Posts Tagged 'Proverbs'

Panic Podcast: The Story of the Old Testament, Part 5

Good morning!  Here’s hoping you’re having a great week in the Lord so far.  In today’s podcast, I want to look at what we call “Wisdom Literature” in the Bible.  We’ll be spending some time in Proverbs, a book full of wisdom, so open up those Bibles and let’s get started.

Don’t forget to leave any prayer requests you may have in the comments section below.  Our prayer team at church is always ready to pray for you.  God bless you as we look to the Word.

 

Pity The Fool!

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When you see the word “fool,” what or who do you think of?  In olden days, kings employed men called “court jesters.”  Today we call them “actors,” but back then they entertained the king and his court, often wearing outrageous costumes, sometimes dunce caps, doing all kinds of dopey things.  These “court jesters,” “actors,” were referred to as “fools” sometimes.

A fool is somebody who seems to lack any kind of wisdom; the kind of person who just wastes his life, letting the world march on by.  Fools sit around thinking, rarely doing.  They are selfish, giving very little thought to their families, to issues important to their neighbors and country.  The Bible talks about fools, and we may gain insight into the mind of a fool by reading some Bible verses.

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about fools.

A fool denies God

That man is a fool who says to himself, “There is no God!” Anyone who talks like that is warped and evil and cannot really be a good person at all.  (Psalm 14:1  TLB)

Only a fool would say to himself, “There is no God.” And why does he say it?  Because of his wicked heart, his dark and evil deeds. His life is corroded with sin.  (Psalm 53:1  TLB)

The Hebrew word translated “fool” might look familiar to you:  nabal.   You’re thinking, “Where have I seen that word before?”  When you saw it, it looked like this, Nabal, because it’s the name of a very dim witted man in 1 Samuel 25, who was married to the beautiful Abigail.  Nabal refers to a “simpleton” or perhaps “a madman.”  You get the idea—you don’t want to be called a “nabal” and who in the world would name their child, “Nabal”?

Fools, in the Bible, are called that, not because they are intellectually deficient, but because of moral failings.  The smartest man in the world is a fool if he denies the existence of God.  That’s a terrible way to describe the atheist, because an atheist, as defined by the Bible, is a “warped and evil person” who is not good.  He is “wicked” and the things he does are “evil.”  This is because denial of God is no small matter; it’s big sin.  It is morally perverse to deny the reality of God.

Now, we’re not talking about becoming a Christian here.  The psalmist is not thinking about the Messiah; he is simply talking about the foolishness of not acknowledging the Creator.  There are plenty of people (and even demons, according to the New Testament) that steadfastly believe in God but have nothing to do with His Son.  Why are atheists described as “fools?”  It’s because their sense of morality comes from someplace other than God.  One may not have a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior, but a belief in God may keep one living a moral and ethical life.  The atheist has to get his sense of morality someplace, so if not from God, then where?  Or from whom?

This is why fools are evil and wicked.  They have a warped sense of morality because instead of respecting objective truths concerning right and wrong, everything with them is subjective; they will do and live in a way that seems good to them.  This reminds us of another verse:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.   (Proverbs 14:12  NKJV)

A fool is sick

Others, the fools, were ill because of their sinful ways.  (Psalm 107:17  TLB)

This not only refers to the consequences of sin and of being a fool, it is also a characteristic of a fool.  One scholar succinctly notes,

Folly denotes moral perversity, not mere weakness or ignorance; it leads to ruin.  It is the opposite of wisdom, which leads to life.

Indeed.  Since more often than not, gross immorality follows one who denies the existence of God, or lives like there is no God, it’s easy to see why the psalmist sees how sin makes the fool sick—physically sick and spiritually sick.

The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below.  (Proverbs 15:24  NKJV)

A fool is overly self-sufficient

Another characteristic of the fool is that they are far too self-confident; they are heedless.

The wise man is glad to be instructed, but a self-sufficient fool falls flat on his face.  (Proverbs 10:8  TLB)

In contrast to the fool, the wise man loves to be taught or instructed.  He knows that he doesn’t know it all; that he can learn from others.  Not so the fool.  He’s so sure of himself and of his own abilities that he barges ahead and, invariably, fails miserably.  Having confidence in one’s abilities is good, but that confidence must be grounded in reality.

