1 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.
2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding
but delight in airing their own opinions.
3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt,
and with shame comes reproach.
4 The words of the mouth are deep waters,
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.
5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked
and so deprive the innocent of justice.
6 The lips of fools bring them strife,
and their mouths invite a beating.
7 The mouths of fools are their undoing,
and their lips are a snare to their very lives.
8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.
9 One who is slack in his work
is brother to one who destroys.
These verses give us a portrait of the world of the fool.
A fool is unfriendly. He cares only about himself, has no interest in others and does not consider the views or opinions of others.
It would be wise to be friendly to strangers, they could be angels (Hebrews 13:2).
A fool is deluded about wisdom. He loves his own ideas. He thinks that his thoughts are not merely more important than the truth but actually are the truth.
Wisdom is to be able to separate what is opinion and what is truth. It is to understand our own influences and paradigms and also the world and paradigms of truth. A wise man can separate the narrative from the truth. In his own thinking, in the thinking of others and even in the text of scripture. It takes a lot of humility to put our prejudices and culture down.
Contempt and shame fuel the world of the fool. His vocabulary is littered with blame and abdication of responsibility.
The fool will hide the real “him”. He will be hard to understand because his motives and heart are not visible. He may masquerade as someone different than he really is to control and manipulate the world he is in or merely find acceptance. He is indeed a deep water.
Wisdom on the other hand is easy to understand. It is easy to distinguish good from bad. It is easy to distinguish right from wrong.
Collecting water from a flowing stream is much easier than digging a well to collect the deep water.
A fool will choose sides. Wisdom is to put sentiment aside and not look at who is right but what is right. Impartiality is wisdom.
A fool has an unbridled tongue. His words are unnecessarily provocative and cause destruction. The fool loves gossip because it makes others seem bad and himself to seem better.
A fool is lazy.
10 The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.
11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
they imagine it a wall too high to scale.
12 Before a downfall the heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
13 To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.
14 The human spirit can endure in sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
Verses 10-11 are about safety and protection. The righteous man trusts in the Lord for his safety and protection. His decisions are guided by what is true and right and that is enough. God will do what he needs to do to bring him to the other side and ultimately he cannot lose because the battle is not merely about the here and now but has eternal implications. The rich man or the man focused on things that are not spiritual will trust in his castle or his heavily secured fortress. He thinks that everything that is important to protect his life will be kept safe behind these walls. The rich man in these verses is attempting to protect his life and perhaps more to the point his lifestyle or position. The spiritual man gives little thought or consideration to this. He understands that the value is fleeting and has no real long term benefit. His treasure is in eternity. (Luke 17:33 & Matthew 16:25 spring to mind)
Verse 12 reminds us of the value of humility. Humility is quite misunderstood in many religious circles and we often think of it as having a low view of ourselves as though we are nothing or nobody important. It appears that the correct view of humility is not to bring ourselves into the room and consider the interests of others. Humility does not mean doormat, it more means selfless. To have no agenda.
Verse 13 again reminds us of being slow to speak and quick listen. To understand before answering. The fool will answer before he understands because he already has a fixed worldview. Pretty much everything that Jesus said challenged the worldview of the people around him. Especially the religious.
Verse 14 reminds me to look after my spirit. This means exercising spiritual disciplines, prayer, immerse myself in scripture, do what is right, be outward focused. The human spirit can handle sickness but a crushed spirit leaves us empty of everything. It is important to look after my spirit.
15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
for the ears of the wise seek it out.
16 A gift opens the way
and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.
17 In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
18 Casting the lot settles disputes
and keeps strong opponents apart.
19 A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.
Solomon was also known as a judge. These verses are about judgements in court.
Verse 15 is a short poem. The wise man’s mind loves wisdom. So he studies to be even wiser. The wise man always listens with his ears. He listens so that he will hear more knowledge. Then his mind can learn it, and the man will become wiser. In particular, a judge needs to listen carefully. Then he will know the truth in a matter.
Verse 16 is a warning to judges about the danger of bribes.
Verse 17 informs us of the difficulty and dilemma of making a judgment. A judge needs to be discerning and wise and not be quick to make a judgement. The same is true of every day life. For example I judged the obese woman who berated me. I have no idea about her life, her experience or her day and what has effected her. I only know that it was inappropriate and unfair of me to park in her disabled bay even if it was for only two or three minutes. I also know that the way she addressed me was less than respectful. Beyond that I have no basis to judge the situation. My mind was on how aggressive she was and how fat she was.
Verse 18 seems a bit strange to us but in ancient times an unresolved dispute could be settled by casting of lots and everyone would be called to respect that. There would be a trust that God would make the decision if they used lots. Sometimes today we might even settle a sporting event that way after many tiebreakers but it’s hard to imagine an important legal case being settled that way (Proverbs 16:33).
Verse 19 focuses on family disputes which can be very difficult to resolve and very ugly. It is important that everyone feels heard and understood in a dispute and that nobody feels wronged at the end of the matter. All disputes can be resolved. Sometimes a mediator is necessary and humility is required on both sides as well as honesty in stating the real issue but there is no dispute that cannot be resolved.
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
22 He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favour from the Lord.
23 The poor plead for mercy,
but the rich answer harshly.
24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Verse 20 compares the physical nourishment that food provides us with to the emotional nourishment that our words provide. Some food is quick fix but no overall health benefit. It can be same with our words. My mantra today:
Does it need to be said?
Does it need to be said by me?
Does it need to be said now?
Verse 21 reminds us that our words produce fruit. They build trust or they destroy trust. They build faith or they destroy faith. They build love or they erode love.
Verse 22 reminds me that my wife is a gift from God. What we have is good we need to look after what we have.
Verse 23 reminds us to have compassion and mercy for the poor. In my madness I thought only about myself and stole funds that were to meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
Verse 24 friends, true friends are defined by sacrifice. That’s the kind of friend I aspire to be and that’s the kind of friendship I want to nurture.