- The Commandments
- Follow the Ways of Your Parents
- Violence is of the Wicked
- Money Matters
- A Godly Woman
- The Rewards of the Righteous
- Sacrifice, Punishment, and Justice
- Treatment of the Poor
- Lies and Deceit
- Who's in Your Circle?
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
A lot of topics are covered in these proverbs—eventually, I will separate out the topics covered across the whole book into individual posts. Below, I cover the highlights of the verses found from Proverbs 10-22. Major points include listening to our parents, following the commandments, non-violence and peace, criticism, and treatment of the poor. Solomon tells us that wisdom is more valuable than gold and silver! I can't cover everything, so I strongly encourage you to read Proverbs often.
30 There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord. 31 The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord.
One of the main points of Proverbs is to remind us to keep the commandments. Since these Proverbs were written by Solomon, who is suspected to have also penned Ecclesiastes, which proclaims the whole of our duty is to serve the Lord and follow the commandments, it stands to reason Proverbs would echo that sentiment.
The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Solomon informs us that the law is very important in our life. We know that we are actually saved by grace, but with grace, we gain a desire to follow God's Word. The commandments are not particularly convenient to keep, but they are prudent to our survival. Think about all the troubles that come with alcoholism, drug usage, sexual immorality, violence, etc. Surely, by listening to God this will save us from pain. When we accept Jesus as our King (the point of salvation), He gives us the Holy Spirit, Who inspires us to keep these commandments.
Follow the Ways of Your Parents
Many of the proverbs stress that children are to heed the wisdom of their parents. When we sin and reject wisdom, we are an embarrassment to our parents. Similarly, we are an embarrassment to God (our Father) when we disobey Him. Proverbs not only reminds us to follow our parents, but reminds our parents that they have to train us. Famous proverbs such as "spare the rod, spoil the child" and "train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart" substantiate Solomon's point that children have to be corrected to help them grow into wise adults.
Once again, this principle can be applied to each of us as a child of God; we should be thankful when God corrects our behavior.
Violence is of the Wicked
Proverbs has so many verses that say violence is the fruit of wickedness, I don't know why this isn't quoted in church more often. Anger and violence are things we resort to when we are unwise and do not know the love and peace of God. This is something most people could guess, even if they don't think about it often.
What we don't really talk about is the entertainment of violence. I've mentioned this in previous posts, but I'm going to mention it every time it comes up in scripture because you may not have read my previous posts. Basically, Solomon warns us that the wicked not only commit violent acts but that they enjoy violence. This encompasses everything from egging on schoolyard fights, to reality TV, movies, and video games. I was never a fan of violent video games, but boy did I have an affinity for violent movies. I used to joke with my friends that every movie I owned that wasn't a Disney movie (and even some of those fall into this category), either someone dies or something gets blown up in the first 5 minutes. My favorite franchises were The Fast and the Furious, Transformers, and The Dark Knight. In my mind, it was harmless because I would never advocate for such violence.
When I interned for the government, I had to drive through a check point and saw one of those massive guns for the first time in real life. I was not amused, entertained, or impressed. Ever since then, I've wondered, why am I ok with watching people use these things on TV? I would say it's because I know that the movies are fake, but does it matter? Do you think God is entertained by fake adultery or fake murder? I don't know about you, but I can't see God being amused by watching people pretend to commit acts He told us not to commit.
Proverbs 12:20 tells us that those who preach peace find joy. In grade school, people often crowd around fights, egging them on and talking smack. However, Proverbs tells us that it's an honor to end a fight. Naturally, the wise are able to think through their anger and approach confrontation with a level head. Of course there is a time for war (Ecclesiastes 3:8) and Proverbs confirms that sometimes we have good reason to war. However, the take away is that this isn't to be a first choice or a first instinct. We should be slow to anger.
God promises us rest, He created a whole day for rest, but that doesn't mean we have a pass to be lazy! Proverbs condemns laziness in several verses. Solomon tells us not to sleep during the harvest, that the lazy don't prosper because it impedes our path.