Along the same line of thought is this observation:

Winking at sin leads to sorrow; bold reproof leads to peace.  (Proverbs 10:10  TLB)

The one who is wise knows the seriousness of sin and appreciates correction when it’s needed.  The fool, though, is the one who “winks” at sin; he has no clue how serious it is or of what kind of trouble it can cause.  The fool hates to be told he’s in the wrong and refuses to see the benefit of reproof.  This foolish person has no peace.

To the fool, other people’s opinions are merely noise; they are distractions because, in his mind, he knows it all and he doesn’t need anybody’s help or advice.

A fool’s fun is being bad; a wise man’s fun is being wise!  (Proverbs 10:23  TLB)

Another contrast shows why the fool remains in his folly:  he enjoys being an idiot.  Imagine that!  Imagine being so self-centered that you have no clue how truly foolish and idiotic your behavior is to the rest of us.  The wise in heart, though, derives joy from being wise.  What a difference!  The fool finds pleasure in being “bad,” or in wickedness.

A fool is thoughtless

On the heels of describing a fool as being overly confident, we read these verses:

A fool is quick-tempered; a wise man stays cool when insulted.  A good man is known by his truthfulness; a false man by deceit and lies.  (Proverbs 12:16, 17  TLB)

Using another contrast, we can see that fools can be spotted from a distance!  They’re the ones who “fly off the handle” at the least provocation.  The fool is the one who deceives others.

So then, the fool is one who is self-opinionated but the wise man is one who is teachable.  The fool has little self-control, but the wise man keeps his cool.  Worse than boorish behavior, the fool has no foresight or concern for the future.

A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t and even brags about it!  (Proverbs 13:16  TLB)

A fool is thoughtless in his behavior and in life in general.  He lives for now, not for the future.  To him, his actions carry no consequences.  While others plan for the future, he doesn’t and he’s proud about it!  He’s sure somebody will be there to take care of him, come what may.

A fool is clueless

If you are looking for advice, stay away from fools.  The wise man looks ahead. The fool attempts to fool himself and won’t face facts.  (Proverbs 14:7, 8  TLB)

Here is some sage advice:  stay away from fools and don’t pay any attention to what they say!  The fool may appear wise, but their advice is deplorable.  They are corrupt down to their hearts and that corruption is betrayed by the words they speak.

Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor.  (Proverbs 14:9  NKJV)

Clueless behavior!  A good example of one who “mocked at sin” would be Jezebel.  And if we look at what happened to her, we’d have to conclude that there is NO hope for the fool; for the one who mocks the Word of God.  She ended very badly, being devoured by dogs.  Such is the end of those who scorn the Lord and His Word.

It is pleasant to listen to wise words, but a fool’s speech brings him to ruin. Since he begins with a foolish premise, his conclusion is sheer madness.  A fool knows all about the future and tells everyone in detail! But who can really know what is going to happen? A fool is so upset by a little work that he has no strength for the simplest matter.  (Ecclesiastes 10:12—15  TLB)

The fool is clueless about the peril his speech and behavior puts him in.  Folly destroys the fool!  Words mean things, and both wisdom and foolishness are revealed by one’s speech.  We’re all familiar with that old saying:

A fool may be mistaken for a wise man if he keeps his mouth shut; but open it and he removes all doubt.

Verse 13 shows how deep that root of foolishness grows.  Since the fool doesn’t see himself or his world clearly, there’s no way he can make sense of anything going on around him.

Verse 15 is difficult to translate.  The Authorized Version gives it a different flavor:

The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

Adam Clarke thinks the proverb means something like this:  The fool knows nothing; he doesn’t know his way to the next village.

Indeed.  Of the stupidity of the fool, we would say:   He’s so clueless, he doesn’t know enough to come in out of the rain!

