What Are You Listening To?

Proverbs 17:4

“A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.” (KJV).

Be Careful What You Hear:

There is an old Sunday school song that says, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear!” It’s a fun song, but it also promotes a very Biblical principle. Jesus Himself said, “Therefore take heed how you hear.” (Luke 8:18a). To take heed means to be careful. We need to be careful what we choose to listen to! Words are powerful, and words can either bring life or death into people’s lives.

In today’s Scripture, Solomon gives us warnings about two different kinds of people: Wicked people, and liars. He tells us that a wicked person will give heed – or listen – to false lips, and a liar will give ear – or listen – to a naughty (malicious, spiteful, destructive) tongue. We know that as Christians, God doesn’t want us to be a wicked person or a liar. Therefore, we would be wise to not listen to false lips or naughty tongues.

False Lips and Naughty Tongues:

There are many false lips and naughty tongues in the world today. Wicked people and liars will use their lips and tongues to tell lies, slander people, gossip about others, and stir up strife and disunity – in families, churches, and indeed all relationships. Therefore, we must be on our guard against such people! It’s sad to say that you can even find those people… in the church. As a pastor, I can tell you that there is nothing more dangerous or harmful in a church than people who will stir up strife and division through their negative words!

So what do we do when we find ourselves surrounded by people with false lips and naughty tongues? We can’t just go and bury our heads in the sand or move into a monastery, can we? Of course not. However, we must still guard our hearts from such negative words. Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon gives us this warning: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). (Click HERE to read Jason’s devotional about this Scripture). Our ears and eyes are the windows to the heart, so we must be careful what we put into them.

How to Guard the Heart:

How can we keep our heart from being affected by hearing negative words – lying, strife, gossip, slander and more? First of all, make a decision that you will not allow your heart to be a garbage can for other people’s negative words. The next time someone starts gossiping to you, or talking negatively about someone else, refuse to listen to it. (And remember this – if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you! This is not the kind of friend you need…). And secondly, make a decision that you will watch your words, and make sure that no negative speech comes out of your mouth. Use your words to bring life to people!

Here’s a link to a youtube video of the old Sunday school song Oh Be Careful Little Eyes:



Golden Hearts

Proverbs 17:3 

“The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts.”

Gold refining 1A friend of mine used to work for a company that specialized in precious metals. He gave me a factory tour several years ago. It was interesting to see the difference between raw materials and unrefined items, and the final product be it silver and gold bars, or jewelry supplies and products.

I remember the tremendous heat involved in the refining process, and the large vault in which everything was secured, before and after refining. Everything in that factory was of value, regardless of where it was in the production line. Refining added value, as did the process of transforming silver, gold and other materials into jewelry. Needless to say I had to undergo an airport type search before leaving the factory.

imagesThe point is that every human being was created by God in His image and is of value to God, whether they are still rough around the edges, undergoing a refining process, or fast approaching becoming a finished product. God sees value in us all, but He needs to take us in our unrefined state and add further value. The only problem is that most of us do not want to pass through the heat of the furnace.

The Hebrew word used for trieth in this proverb may also be translated as test, investigate, examine, prove, tempt, try (by trial). Each of these words describes part of the process God applies to us. We cannot expect it to be a walk in the park. This is serious stuff. But consider the end result!

Imagine a worker in the precious metal factory handling a shiny gold bar having watched it take shape from the point it entered the production line as dirty unrefined ore or nuggets. Imagine the joy of holding the finished product and seeing your reflection in it. Then imagine how God feels when He can finally see Himself reflected in one of us.

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within
Brian Doerkson

Refiner’s Fire – Christy Nockels

The Wise Servant

Proverbs 17:2

“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.” 

The Wise Butler

I wish I could remember the details of it, but years ago I saw a movie that that was like this verse. Of course, the fact that a movie from Hollywood reminds me of a story in Scripture shouldn’t amaze me; many of the plots in movies are stolen from the Bible.

Nevertheless, I remember seeing something about a butler who had to manage a wild, rebellious, reputation-ruining heir. I just can’t remember if the butler wound up with everything, or not.

