A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
2 Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.
These two verses at the beginning of Chapter 22 put perspective on wealth, wisdom and relationships. We are using up air on this planet purely for the purpose of relationship and connection. First of all with our maker and secondly with our fellow man. There is no other purpose in life. We are wired for the sharing of life. There is an emptiness that goes with the pursuit of anything else. There has to be a sharing to make anything worthwhile. Of course our ego gets in the way and often we can get off track from truly sharing and more into comparing and using what we have or what we have achieved to make us feel good compared to someone else. That’s hollow and empty.There is sometimes a selfishness to our pursuits because it’s about propping up our esteem or ego or artificially creating the sense of belonging and acceptance because we don’t believe that we will be truly accepted and in some cases know we won’t be accepted because of other people’s stuff !
The point is really that I have lived with all of that. Today I feel blessed. I have no reputation to protect or to prop up my ego. I only have God. I have enough to live on without causing stress and not too much that I can get too indulgent. I feel very blessed.
3 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
4 Humility is the fear of the Lord;
its wages are riches and honor and life.
5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,
but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.
6 Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
These verses are all about God’s wisdom. Verse 6 is about teaching and training our children. Sometimes in our church culture and interpretation of this verse we have preached it as though its an absolute guarantee that somewhere our children will have faith.
As with all the proverbs it’s a simplistic, idealistic general truth and does not take into account the grey areas, the imperfection of the human condition and the variables of external influences. The proverbs are designed to teach young people the values of life and God’s wisdom. They are not absolute. They are poems and memory slogans, short narratives and should be interpreted as such.
The truth we can deduct from this is that we should train our children and that spiritual training is an important part of a parents responsibility along with love.
Verse 3 warns of what may happen when someone has not been trained in having wisdom. Verse 4 demonstrates the value of humility and verse 5 shows who we shouldn’t be hanging around with.
7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
Solomon collected 3000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32). This section contains over 400 proverbs (Proverbs 10-22). Here, Solomon is almost at the end of his list. As he finishes his work, he repeats the main principles.
Wealthy people are powerful, because of their money. The ancient world and the modern world has always had the wealthy as the power brokers and influencers. This is a fact of life. The Proverbs and indeed all of scripture that with great wealth comes great responsibility. Power is to be exercised selflessly and with wisdom. Wealth is to be managed with generosity.
It is not good to owe a debt (Proverbs 6:1). We enter into slavery whenever we borrow money. That slavery is to our lender. We will always pay. The motto to never borrow money to pay for a depreciating asset is a good way to think about it.
For the next 5 – 8 years I will be in financial slavery because of stupid decisions I made. The slavery is good for me. It is not pleasant but it is a blessing as it trains me, teaches me and shapes me. No discipline seems pleasant at the time.
8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity,
and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.
We are called to be just and thoughtful about our ways. We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). The law of cause and effect is fused into the DNA of the universe. If we sow carrot seeds we will reap carrots, if we sow orange seeds we will reap oranges. If we sow seeds of injustice we will most likely reap injustice. Other people may suffer at our hands but we also will suffer. The common expression “What goes around comes around” fits.
9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
God wants us to be generous. He wants us to share the wealth that he has given to us (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). He cares about the poor. We are called to look out for the poor, the vulnerable and the needy and extend God’s heart to them.
10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
quarrels and insults are ended.
We are to keep a tight reign on our tongue. Words are to be carefully chosen. Our tongues can do a lot of damage. We are warned not to engage with the person of careless speech. The trouble they cause will end when they leave.
11 One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace
will have the king for a friend.
Solomon needed honest friends who would speak the truth to him. He was the King. His decisions would effect a lot of people. He needed friends around him who would be honest but speak with love and respect. Angry, dishonest or dangerous people are not suitable influencers either as leaders or as friends of leaders. It’s not important if an influencer is rich or poor or of any particular social status.
Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, had the wrong friends. They were rich, and they loved luxuries. They were not kind. They were cruel. They gave bad advice. This bad advice was listened to and resulted in a revolution. Rehoboam lost most of his country (1 Kings 12:10-16).
We all need good friends. We need friends to encourage and to advise us. We need friends who are not afraid to tell us the truth and are willing to hear the truth. I am grateful for the spiritual brothers that have listened to the good, the bad and the ugly of my life and have given me honest counsel. I know that I can bring anything up with them too.
12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.
People will fail, but God’s word will never fail. God preserves his truth. Nobody can successfully oppose God.
‘Knowledge’ here means knowledge about God, his ways and his expectations.
In Jeremiah 36:27-28, an evil king tried to destroy the words that God gave to the prophet Jeremiah. The king threw Jeremiah’s book into the fire. The book burned, but God protected the knowledge about his truth.
God instructed Jeremiah to write the book again. So the king’s plan to destroy the prophet’s words failed.
13 The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside!
I’ll be killed in the public square!”
When Solomon writes about the lazy man, he usually uses humour. This lazy man has an excuse for everything. Here we find that he cannot even leave his house.
His excuse is outrageous. The lazy man tells us that there is a lion outside. We look, but we cannot see any lion. He tells us that a murderer is outside. We cannot see any murderer, either.The truth is that the man just wants an excuse to stay indoors. It’s the ancient version of “I can’t come out tonight because I am washing my hair” !
Laziness almost sounds like it could sit with the fruits of the spirit …Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, laziness ….but actually it is not in that list. We are encouraged to be fruitful and productive
14 The mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit;
a man who is under the Lord’s wrath falls into it.
A deep well is dangerous. If you fall in, it will not be easy to get out. Potentially your cries will not be heard and you will die.
