The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.
3 A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
4 Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked,
but those who heed it resist them.
5 Evildoers do not understand what is right,
but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.
Verse 1 reminds us that to live trusting God is to live without fear. It’s not that fear does not come up. We all experience fearful moments when we lose sight of God and the spiritual realities of life but our lives are underpinned by a deep trust that God will take care of this. Even in the midst of all my darkness and chaos and my own wilful sin I knew that the presence of God was there and although it didn’t prevent me from sinning my way to oblivion it did anchor me in the thought that this going to turn out okay in the end and that God would work with whatever the outcomes might be.
Verses 2 & 3 remind us that good leadership is hard to find and it’s extremely problematic in the governance of nations. There are many power struggles and sometimes too many people trying to be leader. A successful leader is one that wants to do what is right for the people and is trusted by those around him and the people at large. Corrupt leaders produce more corrupt “would be” leaders! It’s true also on a smaller scale of communities, organizations and families. Power corrupts.
Verses 4 & 5 remind us that the only real integrity of heart can be found in seeking God. We are basically selfish people with selfish motives but to seek the heart of God is to pursue something outside of ourselves and greater than ourselves. True righteousness can only be found in attempting to die to self and live for the purposes and the heart of God. Our God has a heart of reconciliation. His work is one of reconciling his people to him and to each other.
6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.
7 A discerning son heeds instruction,
but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.
8 Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.
9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,
even their prayers are detestable.
10 Whoever leads the upright along an evil path
will fall into their own trap,
but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.
11 The rich are wise in their own eyes;
one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.
12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation;
but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.
These verses are about greed and the abuse of power and authority. They inform us that if we have power and influence then we also have responsibility. It is a responsibility first and foremost to walk with God, to live under his instruction, to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, to deal with judgment issues and make decisions for the benefit of the people that you serve.
In other words …to love people. It’s a big responsibility to lead. Wealth and power corrupt the human heart so easily and with that corruption spiritual blindness also comes.
13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
To pretend to be someone you are not is perhaps the greatest sin of all. More than all the other sins compounded together. God will accept our authenticity, our honesty in lieu of our perfection.
The freedom and peace I feel now compared to 18 months ago when I looked good on the outside but inside was in complete turmoil is incredible. The scary thing is that it doesn’t take too many bad decisions to get on the path to oblivion. The worst decision is to try and fake being righteous when you are living differently. It does more damage to yourself and others than to be honest and accept where you are at.
The question of confession and vulnerability is a difficult one. It’s especially difficult if you live in the public arena. I have come to know that for whatever reason I am a private person and my vulnerability is precious gift that does not belong to everyone. Therefore I can assume that I do not belong in the public arena because if you put yourself out there then you have to be willing to share the good, the bad, the ugly and the really ugly of who you are. If you place yourself in public then they are your stakeholders. It is right to be vulnerable. These are just my ramblings. I am not making a law out of them but I do think there is something useful in that.
We are all called to be real and honest. Unfortunately confession is tainted by ritual in that it is an event. In Catholic tradition you go to a priest to confess. In our tradition it is an event created in a devotional time or a one on one discipling meeting… but how about we live in close proximity to a few people and just live with authenticity?
A staged confession is a religious event and does not hold real value. I have known people who have made up confessions because of peer pressure because they were not in tune with their sinful nature enough to see their sins. I myself would confess a lesser sin to have the air of authenticity and conceal the greater sin. The irony of both these situations is that all liars will be thrown into the fiery lake of sulphur (Revelation 21:8). A religious confession can make liars of the best of us.
That said, authenticity is an important part of fellowship and intimacy which leads me to believe in house church being key in this. Big meetings have little value in my opinion. Occasional big meetings yes, they have a place but how can you build intimacy and share your heart with a group of 100? Even a group of 30?
1 John 1
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
I am happy with my friendships. I can live with authenticity. I do not throw my pearls to pigs (vulnerability is a pearl for sure). I choose carefully who I share life with. I feel safe and I feel free and for the first time I am comfortable telling someone that “I don’t want to talk about it” without a feeling of guilt that I should.
These kinds of passages raise more questions than give answers in my mind. Religious groups tend to organise times of confession as an event. There is a place for that in the Old Testament but that’s more corporate repentance which is different. The answer is not as simplistic as organised confession. It is to live in a place where there is no judgment, no condemnation, where there is acceptance and its safe to share your heart. I want to create that place around me both for myself and others.