A fool is dull

It isn’t just the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament that speaks of fools.  Jeremiah describes fools like this:

Until my people leave their foolishness, for they refuse to listen to me; they are dull, retarded children who have no understanding. They are smart enough at doing wrong, but for doing right they have no talent, none at all.   (Jeremiah 4:22  TLB)

This verse is the culmination of very hard-to-read portion of Scripture:

My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain; my heart pounds within me. I cannot be still because I have heard, O my soul, the blast of the enemies’ trumpets and the enemies’ battle cries.  Wave upon wave of destruction rolls over the land, until it lies in utter ruin; suddenly, in a moment, every house is crushed.  How long must this go on? How long must I see war and death surrounding me?  (Jeremiah 4:19—21  TLB)

We’re not sure who’s speaking here; it could be the Lord, or Jeremiah, or even the people themselves.  Regardless, the wholesale destruction of the land is in view here.  Both the Lord and His prophet were touched with what was happening to the hapless population.  Verse 22 describes them as foolish dullards.  Why were they dull?  Their dullness was caused by their stubborn refusal to pay attention to the Word of the Lord.  God’s people had become so estranged from Him, that all they could do well was wrong!  They had “no talent” for doing what was right.

The truly wise person is one who is in fellowship with God.  That relationship strengthens his sensibilities; it helps him maintain the proper perspective of the people around him and of the events going on in his world.  Without the moral compass provided by the Lord, nobody, no matter how educated or worldly wise he may be, will in the end play the fool; one who majors in evil and minors in good.

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Shut My Mouth!

Shocked Senior Man on Telephone

The Power of the Tongue

The Bible has a lot to say about the power of the tongue.  The Hebrew word for “word” (dabar) means both “word” and “deed.”  Words are connected to deeds; in Hebrew thought, the two are inseparable; words cannot exist without corresponding deeds.  We see this in the very first book of the Bible:

Then God said, “Let there be light.” And light appeared. (Genesis 1:3 TLB)

The power of the tongue!  God spoke everything, even light, into being.  How about this in John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  (John 1:1—3  NIV)

When you think about it, words can do great good or irreparable harm.  Solomon understood this, and his book of Proverbs is full of observations and good advice on the subject.

Use words properly, Proverbs 18:21; 20:25; 27:1, 2, 5, 21

In addition to words, Solomon was keenly interested in propriety.  That’s an old fashioned notion that means “appropriate behavior.”  Remember, “there is a time for…” all kinds of behavior.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to laugh, other times it’s better to cry.  And so it is with words.  There is the right time to use certain words, and a wrong time.

The power of words, 18:21

Those who love to talk will suffer the consequences. Men have died for saying the wrong thing!  (TLB)

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.  (AV)

Words are serious things!  What people say can lead to life or death.  Think about that; if you are a Christian, you are able to speak life to the lost by speaking salvation to them.  Careless words, though, can lead someone down a destructive path.  If you aren’t careful in choosing your words wisely, you can actually hurt a person so much as to turn them from their faith!  Some might say that the tongue is the most powerful weapon on earth.  The idea Solomon is putting across in this verse is that for people who love to talk, they must bear its fruit, whether that fruit is good or bad.

Outside of the Bible, Jewish teachers had this to say about the tongue:

The evil tongue slays thee, the slanderer, the slandered, and the listener.

Soren Kierkegaard, a fairly smart man, made this observation (in the 19th century!) worth noting:

If I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.  For even if the Word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise.

Vow?  What vow?  20:25

It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost.  (TLB)

In other words, be careful what you promise another person!  Never make a rash vow.  Don’t make a promise until you are sure you can keep it.  Sometimes we get trapped by our words and find ourselves in deep trouble.  This is incredibly practical advice to be sure, but there is a spiritual dimension to it.  Don’t—DO NOT—publicly dedicate your life to God until you have counted the cost.  God doesn’t want an emotional decision; He wants you to carefully consider what it means to follow Him before you make the decision. These days, people seem to make decisions based on how they feel instead of using their reasoning minds.  Yes, there’s a lot feeling but not a lot of thinking going on today, and we can see the mess that way of doing things has left!

