“Deceit [is] in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace [is] joy.”
The Evil Psychiatrist
Try to imaging an evil psychiatrist. Can you? Picture in your mind a tall, slick-haired, skinny man in a long, white lab coat. In one eye is a spectacle, the other a creepy glare.
Now, just imagine this guy asking you to come into his office. He offers you a quasi-comfortable couch on which to recline, then pulls out a yellow pad and pencil to take notes – notes of your deepest, darkest secrets.
When your hour is up, you have talked about your parents, your dead dog, a lost love interest, and your lack of self worth. What do you get in return? The Doctor says,
“I zink vee hav made much progress, but vee hav much fartha to go, yes? You take dis book I vrote, ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ and pay de receptionist on the vay out, yes? Today vill be $120 – the book vill be $30.”
The Caring Counselor
Now, think of someone who wants nothing in return for simple, good advice. This person is caring, can see the end of the road you’re traveling, and wants what is best for you.
You go to this person, pour out your soul, problems and all, and in return you get both sympathy and solid guidance. You are not made to feel like an idiot, but your own words are used to point towards better choices to be made. Hopefully, you can see the difference between the two, yes? No? Vhat iz vrong vid you?
“Imagine Evil” vs “Joy”
One point of today’s proverb is that there are some who would offer counsel for their own selfish desires, while there are others who do it for the joy of bringing about peace. The operative word in the verse is “counselors.”
As a pastor, I have to counsel people all the time. Unlike a psychiatrist, however, I don’t get paid lots of money for my advice.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the advice of both, but if the intent of either is selfish, then the advice is evil – free or not.
What Goes Around…
But there is even more to this verse. The idea is that the reason for the advice one gives will ultimately come back upon him. The great Matthew Henry wrote:
Those that devise mischief contrive, for the accomplishing of it, how to impose upon others; but it will prove, in the end, that they deceive themselves.*
If you want to experience joy, then give “peaceful” counsel. If you want to be fooled, then seek to fool others.
*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 12:20.