Watch Your Mouth or Get Your Lights Turned Out

Proverbs 20:20

“Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.”

My Daddy Used to Say

My father has been mentioned before, but I am going to talk about him again. You see, my dad had a very simple way with words – he said what he meant and he meant what he said. I rarely heard him raise his voice, and I didn’t want to.

One of the things my father used to say was based on the stand-up comedy of Bill Cosby (before he became infamous). He would tell me, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.” But unlike modern children who never hear talk like that, I believed him.  And believe me, he was very capable.

Respect

Once I said something disrespectful to my mother and quickly regretted it. Another time, when doing some martial arts sparring, I struck my dad a little too hard in the jaw (doing the “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” routine). That was a big mistake.

I loved my daddy. He was my best friend and my hero. But my dad was quick to remind me that he was my father. He expected and demanded respect for both my mother and himself, and I gave it. I would have never considered “cursing” either one of them.

Cursing

When we look closer at the word “curseth,” we see that the meaning has more to do with making little of, or showing contempt for one’s parents, which is more than simply hurling bad words. Cursing one’s parents is showing utter disrespect.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where children think they have the right to fire off obscenities and make demands of their parents, like parents were meant to be their slaves. And what makes it worse, many laws encourage this type of “cursing” by punishing parents who exercise any discipline.

Consequences

Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The “cursing” that Solomon mentions, then, is seed which will one day reap a harvest of darkness.

Irony can be a wonderful tool, and Solomon uses it beautifully in this proverb. Just take a moment and think about it: the cursing children wouldn’t even exist without the parents they deem so invaluable, so who needs a progeny with no predecessors?

Our Father in heaven brought us into this world, and He can surely take us out.


The Gossip

Proverbs 20:19.

“He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” (KJV). 

Gossip Described:

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the dangers of gossip:

  • “A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” (11:13, NLT).
  • “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (16:28, NLT).
  • “A gossip tells secrets, so don’t hang around with someone who talks too much.” (20:19, NLT).

To sum up, a gossip tells secrets, stirs up strife and separates friends. And how does the Bible tell us to deal with gossips? Don’t hang around with them! It should go without saying, but if someone will gossip to you, they will also gossip about you.

Gossip Illustrated:

I read this poem once that best illustrates the destructive nature of gossip:

My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
 
I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless.
They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
I am nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
 
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.

Even my name hisses. I AM CALLED GOSSIP.

Gossip Experienced:

I hate gossip. I have seen firsthand how it can destroy friendships, break hearts, and ruin lives. I know of someone who gossiped about their pastor, and how it caused other people to leave that church as a result of their malicious lies and slander. It caused the pastor no small amount of sleepless nights, heartache, many tears and overwhelming stress. It was so hurtful that it almost caused him to want to give up and quit the ministry! Thankfully, the pastor leaned on the Lord for strength and he is still in the ministry today.

Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon tells us: “Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” (26:20). If we want to guard against strife, we need to take a stand against gossip. Make a commitment to never speak a negative word about someone else – whether what you are saying is true or not. The power of life and death is in your tongue: speak life only!


The Art of War

Proverbs 20:18 

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice. (NLT)

A Chinese General by the name of Sun Tzu is attributed with authorship of a book called the ‘Art of War.’ It is widely believed that Sun Tzu lived several hundred years before Jesus Christ. While there is some controversy over the identity of Sun Tzu, scholars have established that The Art of War has been in existence for at least 2,200 years. It is a book is that is studied by those in the corporate world, as well as those in the military.

The Wikipedia entry for The Art of War states: Sun Tzu considered war as a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever possible. In the introduction to my copy the translator writes: As in the story of the ancient healers, in Sun Tzu’s philosophy the peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict altogether unnecessary: “To overcome others’ armies without fighting is the best of skills.”

Reading such statements reminds me of the way that Jesus lived. Prophecies about Jesus were recorded before The Art of War was written. In Isaiah 53 the prophet speaks of One who would be oppressed and afflicted, but not open His mouth in resistance. These Old Testament writings appeared to be lost on their readership, for the Messiah that the Jewish race expected was a mighty military leader who would crush their oppressors, not One who would be oppressed.

Ordinarily, the execution of one man 2,000 years ago should not have made a mark on history, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ changed history forever. Imagine what the world would be like if Jesus had never lived. The fact that He lived, died and rose again gives all humanity hope for tomorrow. If the corporate world can use the writings of an ancient Chinese general to formulate strategy, then how is it that the world continues largely to ignore the teachings of Jesus, which are similar in this instance, but lead to a blessed eternity spent forever in the presence of God?

Like Sun Tzu Jesus taught his followers a better way to overcome their enemies. He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42 NIV)

Reference: Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Translated by Thomas Cleary), Shambhala, 1988


Sweet Stolen Bread

Proverbs 20:17

“Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.” (KJV)

The Pleasures of Sin:

I’m not going to lie to you – sin feels good. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t sin all the time, would they? The Bible says that sin is pleasurable… for a season (Hebrews 11:25). In the above Proverb, Solomon tells us that the bread of deceit is sweet to a man. In a literal sense he is saying that stolen bread tastes sweet, but in a figurative sense, I believe he is also talking about sin.

