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Life

Proverbs: Wisdom in Righteousness

Part 7 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Over the last seven weeks, we’ve talked about Christ as the God’s wisdom and about wisdom in reproof, stewardship, friendship, and speech.  We could say so much about this wonderful book, but let’s top of our journey through Proverbs with wisdom in righteousness.

We could also call this “Wisdom in Wisdom” (but that would confuse people).  Righteousness is wisdom.  Wisdom is righteousness.  Righteousness in Proverbs is different than righteousness in Romans, however.  Proverbs’ righteousness is practical obedience to God’s word.  It is the righteousness we do that arises from the righteousness we are given. We are made righteous through Christ’s death, and are thus compelled by his love to practice it in our daily living.

Solomon often speaks of the benefits of righteous living.  We need to get one thing straight, otherwise we will have a warped view of God: righteous living does not always equate to reward, benefits, success, or security.  Righteousness is not a lamp that we can rub the right way so God will come to do our bidding.  In fact, the Bible shows that righteousness can lead to trial and suffering.  The fact is that Solomon doesn’t give us formulas like, “Give to the poor and you’ll be blessed.”  Rather, he gives us general principles that we should, by the Spirit, strive to live out.  If benefits do come, they are a blood-bought gift from Calvary, and we should praise God for them.

Solomon says, “Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster” (1:33).  This means that whoever listens to wisdom and obeys will be secure spiritually.  There will be spiritual joy and peace even when the cancer grows, a parent dies, or your wife has a miscarriage.

Chapter 8 is all about the blessings of wisdom (and righteousness!).  Righteous words lead people to knowledge and understanding.  Righteous words lead people to wisdom which is better than jewels (vv. 8-11).  Solomon tells his sons that “whoever finds [wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from the LORD” (v. 35).

A truly abundant life doesn’t consist of how much money we have or how big our house is.  Proverbs 11:4 reminds us, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”  John Piper has written, “There are no U-Hauls attached to hearses.”  Money and possessions won’t do anyone good before God on judgment day.  But a righteous life, by God’s grace, will.

“Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.  Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight” (11:19-20).  Idols of status, praise of man, sex, food, money, technology, education, marriage, children, and so many others will kill us!  Idols are often good things that turn into ultimate things.  When this happens, we are doomed.  How much longer will we continue to pursue evil instead of being steady in righteousness?

This is just the fringe of verses on wisdom in righteous and wisdom from Proverbs.  Solomon gives us the bottom line in his final word of Ecclesiastes.  He says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).  By the Spirit, let’s put to death our pursuit of foolishness and evil.  By the Spirit, because of imputed righteousness, let’s pursue Jesus, our great and only wisdom and righteousness.

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Life

Proverbs: Wisdom in Speech

Part 6 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Let me say this right up front: I am not the greatest example of wise speech.  I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth a few times and I have let a few foul words slip as well.  Yet in his great mercy, despite my constant failures, God is refining my tongue.  I praise him for his sanctifying and empowering grace.

Proverbs has more to say about our speech than any other subject – besides the benefits of wisdom.  Indeed, this is a major theme of the Bible as well.  Luke 6:45 says, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his wholly body.”

The straightforward command of Solomon to his son in Proverbs 4:24 is umbrella principle for our speech.  He says, “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.”  This doesn’t just mean stop telling junior high locker room jokes.  It means anything that isn’t in line with God’s standard for righteousness, justice, and wholesomeness.  Wow.  It’s no wonder that “no man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8).

There are benefits to controlling our tongue (which, ultimately, means we control our hearts as Luke 6:45 says).  Solomon later says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (13:3).  And again, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (29:20).  In other words, if you are loose and foolish with your speech, the guy who sticks his hand in the bonfire to see how hot it is has more hope than you.

Words are powerful.  Paul Tripp has said, “You have never spoken a neutral word in your life.  Either your talk brings life or brings death.”  That strikes a chord deep inside of my heart.  Words lure men away into adultery (7:5, 21).  Words tarnish the reputation of a neighbor (11:9).  Words scorch close relationships (16:27-28).  Harsh words create anger (15:1b).  On the other hand, soft words remove wrath (15:1a).  Words heal wounded hearts (12:18).  Honest words are like a lover’s kiss (24:26).  A word fitly spoken is like a sweet fruit tray at a dinner party (25:11).

I haven’t even touched on gossip, lying, deception, reproving others, and a slew of other speech-related issues.  There’s so much to reflect on.  The bottom line is that if our hearts are wicked, our speech will be as well.  O Lord, change our hearts that our speech might be seasoned with salt so that it might be received well by the listening ear.  Cause the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart, Father, to be acceptable in your sight (Ps. 19:14).

To be continued…

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Life

Proverbs: Wisdom in Friendship

Part 5 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Everyone knows someone who can’t pick a good friend to save his life.  Let’s be honest.