Having grown up on the farm, I can tell you without a doubt, you have to be ready for the harvest if you intend to reap anything. My parents planted a blueberry bush for me since I love blueberries (and they're crazy expensive in the store!). I used to casually pick berries off when the urge hit me. Unlike a real blueberry farm, where the purpose of the bush is to produce enough crop to sell, I just ate as I pleased. It never failed that the squirrels and the bugs often beat me to the punch. By the end of the bearing season, it was pretty hard to find berries that hadn't been tainted. If I wanted to sell those berries for profit, I needed to be ready the moment the harvest began and I should have cleaned the berries from the bush.
I don't think Solomon's words in Proverbs are restricted to a physical harvest in a garden. The Bible often refers to us as branches or vines that bear fruit. There is definitely spiritual wisdom to be found in the advice of not being asleep during the harvest. Whether God is harvesting us or we are harvesting gifts of the Spirit, you don't want to miss that.
In the moment, being lazy is the easy, but when we're lazy, we waste something (time, money, etc.). It takes the least effort and causes the least stress. However, in the long run, we miss out on the blessings God has for us because we didn't sew the effort to reap the benefits. Not to mention, it would be silly to sew the effort only to miss reaping the benefits because you were too lazy to collect the reward.
Reproof or reproach is the act of chastising someone when they have done wrong. Proverbs touches on this process quite a bit. The main take-away is that fools do not take criticism well, but wise men are quick to adjust their behavior. One verse goes so far as to so that a wise man will learn more from the reproof than a fool will from being disciplined! We must be able to accept the truth when presented to us. It easy to believe that those accusing us of wrong as the ones in the wrong (see below on pride), especially in a world where deception runs rampant. We must take criticism with grace and pray on each point. Often we dismiss issues based on our own conclusions or because of who it is that is criticizing you. However truth is truth, no matter who's mouth it comes from. God uses all manner of people to relay His messages. Before we get angry or wave away criticism, we should bring the issue to God. We should ask "Lord, is this true? Is this something I need to fix?" (I know it's easier said than done! I struggle with this myself. Let's make a deal to pray for each other. I'll pray for you to be able to accept criticism and you pray for me, ok?)
Pride and vanity are discussed a lot in Proverbs. Most of us know it's bad but we don't always know why or where to draw the line. I'm sure God wants us to have some pride in ourselves. I'm proud to call myself a follower of Christ. I'm proud to say I was fearfully and wonderfully made. However, there's a line we shouldn't cross. We don't want to take on a holier-than-thou attitude in which we consider ourselves "better Christians" or "more Christian" than others. We don't want to be full of ourselves, flaunting our beauty as though it's something we have power over. In the movie Sydney White, the "queen bee" at a university flips out because someone else is voted more beautiful than her; we don't want to be that person.
Proverbs advises us to be humble. I know and you know that we should be humble because we really are lowly creatures compared to God, even compared to the angels. Nothing I've accomplished in life is of my own hand. For those who are struggling, however, Proverbs gives us a more practical reason for being humble: it comes before honor. Whether people are Christian or not, no one likes a braggart. You will not go far bragging on yourself, but when you allow your actions to speak for themselves, that is when honor is bestowed upon you.
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
One of the problems with becoming prideful is that we want to trust in ourself more than God (lean not on your own understanding, right?). From the very beginning all the way to today, people have relied on their own "wisdom" to make decisions, forsaking God's wisdom. Eve chose to believe the serpent and her own eyes rather than listen to what God said. Today we listen to the media and pop culture to define right and wrong rather than listen to God. This is all rooted in pride. Proverbs 21:2 tells us than in our own minds, we're always doing right, but only God's way is actually right. We vainly believe that we are good, even when we are wrong; people don't set out to be the villain of the story, usually they actually believe their own foolishness. This is what pride leads to.