Flattery, 27:2, 21

Don’t praise yourself; let others do it!  (verse 2  TLB)

The purity of silver and gold can be tested in a crucible, but a man is tested by his reaction to men’s praise.  (verse 21  TLB)

Verse 2 may bring a smile to your face, but it actually makes complete sense, and when you grasp what Solomon was trying to teach, it will revolutionize how you live.  What he is saying is this:  live your life so that others will praise you.  Now, that’s actually good advice; something your grandmother might have told you.  But, there is a warning that comes along with that advice, and that’s verse 21.  Living a good life is all well and good, but you should never believe your own press!   Be wary of the praise of others; don’t let it go to your head and keep their opinions in perspective. Dr. Ironside’s comments are priceless:

There is no hotter crucible to test a man than when he is put through a fire of praise and adulation.  To go on through evil report, cleaving to the Lord and counting on Him to clear one’s name is comparatively easy; but to humbly pursue the even tenor of his way, undisturbed and unlifted up by applause and flattery, marks a man as being truly with God.

Rebukes and boasts, 27:5, 1

Open rebuke is better than hidden love!  (verse 5  TLB)

Don’t brag about your plans for tomorrow—wait and see what happens.  (verse 1  TLB)

Now here’s some good advice. A “rebuke” seems painful at the time, but a good rebuke can make the world of difference in your life.  For example, Paul publicly rebuked Peter when he refused to eat with some Gentiles.  Peter was wrong in his actions and he needed that rebuke.  The fact that there were no bad feelings after the rebuke proved Paul was right and Peter’s heart was right.

Getting a rebuke is hard, but issuing a rebuke is even harder!  However, if we would honor our friends in the Lord, we’d “speak the truth” in the His name when appropriate.  In this, measuring our words is vital.

Verse 1 is what happens when we put off timely actions.  It’s foolish and potentially dangerous to be presumptuous about the future.  Why?  Because nobody can predict the future with any kind of accuracy.  Solomon isn’t talking about not planning for the future; we should all be doing that!  He is talking about not bragging about those plans.  Nobody should be overconfident about tomorrow.  Humility is essential.

Avoid destructive words, Proverbs 26:17—28

We’ve already put forth the idea that words are powerful and words mean things.  There is no such thing as a “casual word.”  Behind every word is a thought and after every word there is some kind of action.  But there is another reason why the book of Proverbs spends so much time the topic of words. Solomon’s culture was word-based.  It was not a culture of the written word, but of the spoken word.  Much of the Old Testament was not written to be read but to be heard and memorized.  It is estimated that only 5% of the Hebrew population was literate at this time.  So the spoken word carried a lot of weight.

Stop quarreling, verses 17, 21

Yanking a dog’s ears is no more foolish than interfering in an argument that isn’t any of your business. (verse 17  TLB)

A quarrelsome man starts fights as easily as a match sets fire to paper.  (verse 21  TLB)

Some people just love to argue; they’ll argue about anything and everything.  Solomon gives some expert advice here.  Sometimes it can be dangerous to interfere in a verbal fight between two other people.  It may be dangerous, but it also qualifies as “meddling.”  It makes no sense to willfully step into another’s argument.  It makes as much as much sense as yanking a dog’s ears.

Along the same lines, verse 21 suggests that quarrelsome people—those people who love to argue—start fights.  It’s easy for them, and more often than not, they are unaware just how flammable their words are.

There are people who just cause strife wherever they go.  They’re the ones who flit from church-to-church, apparently unaware of the trouble left in their wake.  These people aren’t really interested in anything other than causing problems.  Evangelical Anglican clergyman Richard Cecil wrote—

If a man has a quarrelsome temper, let him alone…He will soon meet with someone stronger than himself, who will repay him better than you can.

Doublespeak

Pretty words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot. A man with hate in his heart may sound pleasant enough, but don’t believe him; for he is cursing you in his heart. Though he pretends to be so kind, his hatred will finally come to light for all to see. The man who sets a trap for others will get caught in it himself. Roll a boulder down on someone, and it will roll back and crush you.  Flattery is a form of hatred and wounds cruelly.  (Proverbs 26:23—28  TLB)

This paragraph is an arraignment of hypocritical speech and character.  Speech descends from character, and you have to watch out for “honey coated” words.  By definition, “doublespeak” means:

…language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak)

Basically, any time a politician opens his mouth, you may witness a fine example of what Solomon is talking about here.  People who engage in doublespeak say one thing but mean another.  In other words, their words are hypocritical, if not the person themselves.