The term the bread of deceit reminds us that sin is deceitful. It looks and tastes good, but in the end it leads to death. When the devil first tempted Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, it says that “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” (Gen. 3:6).

Before I became a Christian, I used to go out and get drunk with my friends. And I had fun doing it! Eating, drinking and being merry, getting drunk, dancing and partying was fun. For a season. A season that usually lasted until the next morning.

The Consequences of Sin:

When I woke up the next morning after a night of drunken partying, I was often hung over and feeling sick. There was one night when I had gotten so drunk that I blacked out and didn’t even remember the things I had done the night before. (Apparently I threw up in the backseat of a friend’s car, and they took pictures of me passed out in a ditch. Thank God they didn’t have Facebook back then!). I often felt guilty and ashamed of my behaviour while drunk.

Sin had promised pleasure, but instead provided pain and destruction. I think this is what Solomon means by the bread turning to gravel in your mouth. Sin may be pleasurable for a season, but in the end it leads to death.

A Harvest of Blessing:

So how should we respond to this warning? I believe Paul gives us a great application point in Galatians 6:8-9: “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (NLT).

I spent the first 18 years of my life serving sin and Satan, and enjoyed the fleeting pleasures of sin. But I can honestly say that for the past 22 years, I have had more fun serving God, loving people, and doing good. There’s a joy that comes from a life that is surrendered to Jesus Christ. Live for Him today!


Security Deposit

Proverbs 20:16

16 Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
16 Get security from someone who guarantees a stranger’s debt. Get a deposit if he does it for foreigners. (NLT)

The straightforward meaning is that you cannot trust everyone. If someone asks for money, you should ask for collateral to ensure you get your money back. It is just like a bank asking for a down payment, or a business asking for a deposit on a service or product.

Getting into an Apartment Home

Apartment buildings have a standard practice of taking a security deposit from incoming tenants. This is to help cover any costs the tenant may incur by leaving early, damaging property, or breaking the law on the premises.

The poorer the credit of a prospective tenant, the higher the security deposit may be.

With great credit, a tenant is able to move in with little to no security deposit as a sign of trust and respect.

Getting into Our Heavenly Home

Thanks to a little act committed by Adam and Eve, we all fall into the same group. Our credit with God is very poor, and we have proven ourselves untrustworthy time and again.. To go home with God requires a security deposit so large that we could never pay it.

Therefore, God paid it for us.

Jesus became a Man. He built up the trust and credit by doing something no one else could: He lived perfectly according to God’s will and laws.

He paid our deposit by sacrificing Himself on a cross and rising from the dead three days later.

Jesus paid it all, for each of us.

All we must do is accept.

Lord, thank You for the cross and paying the cost we could not. Help us to live by Your example for Your glory through the help of the Holy Spirit.


Private Stock

Proverbs 20:15

“There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.”

The Salesman

I can’t help but grin as I read this verse. I can almost hear the voice of a salesman showing off his wares, but starting with the common, ordinary brands…

“Now, over here you got your gold, which is pretty good, and a lot of people like it, but I don’t think it’s what your looking for. It’s a little heavy, commonly used on teeth, etc. Just follow me to the next isle.

photo (11)Now, what you have here are the finest rubies money can buy. I have seen ’em worn by those Proverbs 31 women; sold a bunch to some watch makers; heck, I even sold a box full to Lady GaGa – she’s gonna glue ’em to herself.

But, you know, I got a feeling you want something a little more special, correct?”

That’s when the salesman would take on a serious tone and retrieve a single, velvet box from out of a locked safe. Looking around to make sure the coast was clear, he would open up the box and say,

This is what you really want…it’s far more valuable than the gold or rubies. Isn’t it beautiful? Nothing like it, huh? It’s called…wisdom.

It’s from the Owner’s private stock.”

The Owner

Gold and rubies are wonderful to look at. They’re even more wonderful to have in one’s possession. But if one had enough wealth he could have rooms full of both – all it would take is money.

When it comes to wisdom, however, no amount of money can buy it. You can’t even rent it. It has to be given or shared.

Fortunately, God wants us to walk into His store with nothing in our hands. He wants to give us something far more valuable than gold or rubies. All he wants us to do is ask.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5 ESV

 


Mexican Haggling

Proverbs 20:14

“It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.” (KJV).
“The buyer haggles over the price, saying, “It’s worthless,” then brags about getting a bargain!” (NLT).

Haggling in Mexico:

In 2005, my mom blessed my wife Liza and me by sending us on a trip to Mexico to celebrate our ten year anniversary. While we were there, we enjoyed relaxing on the beach, reading and resting. There was one thing that Liza wanted to do while we were there: shopping.

I’m not a fan of shopping on the best of days. When Liza and I go to the mall, I will walk around with her for a little while, but inevitably, I will reach my limit and have to go find a food court so I can go sit down with a coffee to hopefully read a good book. But one of the things I wasn’t looking forward to was the obligatory haggling that would ensue on our shopping excursion.

