A STUDY OF WISE LIVING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
Applying Wisdom to your Wealth and Speech
Proverbs 10 SCC 8/23/15
Beginning here we no longer find the forceful admonitions to seek wisdom. Now we have a collection of independent, miscellaneous pithy observations dealing mostly with the consequences of right and wrong actions on various topics. The frequent change of subject from one verse to another may be intentional, to force the reader to grapple with and meditate upon the thoughts in one place before moving on to the next. Occasionally a set of verses shares a common subject for discussion. The point is that life, lived on the ground, on this side of the grave, prone to chaos, if lived wisely, is one that avoids the bad consequences of a fool and embraces the action of the righteous life. This is true in every possible dimension of life.
Proverbs gives us principles not promises. There is no guarantee that the principles so enumerated in Proverbs will transpire. A major factor is the character of other people. Proverbs describes the naïve, the fool, the evil man, as well as the wise, the prudent, and the righteous man. All of these have one thing in common. They are all personally responsible for who they are and the character they have. Like many verses in Proverbs, there are generalizations. For example, while diligence is essential for prosperity, diligence does not guarantee prosperity. Generally the consequences will characterize the choices of the fool and the wise person. So Proverbs underscores the kind of paths one takes in life and carves out what are the usual and expected outcomes of the paths chosen. Notice ‘the righteous’ in this chapter:
THE RUDIMENTS OF RIGHTEOUS LIVING IS ESTABLISHED IN THE FAMILY
Verse 1: Here is a proverb about family relationships. The proverb is about the character of one’s child. A son or daughter’s character affects his or her parents. A child can be wise or foolish. One brings joy and the other grief. Parents have responsibilities and children do too. But neither is responsible for the character of the other. What a parent does affects the growth of their child and what a child does affects the life of parents. But each one is only responsible for his or her character. Bad parents can have good children. Good parents can have bad children. Only a good mother would be grieved by a foolish son. Grief because of badness, assumes goodness on the part of the one who is grieving.
If a child chooses righteous living, priorities, ambitions, and lifestyle then:
1. Honesty will have far greater value than cheating, stealing and hoarding wealth at any cost v 2. Honesty will actually be a means of deliverance from the costly consequences of defrauding, embezzling or swindling for dishonest gain.
2. God will provide a spirit of sufficiency leaving one satisfied with their position in life while avoiding a life of unfulfilled sterile desires, which can never be satisfied v 3.
3. Instead of refusing to work disgracing himself and his or her family (4a-5b), wealth will be accumulated through diligence, over time, seizing opportunities with keen insight at exactly the right time and season of life (4b-5a).
4. Rewards and not ruin will follow the life of a righteous person who is guided by that righteousness while dodging the aggressive violence broadcasts of one who cannot be trusted v 6. Righteousness is governed by ones head while one parades aggression by the mouth.
NB: Righteous living is characterized by honesty, sufficiency, diligence and enriching life. These standards are meant to be patterns imprinted in the home, embraced by children, and pursued as values of the extended family. These are foundational for godliness.
A GOOD REPUTATION IS AN OUTCOME OF THE RIGHTEOUS LIFE
So if one chooses righteousness how does a righteous person impact those around him or her?
Verse 7: Reputation follows both the righteous and the wicked. ‘Name’ can refer to ‘fame’. In this case, the fame of the righteous will be a memorial. The fame of the wicked will eventually disappear or remain to be ridiculed or one that people would wish to forget.
Verse 8-10: There are three ways these reputations are contrasted. First, the wise are teachable, compliant and willing to learn but the fool talks too much, needlessly chattering, to listen and learn, leading to ruin v 8. Second, the wise have integrity that secures their future but the cheater with crooked dealings is discovered ruining his reputation. Third, those suggesting sinful intentions lead only to trouble for its victims, and foolish talk is a repeated problem (cp v 8) v 10.
NB: A reputation takes a lifetime to build and can be lost in a moment. We benefit from the reputations of the righteous. They leave for us a legacy to embrace. It is sobering that this can so easily be lost.
WHAT THE RIGHTEOUS SAY IS ALWAYS BENEFICIAL AND APPROPRIATE
Verse 11-12: Unlike the aggressive violence of the wicked that stirs up hatred and vitriol (11b-12a), the righteous love covers all transgressions with forgiveness. This does not mean they are overlooked. Forgiveness does not ignore the offence but does not personally seek justice. It holds no bitterness nor seeks revenge.