Hypocrites are all around the Christian; they pretend to be believers but in reality, they are not.  Their words flatter, but hate fills their hearts.  A perfect example of this kind of person is Haman.  He was a flatterer extraordinaire!  He plotted to take down an entire empire even while he flattered the king, pretending to be the most loyal subject.

When dealing with flattering words, we should all take heed of Thomas Watson’s words:

God has given us two ears but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear but slow to speak.

Listen carefully to what a person says about you.  You aren’t as good or as bad as they say you are.  And avoid practicing doublespeak. Just be honest.

Avoid gossip, verses 20, 22

Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and tensions disappear when gossip stops.  (verse 20  TLB)

Gossip is a dainty morsel eaten with great relish.  (verse 22  TLB)

Speaking of argumentative people, nothing fuels strife like gossip!  Gossip is a huge problem in society, especially in the church, and yet as destructive as it is, it is very simple to stamp out…stop fueling it and it will burn out.  But, as the Teacher noticed, people love gossip like they love a “dainty morsel.”  Not matter how it tastes, though, gossip is anything but a “dainty morsel”; it’s poison.

Choose life-giving words, Proverbs 15:1, 2, 4, 7, 23, 28; 16:23, 24

According to Hebrew thought, words create life.  We see this in the six days of creation and we also see it the healing ministry of Jesus.  Words bring life.

Gentle words, 15:1, 2, 4

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels.  A wise teacher makes learning a joy; a rebellious teacher spouts foolishness. (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Gentle words cause life and health; griping brings discouragement.  (verse 4  TLB)

It’s just Common Sense 101:  the way you answer somebody will determine their response.  This is a proverb that we should all remember.  Choose your words carefully and be careful how you speak them.  The idea behind verses 1 and 2 is that the wise person ought to assume an almost conciliatory attitude in answering some people.  Instead of using words that “beat the chest,” sometimes it’s better to be humble and choose gentle words.  The story of Nabal and Abigail from 1 Samuel 25 is a classic illustration of this.  Foolish Nabal should have chosen better words!

Thoughtful words, 15:3, 28; 16:24

The Lord is watching everywhere and keeps his eye on both the evil and the good.  (Proverbs 15:3  TLB)

A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought.  (Proverbs 15:28  TLB)

Kind words are like honey—enjoyable and healthful. (Proverbs 16:24  TLB)

As Christians, we must understand the truthfulness of 15:3.  God sees everything you do and He hears everything you say.  So, with that in mind, 15:28 and 16:24 become much more than mere proverbs; they are imperatives!  Not only will choosing our words carefully keep us in good standing with God, which is always important, it will benefit other people in the long run.  The words we use demonstrate the state of our souls and they can go along way in lifting up and soothing others.

Smart words, Proverbs 15:7; 16:23

Only the good can give good advice. Rebels can’t.  (Proverbs 15:7  TLB)

From a wise mind comes careful and persuasive speech.  (Proverbs 16:23  TLB)

Finally, we come to one last truth:  nobody knows it all.  If you are a Christian and if you are looking for advice, be careful where you seek it out and whom you listen to.  Words are life-giving, and advice from believers should lead you to life.  Conversely, the world is full of “rebels,” and their advice may not be helpful.

Steve Camp wrote these lyrics about the tongue:

The tongue is a fire,
It’s an evil that no man can tame.

In the natural, this is true.  But for the believer, the tongue doesn’t have to be evil at all.  If our hearts are right, our speech will be, also.  Theodore Epp once remarked,

Remember that the tongue only speaks what is in the heart.

Financial Wisdom

FinancialPlanning

 A lot of people are surprised to discover that the Bible has more to say about finances than the afterlife.  Actually, this makes complete sense because financial issues touch almost every part of our lives.  Depending on the state of our bank account, we’ll either feel on top of the world or buried under it with no hope.

