Prudent People Get It

Proverbs 18:15

“The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.”

What’s Good for You

I’ve heard this preface to warnings all my life: “If you know what’s good for you, you will…” For example,

If you know what’s good for you, you will…

  • pay attention
  • look before you cross the street
  • blow on that before you take a sip
  • learn to say no
  • think twice before you say, “I do”
  • put that back and buy a cheaper one
  • stay in school

Solomon was simply saying, “If you know what’s good for you, you will seek and get knowledge.

Never Stop Learning

DSC_0013

Photo Credit: Katie Baker

The older I get, and the more I study, the more I realize that there is so much I don’t know. I have more knowledge than I used to, but I am always learning.

The prudent man and the wise man know that it never hurts to “learn all you can and can what you get.” The knowledge you acquire may not seem useful today, but only God knows the future.

 

 


A Wounded Spirit Kills

Proverbs 18:14

“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
“A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” – ESV

Ripped from the Headlines

How was I to know that on the same day I sat down to write this entry [originally written 4/07/13], news of the tragic suicide of Matthew Warren (age 27), Pastor Rick Warren’s son, would be all over the headlines? There was no way I could know, but God did.

After a long, long battle with mental and physical illness, including debilitating depression, Pastor Warren’s son ended his own life in a “momentary wave of despair.” Saddleback Church (where Warren is pastor) said in a statement, “Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life...”

Doesn’t “momentary wave of despair” sound a lot like “a wounded spirit who can bear?

Strong Willed

There are countless stories of people who struggled through the pain and suffering of debilitating disease and deformity. Their stories inspire us all to be thankful for what we have, even if it is only bare feet – some people have no feet at all.

Not long ago I saw a video of a man who had no arms or legs. At one point it seemed like he had no future, for it seemed impossible for him to accomplish even the most basic tasks of life. Yet, with perseverance and a strong will, not to mention the belief that he “could do all things through Christ,” he has done everything from surf to dance with his wife at their wedding. As a matter of fact, it was this man who nearly brought Rick Warren to tears on a show he appeared on with Oprah Winfrey.

Crushed Spirit

But when a man or woman’s spirit is crushed, when all hope is gone, life becomes very hard to bear. The fact is that plenty of otherwise healthy people die every day from despair.

Solomon knew what many people discover too late: one can have everything, but life without hope is no life at all. Sick people can endure pain for years, but a healthy man can die overnight from a broken, wounded heart.

Hope for the Wounded

The Apostle Paul once said that “if in this life only we have hope…”, then we are sure to be miserable (1 Cor. 15:19). Whether that hope be in Christ, or money, or relationships, or good health; if it is a hope that is only for the here and now, it is pretty much worthless in the long run. Hope that never has a hope of being realized is no hope at all.

But praise God this life isn’t all there is! Job, the most miserably treated man in the Bible, could have given up in despair, but from the ashes of his life he cried out…

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” – Job 19:25-27 NIV

Thank you, O God! Thank you for the Hope we have in You! Bear us up with your Spirit and strengthen our hearts. 


Big Ears

Proverbs 18:13 

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
To answer before listening – that is folly and shame. (NIV)

It doesn’t matter how much teaching we receive on the subject of listening, or how many times we are reminded by Scripture (James 1:19) to be quick to listen and slow to speak, most of us are not good listeners. Isn’t it true that when we are on the listening end of a conversation we are only partially listening? Generally we are working out our reply and looking for the opportunity to interrupt so that we can say what we want to say.

Our failure to be listeners exists despite our own experience of being in conversations where we know that the other person hasn’t heard a word we have said. Such experience means that we are all acutely aware of the need to be good listeners. It is foolish, rude, and shameful to interrupt with a response when the other party to a conversation has not finished speaking.

Listening requires focus and concentration. It is important that we hear correctly and understand what is being said, not just in conversations with other people, but when we come to God in prayer. So how do you approach God in prayer? With a listening heart or a chattering mouth? Or do you start out planning to listen but end up butting in so many times that you never really hear what God is saying to you? God speaks to us in many different ways. It is essential that we take time to ensure that we hear what He is saying. While that means listening carefully, it also means growing in our understanding and knowledge of Him. It is a bit like learning to speak a foreign language effectively. It requires practice and a lot of work to achieve real understanding.


Haughty or Humble?

Proverbs  18:12

12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.

Haughty and in Hot Water

In the last several years there have been many high-profile stories out of politics. Granted, that sentence could have been written at any time in modern history.

What I am speaking of, specifically, are politicians who thought they were above reproach. Most called themselves committed Christians. Many of these were caught with prostitutes, girlfriends (other than their wives, of course), or sharing pictures (of their own body parts or other women/men).

They were caught for the very reason they thought they could get away with it: they thought too highly of themselves. Most these men lost their positions and even careers over these scandals. Most people could care less about these men today.

Humble and Honored

Now look at the other side.

Mother Teresa never held a public office. In fact, she spent the majority of her time with sick, injured, and societal rejects. She never considered anyone beneath her or less important. She put most people ahead of herself.

When she died in 1997, many millions of people mourned and remembered her. Many people called for her immediate beatification by the Catholic Church. She is still remembered well by over a billion people.

