Evil Neighbors

Proverbs 21:10

10 The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.
10 The wicked crave evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them. (NIV)

Wild Neighbors

Several years ago my parents bought their first house. By this time, we were a fairly good Christians, and we were looking forward to meeting new neighbors.

One of our next door neighbors proved more difficult to know. Most weekends they would have loud, wild parties with drugs and alcohol; both the parents and the daughter would take turns throwing these parties. They would let their lawn grow wild. Even their dog frequently escaped and ran wild around the neighborhood.

No matter what we said or how many times the authorities were called, they persisted in their wild behavior. They had no concern about their neighbors being kept up all night, having to look at their uncared-for property, and dealing with their dog.

Two Paths

This verse tells us one thing: it is not good to pursue evil and not care about others. Not only will others not like us, but our life may be more bitter and difficult than we might care to admit.

However, the Bible tells us another thing, something my parents have lived out well: no matter how evil our neighbors may be, we must still love them.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Galatians 5:14

An evil neighbor is not a reason to be evil to others, even to those who are evil to us. Instead, we must rise to God’s standard, and we must give love and mercy where we receive evil and no mercy.

Good Lord, keep us from the evil we are so apt to commit against each other. Help us to grow in Your love and mercy toward others.


Marriage Guidance

Proverbs 21:9 

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home. (NLT)

I have been married for thirty-four years and I am pleased to report that my wife is neither a brawler, nor quarrelsome. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in such a marriage, and I can’t believe that a marriage would survive for very long if either marriage partner behaved in such a way. But I can understand that it would be preferable to live alone in the smallest and dirtiest of places, rather than share the most beautiful of homes with a contentious marriage partner.

While this proverb points the finger at a woman, it could just as easily be a man. Regardless of whether it is husband or wife whose behavior in their relationship is unacceptable, the fact remains that it generally takes two to tango! Where there are problems in a relationship both partners may need to examine their behavior and consider whether they have played a part in provoking such an extreme reaction.

IMG_4624This weekend I spent two days camping in a field in the south of England with 1,000 other men while attending an event arranged by Christian Vision for Men (CVM) called The Gathering. There was only one female speaker, a lady called Tania Bright-Cook. The fact that Tania is a very special lady was evident in the number of men who attended her seminar, which was entitled ‘What Women Wish Men Would Do.’ One aim of the seminar was to enlighten menfolk, thereby reducing the possibility of marital tension. Here are some of the points Tania raised:

  • Admit vulnerability.
  • Keep promises.
  • Rate the art of loving deeply.
  • Be emotionally honest.
  • Model discipleship.
  • Be affirming.

The question to all of us is what could we be doing differently or better in our relationships with our husbands, wives, children, friends, etc.? Or would we rather be holed up in a small corner of the attic because a relationship is not working?


Paranoid?

Proverbs 21:8

“The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.”
“The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is upright.” ESV

Paranoid?

Have you ever known someone who was paranoid? People who suffer from paranoia exhibit irrational, unwarranted fears that others are out to get them. They act evasive, stealthy, and cautious. For example, some people wear aluminum caps on their heads in order to keep space aliens from reading their minds. Little do they realize space aliens have better things to do.

foil hatBut…one is only paranoid if his fears are unfounded. It’s not paranoia if someone’s really out to get you. Those who were afraid to use cell phones because the government might be listening aren’t considered paranoid anymore, are they?

Dodging

Some people may act a little paranoid, but they could have real reasons to fear. The one who is running from the law is always the one dodging and swerving, constantly on the lookout for blue lights and unmarked cars.

I used to know a guy who never drove on main roads. Every time he went anywhere he always took back roads, “short cuts”, and scenic routes. The reason was because his driver’s license had been revoked. He wanted to stay off the main roads because he knew the police were after him. He was not paranoid; he was guilty.

The man being described in this proverb has something to hide. He moves in “forward and strange” ways, not because he is crazy, but because he is trying to avoid being caught. His evasiveness is a dead giveaway.

In the Open

The guilty are always sneaking, shifting, and dodging in and out of arguments, discussions, responsibilities, and obligations. The pure of heart, however, are predictable and straight, never having to fear being found out. They know that God “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), so they have nothing to hide.

