Proverbs 14

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Proverbs 14:1
14 The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
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This is a one sentence story that uses humour. It tells us of two women working on their homes. The wise woman you imagine is thinking about her family as she builds her house. She is making a home, a safe place, a pleasant place to live. The foolish woman on the other hand is making selfish decisions and with her own actions is destroying her home. I have no idea why the proverb uses a woman as opposed to a man but I can identify with the proverb. 

I have lived it and experienced it. The tearing down with my own hands is a vivid reminder of my capability when immersed in my own selfishness. Today I choose to build.
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Proverbs 14:2-3

Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly,
but those who despise him are devious in their ways.
3 A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
but the lips of the wise protect them.
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These two verses show us that fear of the Lord and respect for his ways will keep us on the straight path. It gives us confidence, security and peace in our heart. A clear conscience is a blessing and something very powerful. Pride causes us to be too full of ourselves and speak too many words. In the end our own words will ensnare us. A wise man will not say so much. Human debates full of opinion and lack of listening are ugly, and religious debates are among the most ugly. Foolish arguments about doctrine will only set peoples hearts against God. Sometimes it doesn’t matter about trying to prove someone right or wrong or make a defined judgment on someone. Love is all that matters. It seems to sort out everything. Love NEVER fails.
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Proverbs 14:4-9

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.
5 An honest witness does not deceive,
but a false witness pours out lies.
6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none,
but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.
7 Stay away from a fool,
for you will not find knowledge on their lips.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.
9 Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
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Oxen were an essential agricultural asset to gain an abundant harvest. Their workrate was awesome as they did the work that modern tractors do today. However, they were difficult animals to look after, time consuming, expensive and very hard work. People can be like that too. 

High performers are usually difficult to manage. There’s probably a ministry lesson in there somewhere.
Following a similar line of thought the battle between honesty and lies. I saw this newspaper cartoon once. Two movies showing next door to each other one titled “An inconvenient truth” and the other titled “A convenient lie”. Of course there was no queue for the film about truth and queue around the block for the film about the lie. Like the oxen, the truth can be difficult but it produces much better results than an easy to swallow sugar coated lie.

Knowledge and evidence of truth are everywhere. We see it in nature, we see it in books, we see it in people. We have the capacity to embrace wisdom but the mocker only has his own ideas and philosophies to play with because in his arrogance he refuses to learn from others.

The idea of giving thought to our ways comes up often in scriptures. It is frequently understated in modern life but being reflective is an important part of walking with God. It is often minimized or packaged as a contained product in this post industrial revolution world. 

Being reflective is often prescribed in a certain way with rules that are far from reflective in todays leadership circles both corporate and spiritual. Being reflective for me means wrestling with my decisions and thought processes in the presence of God. Understanding myself, my motives, my attitudes, understanding how I impact on others and  myself to God.

I read an article about “Contempletive prayer” The article inspired me to allow God to be God. I am not the most active ingredient in this relationship. He is !! 

That’s not that I should be passive it only means that I should trust that God is at work in the depths of my darkness…perhaps even more than when I am walking in the light. I am persued by God. He left the 99 to come after me. Incredible.
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Proverbs 14:10-13

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.
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Verse 10 evokes an immediate response in me. Although we try to show empathy and understand another person, we can never really get inside their heart and quite grasp the way they interpret meaning in any event of life. 

We haven’t quite experienced life the way that they have, we haven’t been influenced by the upbringing that they have, we do not have their unique gifts and talents or weaknesses. It’s an impossible task. Judgment is futile, even dangerous except in the most basic understanding of sin. You can never fully know or understand another person. 

As Christians we are fortunate in that we have adopted the same set of values and worldview. We have chosen to accept God at his word and come from that perspective but it still leaves us incredibly limited and the more we apply simplistic rules and directives the further away we go from understanding someone’s heart.

Verse 11 continues the theme. The house of the wicked may look impressive but God sees and knows all that we don’t know!

Verse 12 reveals how we can be so impressed by externals or “it seems to be working”. God’s way is the only way that works but it doesn’t work in a mechanistic “results” way. It is entirely relational and not built on successful outcomes but more relational connection. After all that’s what we are primarily wired for.

Verse 13 shows that externals don’t tell us much at all. laughter and tears are both veils, words are veils and though someone may not deliberately be masking their feelings we all have coping mechanisms and ways to protect ourselves from hurt. I am trying to practice 5 questions before I give an answer, so that I might get deeper understanding. I fail daily in this. My opinion comes out quicker than Ussain Bolt in the 100 metres dash.
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Proverbs 14:14-21

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways,
and the good rewarded for theirs.
15 The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps.
16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil,
but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.
17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things,
and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 Evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good,
and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor are shunned even by their neighbors,
but the rich have many friends.
21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
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In these verses Solomon makes some comparisons. Both the faithless and the good will be repaid for their deeds. There is a payback and reward. There is the cause and effect or reap and sow principle of life but also there is God’s judgment.

