Category Archives: advice

Bribery and Corruption

Proverbs 17:8 

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (NLT)

Other translations of this verse use the word bribe instead of gift. Strong’s translates the word as a donation, bribe, gift, present or reward. Matthew Henry’s take on this proverb is that: ‘Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!’ What influence indeed?

There is a further warning about gifts/bribes in the book of Exodus when the law was being given to the nation of Israel:

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8 KJV)

My first experience of bribery occurred in the 1970s when there was port congestion in the Persian Gulf, and many ships and their crews waited months at anchor for a pilot and a berth in port to discharge or load cargo. I spent three weeks there at anchor in 1975. Each day a small boat would come out to us (and all the other ships) and a man in uniform would demand to see our Captain. Each day the request was the same, “200 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky, Captain, and you get your pilot tomorrow.” No doubt many captains were tempted to provide such a bribe, uncertain of whether the uniformed official had the power to provide a pilot. Our Captain refused to meet such requests. He had other plans. But similar challenges were often faced in other foreign ports when various officials expected to be paid to make things happen. Like the man in the uniform in the Persian Gulf, their hearts had become focused on what they could get in material terms.

I think Matthew Henry got the meaning of this verse absolutely correct. If money and the like are what warm your heart, then eventually you may do anything for the sake of money or gifts. What influence should the gifts of God have on our lives? How are we investing these gifts, and how are they changing our values? Jesus taught that it was more important to seek the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)

Temper Temper

Proverbs 16:32 

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

Being slow to get angry is not an easy task for most of us. It is quite interesting for me to consider my five children when I read this verse. Some of them fly off the handle very quickly, but only one was ever slow to anger. This stood him in good stead on the rugby pitch where provocation is often rife. There came a day when he was fifteen years old when my son did lose his temper. He punched another player who then had to leave the pitch and visit the local A&E, where coincidentally my wife was one of the two duty nurses, and my next-door neighbor was the other.

It seems that everyone saw the punch except the referee. But nobody condemned my son, except my wife who wasn’t too pleased when she found out that her son was responsible for her patient in A&E (be sure your sins will always find you out!). The other players in my son’s team and the sports teachers who had accompanied the team to the match knew that my son was slow to anger and that on this occasion a one-off well-timed and accurately targeted punch was appropriate. The boys on the opposing team more than certainly knew that their teammate on the receiving end deserved what he got because of his behavior during the match. The same boy spent hours scouring the town center (downtown for US readers) with two of his friends looking for my son to take revenge. Brave boy. Three to get one.

James, the brother of Jesus, repeats and adds to this proverb in the New Testament:

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19 NLT)

What excellent advice. And by the way, they won the match, which was a semi-final in the U15s Anglo-Welsh cup. My son’s team went on to win in the final. I can’t help but think that one reason they won was because as a team they were slow to react to provocation, leaving them free to focus on the match.


Non-Verbal Communication

Proverbs 16:15

“In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.”

NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Depending on which study you go on, somewhere between 60 and 93% of all communication is said to be “non-verbal.”  Along with the actual words heard, the listener is also processing the speaker’s inflection, facial expressions, gestures, posture, and a host of other context clues.  Most of the time, we process this non-verbal communication instinctively to arrive at the speaker’s total meaning.  Communication is complex, but God has gifted man’s intellect to sort through it all in the beautiful art of human conversation.

Today’s proverb is about non-verbal communication between the king and one of his subjects.  Perhaps the subject has been arrested and charged with a crime of a serious nature.  For whatever reason, the poor man is hauled in before the king.  As the charges are read, the subject dares not lift his eyes from the parquet marble floor of the throne room.   But then the defendant’s legal counsel urges him to look up at the king!  Trembling, he lifts his chin, and against all hope, he see the light of acquittal in the king’s eyes!  Overwhelmed with grateful joy, the king’s subject falls to the floor. With tears streaming, he thanks his king for granting him life.

STANDING BEFORE KING JESUS

Dear reader, one day soon you will face King Jesus.  It may be this very day, or it may be years hence. But God’s Word testifies that God the Father has granted to His Son the authority to judge the world with justice.  That this unique honor is given to Jesus is proven by God’s raising Jesus Christ from the dead (Acts 17:31).  What do you expect to see in the eyes of Jesus on that awesome day?  The light of life? Or will his face be full of wrath and the verdict of death (Proverbs 16:14)?