An interesting note on pride is found in Proverbs 16:5. Solomon tells us that despite being joined hand in hand with people, a proud heart will not go unpunished. We live in a society that prides itself on unity, which causes us to think anyone promoting unity is good. Unfortunately this is not the case. We can get along with our neighbors and talk about coming together in peace all while trying to magnify ourselves. Just because our end result may be desirable, doesn't mean God won't judge our heart.
Money is a big deal in our society. During Solomon's time they didn't have debit cards or paper money, but wealth and the concept of being rich still existed. Solomon leaves us a few tips about acquiring wealth in Proverbs.
One thing Solomon reminds us of, which is reiterated in the New Testament when Jesus tells the rich man to give away his riches to follow Him, is that it is better to be poor with great riches in Heaven, than to be rich on Earth with nothing in Heaven. Solomon tells us that is better to have a good name, than money. If you have a good reputation, people will try to help you, but if you have money with a bad reputation, nothing can fix that. People may put up with you, but they'll be happy to see you fall too.
Of course, wealth in and of itself isn't bad. Many of God's chosen people were blessed and wealthy. Solomon was one of those people. If your wealth is earned from honest labor, you will be made prosperous and likely it will multiply. However, wealth obtained through vanity (i.e., ungodly activities), will be lost.
When you're on the right path, you know that Earthly wealth is of this world, that you can't take it with you when you die. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that a good man leaves his wealth to his descendants. A long time ago, I remember being pretty irate with Steve Harvey for promoting the idea of spending every dime he had and not leaving anything for his children. People flocked to his comment, praising it, and suggesting the children should have to work for their fortune just as he did. From a secular point of view, this is why the poor stay poor and the rich get richer. I know people who graduated from college with $0 student loan debt and a trust fund from mommy and daddy to buy a house or invest in a business. Meanwhile I know people who graduated with tons of debt and have little to no support from their parents. Obviously the people who inherit are in a better place to succeed in our world. Spiritually, you have to think what life would be like if God took that approach toward our salvation. Imagine if Jesus had said He refused to die on the cross for us because He already had His robe and His throne. Imagine if He said we needed to deserve anything He created and we needed to work and create our own stuff.
Another warning Solomon gives us is that those who love pleasure end up poor. In the list of pleasure, Solomon includes wine and oil. These were and still are fairly expensive items. If you spend all your money on lavish items like Ferraris and marble tile, of course you won't have anything left over!
Solomon tells us not to put our faith in wealth. Money can't buy everything; for example, all the money in the world can't cure you of an incurable disease. Certainly it may provide you with more comfort or prolong your life, but it won't cure you nor will it stop you from dying. Only God can save you from death.
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
Solomon also talks about our wealth as it relates to others. Cheating people out of money is forbidden by God, and according to Solomon, unwise. False weights were not to be used to receive more or pay less than the agreed upon amount during business transactions. Conversely, Solomon advises that we scatter our blessings, i.e., be generous. Generosity leads to more success, but stingy behavior leads to poverty. Note that in Proverbs 11:25, Solomon isn't referring to political liberals and conservatives; he's referencing generosity.
A Godly Woman
Proverbs 31 contains a detailed description of a virtuous woman, but there are other proverbs that speak on the matter as well. Since Solomon starts the book personifying wisdom as a woman, I like to ponder what these verse would mean in that context as well.
Solomon says that a virtuous woman is good for her husband but a wicked woman will harm him. The Israelites struggled with this. They often married women from pagan nations—Solomon was guilty of this himself—and then fell into idolatry. Critics of the church often complain about the expectations placed on women, but I find Solomon's advice to be interesting, and empowering. Solomon never says a virtuous man is good for his wife. In the New Testament, Paul says a woman may convert her husband or a husband may convert his wife, but Solomon, the wisest fully human man to live, only specifies a virtuous woman to be a great treasure.
Feel however you may about the standards women are held to, but it is true that men will often go through extreme lengths to please women. From the beginning, man desired a partner. Women were created to fulfill this desire. Adam was so fixated on Eve that he let her talk him into eating the forbidden fruit. The truth is, a good woman does have the power to affect positive change in a man. Solomon says that men who find a wife find a good thing and obtain favor from God (Proverbs 18:22). Isn't it odd, then, that it is women who are looked at funny if they are unmarried?