The simple can be sucked in by anything but prudent people are reflective and think about their decisions, their values and beliefs carefully.

The fool is branded arrogant and hot headed. The wise man is someone who fears the Lord.

The quick tempered person ends up off the rails and the one who devises evil schemes leaves a trail of resentment and bitterness. 

Devising evil and secret schemes has littered my life and the lure is still present. 

Myself & my wife talked about opening a savings account attached to my bank account to keep some of our surplus separate as a fund to repay the Christians we owe money to. I said that for the most part that would be okay but I know the temptation would come to borrow from that pot to fund something I wanted to buy or something that I want to do and though I think for the most part I think I would make good decisions and not do this it would not take much to tip me over the edge.

I devise secret schemes constantly in my head. I am learning the benefit of being vocal about them. It’s scary but it’s a safety mechanism that keeps me from acting in a destructive way. 

The simple inherit folly, they are unable to show discretion about a good idea or bad idea, they are easily led astray. The prudent grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

The evil and wicked will bow down in the presence of the good and righteous. In the eternal realms the saints will even have authority over the angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). Many translations use the phrase “Judge the angels” but the Greek word Krino also means rule or govern and that seems the more likely interpretation since angels are often dispatched to serve the faithful.

The observation that people shun the poor because they have nothing to give but hang around the rich because they may gain something from being around them is a sad reflection on the human condition. We are all social climbers to some extent. It is a problem in the world and can be a problem in the church. The early church was not immune to it as we discovered in the letter to the church in Corinth. 

Reading this made me think about the homeless woman that I did not give the time of day about a week ago. The idea of engaging with people as long as I have something to gain is more deeply embedded in me than I realise. We gravitate towards like minded people, similar class of people or relationships where there is some mutual benefit.
We are here to love God and love people. Our neighbour is our fellow man. Discrimination between rich and poor or class distinction is sin. We are blessed if we can help those who are unable to help themselves. There is a deep joy in this. It brings up thoughts about the guys at the rehab that I used to run and mixed feelings of some good work that I did and the sadness that I robbed them. It’s an internal conflict that comes up often. I feel blessed and feel good about some of the contribution I made but feel it was completely devalued by my own selfish and destructive behaviour.
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Proverbs 14:22-24

22 Do not those who plot evil go astray?
But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.
23 All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.
24 The wealth of the wise is their crown,
but the folly of fools yields folly.

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These verses illustrate the “we reap what we sow” principle. Honest plans yield honest results, a harvest of peace, love and faithfulness.  Dishonest plans will bring a harvest of anxiety and stress. Just talking about stuff doesn’t produce anything. You have to.put in the action. Take steps, do something. The greatest goal is wisdom. We do what we do not for riches or material wealth but for wisdom. The wisdom of God. Our reward is growth, contribution, relationships, connection.
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Proverbs 14:25-35

25 A truthful witness saves lives,
but a false witness is deceitful.
26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
and for their children it will be a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
turning a person from the snares of death.
28 A large population is a king’s glory,
but without subjects a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
30 A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.
31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,
but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.
33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
and even among fools she lets herself be known.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin condemns any people.
35 A king delights in a wise servant,
but a shameful servant arouses his fury.
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Truth and the fear of God are a great protection from the challenges of life. This is what underpins life and even those near us will be blessed.

A king without subjects is not a king. Israel had to be seen to outsiders to be a thriving nation with a strong military and loyal to their king. Solomon ushered Israel through their golden age and they won the respect of their neighbouring countries.

Patience really is a great virtue and a heart at peace is the most incredible blessing. I am learning the secret of being content. I don’t feel any urgency to change anything or feel any anxiety around what I should or ought to be doing. Of course I want to.move forward but I think these last few months especially “God’s timetable” is not a nice slogan but a vivid reality and I feel I can relax and do my bit , allowing God to do his.

The poor will always be with us. They are here to test our capacity to love and show compassion, to care and reveal the heart of God.

The wise man finds refuge even in trouble. We can see purpose in trouble, we can find understanding in it. Even death carries no sting for us as our refuge is in God. The fool however only sees the trouble, the stress, the anxiety and turmoil and his dominant thought is that it shouldn’t be happening to him.
Another translation of the second line of verse 33 is, ‘Even fools can hear wisdom.’

Whilst the wise person thinks lives and breathes in terms of wisdom. His worldview is built on it. Even the fool can recognise it momentarily when wisdom prevails but the fools attitude does not embrace wisdom. He thinks he can outwit it. This was my attitude at my darkest point. It was like a dark game.
Solomon wanted his nation to be a great nation. He knew that this depended on his people being righteous before God, that it was not only about him as a leader but his servants and subjects.

Reading these verses reminds me that truth and trusting God are my anchor. I can find peace in these things because this is God’s way. Things will come my way to test my resolve by making it inconvenient or even difficult to make a right decision but they are the moments I have to dig deep and they are the moments my soul is infused with an extra measure of the peace that passes understanding. Of course it passes understanding because it’s supernatural.

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