The gospel tells us that in His great love, God did the most amazing thing:  He sent His Son, the King, to earth to receive God’s wrath against the sin of man.  God has a measured, just, hatred of sin.  Sin cannot be ignored.  That’s why King Jesus went to the Cross!  To be the sin-bearer!

Now the gospel commands all men, women, boys and girls, from every nation, tribe, language and people group to repent of their sins and to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Acts 2:38, 17:30).  The result?  That you will one day look into the eyes of your Judge, and there you see the loving eyes of your Savior—even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father God:  In the countenance of your own dear Son, we see the light of life.  May his face shine in all of its glorious, merciful brilliance upon the reader this day.  Through Christ our Lord we pray: Amen. 


Keep Your Fingers to Yourself

Proverbs 16:14

“The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.”

When I first read this verse I pictured an angry king who sent out soldiers to execute judgment on his enemies. Then, just a few days later, I learned of a more modern example of an angry king – Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat. His kingdom? The Miami-Dade courtroom in Florida.

February 4, 2013

It was all caught on camera. The cheerful, giddy, 18-year old Penelope Soto stood facing a camera, while Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat sat in the courtroom hearing her case. Soto was being sentenced for illegal possession of Xanax.

The judge seemed nice enough, trying to be patient Soto, who evidently didn’t take the whole thing too seriously. Then, when the judge set the girl’s bail at $5,000, she turned around and said in a casual, disrespectful way, “Adios!

Judge Rodriguez-Chomat said, “Come back…come back.” This time, irked at her flippant demeanor, he raised Soto’s bail to $10,000. That got her attention, too, and so this time when she walked away she held up her middle finger to the camera for the judge to see.

Come back! Come back!” said the judge. This time, after few words, he sentenced the once-perky illicit drug user to 30 days in jail. She quit laughing.

Don’t be a Fool

It’s really not that complicated. When one stands before one who has the ability to exercise judgment, it’s not very wise to air out one’s middle finger.

Penelope Soto could have gotten off with just a slap on the wrist. She seemed sweet enough, and the judge seemed patient, to a degree. But it was when she disrespected his authority that she crossed a serious line. That is when she experienced the “wrath of the king.”

Why is it that some people do that? Everything could be going just fine, then they choose to disrespect authority. Don’t they realize the foolishness of their actions? Why don’t they show a little wisdom and keep the “king” in a good mood?

They Don’t Respect God

The real reason most people have a problem with authority and end up ticking off kings is that they have no respect for God. If they did respect Him, they would respect His “minister.”

In Romans thirteen we read that we should “be subject to higher powers” (13:1). Anyone who resists, or rebels against authority is in danger of rebelling against God, “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”

Paul also said that if one does good, he should have no reason to fear authority. However, when we rebel, or show our middle fingers, we must remember if we do wrong, “be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing” (13:4 NIV).

 


Responsibility of Leadership

Proverbs 16:10

“A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.”

Oracle of God

If there was ever a puzzling verse of scripture, this could be it. At first glance it seems to suggest that a king is not only infallible in judgment, but the very words from his lips are divine. Is this teaching the “divine right of kings”?

Let’s look at the way two other translations treat this verse.

“An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment.” – Proverbs 16:10 ESV

“God’s verdict is on the lips of a king; his mouth should not give an unfair judgment. ” – Proverbs 16:10 CSB

I think we can derive two things from the comparative reading: 1) the king is not a god, but speaks as a mouthpiece for God; 2) if the words are from God, then they are true and fair.

But that still poses a problem, doesn’t it? Are all kings the mouthpieces of God? Are all kings incapable of speaking lies, untruths, or making poor judgments?