The Rewards of the Righteous
Solomon lays out the basis of salvation when he talks about the rewards of being righteous. Despite the fact that the afterlife is a hotly debated topic in modern Judaism, Solomon clearly understood that God had a plan to deliver us from death. Solomon says the righteous are delivered from death and inherit the Tree of Life. We see in Revelation 22:2 and 14 that after all is said and done, those who remained loyal to God (the righteous) will come before the Tree of Life and enjoy eternal life.
Sacrifice, Punishment, and Justice
Justice is important; we know that. Solomon tells us that justice and righteousness is better than sacrifices. When the Israelites presented sacrifices to God, it was part of the forgiveness process. Therefore, this is actually the opposite of the adage "better to ask forgiveness than permission." God despises the sacrifices given by the wicked! This relates to Jesus saying there will be many claiming to know Him that He will not recognize. It's not about the action, it's about the heart.
Speaking of the heart. Many times people sacrifice goals, dreams, values, etc. for those around them, only to be angry and resentful in the end. Solomon tells us it is better to let well enough alone and be without if the sacrifice will cause us to be angry and resentful in the end. We're being told that sometimes we can't afford to pay the price of the sacrifice. Aren't you glad Jesus could afford to pay for everything?
We all mess up; no one is perfect. Thankfully, God is a forgiving God. We can rest easy knowing that when we repent, God will hear us and forgive our imperfections. That is, if we're truly repentant. Solomon reminds us that if we continue to repeat transgressions, we cause a problem. This advice isn't just for our relationship with God, but our relationship with family and friends. If you do wrong by me once, of course I'll forgive you. However, if I notice it to be a pattern, I'm probably going to be less likely to forgive you—even though Jesus tells us to forgive 70x7 times in Matthew 18:21-22, we are likely going to put distance in a relationship well before we get to that limit.
Solomon tells us not to reward evil with good. Forgiveness could be considered one of the good things people are rewarded with. From this perspective, we have to remember that evil would be the intentional and repeated actions of a person. Clearly, Jesus tells us to forgive. Even though we may forgive people, I think Solomon's point is that we do not want to confuse evil doers by blessing them for bad behavior.
Treatment of the Poor
One of the things that really grinds my gears is the way so called Christians treat the poor. Jesus was a champion for the poor and the both the Old and New Testament testify to this fact. Proverbs is no exception, there are several proverbs detailing our treatment of the poor. We are told that if we oppress the poor to increase our own wealth, we will suffer—specifically, we will "come to want."
20 The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends. 21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Many people assume this means that the rich will lose their money, their companies, their fancy cars, etc. Life proves that this isn't really the case. Instead, we see them fall apart emotionally, which is far worse. We see them battling depression and drug addictions. The Clintons stand accused of spearheading the mass incarceration of Black men, specifically poor Black men, as well as misappropriating funds donated to a relief fund meant for the poor in Haiti.
They're still rich, but I wouldn't want to be them for even a second. Nothing about their demeanor suggests a happy life. Can you imagine how it must feel to know you lost the presidency to Donald Trump? The man won by promoting hatred toward Hispanics and Muslims, was supported by white supremacists, and yet Hilary Clinton also lost Barack Obama, a former Muslim who is also Black... Now she’s on trial in the court of public opinion over these very serious topics—and lets not forget the whole world watched a trial about her husband’s infidelity.
God is the Creator of both the rich and the poor (and everyone on the spectrum in between). He wants us to have a heart for those who have less than us. You don't have to be millionaire rich for these words to affect you. As a graduate student making less than $30k a year, I still had more than many people. While God may not expect me to build a homeless shelter, considering I can barely pay my own rent, He does expect me to be mindful and considerate of these people. If there is something I can do to aid my fellow man, I should be doing it!
