Ways that seem Right but are Not

The fourteenth chapter of proverbs presents us with the contrasts of living lives pleasing to the Lord and living lives at odds with his ways. This chapter speaks to: wisdom and folly; the inner joy of bitterness; naivety and prudence; taking car of the poor; and what is means for a nation to be pleasing to God.

"The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." (v1)

Building and walking.. great images of what it is like to be in relationship with the Lord.. interesting that something good that we built can be torn down by our foolish actions.

"Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him." (v2)

I love how uprightness and deviousness are contrasted.. I think that integrity is a mark of a person who fears the Lord.

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox." (v4)

Ever heard someone say "We can disagree as long as we are not disagreeable"? Kind of a great one-liner isn't it? I like the idea but I have to say that when we are working side-by-side things often get pretty messy.. egos clash and pride comes full bore.. but often strength comes as strong people learn to work together to produce an abundant crop.

"Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge." (v7)

Verses 5-9 are replete with contrasts.. faithful vs false witness.. scoffer vs man of understanding.. prudent vs fool.. mock vs enjoy. And wedged in these contrasts is this verse that in essence counsels us to not associate with fools. It is sometimes hard.. they sometimes feed the darkest parts of us and draw us to scoffing, lying and mocking.

"The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy." (v10)

How I wish that I did not understand this verse. I have visited the house of bitterness on occasion and know the insidious affects that it has had on my life. There is a perverse joy in bitterness and unless pulled up by it's roots bitterness can defile so much of our lives. Better to savor the sweetness of life.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (v12)

The mind is a wonderful tool.. it can do amazing things.. it can even make unwise interpretations of scripture. Living from your head, instead of your heart, will often lead you in the ways of death.

"The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps." (v15)

Interesting how the scriptures teach us to have childlike faith but also teach us to be prudent in the ways that we live. Sometimes we do the most imprudent things in the name of childlike faith.. which is usually just religiousness and not faith at all.

"The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor." (v20-21)

Money often brings out the worst in us.. how we use it tests our mettle.. it's affect on us says a lot about us. In Matthew's gospel Jesus told us that how we use money is a reflection of what we treasure the most. Sadly many of us do not treasure the poorest amongst us at all.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (v34)

I want to read this verse and speak to the national sins of our day but I do not think that this is the sense of it. Here is the way that Gill comments on it:
Administered by the government, and exercised by subjects towards one another; doing justice between man and man: this exalts a nation, as it did the people of Israel, while practised among them; this sets a people above their neighbours, and high in the esteem of God and men; and is attended with privileges and blessings, which make a nation great and honourable.
Being an honorable nation is at its heart caring for each other and treating each other with mercy and respect. We suffer when our laws do less.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

Poverty that makes you Rich

The thirteenth chapter of proverbs again addresses what is means to be successful in the eyes of the Lord. Riches and wealth are discussed with relationship to our work habits, our savings habits and our relationship to God and His word. Other things like discipline, contentment and our speech are also mentioned.

"Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked." (v6)

The first five verses contrast the ways that the righteous and unrighteous work and speak. I think that this verse ties those verses together. My desire is to show myself blameless in the way that I work and speak.. not that it is easy :)

"One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth." (v7)

Albert Barnes comments on this verse in this way: "There is a seeming wealth behind which there lies a deep spiritual poverty and wretchedness. There is a poverty which makes a person rich for the kingdom of God." Reminds me what Jesus said in the Beatitudes of how we are blessed when we are poor in spirit.

"Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it." (v11)

For me the heart of conservatism is not only the way that we use the resources that God has entrusted to us but how those resources are acquired. Many who preach the health and wealth gospel sometimes advocate a manner of receiving that is not consistent with this verse when they speak of how God wants to lavish wealth on folks who simply pray but are not faithful to work and accumulate "little by little".

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (v12)

There is a difference between hope and expectations.. many times we pray and expect life to change.. this is not what hope is all about. Romans 5:5 tells us that hope does not disappoint. If we find ourselves in a place of disappointment we should consider evaluating our expectations.

"Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded." (v13)

I heard it said once that you really do not break the scriptures - they break you. I have brought destruction on myself and on my family by breaking not so much the letter of God's word but the spirit of it.

"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." (v20)

Much of this chapter is reflective of this verse.. and lest we think it does not relate to we church folks.. my experience is that some of my worst behaviors (i.e. works righteousness, judgmentalism and legalism) were learned amongst fellow believers.