God does not need us to confess. He already knows everything. Confession is for our benefit so that we can enjoy the gift of a clear conscience. This tells me something about the way the hearers of our confession should respond to such sharing if that gift is to be fully propelled into our hearts. Confession requires a safe place and complete acceptance. God needs to be present.
15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.
16 A tyrannical ruler practices extortion,
but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.
17 Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder
will seek refuge in the grave;
let no one hold them back.
Verse 15 makes the comparison that a tyrannical or overbearing leader is like a bear or lion. It’s instinct is its own survival. It is no respecter of anything that stands in its way.
A ruler or leader without loyal followers is heading for a crash. It is a time bomb. Resentment will grow and ultimately the leader will lose the goodwill of the people and will be powerless. Tyrants exist for a while but their leadership will not endure.
Verse 17 deals with a murderer. Someone who kills or commits any serious crime will constantly be living in fear of being found out. The grave will be an attractive prospect. This is where I was 18 months ago (May – July 2015). Deep in a hole. Sleep was my only comfort and moments in my escapes where I could live a fantasy momentarily. Yet constantly lurking in my mind was a fear and a disturbance of my soul. My heart was heavy, my motivation for anything was low and even my running off to foreign lands eventually became tiresome. I was relieved but afraid when I finally came home to face the music. The consequences and fall out was severe (though much less severe than they could or arguably should have been) but facing those consequences with the right heart and attitude made light work of something that actually was quite terrifying.
18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.
19 Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
20 A faithful person will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
21 To show partiality is not good—
yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.
22 The stingy are eager to get rich
and are unaware that poverty awaits them.
These verses present us with a way of thinking about life and work. The overriding values expressed are integrity, working hard, generosity, faithfulness to walking with God.
The perverse will come up against calamity, they won’t just fall into a pit the nature of perverseness has us digging our own pits and then falling into them. I did dig a rather deep pit for myself.
Those who chase fantasies will end up in poverty. Fantasies do not produce income. Hard work produces income. Chasing fantasies often comes with a financial cost which you cannot afford because you are chasing fantasies instead of working or investing in whatever your reality is. This is something that I also lived to my detriment. The greatest cost was to my own peace of heart.
The pursuit of being rich is full of dead ends and manipulated information. It has its own frustrations. The modern world has presented us with a celebrity culture of wanting to be rich and famous. Many who want this don’t know what they want to do only to be rich and famous! It lacks purpose. The only content celebrities that I see are those who have purpose and don’t care much about their fame or their money! They care mostly about living their purpose.
Fairness and impartiality are important to maintain a peace of heart. We can easily be dishonest about a situation to stay within popular opinion, group acceptance or some even small benefit from slightly skewing the picture which suits our ego or gives us a gain of some kind.
Generosity with our time and money is encouraged. How we spend our time, how we spend our money and whatever we talk about tells us a lot about our heart.
The illustration of attempting to grab water is a good one. The tighter we clench our fists the less water we have in our hand. We have to open our hand to be able to drink the water. Maybe that’s true of all our resources
23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour
rather than one who has a flattering tongue.
24 Whoever robs their father or mother
and says, “It’s not wrong,”
is partner to one who destroys.
25 The greedy stir up conflict,
but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools,
but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
Verse 23 reminds us that flattery is unhelpful and usually has manipulation behind it. Someone flatters another person to gain something for themselves. Most commonly it is acceptance or to be liked or to avoid conflict. It can be something more specifically engineered to a particular outcome but I imagine it is to provide some feel good factor. The problem with that is that it’s false and erodes the soul of both people. The truth is what sets us free and that truth can be delivered with love, kindness and acceptance. We are all faced every day with the dilemma of a convenient lie or an inconvenient truth.
Verse 24 reminds me of the parable of the lost son. I wonder if Jesus had this proverb in mind when he told this story?
Verses 25 & 26 are about trusting God. It’s easy to put our trust in our circumstances, our position, our possessions. When we hold on to the wrong stuff it will inevitably cause conflict. Our tendency to love things and use people leads us into conflict. We are called to love people and things are just tools in that process. I have to remember that I am here to love. Sometimes love is inconvenient and sometimes it calls me to give up something that God has loaned to me as a steward.
Verse 27 continues this theme. God encourages us to imitate his generosity. See Psalm 37:25-26 and Luke 6:38.
Verse 28 is similar to Proverbs 28:12. When the power brokers rise to power the righteous tend to lay low and not get involved but when they fall, when there is a crash we see good hearted people rising up to take care of the chaos and destruction left behind. The human spirit wins in times of disaster, pain and suffering. We are made in God’s image.