It also surprises a lot of people that obedience to God is linked to financial blessing:

If you fully obey all of these commandments of the Lord your God, the laws I am declaring to you today, God will transform you into the greatest nation in the world.

The Lord will bless you with good crops and healthy cattle, and prosper everything you do when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 28:1, 8  TLB)

Part of financial wisdom involves how those who have treat those who do not.  It also involves keeping the right perspective—keeping your focus on God, the One who blesses, not on His blessings.  Scottish Reformed preacher Sinclair Ferguson wrote:

Work is not the result of the Fall.   Man was made to work because the God who made him was a “working God.”  Man was made to be creative with his mind and his hands.  Work is part of the dignity of his existence.

In this Proverbs 6, King Solomon gives some advice on this very subject.

A Biblical work ethic, Proverbs 6:6—11; 26:13—16; 28:19, 22

Here’s another surprising factoid:  work is a blessing from God!  God gave Adam, the first man, the blessed duty of working in Paradise, thereby ruling over it.

And God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; you are masters of the fish and birds and all the animals.”  (Genesis 1:28  TLB)

One of the results of the Protestant Reformation was the development of what has become known as the “Protestant work ethic.”  It’s not an exaggeration to say that before Luther ignited the Reformation with his revolutionary ideas, “work” was a dirty word.   This negative idea surrounding work came from several sources; the Hebrews, for example, came to regard work as a curse from God and the Greeks looked upon work with disdain.  It wasn’t until the 1500’s and the Reformation that man’s attitude toward work changed—it was brought back to its Biblical basics.

Check out the ant, 6:6—11

And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armor.  (Proverbs 6:11  TLB)

Aesop wasn’t the first person to see how industrious the ant is.  Solomon beat Aesop by a few centuries.  The advice is directed to a “lazy fellow,” or “sluggard.”  The Hebrew word means, literally,  “a sluggard, slow, lazy person.”  The idea is that the “lazy fellow” is an unambitious person.  When you think about it, comparing this person to the teeny, tiny lowly ant, it’s really degrading.  Still, even a lazy bum can learn something from an ant.

Warnings about laziness are all over the book of Proverbs, proving something many of us have long suspected:  there are a whole lot of lazy people in the world!

If we look at the ant, we see that it spends its days doing what’s important:  gathering food.  Now, we can learn a couple of lessons here.  First, the ant is not lazy and neither should we be.  It’s smart enough to know what’s good for it and it doesn’t depend on anybody else to do the work it should be doing.  Second, what’s important to the ant is survival—it needs food to survive and it won’t rest until it has all that it needs to get through.

Here’s a principle that has many applications for the believer.  The obvious one is the financial one:  make hay in the sunshine.  In other words, work while you can and while you are able to.  We need to be farsighted enough to make plans for the future.  But there is another principle that may not be so obvious and the answer to this question will determine whether you get it or not:  What’s really important in your life?  What you spend most of your time doing will reveal it.  If you’re a Christian, then like the ant, you should be doing things that relate to your faith.

Laziness might well be among the top 5 sins infesting the church right now.  We should all take the time to examine ourselves to see how are spending our time; especially our free time.  Are we reading our Bibles?  Are we spending time with God in prayer?

Thomas Miller was right on when he observed:

He lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost.

The lazy bum’s excuses. 26:13—16

The lazy man won’t go out and work. “There might be a lion outside!” he says.  He sticks to his bed like a door to its hinges!  He is too tired even to lift his food from his dish to his mouth!  Yet in his own opinion he is smarter than seven wise men. (TLB)

The lazy person uses the craziest excuses to get out of doing work.  What’s really strange about the “the sluggard” is that he has no idea how lazy he really is!  He has deluded himself into thinking he’s OK and everybody else is in the wrong.  In fact, a character trait of the lazy bum is that he is full of self-conceit and thinks he has wisdom nobody else has.  He thinks he has life—his and everybody else’s—all figured out.  But, he’s really just a lazy bum.

The lazy person would rather stay in bed.  The humor is priceless:  the lazy man is like a door on a hinge; it moves but goes nowhere.