Lies and Deceit
The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
I mentioned "little white lies" earlier, and Solomon uses proverbs to give us a host of wisdom on the error of lying and deceit. All forms of deceit, from lying to cheating to slander are condemned in Proverbs. Solomon tells us not be fake and not to allow negative influences in our lives.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
The problem with deceit is that it is exactly what it is: deceiving. The grass looks greener on the other side and even the righteous are easily seduced to follow in a deceptive path. It takes discernment from the Holy Spirit to see through deceit.
Who's in Your Circle?
I'm probably dating myself with this reference, but there used to be a cell-phone commercial focused on the question "who's in your circle?" The idea was that those in the circle were the ones closest to you and whom you talked to the most often. These were the people you wanted to be able to talk to for free. Google+ still employs a similar method for profiles, and we often use the phrase "circle" to describe cliques in society.
Words like "circle" and "clique" tend to have a negative connotation because they refer to exclusivity. Not everyone can be in the "premier" circles of society and so often they seem snobbish and elitist. God wants us all in the circle that goes to Heaven, but we have to choose to be there, and most people haven't made that decision. As such, sometimes we have to excuse people from our circle because we just aren't going the same way.
Solomon reminds us that we pick up the habits of those we are around, so he advises that we surround ourselves with wise people and avoid people who are foolish or prone to anger. If we have wise friends, we receive wise advice; if we have foolish friends, we receive foolish advice.
Solomon also reminds us that while blood may be thicker than water, friendship is often more nurturing than familial ties. I often joke with my parents when one talks about something crazy the other one did. They'll say "that's your mother/father" and I'll respond, "yes, but you chose to marry them." It's all in fun, but the truth is, we can't help who our family is. Some of us have wonderful families, and some of us have horrible families. On the other hand, we are fully in control of who our friends are. Our siblings (think Joseph and his brothers) or parents may wrestle with us, but we should choose friends that have our best interest at heart!
He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.
Proverbs 10:10 says winking can cause sorrow. If you're like me, you read that passage, scratched your head, and said "come again?" After reading this proverb, I was totally confused. It's paired with a "prating fool" falling, and the use of "but" to combine the phrases implies this is an opposite action. However, falling isn't the opposite of sorrow, in fact I would think they were in the same realm. So let's take a look at this verse.
To prate is to talk for a long time, usually about something unimportant, so a prating fool would be someone who is prone to idle chatter. Apparently all this talking will cause them to fall (likely in the metaphorical sense, not the literal sense). How does this compare to the winking eye? Today we think of winking as a flirtatious gesture in which we quickly blink only one eye. That's not what is meant in this passage. Here, Solomon is referencing those who turn a blind eye to what is happening around them. Your lack of intervention causes pain and sorrow in those victimized by the situation you are ignoring.
He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.
This passage is meant to show us that running our mouths about things we know nothing about can cause trouble, but not intervening is also a troublesome action.
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
Apparently there is one landmark that was not supposed to be removed. It wasn't the Temple, because Solomon built the Temple and it was God who set the location. Also, the Temple wasn't a landmark, so much as a holy place. Landmarks are there to give direction or information, so whatever Solomon was telling them not to remove in Proverbs 22:28, was meant to provide direction to the Israelites. Scholars believe he was talking about tribal lines or inheritance boundaries. There are also some who think this could refer to theological disputes that have been settled by our forefathers.
References and Footnotes
- Aviva Shen. "Hillary Clinton Says She Agrees Her Role In Mass Incarceration Was A Mistake". Think Progress. March 6, 2016
- Michelle Ye Hee Lee. "Did the Clinton Foundation raise ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ for a hospital in Haiti that was never built?". Washington Post. June 13, 2016
- Proverbs 13:24
- Proverbs 22:6
- Proverbs 22:15
- "Prate". Merriam Webster; visited July 2017
- "Word of Wisdom - He That Winks With the Eyes Causes Sorrow". The Salt of the Earth. May 17, 2016
- John Gills. "Proverbs 22:28 Commentary". Bible Study Tools; visited July 2017
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