Here’s an example of haggling from an old Monty Python movie…

One time a street vendor approached Liza and tried to sell her some bracelets for $60 each. Now, the bracelets weren’t worth anywhere near that, but my wife didn’t know how to haggle – even though it was welcomed and expected in Mexico. She had paid thirty dollars for a cowboy hat earlier that day (it was hot and she needed it) and we later saw it selling for $10-20 in other shops we entered. I told the vendor that the bracelets were more money than we were willing to pay, and so he offered to sell us three of them for $20 in total. So I bought them for Liza.

The Boasting Buyer:

How does the above story – and the concept of haggling or bartering – apply to today’s Scripture? Solomon is talking about a man who goes to a shop or the market to buy goods and he undervalues them, and says that they are no good, but after purchasing the items for a lower price, he goes away and boasts about his purchase. Does this mean that we shouldn’t haggle or barter for items? Not necessarily.

The issue that Solomon is dealing with here is the dishonest means that some would use to get a good deal. Matthew Henry says, “See how apt men are to be pleased with their gettings and proud of their tricks; whereas a fraud and a lie are what a man ought to be ashamed of, though he have gained ever so much by them.” John Gill also says the Scripture describes a buyer who feels like he has outwitted the seller “and so glories in his frauds and tricks, and rejoices in his boasting, and all such rejoicing is evil.”

So what is the universal principle behind this Bible verse that we can apply to our lives? God wants us to be honest and generous in all of our financial dealings, whether we are buying or selling. No dishonesty. No cheating. No stealing.


Sleeping and Eating

Proverbs 20:13 

Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare. (NIV)

A young secretary at a company where I worked in the late 1980s was regularly late for work. She had a great line in excuses, many of which were hard to believe. One of the best was that the electricity meter ran out of credit overnight, meaning that the power was cut to her radio alarm clock causing her to oversleep. I have never lived with an electricity meter that needed to be fed with coins, although people do. If I did I am certain I would make sure that the meter was loaded before I went to bed. For this particular young woman her inability to arrive at work on time eventually resulted in her dismissal. I do not recall how quickly she found alternative employment, but her love of sleep had the potential to bring her to poverty.

Society requires that we work if there is to be food on the table. I don’t know what it is like to be really hungry and unable to provide food for my family. The only time I have gone without food for a long period was when I was in hospital for surgery, and unable to eat. Because I am self-employed I cannot afford to take time off work, and I had to plan my ten-day stay in hospital around my work. I took on extra projects before going into hospital, and then wrote up the reports as I recovered at home from the surgery. It was slow going at first, but even when I was confined to bed I was able to keep my business ticking over and ensure that there was provision for my family.

There is a time and a place for everything, including sleep. We need sleep, but sleep too long and nothing will get done. Solomon was very good at putting things into perspective. He didn’t dictate how many hours sleep we need at night, he simply advised that it was foolish to love sleep. There is another aspect to sleeping late. Surely it is better to rise early and spend time in God’s presence at the start of each day?


God-given Understanding

Proverbs 20:12

“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them.”

Yesterday, we looked at how if even children are judged by their actions how much more adults are.

It would make sense that this verse follows, then.

Man in our world teach that our eyes and our ears came about by accident over millions of years.

They also teach that many cannot be held responsible for their actions in certain situations (to which there indeed are a few).

However, it was God who gave us our ears and our eyes.

Why is this important?

God has shown us we must follow His example:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8, NIV

And He has told us how to live:

44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:44-48, NIV

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35, NIV

God has given us eyes and ears to know that what He says and does is good and perfect and what we must do.

He has shown us the way and given us instructions. It is our duty to pay attention and follow Him.

Wise Lord, grant us the wisdom to listen to Your teachings, to see where You are moving, and to live in such a way to please You.

 


Innocent As Children?

Proverbs 20:11

11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

I can remember growing up hearing “Why did you that? You know better!” whenever I would misbehave. It started around the age of four years or so. It was always said in response to something I had previously done or went against common sense, even for a child.

As a culture we seem to have a certain expectation of children, that they are sweet, innocent little angels who become corrupted by age and experience. Even at a young age we expect our children to behave a certain way, and when they do not they need to be corrected and reprimanded.

If our children have the expectation to do what is right, how much more should we expect teens and adults to do what is right?

You know better!

How do we know we have these expectations of people? We all seem to have an innate understanding of what is right and wrong.

It is seen every time we get upset with someone for doing something stupid or that hurts someone else.

It is seen every time someone does something considered morally wrong. All religions and atheists admit to a moral code.

All people fall short at some point, and it always seems as though we can hear someone saying “You know better!”

We have God’s Word to reveal to us how we each have gone astray from what is right. Honestly, it is put in such simple terms that children can understand it.

Yet we fail time and again.

But God helps us and changes us through His Holy Spirit.

Even children know how to do what is right if they are told.

God has shown us. May we, as His children, listen.

Heavenly Father, You are so holy and amazing. May Your Kingdom be lived out through our lives, that the world may glorify You.  Let our actions speak of Your perfect will and grace, that the world may know what is pure and right: You.