Of course not! As the late Matthew Henry said in his commentary on this verse:

We wish this were always true as a proposition, and we ought to make it our prayer for kings, and all in authority, that a divine sentence may be in their lips, both in giving orders, that they may do that in wisdom, and in giving sentence, that they may do that in equity, both which are included in judgment, and that in neither their mouth may transgress, 1 Tim. 2:1. But it is often otherwise; and therefore, 1. it may be read as a precept to the kings and judges of the earth to be wise and instructed.*

Accountable to God

In Romans 13:1-5 we read rulers are “ministers” of God put in place to “execute wrath on him that doeth evil” (verse 4). God has even used unbelievers, even ungodly kings and authorities, to bring about the punishment of evildoers and protect His people. That means that the king does not act as the ultimate authority, but as a servant to the true King.

There are those who may have considered the words of a king to be the final authority, as final as the words of God. However, the only words that are final and unchangeable are the words from God, and the king, at best, is only a mouthpiece, an oracle, charged with speaking wisdom from above.

Leadership at all levels, from kings to presidents, from policemen to senators, should keep in mind that they will one day stand before the throne of the King of Kings and give an account.

As a pastor, one charged with faithfully expounding the Word of God, that terrifies me even more. 

 

 

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 990.


Holy Recalculating

Proverbs 16:9 

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

Planning Trips

Years ago, before Google and smart phones, I loved planning long trips. I would get a big, impossible-to-fold-back-into-its-original-shape map and plot my course, making sure I did not miss any landmark with free admission.

Not long ago there was a tour bus driving through a large city at night. Thinking he was on the right path, the driver took what he thought was a ramp connecting one highway to another. Unfortunately, there was nothing at the end of the ramp. The roads on the map were wrong, and the bus took a dive off a bridge, killing several, including the driver.

Maps were pretty reliable, and they still are, but what was impossible to know was the road conditions since the map was published. Even though a map may show a logical route from point A to point B, pieces of paper have a hard time remaining up-to-date. A well-planned route on paper could wind up being a detour nightmare.

Devising Ways

Courtesy of ShutterElf

Photo by Shutter Elf

Life is trip (in more ways than one), and we all make plans. We make plans for this and that, make reservations, and even daydream about what tomorrow’s activities will include. In our hearts we “devise our ways.”

However, I am thankful for a God who knows the road that lies ahead. He is not only up-to-date on all the current construction and detours, but He even knows what accidents are going to happen. Not even Google knows that.

We make long range plans, but God guides each step we take. He not only looks out for us down the road, but He makes sure each and every step is profitable. Sure, we can stray, but since He has promised to complete what He has begun (Romans 4:21), the Holy Spirit is always there to “recalculate.”


Common Sense

Proverbs 16:7

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Common Sense

Some things make perfect sense. Some things are so sensible that everyone agrees, hence the term “common sense.” However, there are some things that people find hard to understand, even though anyone with common sense would think it makes perfect sense.

Today’s proverb should be a no-brainer.

Pleasing Ways

Are you familiar with the Ten Commandments? I’m not talking about the movie with Charleton Heston, just the Commandments themselves.

If you haven’t read them in a while, why don’t we refresh ourselves with a few of them?

  • Don’t steal
  • Don’t murder
  • Don’t commit adultery
  • Don’t lie about your neighbor
  • Honor your father and mother
  • Don’t sit around desiring what’s not yours

If you want to live in such a way (ethically speaking) that will please the Lord, the above list is a good place to start, wouldn’t you think? What is more pleasing than not stealing, not murdering, not lying, not envying, etc.?

Peaceful Enemies

Believe it or not, doing what pleases the Lord (like not committing murder, not stealing from your employer, or not sleeping with your boss’s wife) is actually a good way to get ahead in the world. Common sense, wouldn’t you think?

I have worked with many atheists and agnostics, some of which hated what I believed, but none of them ever fired me for being a bad employee. Most gave high recommendations to my next employer. In one sense they were my “enemies,” but all in all they were peaceful. Why? Because my ways pleased the Lord.

Nonsense

What I found totally nonsensical was a story relating to the Ten Commandments being posted in a public school. I can’t remember where this exactly took place, but I do remember the reason the lawyers gave for removing the list from view…

“If the Ten Commandments are allowed to remain, then children will be tempted to do what they say.”

So my question is this: which is more pleasing, NOT committing murder, or gunning down kindergartners and teachers? Seems pretty simple, but I guess there is a shortage of common sense these days.