The lure of lust is perhaps t be most enticing of all deep pits. It’s a graphic illustration of where I was in the summer of 2015. I was in the deepest well I had ever been in. What’s more I dug the well with my own hands. One bad decision after another led me there. In my spiral downward into the well, I rarely thought of where it would lead or the fall out that would ensue. I was focused totally on the things that lust promised to deliver, the stroking of my ego by attractive women who had their own agenda of manipulation and the immediate pay off without thinking that I would be paying this particular debt back with crippling interest. I am not talking about a financial debt here although there were serious financial consequences to my actions but this was a moral debt and a relational debt.
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.
Children will push boundaries, they will test authority, they will do anything that looks interesting without the foresight for consequences. The part of the human brain that assesses risk does not fully develop until our 20’s ..so yes, folly is bound up in the heart of a child and yes discipline is an appropriate way to teach and train.
Discipline should be measured and delivered with love. As soon as we disciine out of anger, frustration, embarrassment or despair we have overstepped the mark.
Sometimes a physical lesson is appropriate, sometimes (particularly as children get old enough to reason) a consequence may be a more appropriate discipline that involves taking responsibility and putting right whatever mess their offence has caused.
16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.
Solomon finishes this section of his book, with a puzzle.
Solomon describes two men. Each man has a plan. Each man thinks that his plan will make him wealthy. However, both plans will fail. Both men will become poor.
The first man wanted to be wealthy. So he took advantage of the poor. Maybe he was an overbearing employer over working and underpaying his employees. Maybe he was a landlord running unsafe houses in disrepair at an inflated rent. He could have been a thief or swindler taking from the poor. All these things occur in life. This was my story. It is ugly, shameful and the hand of God intervened.
The second man was perhaps someone who wanted to control and manipulate by bribes or collusion with the wealthy to beat the system through corrupt dishonest means. Perhaps he gave gifts to impress other people. He wanted people to think that he was wealthy or important. In the end, he wasted all his money. I did this to impress, control and manipulate women. The hand of God intervened…I lost my job, my family, a safe place to live, I lost my friends, I lived with a few pounds in my pocket, homeless, alone and in despair. It was an act of grace ultimately and the very thing that needed to happen for me to be rebuilt.
“I understood myself only after I had destroyed myself. Only in the process of being rebuilt did I find out who I truly was” – John Wetton (musician)
People make many plans to become wealthy or even secure. In the end, we die, we shall lose all our money. We don’t get to keep a penny. (Ecclesiastes 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:7). .
30 Wise Lessons
(Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34)
Thirty Sayings of the Wise
17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise;
apply your heart to what I teach,
18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart
and have all of them ready on your lips.
19 So that your trust may be in the Lord,
I teach you today, even you.
20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you,
sayings of counsel and knowledge,
21 teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth,
so that you bring back truthful reports
to those you serve?
The last major section of the Book of Proverbs begins here. It is headed as Thirty wise sayings. The section includes several different parts. There are:
· short proverbs;
· longer lessons;
· and a poem.
There are 30 wise lessons in Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22. The 30 wise lessons format may have been influenced by writings in ancient Egypt. There are some remarkable similarities. Check out these links for more info: Instruction of Amenemope / A reflection on Proverbs and Amenemope. It makes perfect sense that Egyptian culture pervaded into Jewish writing. It’s amazing how God’s synchronicity works through human history.
The first saying reinforces the value of wisdom, integrity, honesty and humility.
22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court,
23 for the Lord will take up their case
and will exact life for life.
God’s heart for the poor is very evident here. It’s a warning that if we take advantage of the poor then he will take up their case for them. Not only will he see that they are treated fairly he will come down hard on anyone who acts in such a heartless way.
I stole money from funds that were set aside to help the poor. A lot of money. In real up to date terms a lot more money than Judas received for “selling Jesus down the river.”
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways
and get yourself ensnared.
Hanging around with angry people will not be helpful. Especially those with unbridled anger. It will be destructive.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
– Jim Rohn
26 Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge
or puts up security for debts;
27 if you lack the means to pay,
your very bed will be snatched from under you.
The proverbs assert in many places that money is to be respected. Jesus talks about money a lot more than we might imagine. There is something about money that is connected to our hearts as we assert the illusion of our ownership of “what is ours”.
Verse 26 seems to describe a common problem at Solomon’s time. See Proverbs 6:1-5; Proverbs 11:15 and Proverbs 17:18. Jesus also mentioned that we should be careful to calculate the cost of our plans (Luke 14:28-30).
In the judgment passages of Matthew 25, one of the questions that is asked is “What did I do with what I gave you?” It’s a fair question. What did we do with the resources we were entrusted with?
Stewardship and integrity are key points in these verses.
28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
set up by your ancestors.
Agreements should be honoured and not treated with a cavalier attitude.
See 1 Kings 21. In ancient Israel, the land had a special meaning. God owned the land (Leviticus 25:23). Proverbs 22:28 repeats God’s command in Deuteronomy 19:14. So these ancient boundaries were not merely agreements between neighbours but were an agreement between the people and God. And anyone who moved a boundary was rejecting what was established by God.
29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.
Solomon built many incredible buildings including palaces and the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon respected a skilled workman. He knew that a skilled workman deserves honour. He selected the best workmen to work for him.
Hard work and applying ourselves to our work so that we become skilled in what we do not only brings our own sense of satisfaction it serves those around us and honours God. It shows respect for the one who made us and gave us unique talents and gifts.
Paul, when writing to Christians who were slaves wrote this:
‘In every kind of work, work hard! You are working for God. You are not really working for men. And you will receive God’s reward, because you are serving Christ.’ (Colossians 3:23-24).