Not That Complicated

Proverbs 11:5

“The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.”

“The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.” – NLT

“The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness.” - HCSB

Straightforward, or Complicated

Some people love to live lives that are in constant turmoil. They love the drama. They thrive on making excuses for failure. They are the wicked. They live complicated lives.

Then there are others who love to live simple, ordinary lives. They deal with issues in a sensible fashion. When they don’t succeed, they try again, learning from their mistakes. They are the “perfect,” the godly. Their lives are pretty straightforward.

The difference between the ways of the blameless and the wicked can be seen in how complicated or straightforward they are. One is clear for travel, while the other is littered with obstacles.

9 to 5, or 90 to Life

Speaking of Prov. 11:5, one commentary says, “Righteous living results in a straight way (cf. 3:5-6), a life with fewer obstacles and troubles (cf. 11:8), but wickedness leads to a person’s downfall.”[1] It really all comes down to how a person lives his life.

Honest, hard-working people who go to work and provide for their families are not usually the partying type. And by virtue of their consistency, their lifestyle is usually free of trouble. But when you look at the lives of people who live to fulfill the desires of the flesh, they are constantly in and out of court, in and out of jobs, and in and out of jail.

The difference is that living right makes the road of life smoother, while living wickedly brings trouble. Sometimes I wonder why that truth is so hard to understand. Yet, there are many who would rather risk prison than live in a way that pleases God.


[1] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Pr 11:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


Overboard With Everything (11:4)

Proverbs 11:4

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.”

Extending Life

According to Wikipedia approximately 250 people are believed to have invested in cryopreservation as a means of maintaining their bodies in a suspended state after death. They hope that science will one day find a solution to whatever it was that killed them so that they may live again! Considerable wealth is necessary to fund cryopreservation, but the fact remains that even the wealthy die. No amount of money can change the fact that our days on earth are numbered.

Death Approaches Silently

Years ago while anchored in the Shatt-al-Arab River we hosted some officers from another British ship in our bar one night. I spent a long time listening to one of them telling me about his perfect his life. He had bought a new flat (apartment) back home, and a new car. He had a wonderful girlfriend and a great job. He showed me the expensive Seiko watch he had purchased in Japan earlier in the trip. I can remember being envious. I was only a cadet at the time, and the lowest paid person on the ship.

Later that night our officer of the watch got a VHF call from the other ship asking if we could put our boats down and help them search for a missing officer. The very person who had spent the evening telling me about his absolute satisfaction with life had fallen out of the boat when trying to board his ship. It was three weeks before his body washed up further downstream. He died with everything he ever wanted, but without the only thing he ever needed: Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Rich Fools

Jesus told a parable about a rich fool who had his best year ever on the farm. The harvest was so good that he decided to demolish his barns and build bigger better barns so that he could store away plenty for years to come. That night the farmer died. The NIV version is shown below:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21

The writer of Proverbs captures this parable in a single line, ably demonstrating the simplicity of the message. You cannot buy salvation. Eternal life is a gift that may be claimed only by surrendering your earthly life to God.


Duplicitous

Proverbs 11:3

“The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.”

Perverse

The NIV words this verse in this way: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Notice the first part is the same. Technically, so is the second part.

The KJV reminds us that sinners are perverse. When most people hear or read “perverse” they tend to think of sexual deviants of various sorts, but that’s not the primary meaning. Consider how Merriam-Webster (.com) defines “perverse”:

a: turned away from what is right or good :corrupt

   b:improper, incorrect    c: contrary to the evidence or the direction of the judge on a point of law <perverse verdict>

a: obstinate in opposing what is right, reasonable, or accepted :wrongheaded

   b: arising from or indicative of stubbornness or obstinacy

From this we see that all people are perverse in some way at some point (or all points) in life. We also see that it is because of a willful disobedience.

For many this means destruction. This is not just losing everything or dying, but it could very well have bad eternal significance.

This also means that, for Christians, we are frequently duplicitous. We wish to serve God, but we put forth a mindset contrary to what our Judge would have for us.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus says that those whom He calls goats think they are good people. When He comes to judge the world, their duplicitousness will prove their doom. As He said in the final two verses, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

What Do We Do?

As one of my favorite passages words it:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. – James 4:7-9

Heavenly Father, help us live a life that honors You. Clean our hands and purify our hearts that we may not be perverse or double-minded. Thank You for saving us from our sins, now please save us from ourselves. Make us a people of integrity, grace, and love.


Be Humble, Don’t Fumble (11:2)

Proverbs 11:2

When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

The simple message of this proverb is that the prideful person is more likely to get knocked down to size than the person who is already humble. Shame follows on the heels of pride, while wisdom is already with the humble.

A Story

I don’t know where the original story came from, but years ago my dad told me a story about a proud preacher. The young minister was confident in his abilities and his preparation. So, when asked to preach in a conference, the young man jumped at the opportunity, strutted up to the stage, and manned the pulpit.

It didn’t take long for the prideful young minister to realize he was blowing it. When he was finished, he slowly shuffled down the steps from the stage, head hung low, looking totally dejected. Then, feeling like a total failure, he sat down by an older, wiser man of God.

How do you think you did up there?” the older man asked.

I totally blew it,” the young preacher said. “I don’t know what happened. I knew the material, was prepared, and wasn’t even nervous.

Gently, the old pulpiteer asked, “So what you’re saying is that you went up there with your head held high, but came down with it hanging low, correct?

Yessir, that’s about it,” said the young man. “I don’t know what I could have done differently.

With a slight grin the old preacher looked at the younger and said, “If you’d went up there the way you came down, you’d have come down the way you went up.

You Down With That?

