Looking Inside the Pot

Proverbs 26:23 

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. (NLT)

This is the first of several proverbs dealing with the subject of hypocrisy. Loosely defined this is saying one thing and doing another. Jesus warned about hypocrisy when he spoke about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Matthew 23 verses 1-7:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

The Pharisees liked to dress up in fancy clothes and have the place of honor wherever they went. They constantly sought respect from the people of Israel, yet had a reputation for not practicing what they preached. The dressing up bit is mentioned in this proverb where it refers to covering an ordinary clay pot with silver. It isn’t what the pot looks like on the outside that matters – it is what it looks like on the inside.

The Apostle Paul taught that we should examine ourselves, especially before participating in communion (1 Corinthians 11:28-31). Communion in my church is scheduled twice monthly. What about the rest of the time? The fact is that we should be constantly checking up on ourselves. Portraying Jesus Christ is not an easy task. But we owe it to Jesus to do our best at following His example.

It is possible that Jesus appeared drab when standing close to the Pharisees, but only if you looked at what they were all wearing. When I read Scripture and look into Jesus I see the most beautiful person who ever lived. The problem is that He calls me to live like Him. If I claim to follow Jesus then I have to try and make that evident through the way that I live, not through what I am wearing, what I earn, what I drive, my position in church or any other thing. Jesus has to be visible in how I act, through the words that I speak, and in the thoughts behind the words that might not betray me to people, but are completely visible to God. I hate the thought of being a hypocrite. It is up to me to something about it.


Fiery Strife

Proverbs 26:20-21.

 “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”(KJV).

The Most Important Things: Love and Unity

In John 13:35, Jesus made it abundantly clear what one of the most important aspects of discipleship is love: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In other words, walking in love is one of the surest signs that we are true Christians. A few chapters later in this same book of the Bible, John records for us the high priestly prayer of Jesus that He prayed right before going to the Cross:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21). Wow! That’s one of the most sobering thoughts in the entire Bible. Here Jesus essentially says, “If Christians could become one in love and unity towards one another, the whole world would be saved.” That tells me that love and unity are the most important things we can learn as believers!

The Most Dangerous Things: Strife and Gossip

If the two most important things for us to learn to do as followers of Jesus is to walk in love and unity, then guess what the enemy is going to try to get us to do? To keep us from walking in love and unity! We shouldn’t be surprised then when we find the enemy coming and sowing seeds of strife and gossip… even (nay, especially) in the church.

In today’s Proverb, Solomon says, “Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” (NLT). In other words, people who gossip and stir up strife are firestarters. In the same way that a fire can destroy anything from a house to an entire forest, so too a little gossip and strife can destroy relationships and unity.

So how do we guard against stripe and gossip? Fire needs fuel to burn, and so too strife needs the fuel of gossip to keep raging. Therefore, if we want to stop strife, we need to stop gossip. If we want to see the church of Jesus Christ prevail in the world, then we must contend for love and unity. We must refuse to gossip or talk negatively about another believer, and we must also refuse to listen to gossip about another Christian. And remember this truth: If someone will gossip to you, then they will likely gossip about you as well.

T.H.I.N.K.

T.H.I.N.K. before you speak: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If not, then remember the wisdom from Thumper’s mother from the Bambi movie: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Church – let’s let love, acceptance and forgiveness become our banner! As we do this, we will show the world that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen…

think


Heeding Jim Croce

Proverbs 26:17

17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

Helping Out

I once saw someone with her kids and minivan stopped on the side of the road. I had to stop and give them a ride.

She had said she knew someone who could help get the minivan, though she needed it as soon as possible. However, she was having some money issues, so it might be a while.

I had done my duty, and I could have stopped helping her right there. Instead, I called my friend who had a friend, and her van was towed to a garage.

Two days later, she and her kids were out of their apartment. They had been evicted for not paying rent. There were past-due bills stuck to the apartment door.

And I was stuck with the $600 storage and removal fees for her minivan that she never claimed.

Spitting into the Wind

Jim Croce was a folk singer a few decades ago who wrote about this very thing. In his song “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim“, he has these lyrics:

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don’t mess around with Jim

 In the song, there is a man nobody messes with: Jim. He takes what he wants when we wants, and anyone who gets in his way gets trouble. It would be like grabbing the ears of a dog after you broke into someone’s house.

Jim learned this when he flirted with the wife of a man named “Slim”. He had never heard about Jim, and Jim finally messed with the wrong dog.

Sometimes there are things that come along in lie that common sense warns us is stupid and dangerous. Disregarding common sense in those situations can prove as dangerous as spitting into the wind or grabbing the ears of an angry dog.

Fortunately the Bible helps us understand some of the things that our common sense may not pick up on, and our friends can help us even more. (Which is one of the reasons Hebrews 10:24-25 was written.)

