Authority and Power Employed with Wisdom

Proverbs 20 SCC 11/15/15


In one form or another we may exercise power and/or authority in some of our relationships and responsibilities. There is a form of abuse that can dominate or it can be used so as to be productive, accomplish things, protect in certain ways and deliver what is beneficial. If you ever have authority and power Solomon says use it wisely.



1. The conduct of an inebriated person who has the love of wine from grapes and beer from grain, like any love of pleasure, is a lack of wisdom. The love of alcohol will destroy wisdom because it produces chaos, and chaos keeps us from understanding the regularities of life. Getting drunk is a sin. Why? Because God says so (Ephesians 5:18). They were, of course, drinking alcohol in biblical times. The real issue, therefore, has nothing to do with drinking but with the possible effects of drinking. Primarily, it removes the ability for sound judgment. Put simply, ... whoever is intoxicated is not wise (Proverbs 20:1). Consider these examples: Noah drank himself drunk and was humiliated (Genesis 9:21). Lot was incapable of resisting sin because of his drunkenness (Genesis 19:32). Nabal’s drunkenness proved his foolishness (1 Samuel 25:36). Elah, king of Israel, was murdered because of his drunken vulnerability (1 Kings 16:9). Being drunk is so incapacitating to men that it is used as a metaphor for the immorality of man (Revelation 14:8, 16:19). And it is so despised by God that it is used as an overall theme for the judgment of God (Lamentations 4:21, Nahum 3:11).

2. There are other issues to consider besides the general acceptability of drinking and the specific sin of drunkenness. Drinking which does not lead to drunkenness can still be done in excess. What is excess? It’s too much. What is too much? You have to determine that for yourself. It’s just like every other gift of God. Just remember, you will give an account for what you decide (Romans 14:12). Overeating is a good parallel to the sin of overdrinking. Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat ... (Proverbs 23:20). The Bible is not against food, just like it is not against wine. But eating can lead to gluttony and drinking can become excessive.

3. Not only is it wrong to drink in excess, it’s wrong to love to drink. This leads to addiction. He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich (Proverbs 21:17). God may have suggested to the Israelites that they spend their tithe on alcohol, but notice that He told them to drink it in His presence (Deuteronomy 14:26). Drinking, without accountability, tends to become the habit of someone with an addiction, or someone who loves to drink. And finally, we should not be associated with heavy drinkers (Proverbs 23:20).

NB: The Bible allows you to drink wine if you are a strong enough believer to resist the negative consequences–excess drinking, addiction, drunkenness, association with heavy drinkers, causing a brother to stumble, or judging others. But Solomon warns it is not wise if you can’t. It may even be wiser to avoid it altogether.



We have the very unfortunate reality of the misuse of parental authority adversely affecting the lives of children. There are complicated societal afflictions that contribute to this and mark children who then become teens and young adults, and eventually fathers and mothers themselves. However, Solomon places a positive spin on parental authority as he counsels his sons. The integrity of parents will extend to the lives of their children. Here is a righteous parent striving to live faithfully in the believing community according to God’s standards showing his blameless lifestyle. Solomon says that he can anticipate this example to impact his children as well.

NB: In God’s economy the nature and actions of parents have an effect on children. Here the legacy is righteousness and so the children in that home reap the benefits. There are many things biblically good parents do. They teach biblical faith, assist adult children to get started in life, intercede for them before God, love your wife or husband, involved in their lives and example integrity by use of authority.


First, the use of authority should be discerning. The king in the ancient world also served as the chief judge in society. By carefully examining a case with his eyes a just king could detect or sift evil motives and actions. He could not be easily fooled and could remove the evil from his realm. This applies to any person with authority using that power with discernment to address evil appropriately.

Second, then identify and correctly judge the person and purge that evil person and his or her actions, influence, or impropriety. In v 26 the king is responsible to separate the wicked from the righteous and try to address and correct the behavior of the wicked by inflicting punishment. The image of winnowing is separating and threshing is correcting.  The point is detection and punishment so as to maintain order and justice.

NB: Good leadership includes the removal of wicked people. Wicked people should not surround the leader or the people he leads. If wickedness is allowed to continue unchecked, others will suffer, because wickedness tolerated is wickedness approved. Unrepentant sinners must not be permitted to influence those you lead. But neither should they influence the leader.



The ‘customer is always right’ is a motto exhorting staff to give the highest priority to customer satisfaction. Marshall field popularized this notion to take customer complaints seriously so they did not feel cheated or deceived. However, it was soon challenged because it ignored that customers can be dishonest, have unrealistic expectations or purposely misuse products that voided guarantees costing companies money. Solomon noted these phenomena in proverbs. Some people falsely appraise a deal to gain a bargain ‘bad, bad, says the buyer’. A shred buyer can downplay the value of a product to a seller to get the price lowered. Then brag about the deal he got. So a seller needs to be on guard against dishonest bargain hunters.

In v 17 Solomon states that good things acquired dishonestly will not bring satisfaction. Food gained by fraud he says will end up being only a mouthful of gravel—thinking immediately about the bitterns after Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit. This contrasts the short-term pleasure of sin with its long-range consequences. Attractive in its immediate payoff but it ultimately turns on its host.

NB: Shrewdness is one thing but deceitful misrepresentation in the deal in order to buy under value becomes unethical. Don’t use your power to cheat, steal, confiscate, or deceive. Taking advantage of a merchandizer is a form of stealing.



One’s initial response when justice is required is to say, “I will repay evil”. Solomon says ‘do not say that’. The response of the righteous and wise must be ‘wait’ on the Lord not ‘act’ on my own. Leave retribution to the Lord when you have been wronged and let him bring a just deliverance. This waiting is an act of faith trusting and relying on God to bring deliverance—focusing on the positive side as a deliverer rather than an avenger—although to deliver the righteous involves judgment on the perpetrator.

NB: Do not seek revenge, and don’t be happy about your enemy’s problems. Revenge is an attempt at justice, balancing the scales with an eye-for-an-eye. Clearly, this is God’s job. And although territorial governments are to attempt it, individuals are not (Romans 12:19; 13:1-4; Hebrews 12:30). Being happy about your enemy’s problems is a heart condition whereby you are getting vicarious revenge. It is a revenge you imagine in your thoughts.

PT: Instead, focus on your deliverance from the injustice and trust God with that according to his sovereign plan and time. He will not forget your plight nor will he ignore the need for justice.



1. Power and authority must be tempered by humility or else we will brandish it instead of use it.

2. Steward your authority by understanding that God has given it to you as a resource to serve.

3. Authority can be abused when we forget that God is in charge of its allocation. We do not have the right to control people with it.

4. Having authority and power makes us more accountable to God not more privileged.