It is so much better to live in righteousness. Doing what is right allows one to take the main roads, the straight roads, and the visible-to-all roads.

“Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” – Daniel 12:10 ESV

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8 ESV

Walk in grace and truth and it won’t matter who’s looking over your shoulder.


The Here and Now

Proverbs 21:7

“The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.”

Karma

Maybe you’ve heard people say, “What goes around comes around.” The meaning is, like a big circle, life has a way of coming back around. Some people call it karma.

I don’t believe in karma, however. As a matter of fact, karma is a theological idea that is linked to the unbiblical teaching of reincarnation. Karma doesn’t deal with the hear-and-now, only the yet-to-be-known. It pushes the consequences of this life into the unknown of tomorrow, leaving one never knowing for sure what tomorrow holds.

Some may read this proverb and conclude that it is similar to the idea of karma, but it is not. The consequences in this verse deal with the ones committing the wickedness, the judgement of which will be known in due time. In other words, this proverb deals with consequences that will be felt by the wicked doing the crime, not their poor, unwitting, future incarnations.

Consequences

One of the hardest things to do is convince children that their bad actions may result in painful consequences – in this life. Recently, a father I know (not me) was telling his daughter that she was being rude to others and that her selfish, hateful comments would get her in to trouble. No sooner than he warned the young girl, a cry of pain rang out. The little girl had gotten slapped by her older sister, which then resulted in the little girl getting a spanking, too.

When we refuse “to do judgement” and go about with our “robbery” like nothing in this life will ever happen, we live as fools.

“The wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies. They dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves. The trouble they make for others backfires on them. The violence they plan falls on their own heads.” – Psalm 7:14-16 NLT

It is unwise to think that we can live however we please and push the consequences down the road. The end of the road may be just around the corner, and there a toll must be paid.

 


Vanishing Profits

Proverbs 21:6

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. (NIV)

I have worked with many dishonest people.

When I sold cell phones for a time, I worked with someone who was not afraid to stretch the truth to sell a phone.

“Of course you can set your own music as ringtones!” He would say for a device that does not play music.

“This phone will give you a signal everywhere you go!” He would say for an older device using old technology.

“You can return this anytime you want during your contract!” … Just not true after 30 days!

“I did not know you were their salesman!” He would say to the rest of us after putting a sale in his name.

Initially, he had great sales numbers. It looked like he was going to earn a great commission.

Unfortunately, most of his sales came back after customers realized they did not get what they wanted.

This meant his supposedly high commission was, in fact, quite low. Sometimes it was because the higher-ups in the company figured out he was stealing sales, and they would send the commission to those of us who earned them.

Taken Away

In Luke chapter 19, Jesus shares the parable of the minas, in which a nobleman travels and leaves his money in the care of some servants. Some grow his money while he is gone, but one simply hides it. Those who grew the money were given much responsibility, while the lazy one had everything taken away and given to the better servant.

In Matthew chapter seven, He shares that there will be many who speak and act in His name, but Jesus will tell them “I never knew you.” They are the ones who did everything for personal gain.

The reason these are all related is that in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus tells us to store up treasures in Heaven. We cannot store up treasures in Heaven if we lie through word and deed. If we do, all we think we have stored in Heaven, God will say “All the good you think you did is worthless, because it was a counterfeit.”

In this life or the next, we can lose everything through our dishonesty and selfishness.

Gracious God, forgive us of our deceitfulness and selfishness. Give us Your truth, and help us to be honest and grace-filled.


Get Rich Quick

Proverbs 21:5.

“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (KJV).
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (NLT).

What’s Wrong With That?

It’s amazing to me how many people chase after the latest get-rich quick schemes. “Make money fast from home and become a millionaire this year! Small investment, big return!” And don’t even get me started on lottery tickets: They are aptly named an “idiot tax.”

In the small town that I live in, we have a corner convenience store just down the street from my house, and it’s amazing to me that almost every time I walk in there, someone is buying a lottery ticket or scratch-and-win ticket, hoping to be the next big winner. What’s going on here? It seems we have created an entire culture that is devoted to trying to get something for nothing, to get rich without having to do any work for it. But some might be asking – is there really anything wrong with that? Well, that depends on whether or not you believe the Bible.

