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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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)…
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.…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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 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…
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…
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.…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
“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…
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…
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…
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: 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…
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…
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 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 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…
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 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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 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…
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…
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…
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…
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,…
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…
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.…