"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous." (v17)

The idea of leaving a legacy is a scriptural one for sure. Do you have a legal will? How about a spiritual one? What kind of legacy are you leaving?

"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." (v24)

This is probably one of the most over-quoted verses in the bible. Proverbs 29:15 expands on the verse a bit more saying that the rod and reproof give wisdom. I think that the environment of discipline should always be within the bounds of a loving relationship.. loving words should always accompany any form of discipline.

"The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want." (v25)

The hallmark of a believer is one of a contented life. Better to have a little with God that a lot without Him.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

If You Speak It You Eat It

The twelfth chapter of proverbs speaks to the way that we work and the way that we speak. The thing that strikes me about both of these is that they both impact our lot in life and they are both within our power to control. In a general sense we really do reap what we sow.

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." (v1)

The heart of being a disciple is being disciplined and the heart of discipline is humility. Unfortunately our inner issues of pride and ego surface when we are corrected by others and even when we are disciplined by the Lord.

"An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones." (v4)

The converse of this is true as well.. truth is (in my opinion) more husbands bring shame than wives. Our hearts should be to always consider our spouses in the way that we live.. our lives should be a source of life in their lives.

"The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand." (v7)

There is an eternal aspect to a faith built on a solid foundation. Here is the way that Jesus put it: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

"Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel." (v10)

The lesson here is not the care of animals but the importance of compassion. Jesus told the religious folks of His day that God desires compassion and not religious activities. Of course I do think that how we care for animals says something about us.

"Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense." (v11)

Whether is is in a cubicle, a factory or on a farm hard work is honorable. I once told my son that the thing that makes money worth anything is work and not gold.. the work standard, not the gold standard, makes an economy prosperous.

"An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man's hand comes back to him." (v13-14)

I once heard a message titled "If you speak it you eat it". The law of sowing and reaping is applicable to our speech as well as our work. We harvest what we plant.

"Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment." (v17)

This verse wraps up several ones that compare speech in terms of: foolish or wise; insulting; honest testimony vs false witness; rash or healing words; and truth or lies. What we say is so important.. we have the power to bless or to curse.. to encourage or put down. People so need our speech to be full of wise and healing words.

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." (v25)

Encouragement is an enduring kingdom principle.. I sometimes think that we are most like God when we are blessing others with our words. I like this anonymous quote: “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success”.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

Worthy is the Lamb

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,

"Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?"

And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me,

"Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

And the four living creatures said, "Amen!"
and the elders fell down and worshiped.

(Revelation 5:1-14 ESV)

Nourishing Relationships

The eleventh chapter of proverbs speaks to the horizontal relationship that we have with others. Spiritual fruit like humility, integrity, generosity and kindness is shown to lead us in paths of life.. this fruit is essential in nourishing our relationships with others.

"A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight." (v1)

This verse shows that God is passionately interested in the way that we treat each other. We see this passion in the ten commandments.. six of those commands are targeted at the way that we interact with each other.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." (v2-3)

Humility and integrity are linked together with wisdom.. in a sense it is impossible to be wise if you are proud and lack integrity.

"The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. (v5-6) The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead." (v8)

There is a wisdom that comes when we follow the Lord with our heart.. it is a wisdom that leads us in straight paths and delivers us from trouble.. but it is a wisdom that can cost.. sometimes following Him leads us to places we would rather not go.

"By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown." (v11)

A good reminder that our cities, states and nations need us.. our governments are blessed when we are involved.. it reminds me that all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

"Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered." (v13)

A reminder that we are called to be trustworthy people. There is nothing like gossip.. even in the form of a "prayer request".. to hurt and wound the people that God loves.

"Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." (v14)

Counselors can come in the strangest places.. if we are open to His voice we will often hear some of the wisest things. It is essential that we seek out and listen to His voice in others.

"A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself." (v17)

This reminds me of the golden rule.. we must always treat others with kindness.. it is the way that we ourselves want to be treated. When we are kind we are manifesting a fruit of God's Spirit.

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." (v24-25)

Generosity is a kingdom principle.. give and it will be given to you. If you have a benevolent heart you will want to bless people with what the Lord has blessed you with.

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise." (v30)

Adam Clarke puts it this way: "Wisdom seeks to reclaim the wanderers; and he who is influenced by wisdom will do the same." Our lives are meant to be a reflection of Christ.. nourishing people with spiritual fruit and drawing all people to Him.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.