Poverty or Prosperity?

In today’s Scripture, Solomon tells us that we can choose plenteousness or want, prosperity or poverty. To reach each destination, there are two very different roads that lead there.

If you want to be prosperous, the road is called good planning and hard work. No shortcuts here! You need to be diligent. Get a job and work hard. And as Matthew Henry says, “The thoughts of the diligent are as necessary as the hand of the diligent. Forecast is as good as work.” It’s good to plan ahead if you want to prosper and do well financially! Plan a budget. Honour the Lord with your tithe. Be generous and give to the poor. All of these will help you succeed.

If you want to be poor, it’s a whole lot easier to get there. Don’t be diligent. Don’t get a job. Don’t work hard. Don’t plan ahead. Spend foolishly. Waste your money on things lottery tickets and other things you don’t really need. You’ll be poor before you know it!

Lord, help us as your people to make good plans and work hard, so you can bless us financially. Not just so we can be blessed, blessed, blessed, but we know you bless us so that we can be a blessing to others. To help the poor. To build the Kingdom of God. To make a difference in the lives of others. Help us to make wise choices with our finances, and be good stewards of all of our resources. In Jesus’ name, amen.


A Question of Attitude

Proverbs 21:4 

An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart– the unplowed field of the wicked – produce sin. (NIV)

ploughed fieldIs an unplowed field equivalent to an untidy bedroom? If it is my kids are in trouble! After parenting five with two still at home I cannot recall any of them keeping tidy bedrooms ever, although it seems to be a different story when they have their own homes. While a tidy bedroom is not high on the list of priorities for your average teenager, you would expect that the owner of a field would keep it plowed to ensure the best environment for his crops.

But this proverb is not really about plowed fields and it certainly isn’t about untidy bedrooms, so what is the link? The link is attitude. This is something that each of us needs to consider regularly. How is our attitude? How and why do we do certain things, and why are there things we try to avoid doing at all costs? How are we doing with the pride issue? Are we too proud? Or does humility come easy?

The more I read this proverb the more I realize that it is about hearts not actions. It is sinful to do something with the wrong attitude, or to fail to do something we consider beneath us. Need an example? Here’s one. I am the Sunday Ministry deacon at church. I organise rosters for duty deacons and stewards, and anything the pastor wants arranged on any particular Sunday. The first task is always to make sure the forecourt is tidy, which as our city center church is surrounded by nightclubs and pubs is not always the case. But one Sunday morning the problem wasn’t leftover fast food and empty beer cans, it was confetti. There had been a wedding the day before and it had rained. The wet confetti stuck to the paving slabs as if it was glued. The guy who leads our men’s ministry gave me a hand to clean the confetti and other items from the forecourt. All but one person going into church walked past us, most of them with a witty comment. Only one person saw what we were doing and without saying anything went to the cleaning cupboard to fetch a broom so that she could help us. I don’t want to point the finger at the funny guys who walked past, but perhaps this proverb was written for them?


More Pleased

Proverbs 21:3.

“To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (KJV). 

Justice and Judgment:

What does the Lord want us to do? To do justice and judgment. Or, as it says in the New Living Translation: “The LORD is more pleased when we do what is just and right than when we give him sacrifices.” That tells us that – contrary to popular belief in the world today – there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. And God wants us to do those things that are right. He wants us to be loving, forgiving and gracious people.

But – what does Solomon mean when he says that doing justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice is he talking about here?

The Sacrifices:

Under the Old Covenant, when the people would sin, they would have to make a sacrifice to atone for their sin. Under the New Covenant, when we sin, we confess our sins to God and tell Him we’re sorry for what we’ve done, and when we do, He forgives us.

However, some people have taken the grace of God and used it as a license to sin. They think that because God is good and forgiving, they can go out and sin all they want, as long as they make a sacrifice / confess their sins to Him. Some people try to make up for their sin by trying to balance it out with good deeds. Because they feel guilty, they go out and do something good like go to church, worship, fast or pray.