The Wise Servant

In this proverb we read of a servant who was smart enough to look out for the family’s interests, even if the son only cared about acting the fool. The servant wisely took charge over the unruly son, maybe even saying, “Your daddy put me in charge, so yes, I am the boss of you!

It was not uncommon in those days for a servant to be very close to the members of the family he served. It was not uncommon, even, for a servant to have part in the family’s inheritance  especially if the servant was considered a family member. So, it stands to reason that the wise servant, caring for the family that employed him, might have seen the profit of keeping his master’s son out of trouble.

Sometimes, it was even the case that a servant got everything, but his master got nothing. We read about that happening to Ziba, the former servant of Saul (2 Samuel 16:1-4).

The Shameful Son

There is another way to look at this, however. Even though the son was related by blood to the master, he was still subordinate to the servant. Whether it had to be that way, we don’t know. But the way this verse reads, the son might have been old enough to have been out from under the control of a tutor. He may have been old enough to have been the one to give the orders. Yet, because of his behavior, the servant was placed over him.

Let this be a lesson to us. Even though we may be children of the King, when we act up and begin to bring shame to His name, someone not even in the family may be used to discipline us. And, if it goes far enough, the blessing once due us may even go to someone else.


A Crumby Life

Proverbs 17:1

“Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.”

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (NIV)

Struggling Through

I have some friends. These friends are great people, and soon after they got married they moved in with my wife and me.

We had to live together, you see, because I had lost my job, my wife had just graduated and was looking for work, and they had no jobs of their own. The little bit of income the four of us brought in was barely enough to pay rent, the bills, and get food.

And you know: the four of us have so many great memories together.

There were times when we were sharing three-day-old spaghetti, because that was all we had. There were times we borrowed toilet paper from their parents. There were times we had to ask family for money or food just to get by.

But we would play games together, laugh about the silliest things, and share all of our hurts and joys together.

Too much on the plate

Of those friends, his family is great. My wife and I call his parents “our other parents”. Her family makes Jacob’s (from Genesis) look like a finely functioning family. (If you do not know what I mean, go read Jacob’s story in Genesis 25-37!)

Her family squabbles about every little thing (really, it is her sisters who do all of the squabbling), while dad lets them figure it out on their own and mom cleans up the messes. My poor friend (and her mom, really) are the closest to sane in the whole family.

The problem is not that the family does not need to worry about money, because they are doing rather well.

The problem is that everyone is either looking out only for themselves (the sisters) or do not know how to deal with issues well if at all (mom and dad). They just keep heaping everything on until there is an explosion, and everyone is hurt.

My friends prefer spending the afternoon with us walking our dog and cleaning up his messes than a short meal with her family.

The Crumby Life

It is possible to “have it all” and live in peace and quiet. The real issue is that people try to make this life all about themselves, and they take and take and take without really giving back.

We must learn to be content, to seek God and what He has for us, and to share with others more than we demand.

Only then will we find peace.

God of peace, grant us the wisdom to find contentment with what You have already blessed us. If we are eager for more, may it be of more of You and sharing with others. Make us the peacemakers and givers of this world!

Temper Temper

Proverbs 16:32 

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

Being slow to get angry is not an easy task for most of us. It is quite interesting for me to consider my five children when I read this verse. Some of them fly off the handle very quickly, but only one was ever slow to anger. This stood him in good stead on the rugby pitch where provocation is often rife. There came a day when he was fifteen years old when my son did lose his temper. He punched another player who then had to leave the pitch and visit the local A&E, where coincidentally my wife was one of the two duty nurses, and my next-door neighbor was the other.

It seems that everyone saw the punch except the referee. But nobody condemned my son, except my wife who wasn’t too pleased when she found out that her son was responsible for her patient in A&E (be sure your sins will always find you out!). The other players in my son’s team and the sports teachers who had accompanied the team to the match knew that my son was slow to anger and that on this occasion a one-off well-timed and accurately targeted punch was appropriate. The boys on the opposing team more than certainly knew that their teammate on the receiving end deserved what he got because of his behavior during the match. The same boy spent hours scouring the town center (downtown for US readers) with two of his friends looking for my son to take revenge. Brave boy. Three to get one.