When some people ask if you understand something, they may say, “You down with that?” Ironically, in the case of this proverb, being “down” with it, or being “lowly,” is where wisdom can be found.

Do you understand what the old preacher was saying? He was only echoing Solomon in today’s proverb. Pride, cockiness, and self-assurance are not far ahead of shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. The wise, by being humble from the beginning, will rise in due time, and not in their own strength.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

Don’t let pride cause you to fumble a scoring opportunity.


Watching the Scales

Proverbs 11:1

“A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”

True Weight

In the attempt to stay a lean, mean, fighting machine (oh, get real), I have found myself watching the numbers when I weigh myself. As a matter of fact, there is a small calendar in our bathroom where I have recorded the numbers over about three months.

One day I was so excited that I had seemingly lost several pounds. I told my wife, “See, I am losing weight!” Then, later that day, I went to the doctor’s office for a regular checkup. It was there that my inflated ego became a lead balloon, for the official scales told a different story.

What I had thought was my weight when I stood on the cheap scales at home did not square with the expensive, worthless-to-argue-with scales at the doctor’s office. Instead of losing weight, I had gained weight. The scales at home lied!

Balances and Ducks

In order to really understand this proverb, we must understand what is meant by a “false balance.” As you can see by the illustration, things used to be weighed by placing one object on one side of a balance, and then a standard weight on the other.

A humorous example of false weights and false scales can be found in a scene from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In that scene a woman is accused of being a witch, so “logically” they determine that since wood burns the same as witches, and wood also floats, then something besides wood must be put in a scale to determine if the woman was actually a witch. They choose a duck, because ducks float in water like wood. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Once they take the accused witch to the scales, they place a duck on the opposite side. When they remove the blocks underneath, guess what? The scales did not move. Hmmm.

False Balances

But what God hates is a false balance. In other words, God hates scales that have been tampered with in order for a merchant (or a witch burner) to make a profit. God hates scales that do not tell the truth, but lead others to believe they do. God loves the truth, even if the scales tell us something we don’t want to admit.

In the book of Daniel we read of Belshazzar of Babylon seeing a message written by God on a wall. Among other things it said, “TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.“(Daniel 5:27). In Belshazzar’s mind his bathroom scale was just fine. But according to God’s scale, he was way, way off.

This proverb is primarily pointed at those who lie in order to make a profit. It is about those who tamper with what is a “true” weight in order to perpetuate a falsehood. In other words, hypocrisy.

But from a different perspective, we should remember that how we think of ourselves needs to measure up with God’s standard. The world’s scales are always a little unbalanced.


Consider Your Words

Proverbs 10:32

“The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Think Before You Speak

The power of words and the language we use should never be under-estimated. Words can build up or words can destroy. A wise and righteous person thinks before speaking, and chooses his or her words carefully. A foolish or wicked person rarely stops to think, and words fall out of his or her mouth like tiny bombs that inflict all kinds of damage.

When I think back to my childhood I remember hearing words that shaped me. Call a child stupid enough times and he or she will grow up believing that they are stupid. My year four teacher at junior school made it clear that she didn’t like me, and that she thought that I was no good. I was eight years old. I knew I could never please this woman of harsh words, so I gave up trying. But I didn’t just give up trying in her class. I gave up trying for a long time, and never really enjoyed school again. I left school at sixteen.

Worse Than Profanities

Words spoken without thought, and especially those spoken with evil intent, are worse than profanities. Most children are brought up not to use profanities. My father would have punished me if he had heard me swear. But I have heard many words that are worse than profanities. Any word spoken with the intention of causing hurt, for instance. Why use words designed to cause pain, when words could be used instead to encourage family members, colleagues at work, friends in church, and friends outside the church? Sadly, it is all too easy to say the wrong thing.

The Bible teaches us to be encouragers, and provides many examples. These include Moses and Joshua, Samuel and David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and His disciples, Paul and many of the early evangelists who accompanied him on his travels. Most of these relationships also contained a significant element of mentoring. These were intentional relationships in which one person sought to build up and encourage another, the aim being to help and enable the other person to fulfill their God-given potential.

Stop a moment and take a brief look at your own life. Consider the words spoken to you and the words you say to others. Who is encouraging you, who is an encouragement to you, and who are you encouraging? Could God be pointing you into a mentoring relationship?


Watch Your Tongue!

Proverbs 10:31

“The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.”

A Way with Words

The Bible sure has a way with words, doesn’t it?

Could you imagine if every person who said stupid things, those things that just irk others, cause division, and make people generally feel bad, had their tongues cut out?

For starters, this world would be a lot quieter! Secondly, those who believe the Bible would be seen as cruel (or saviors of Mankind!) for taking someone’s tongue.

The thing is, people who are able to say the right thing at the right time have a way with words, but not all of them are righteous or just. For example, a great teacher can push a student to learn, to have a higher self-esteem, and to want to change for the better, and much of the time only with words.

Compare this to someone like Donald Trump. He can say many things that make a business great, but most people do not have “friend” or “colleague” or “inspiration” come to mind about him.

What about most politicians? Most people cannot wait for these people to stop talking!

This is basically the point.

People generally enjoy listening to someone who speaks wisdom.

A just person builds peace, grows confidence, and is easily respected. But even though some people can pull off one or two of these, without all three one ends up speaking mostly hot air. They may promote more dissension than peace; instill more fear or confusion than confidence; and find it harder to gain or maintain respect.

However, their tongues (usually) will not be cut out! Instead, by the Hand of the Lord, whether through circumstances or other people, they find no one listens to them.

“He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.” – 1 Samuel 2:9

Lord Jesus, give us Your wisdom and heart for people. Help us to not only hold our tongues but to change our minds and attitudes toward all circumstances and people. May we always glorify You in what we say that we may not be silenced.


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