The prosperous way, 28:19, 22

Hard work brings prosperity; playing around brings poverty. (TLB)

Trying to get rich quick is evil and leads to poverty. (TLB)

The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. (NIV)

Prosperity doesn’t just happen.  It all depends on diligence and hard work.  The way to prosperity isn’t a mystery.

The two different translations of verse 22 give us good sense of what the Teacher is trying to say.  “Get rich quick” schemes attract a certain kind of person—the kind of person who has no discernment and is usually not too generous to begin with.

On lending and borrowing, Proverbs 6:1—5; 22:7; 15:16, 17

In Israel during Biblical times, there were no banks or credit unions.  Lending money was a private matter between two people.  Loans were personal exchanges, usually with great risk.  It was not uncommon for two strangers to engage in these personal exchanges, hence the Teachers advice here.

Pitfalls of borrowing and lending, 6:1—5; 22:7

Son, if you endorse a note for someone you hardly know, guaranteeing his debt, you are in serious trouble.  You may have trapped yourself by your agreement.  (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Since it was so common for one to underwrite another’s debts, entering into such an arrangement could be disastrous if the debtor turned out to be a “misfit.”  It all boils down, once again, to the ability (or inability) to exercise judgment or discernment.  The KJV’s translation of verse 2 may give us an additional insight:

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

It seems that, at least in the case, the one lending was behaving in a boastful manner.  He had resources and wasn’t afraid to “show off” to others; to play the big shot.  The advice is to avoid this attitude in financial matters.

Quick! Get out of it if you possibly can! Swallow your pride; don’t let embarrassment stand in the way. Go and beg to have your name erased.  Don’t put it off. Do it now. Don’t rest until you do.  (verses 3, 4  TLB)

Here’s the remedy to your financial problem:  swallow your pride and make things right.  Don’t be afraid to straighten things out.

Contentment, 15:16, 17

Better a little with reverence for God than great treasure and trouble with it. It is better to eat soup with someone you love than steak with someone you hate.

Verse 16 stresses reverence or fear of God as being superior to wealth.  A great big feast is just not satisfying when love is absent.  Cold soup, even, is better than a sumptuous steak when love is present.  In other words, believers need to be content.  If we are content, we won’t rush out and take out unwise loans.

Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of a godly person because a godly person has his heart focused on God rather than on possessions or position or power.  (Jerry Bridges)

Build a good reputation, Proverbs 22:1, 2, 9; 11:16, 22—26

In the Bible, there is a real high premium placed on a good reputation.

If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold. The rich and the poor are alike before the Lord who made them all.

In the original, the word “good” does not appear; it’s always supplied by the translators.  What the Teacher is saying here is that it’s up you to earn your name by the kind of person you are.  There is equality of all men before God, but down here, we earn our reputations by how we live.

Wealth is not disparaged in these verses; they are just saying that a good reputation is more valuable.  In fact, in Jewish teaching, a good name excels all other blessings in life.

Grace versus greed, 11:16

Honor goes to kind and gracious women, mere money to cruel men.

Two contrasts here:  “kind and gracious women” versus “cruel men.”  No, the teacher is not stating something definite about the sexes.  Women can be cruel, too.  The sense of this verse is a little obscure, but what it seems to be teaching is this:  you can seize wealth by any means, but honor is a reward for the kind and gracious person only.

Generosity, 22:9; 11:24—26

Happy is the generous man, the one who feeds the poor.  (22:9  TLB)

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself. People curse the man who holds his grain for higher prices, but they bless the man who sells it to them in their time of need. (11:24—26  TLB)

The Bible is full of paradoxes, and here is one:  if you want  to get richer, you have to give what you have away.  In God’s economy, generosity very often determines one’s prosperity.  You must give to gain.

He gives generously to those in need. His deeds will never be forgotten. He shall have influence and honor.  (Psalm 112:9  TLB)

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.  Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.  God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6—9  TLB)

A paradox indeed.  Dr. Ironside’s comments—

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses:
A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.
He that bestows his goods upon the poor,
Shall have as much again, and ten times more.

Solomon’s financial wisdom comes from experience.  He had learned by doing.  He knew the value of a strong work ethic and he knew the importance of generosity.  When you give, you can’t help but get.  It’s a law of the universe.


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