Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.
Another couple of verses about envying the wicked or unrighteous. It’s easy to feel that those who do not follow God are blessed. I look at the their lives and consider my own when I was in “the madness”, I think about the anxiety, the stress, the lack of purpose and emptiness of living life that way and I don’t envy them. It might look pretty on the outside.and I may get lured into entertaining lustful thoughts from time to time but all that glitters is not gold.
When I was out in the madness the anxiety in my stomach was unbearable at times. Every day was a fight. Today I feel peace, content and calm. I love it. There is no comparison.
3 By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
The writer describes a fine house. It sounds quite palatial, because the house has rare and beautiful objects. Wisdom, knowledge and careful management will build a house like this.
A life can be built in the same way. Our bodies are even more noble houses. They are described as a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When I think about the detail and careful management involved in building the temple then it says something about how we should also build our lives as a temple for the presence of God.
5 The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers.
Winning a war is not about the size of an army, it’s not solely about the power of it’s arsenal, it’s not only about how well the soldiers are trained or the wisdom of the commander. To win a war a commander needs advisors but not just one advisor, he needs many advisors and specialists in different fields. He will need strategists, people who know the enemy and their strengths and weaknesses.
He will need to know the geography of the land he is invading, he will need to know something about the opposing general and his way of thinking and influences. He will need to be familiar with the weaponry of the opposition. A war or a military battle is a complex and high stakes situation. It’s not a straight forward decision of going to war. People will die, the mood of the nation will be affected, the future and security of the nation will be affected.
Complex problems need many advisors. You need specialists and people that understand the issues that you are facing. You need to listen to the different perspectives so that you can make an informed decision.
I am grateful for our marital counselling that has shed so much light on our dynamic and patterns of responding to each other. I am grateful for the spiritual advisors in my life who know me intimately and are not afraid to ask difficult questions. They listen to me without judgment and speak provocatively without fear or attachment to my response.
7 Wisdom is too high for fools;
in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.
In ancient Israel, the men from a city would meet at the city gate. They would discuss the city’s problems together. Sometimes they would act like judges in a court. Sometimes they would decide whether to fight a war.
All the men would gather. But the elders would speak first. The people believed that the oldest men would be the wisest men. Then the younger men would also speak.
But a ‘fool’ is someone who hates wisdom. He does not know how to conduct himself at the city gate. He has no wisdom, so he cannot advise. Nobody wants to hear his words. He will not be taken seriously.
8 Whoever plots evil
will be known as a schemer.
9 The schemes of folly are sin,
and people detest a mocker.
How not to win friends and influence people. Doing anything for selfish gain no matter how subtle or thinly veiled is going to set people against you, cause mistrust, hurt relationships and erode your own sense of peace.
We are here for each other and there is joy in meeting the needs of others. It is contagious too. It was my turn to do the washing up last night but our paying guest lodger did it for me last night so that I could spend time with my daughter. That one act of service spreads goodwill and encouragement. It was a great example.
I want to look for opportunities to serve and meet the needs of others. I want to make other people’s lives a joy rather than a burden.
Scheming and pursuing my own selfish agenda only caused anxiety and stress. It would eventually implode. Even serving others for your own selfish motives can do the same because you don’t get back what you were expecting or people don’t respond the way that you hope.
This is where 1 Corinthians 13 hits home that If you do all these amazing religious deeds without love .. they are empty and worthless. I think there are a lot of stressed religious people out there for this very reason. It’s not a judgment …It’s an observation.
10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
A much used verse and Twitter type soundbyte but it carries an important message that our strength is not defined by our victories and successes but much more defined by our defeats. The problem with success is that it fuels self sufficiency, causes us to be cocky and complacent. We think we have arrived and that we don’t need to learn anything because “look at me and what I achieved”. Success can erode our dependency on God.
Failure and times of trouble can do that too if we stay disappointed and bitter. We can become angry towards God and even blame him for what has happened. The problem with this of course is that we are defining the nature of God on our own terms and failing to look in the mirror.