But God is more pleased when we do what is just and right in the first place, rather than going out and doing bad things then having to offer sacrifices to try to make up for our wrongdoings. Yes it’s true that God is gracious and will forgive us when we sin, but we cannot let that be an excuse to be a Sunday Christian, doing our religious duty at church, then forgetting about doing what is just and right the rest of the week.

A Story from Spurgeon:

I think this story by Charles Spurgeon best illustrates our motivation for doing what is just and right, even though God forgives us when we sin:

Spurgeon“There is the story of half-a-dozen boys who had severe fathers, accustomed to beat them within an inch of their lives. Another boy was with them who was well beloved by his parents, and known to do so. These young boys met together to hold a council of war about robbing an orchard. They were all anxious to get about it except the favoured youth, who did not enjoy the proposal. One of them cried out, “You need not be afraid: if our fathers catch us at this work, we shall be half-killed, but your father won’t lay a hand upon you.” The little boy answered, “And do you think because my father is kind to me, that therefore I will do wrong and grieve him? I will do nothing of the sort to my dear father. He is so good to me that I cannot vex him.”


It’ll be Okay, Right?

Proverbs 21:2 

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.”
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” ESV

Sadie:  Come on, Alison! It’s nothing that will hurt you.
Alison:  Sadie, I was told not to smoke it.
Sadie:  Who told you not to smoke it?
Alison:  My parents did, and if they find out I was here I’m dead!
Sadie:  Seriously? You are going to listen to them? Alison, it’s just a plant! What harm could it really do? Besides, you can’t trust your parents all the time.
Alison: They told me that it is dangerous.
Sadie:  I have been doing it for a long time and I’m still here! Look at me! I am living proof that its okay!
Alison:  Well…
Sadie:  Just try it one time. Trust me. I promise you that it is worth it.
Alison:  …Alright… I guess it won’t hurt to do it just this once.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think about this situation? Do you think it is fairly obvious that what Sadie is trying to get Alison to do is wrong? Well, she thinks it’s okay, and as far as Alison knows, Sadie was telling the truth and there was really nothing wrong with burning and inhaling the smoke from the “plant”.

The Truth.

Truthfully, we all think our wrong actions are right from time to time. The Lord, however, knows what is good; He knows what is right. This story didn’t have to be about drugs. It could have been about drinking, lies, sex, or anything else that has consequences. Any one of those topics have heartache as one of the side-effects, but the way of the Lord leads to heart-help.

And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. – Luke 16:15 (NASB95)


Come to the River

Proverbs 21:1

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. (NIV)

One of the first things taught in school geography lessons is the hydrologic or water cycle. This is because water is vital to life. Without water we die, which is why wars may be triggered by access to water in the future. Just last week the media reported that certain Egyptian politicians had voiced opinions that military action could be justified against Ethiopia because the Ethiopians refuse to halt a dam/hydroelectric project that might restrict future downstream flows of water in the River Nile.

The River Nile has always been important to Egypt, but with a growing population the country has become increasingly reliant on the Nile due to its dependence on agriculture. Wikipedia suggests that the River Nile has been used to irrigate crop-growing areas for five thousand years. The translation in Strong’s of the Hebrew word used in Proverbs 21:1 for rivers refers to irrigation channels. Such manmade channels are still in use around the world to direct precious flows of water to sustain crops and bring them to the point where they can be harvested. While different methods may be used in more intensive agriculture the principle remains the same. For crops to grow and mature, water and nutrients are essential.

The parallels with spiritual growth are obvious. In Psalm 1:1-3 the Psalmist talks of the joy of those who turn their back on the world and delight in doing what God wants.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. (Psalm 1:3 NLT).

In John 4:1-13 Jesus tells a Samaritan woman about living water, stating in verses 13-14

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

In John 7:38-39 Jesus speaks again about living water stating:

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It isn’t rocket science. Just like crops need a constant supply of water to grow, so we need to drink of the living water that Jesus Christ offers. We need to be irrigated by this living water, and we need it to become a spring of life welling up inside of us. A constant and endless supply of this living water is available to all, living water that will not only flow into us, but out of us.