinks that he is…