The married guy picks friends who go to the bar every night and play Xbox as he ignores his son who’s ready to play ball outside.  The married woman befriends divorced women who drink too much cheap wine and tell her it’s time for a younger man.  The kid in high school is only friends with the star quarterback because he knows the right answers to the test.   The junior high girl sits at lunch with the popular girls who gossip and slander every other girl because their jeans are “so last year.”

Now the point is not that we stay away from people like this.  The problem is not conversation or acquaintance or even the occasional hang-out.  Jesus hung out with “losers.”  These kinds of friends need the gospel just as much as we do.

The problem arises when bad friends replace our inner circle of godly, wise friends.  The real problem happens when they replace Scripture and Jesus-loving friends as they try to get us to worship idols.

Over 25 passages (not verses) in Proverbs talk about friendship.  In the first chapter, Solomon writes to his son, “If sinners entice you, do not consent.  If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason”…do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths” (v. 10-11, 15).  It might not be murder like this case, but it might be continual gossip, slander, hate-speech, complaining, quarreling, alcohol, drugs, sex, or entertainment.  All those things lead to bloodshed – both your own and someone else’s.

In 13:20, Solomon says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  I know that somebody will argue, “But I share my faith with my friends!  You need to be around non-Christians more!”  I’m not arguing against that.  But remember that Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33).  We must minister to non-Christians.  But when they become our inner circle, our wise counsel, or our support during trial, we will be overcome by their foolishness and become fools ourselves.

Solomon also gives instruction for how to be a good friend.  In 25:17 he advises us, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”  This means don’t invite yourself to his house for every football game.  Later in 27:14 he writes, “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”  That means don’t try to bless your neighbor by mowing his lawn at 7 am when it’s his only day off for the whole month.

Finally, Solomon tells us that a good friend can gently rebuke us for our good: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”  A true friend is one who can honestly call out sin and folly in your life.  Do your friends point you to Jesus when you need it most?  Or do they point you to every possible idol and encourage you to worship at the altar of demons?

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Life

How Important is Physical Attraction?

A comment of mine from another blog about the importance of this in a relationship:

I agree that physical beauty fades. Proverbs 31 tells us that. Nevertheless, if you cannot be honestly attracted to your wife (or husband for the ladies), then you are doing a disservice to her by not being appreciative of the way God made them physically (because after all, we do have bodies and God made us to have that sort of attraction for a reason). Furthermore, I think that as a couple ages together and that if both the husband and wife do what they are designed to do (according to Ephesians 5:22-33), they will both grow in holiness. A couple that truly loves Jesus and does this will be more attracted to each other in every sense even if the skin is dry and wrinkly and gravity rears its ugly head.

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Theology

Proverbs: Wisdom in Stewardship

Part 4 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

The essence of wisdom is understanding action-consequence.  Perhaps in our lives we see this most clearly with stewardship.  When you hear the word stewardship, you probably think of money.  But we might say that stewardship extends into every facet of our life since everything is a gift from God.  Therefore, if we have wisdom in stewardship, we will be on our way to a godly and satisfied life.

We all know the fable of the ant and the grasshopper.  Aesop (620-560 BC) wrote this story.  Solomon lived some 400 years before Aesop, yet wrote about hard work in the same way: “The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer” (Prov. 30:25).  Further, “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (10:5).

If we want to provide for ourselves, our loved ones, and the poor and marginalized, then there must be planning and hard work.  Money, food, and shelter don’t just appear like vapor in the clouds.  We must be strategic planners and workers in order to steward our resources and energy well.  Solomon gives the warning: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (24:34).

This isn’t contradictory to Jesus’ command to not worry, however.  Worry is an internal feeling of anxiousness rooted in a  lack of faith in God.  Planning is rooted in faith that God will sovereignly provide through hard, sanctified work.  After all, hard work is commanded by and pleases God (see 2 Thess. 3:10).

Proverbs also teaches us about something called “putting up security” for a neighbor.  This means that one person offer to pay someone else’s debt if he defaults (fails to pay the debt).  This is foolish according to Solomon. In Proverbs 6,:1-5 Solomon tells his son that he will spend his whole life climbing out of the whole he created for himself.  Elsewhere he writes, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure” (11:15).  “One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor” (17:18).  “Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts” (22:26).

This doesn’t mean that loaning large amounts of money is always morally wrong.  We must be liberal in our giving to the kingdom, just like the Macedonians (2 Cor. 8:1-5).  However, giving large sums of money to people who have continually been poor stewards of their finances and lifestyle will not make up for their foolishness.

Finally, let’s look at that heavenly Proverbs 31 woman.  Verse 16 says, “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”  This shows us two things: 1) We must be good stewards of business and/or family decisions, and 2) We must be good stewards of our abilities or talents because they too are gifts from the Most High.  This woman made quality decisions and actions for her family that pleased God, her husband, and her kids.

You will never be a wise enough steward, but there’s hope, redemption, and transformation in Christ.  So as I ask myself, I ask you: Where do you need to become a better steward?