The strength that this Proverb refers to is the strength in defeat to take a good look in the mirror, take responsibility for your part in why you are where you are and make decisions to change what you need to change and move forward. It’s very empowering and freeing.
The great failures of life. The troubles of life are also great opportunities to grow.
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
These verses talk about the violence of silence. The destruction of not speaking up and of failing to raise the alarm when you see where someone else’s misdeeds are heading. Not saying something when we know we should makes us a guilty party in the situation.
It makes me think about Ezekiel 33:1-9. God told Ezekiel to warn the people about their evil actions. If Ezekiel warned the people, then Ezekiel would save his own life. But God would still punish the people if they continued their evil behaviour. But if Ezekiel did not warn the people, God would hold Ezekiel accountable. He was to raise the alarm knowing that the outcome was not his responsibility but speaking up certainly was his charge.
The question comes about the message of the gospel. God has given us this hope that he also expects us to share with others. I know that I miss many opportunities. I am still wrestling in my heart with the old style frantic evangelism and intensely driven study programme but that should not prevent me from the overflow of good news that comes from me when I encounter others. I don’t want to be religious or in any way pious but to share this message with authenticity and heart. I want to work on that and think more about how to do that well.
13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Honey was a precious commodity. It was valuable as a food and also has medicinal qualities.
These verses say that wisdom is precious. It is like honey. Wisdom nourishes the soul like honey nourishes the body. It protects the soul in the same way that honey builds the immunity of the body and it brings health to the soul.
Doing life God’s way has endless benefits and protects us from much in life. It does not mean that life will be idyllic or perfect if we do things God’s way because there are so many variables in life but it does mean that we will be equipped to respond to life in a way that is healthy.
15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous,
do not plunder their dwelling place;
16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.
In verse 15, the writer uses humour. He writes a lesson for thieves. He advises the thieves not to steal from righteous men. If they try to steal from a righteous man, they will fail but even if the thieves succeed, the righteous man will not suffer.
A righteous man has the capacity to fall and rise from calamity and disaster many times. The dishonest man will be fighting against God. So in the end he cannot succeed. When calamity strikes he will not have the capacity to recover.
17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
When your enemy suffers. It is not a time for rejoicing. It is a time for reflection and to think about our own ways. God does not want anyone to suffer. No parent wants their child to suffer and we would do all we could to protect them from that but sometimes we understand that they have to suffer to learn. This is the same with God and us and even our enemies whom he also loves and also wants them to embrace faith and righteousness. We are no better then them and almost in every enemy we have there is sin and pride on both sides otherwise there is no real reason to call them enemies. It takes two parties to create an enemy.
19 Do not fret because of evildoers
or be envious of the wicked,
20 for the evildoer has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.
The idea of being envious of the wicked because they have what we don’t have or seem to get away with a more abundant life comes up often in the Proverbs. I think about that in context with the entrepreneurship conference I have just attended.
I have something that is worth far more than anything any of those guys have. I don’t know if those guys are wicked or not but usually wicked in the Bible refers to anyone who is not a God fearer or lacks a spiritual heart. The humanistic version of wicked tends to be murderers and sex offenders.
Anyway, the point is that we can think of the non God fearers as better off than us because they can do what they want and some are very successful because they are chasing after wealth and mansions and fame and whatever else they may be seeking.
However, the Proverb says don’t be concerned about them, don’t be envious of what they have because they don’t have what we have and one day their lamp will be snuffed out. They will be no more. I have heard this passage used to support the doctrine of annihilation of the wicked i.e. there will come a point in the eternal judgment where they actually will be snuffed out and be no more.
The popular doctrine is that this is false and that actually hell means eternal punishment. Whilst I don’t believe that the Biblical position supports the idea of eternal punishment and torment. This is inherited Catholic doctrine (2 Thessalonians chapter 1, seems to imply that hell has three purposes: punishment, deprivation of the presence of God, and destruction which means that it is finite.) but it’s not substantial enough ground to use a Proverb to support the position of annihilation alone.
Anyway, the point of this Proverbs is that we should not be envious about non believers or worry about the things that they worry about or pursue the things that they pursue.