You and Me

Our pride can only lead to problems in our life. If left to continue unabated, our pride will lead to our separation from God after this life.

If we humble ourselves, confess our sinfulness and need for Jesus Christ, God is the One who will honor us.

every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

Faithful Father, teach us true humility. Help us to seek You above ourselves.


Flimsy Green Walls

Proverbs 18:11

“The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”
“The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety” (NLT).

Money

Money is a strange thing. One day it can be worth a lot of, well, money. Then, at the turn of clock, it can become worthless. So many have seen fortunes disappear at the sound of a closing bell.

6 Confederate States of America currency notes...

6 Confederate States of America currency notes three $10 notes 3 $20 notes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others have seen their wealth deteriorate along with a decline in political stability. Many years ago the southern states (The Confederacy) that broke away from the Union made their own money. After 1865 it all became worthless. There used to be a saying, “Save your Confederate money, boys! The South will rise again!” Oh, well.

The thing that really makes money valuable is what backs it or insures its value. Not too long ago the Dollar was backed by gold; now it backed “by the full faith and credit of the United States government” (Yeah, right). So, in reality, the rich that feel secure in their wealth are only as secure as the government that backs it.

Flimsy Walls

Solomon was the wealthiest man in the world, yet he knew that putting one’s hope in money is foolishness of the highest degree. He calls the wealthy who consider their riches a defense “conceited.”

If wealth is one’s idea of a defense or a wall of protection, then they are flimsy walls, indeed! Ask anyone who was around Wall Street in 1929. The sound of crashing walls was deafening.

A Strong Defense

Thank God for His unfailing protection! “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Money is a wall of security with no inherent strength. It’s might changes with the “full faith and credit” of sinful institutions. Those who trust in it for safety are fools.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).

Praise the LORD!


Opportunities

Proverbs 18:9 

“He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”
“A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.” (NLT)

Some of my school reports mentioned the word lazy. Laziness wasn’t the problem; it was just that I had more important things to do with my time. But if I wasn’t being lazy at school, I was wasting the opportunities provided to me by the education system (which wasn’t bad in my day).

Outside of school I don’t recall either being allowed to be lazy, or ever wanting to be lazy. I made the most of any opportunity to earn cash, but I also enjoyed the surroundings provided by my island home – mainly the beach! I had my first paper round when I was eleven years old; I washed cars, picked up leaves, and pulled sycamore seedlings out of our front lawn. When I was older I worked at a supermarket after school, and on Saturdays and through the school holidays. Then I joined the Merchant Navy where neither lazy people, nor wasters were tolerated.

While most of us would see a clear difference between a person who is bone idle, and one who is a waster, Solomon sees them as one and the same. Every day God provides us with opportunities that we waste. One is that we often neglect to spent meaningful time with Him. We fail to hear God speak, and we walk around with our eyes and our minds closed to opportunities of various types than He brings into our lives.

On Good Friday this year I had the opportunity to serve God – arriving at 07:30 to open the church and get things ready for the Good Friday breakfast and service, manning the foyer, and then helping to clear away and lock up. Others served in the kitchen, or leading in the three different devotional streams that our pastor had set up. Because some of us took the opportunity to serve, others had the opportunity to reflect, to take time to quietly worship, and to thank God for the events that took place during that first Easter. Those of us in the support team were able to worship God through our service to the rest of the congregation.

What opportunities will you grasp today? What opportunities will you miss? What opportunities will you waste?


Tasty Gossip

Proverbs 18:8

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (NIV)

Choice Morsels

I love good food, and considering I couldn’t fit into my new suit coat, maybe a little too much. As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving was months ago, but I’m still suffering the effects of that meal. It was just sooooo good!

pinto beans with cornbread

Pinto beans with cornbread.

However, the best tasting kind of food is what many call “comfort food.” It’s the kind of food that makes one feel good. It’s the kind of food for which a person longs. Comfort food is choice food, and every morsel is an experience worth savoring.

For many people, gossip is like comfort food; it satisfies a hunger and desire to feel better, if only about one’s self. Gossip is tasty.

Hidden Dangers

The problem with comfort food, however, is that it goes down easy, but it never wants to leave; it sticks around in the belly, the liver, the arteries, and the heart. A constant desire for it can lead to irreversible health problems.

A few years ago I saw a documentary about a man who weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. He ate all the food he wanted, but the weight he gained left him immobile. Unbelievably, when help finally came to take him to a hospital, caretakers actually found a discarded chicken bone embedded in his his leg. His choice morsels left him wounded.

Gossip Chef

Today’s proverb addresses the words of a talebearer, or gossip. Interestingly, the Authorized Version describes the words of a gossip as wounds, while other translations render the word wounds as choice morsels. Either way, the words of a talebearer have a way of sinking down deep, eventually affecting the hearer in a negative way.

One commentary says,

The juicy tidbits of gossip are eagerly devoured by persons disposed to listen to them, as a glutton helps himself freely to tempting food. The slanderous words do not make a superficial impression, but penetrate into the innermost recesses of the listener where they are thoroughly digested.*

But unlike the great chefs of the world who prepare choice delicacies for many people at a time, the gossip partakes in every meal served. Not only is the belly of the customer fattened, but also the gossip chef. Eventually both will die of heart disease.

*James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Pr 18:1–8.