Verse 13-14: With critical perception the righteous speak wisely (13a) silently storing up knowledge that is appropriate for the situation (14a). This is unlike the fool who lacks judgment and constantly needs correction (13b) and talks prematurely with council inappropriate and ruinous (14b).
Verse 15: Carrying on with the idea of wealth and ruin, here is the comparison of one who has not only stored up knowledge appropriate for the occasion but also wealth as protection while the fool not only ruins council but delivers poverty and adversity to himself in other ways as well. His entire life is on shaky ground. If one believes he has council worth hearing he can expect to be ruined by it.
NB: Everyone needs someone who speaks with integrity, just the right council, and delivers words that bring life and preservation. Too many of us have been scared by bitter or ruinous words.
THE RETURN OF RIGHTEOUS LIVING IS A MEANINGFUL LIFE
Verse 16: Rewards are determined by moral choices. The point seems to be that what one receives in life depends on a wise use of gifts and righteous character. The wicked will only inherit trouble for sure.
Verse 17: The word ‘life’ connects this with v 16. One who is learning from discipline is an example of the way to a meaningful life. Refusing discipline is the domain of fools. Ignoring correction leads to unfortunate consequences.
Verse 18-19: Here are two fallacies that undermine a meaningful life: (1) hypocrisy is bad enough but (2) slander is worse v 18. Both are born out of a spirit of hatred. A third unpleasant component is a loose tongue—excessive talking eventually leading to entanglement v 19a. One ends up saying things he or she regrets with uncontrolled speech. Yet, the ability to remain silent avoids this sinful outcome. Thus, room is made in one’s speech to enable a meaningful life to be experienced.
NB: Our mouths cause so much trouble. We embellish, exaggerate, enhance, and aggrandize. We deceive, lie, and fabricate. A meaningful life is often associated withy a controlled tongue.
THE RIGHTEOUS SHARE WHAT IS VALUABLE AND EDIFYING
Verse 20-21: Righteous council accomplishes two things: (1) it is uplifting. It is infinitely more valuable than the council of the wicked v 20. (2) It enhances and nourishes the common life of others v 21. In contrast fools lack of judgment delivers wrong talk that malnourishes themselves and those listening to their council.
Verse 22: Here the idea is that wealth given by the Lord to the righteous and diligent is not accompanied by trouble since it was not the product of ill gotten gain v 2. The righteous know the significance of what is valuable and edifying in life using even their wealth to edify. We are accountable for whatever wealth we have.
Verse 23: One’s character is revealed in what one enjoys. Here evil conduct to a fool is like ‘sport’—like child’s play—it comes so easy to him or her. The wise, however, prefer wisdom and understanding. These are of much greater value and the righteous pursues these as a priority.
NB: Righteousness perceives the value of eternal things vs. temporal things. It is driven to give and provide to others what serves their bests interests from Gods viewpoint rather than the expedient and self-serving.
THE PROSPECT OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS CONFIDENCE IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD
Verse 24-27: The prospects for the wicked is the realization of his fears while the righteous will often receive what they want v 24. Many dread calamity and receive it without any way to manage it while the righteous are properly prepared to meet the real tests of life because not the immediate but the ultimate is in view v 25. A sluggard is especially frustrating this way because given work to do they see no value in the long term nor have the long view v 26. Like vinegar and smoke they are aggravating to us. Only the fear of the Lord provides this kind of protection and prosperity in life v 27. Without this suffering—like the calamity of v 25—will destroy one’s spirit and life.
1. Fearing the Lord is the basis of joyful fulfillment of hope while the wicked hopes are dashed v 28.
2. Fearing the Lord brings security in Gods providential administration of life but prove to be disastrous for the wicked who will be held accountable v 29.
3. Fearing the Lord is the basis of refuge in His character and promises with no hope of God’s favor only justice for the unrighteous v 30.
4. Fearing the Lord motivates a judicious use of words, council, advice, teaching and instruction appropriate and fitting understanding that worthless abundance of words is wasteful and useless v 31-32.
NB: The fear of the Lord should impact the very words we say council we give teaching we provide and advice we share. Proverbs teaches that good people use few words and choose them well.