21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son,
and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
and who knows what calamities they can bring?
God is our King. We are to honour the King and show our loyalty through obedience and submission to his ways of doing life. This Proverb also calls us to be good subjects to the governing authorities of the land and whilst we are called to be good citizens to remember our real loyalty is to God. So yes, we are to obey the King of the land or the government but only as far as their expectations do not violate the calling we have from God.
The NIV translation is a bit harsh as it talks about not joining with rebellion. The literal translation is something like don’t be involved with those who are given to change. I suppose to not stir up dissension against a ruler of the land.
God is sovereign over the nations and he will sweep all tyranny away at the appropriate hour. It’s wise to stay out of politics and governance and certainly out of any protest movements.
Consequences can often be severe.
Additional sayings of the wise
23 These also are sayings of the wise:
To show partiality in judging is not good:
24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
and rich blessing will come on them.
The series of 30 Wise Lessons are complete. The writer however, continues and give us some additional wise sayings. FREE bonus material !!
Making a judgment in a dispute or a criminal case is a difficult task because it is hard to be impartial. We are influenced by words and gestures and may favour one story over another because of our own experiences of life .
The writer says that to show partiality is not good. Whilst this is about legal disputes or criminal judgement it’s equally important as we judge the actions of others in our heads. It’s easy to interpret motives of others through our own experiences both positive and negative and it’s important to understand that not everyone sees the world through our lens. An identical action by two people does not necessarily mean that they have the same motives.
An honest answer
is like a kiss on the lips.
This is really a continuation of the previous verses that I tackled about the court room situation.
The NiV communicates a little of the idea in this verse. It focuses on the value of the truth is the same value as a kiss on the lips. The kiss in this context was a sign of trust and obedience and not simply a sign of affection or a passionate sexual kiss (Psalm 2:12. Song of Songs 8:1).
In effect an honest answer builds trust even if the honesty is controversial or perhaps provocative. It is better to deal with the truth than flattery, half truths or lies. So much of my life has been smoke and mirrors but most assuredly today peace reigns in my heart
Put your outdoor work in order
and get your fields ready;
after that, build your house.
The young man is advised to cultivate his land before bearing the burdens of building his family and home. It’s about priorities and taking care of his income and his work ahead of taking care of building a life. There is also the principle which is echoed in Luke 16 “Whoever can be trusted with little can be trusted with much”. The idea of being prudent with your priorities and God will allow it to grow.
I am trying to deal with my priorities today. Most of my adult life I have lived by whims and impulses. I had moments of spiritual clarity interspersed with indulgence and made serious attempts at repentance but right now I feel I am pursuing the right priorities – God, Family, Relationships, dealing with debts, building the house … in that order.
If I had listened to this when I was younger the house would be built and I could have afforded to retire with the amount of money that has come through my hands. Instead I have a mountain of debt and a house that just about serves it’s purpose. I am not complaining. I feel blessed but it’s an observation.
28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—
would you use your lips to mislead?
29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
When we feel violated or wronged in some way there is always the temptation to exaggerate the drama and emphasize things in a way that gives an impression of vicious motives. This is clearly wrong and even the thought of revenge is not our place. This is God’s work. It’s best to leave judgment and consequences to the one who does it with impartiality and a consistent fairness.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 written to address issues within the Christian community at Thessalonica emphasises that we should not pay back wrong with wrong.
30 I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
I love these verses. There is no clearer image of the result of laziness in life. There ought to be crops in this field. But the lazy man did not sow any seed.There ought to be food in this garden. But the lazy man did not look after the food plants.
Now the garden is wild with weeds everywhere. The lazy man was now without food and basic needs because he failed to take care of all that he was given.
So the writer learned a lesson from his observation. This man had all the resources to live an abundant life but wasted them from being lazy. He saw that the field was good and the potential for harvest was good but he did not have the discipline to take care of his land, plant at the right time and harvest. The outcome was no harvest, no food and poverty.
We all need downtime, we all need rest and sleep. It’s harmful to work without considering social and physical needs but to fail to pay attention to the work that needs to be done is poor stewardship and will have consequences.