Great God, give us the discernment to know the situations that are not good for us, the wisdom to know when to act and not to act, and the strength to say “No” when we need to.


The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” – Proverbs 21:25

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


Money for Nothing

Proverbs 26:15 

The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. (NIV)

This is the third verse in a row in which Solomon focuses on the lazy, with one more to follow. For some reason Solomon is really hammering home the point about laziness. I simply can’t imagine a person so lazy that he is unable to lift food from a dish to his mouth, but the point being made here about laziness is that it is completely unacceptable.

Right now in the UK we have a government that is trying to deal with a culture of living on benefits that appears to have become the norm for a proportion of society. If you believe the politicians and the press we have families where more than one generation has never worked in this country. While there are obviously other reasons for unemployment than laziness, the fact remains that there are folk who are quite happy to sit back and live on handouts. Some even call these handouts their wages! That is quite an insult to those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives.

My third son James graduated from University in 2009. He decided to spend a year working to save money to add to what he had already saved so that he could take a masters degree. He got an invite to live with his eldest brother and his wife, and set about looking for work. Having worked two jobs while studying for his BA he thought that this would be a simple matter. It wasn’t. Recession had kicked in and there wasn’t much work around. He refused to claim benefits and carried on searching, doing jobs around the house to compensate his brother and sister-in-law for feeding him. It took a few weeks, but James found two part-time jobs. He had to leave those jobs to return to University but managed to start another job before he completed his masters. Now that impresses the pants off me, not just because James is my son, but because he has shown what is possible despite the dire condition of the economy. I am proud of my son for not choosing the path of laziness.


The Lazy Boy

Proverbs 26:14

“As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” (KJV).
“As a door turns back and forth on its hinges, so the lazy person turns over in bed.” (NLT). 

lazy 2

The Natural Lazy Boy:

It’s amazing today how so many in today’s culture celebrate the idea of being lazy. Today’s generation of young people with their “oh well, whatever, never-mind” dysfunction is everywhere you look. They say that there is nothing new under the sun, and it’s true. Laziness was a problem with human beings when King Solomon wrote these Proverbs nearly three thousand years ago.

In today’s Proverb, Solomon says that a lazy person turns over in his bed the same was a door turns on its hinges. There is a lesson in this! It doesn’t matter how many times the door opens or closes, it never goes anywhere. Ten years from now, it will still be in the same doorway. In the same way, a lazy person will never get anywhere in life.

It shocks me the number of young people today who have no work ethic, and no motivation or desire to do anything with their lives. I know of young people who get a job but it doesn’t last because a few days or weeks into the job they don’t feel like working, so they just don’t show up to work so they get fired, or they eventually quit. I know of a man who goes from job to job, quitting one and being fired from another, and the saddest part of this story is that his son is following in his footsteps as well.

The Spiritual Lazy Boy:

Not only are people naturally lazy – averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion – but they are also spiritually lazy as well. There is no hunger or thirst for more of God in their lives, no passion or desire to seek the Lord in prayer or Bible reading, and no motivation to excel in living lives of purity and holiness. People come to church content to sing songs and hear stories about what God did in the past, with no expectation of encountering that same God today. What will become of us as a people if we don’t change?

The Challenge: Wake Up and Work Hard!

The Bible gives us this challenge: “And where your light shines, it will expose their evil deeds. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days.” (Eph. 5:14-16, NLT).

God has called every one of us to make a difference in the world for good. Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to prosper is that enough good men do nothing.” Let us be done with laziness in all of its forms – be it physical or spiritual laziness – and let us arise and let our lights shine in our world, that men may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven!


Sloths and Lions

Proverbs 26:13

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.”

This verse is one of several in a row that deal with the “slothful man.” Each one gives us a different description of him and his ways.

Slothful

When I hear the word “slothful” all I can think about is that poor, slow, moss-covered critter. The sloth is an animal that barely moves, sleeps most of the time, and quite frankly, stinks. I mean, how nasty would you have to be for moss to grow on you?

three_toed_sloth_11What a disgrace, then, to be called slothful? One could be called slow, a little behind, or weak, but that might mean he was a turtle, a baby elephant, or a butterfly. Even the word “lazy” doesn’t carry the same, stinky punch as “slothful.” Yet, there are people in this world who could make a sloth look peppy by comparison.

Lions

What I find ironic is that there are lions in the streets. It’s not that lions are not dangerous, but they are go-getters, hunters, fighters, and fast; everything the sloth is not, nor wants to be. Yet, in life it’s the “lions” and “tigers” who are successful precisely because they are in the streets, not inside watching The Price is Right.

The lazy, slothful man will never be any more that what his as long as he never hits the streets. However, if he would only seek employment with tenacity, creativity, and the driving hunger of a lion, there would be nothing left to fear.

I pity those who make excuses for everything and depend on others to do all the work. The pleasure that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done is far more gratifying than having the best moss garden on my back.