James, the brother of Jesus, repeats and adds to this proverb in the New Testament:

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19 NLT)

What excellent advice. And by the way, they won the match, which was a semi-final in the U15s Anglo-Welsh cup. My son’s team went on to win in the final. I can’t help but think that one reason they won was because as a team they were slow to react to provocation, leaving them free to focus on the match.

Don’t Cover the Gray

Proverbs 16:31

“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” 

“You’re Worth It”

Do you remember the old hair-coloring commercials that tried to convince us that coloring one’s hair was worth the money and time, because, after all, “you’re worth it”?

Another advertisement for hair color contained a jingle which went, “I’m gonna wash that grey right out of my hair” (Clairol). What we the purpose of all this nonsense? The purpose was to appear younger.

Well, believe it or not, the longer one lives, the more wisdom he or she obtains and grey hair should be the emblem of their success. Where that crown! You’re worth it!

The Right Head

The “hoary head” is another way of saying the head that has white or grey hair. Solomon is saying that he who is blessed with that hair is blessed with a crown of glory, so long as he is in the “way of righteousness.” Without righteousness and godly wisdom, all that grey hair just means you’re old.

My Gray

I never thought I would live long enough for this verse to mean anything to me, but here I am, 48, with a silvery-gray goatee that constantly battles the razor that shaves my head. Some have asked, “Why don’t you color your facial hair?” My response is simple: I don’t want to look immature.

I don’t know about you, but I have battled with looking young all my life. For most that would be a blessing worth millions, but not for a preacher. I don’t want to look like a 25-year-old hipster who goes through a gallon of hair product a month to look good on T.V. I don’t want to look like the wavy-blond PhD who managed to get famous for writing 50 pages in 50 books, and probably still sleeps with a teddy bear.

I have earned my “hoary head”!  I wan’t to look like the 48-year-old pastor who has faced giants, slain dragons, and changed diapers – all while studying for Sunday morning. Gray is my medal of honor.

Respect Them

Modern culture is quick to throw out the elderly with the trash, and that’s a crying shame. Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 5:1-2) to treat the older men as fathers, and the older women as mothers. Paul even gave instruction to both Timothy and Titus to seek out the elderly and put their wisdom to use training the younger generations.

When I was young, our teacher made us all stand up in our classroom out of respect for a visiting adult. When a parent or visitor came through the door of our classroom we would stand at attention without even thinking. We were constantly reminded of Leviticus 19:32, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

 You keep your brown and black – my crown is staying gray.

Just Imagine

Proverbs 16:30 

“He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.”

Mental Image

I would like for you to try to picture something in your mind. In other words, I want you to imagine the appearance of someone fitting the description of this verse.

Shutteth. It is not hard to paint a picture in your mind of someone shutting his eyes, right? So imagine a man sitting in a comfy chair, leaning his head back, and closing his eyes. Can you see him? Now, instead of just shutting his eyes, imagine them shut tightly, not just closed. He is thinking, pondering, planning, and scheming. Evil is on his mind.

Moving. Now, imagine this man’s lips as being tight, pursed, or pinched. According to Strong’s Concordance, the original Hebrew word meant “to narrow, form, nip, pinch, squeeze, wink, purse,” so his are lips of determination.


Now that you have imagined it, look around. Look at the faces of those committing determined acts of evil. What do you see?

What this verse in Proverbs describes is a person who contemplates evil plans, then sets out with determination to carry them out. How sad.

Be the Opposite

Now that you have a picture of what not to be, why not be the opposite?

What if each one of us took the time to plan good deeds the way the ungodly plans evil? What if we sat back with our eyes closed and took the time to contemplate ways in which we could bring glory to our Creator?

Then, instead of just thinking about it, what would it be like if each of us grit our teeth, narrowed our lips, and set out with determination to accomplish what we’d planned?

Evil triumphs when the good do nothing.


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