Category Archives: advice

Cancer of Conceit

Proverbs 26:12

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Snobs

One of the problems with the modern atheist movement is attitude. Arrogance, snobbery, and conceit may have been present all along, but having a condescending attitude is now the new trademark of Darwinists, or should I say, “Dawkins-ists”? They love to belittle creationists; berating them, making fun of them, even to the point of tears. Richard Dawkins even said of Christians: “Mock them…ridicule them in public…with contempt.”

There are always those who believe they know everything (like teenagers). They will look down their noses at others with different opinions, never giving any credence to their proposals. Solomon would say there is little hope for a person like that.

But are atheists the only ones with attitude problems? What about the Calvinist who believes any disbelief in his theory is due to a lack of education and willful ignorance? What about the denomination that insists to be a member of any other is a sin? What about the man who takes what a woman says with a grain of salt?

Arrogance is a cancer covered by many different skins.

Dangerous Doctoring

Most of us have no idea where cancer comes from; it can appear without any warning. The healthiest people can get lung cancer, even when they don’t smoke. Skin cancer can appear overnight, even on a person who never gets a sunburn. But the key to survival is early detection, not denial.

Some people experience the symptoms of disease, but refuse to go to the hospital. The worst offenders are people with some medical education, because for some reason they think they know as much as the doctors do. They refuse to seek medical attention and say, “I can handle this myself.”

Some people believe that aliens gave them cancer, but at least they have enough humility to seek help. Of the humble crazy person and the proud medical student, which has more hope of survival?

Humility

Have you ever met people who know just enough to be dangerous? Their self-confidence becomes a substitute for true wisdom, thereby making them “wise in their own conceit.” But at least a fool, if he admits he doesn’t know everything, can find help before his world falls apart.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” – Isaiah 57:15

Lord, help us to recognize our faults and weaknesses. Help us to “seek you first,” rather than relying on our own wisdom, for You are our only Hope.


A Difficult Thought

Proverbs 26:10

“The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”
“Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” – ESV

This proverb is a challenging one because of how many different ways it could be translated. As a matter of fact, practically every scholarly commentary admits the Hebrew in this proverb is difficult to interpret. That is why I am going to quote several of them before I leave my final thought for you.

Spence-Jones (The Pulpit Commentary)

Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. [1]

Garrett (The New American Commentary)

The Hebrew of v. 10 is almost unintelligible and thus subject to numerous interpretations, all of which are hypothetical. As the NIV has it, the verse reaffirms that one should not commit important tasks to fools (as in v. 6). Notwithstanding all the difficulties of the text, that does seem to be the main point.[2]

Friedrich and Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament)

All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

            Much bringeth forth from itself all; But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.[3]

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry

Our translation [KJV] gives this verse a different reading in the text and in the margin; and accordingly it expresses either, 1. The equity of a good God. The Master, or Lord (so Rab signifies), or, as we read it, The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work. … Or, 2. The iniquity of a bad prince (so the margin reads it): A great man grieves all, and he hires the fool; he hires also the transgressors. When a wicked man gets power in his hand, by himself, and by the fools and knaves whom he employs under him, whom he hires and chooses to make use of, he grieves all who are under him and is vexatious to them. We should therefore pray for kings and all in authority, that, under them, our lives may be quiet and peaceable.[4]

Anthony Baker (Proverbial Thought)

So, here is what I think. Feel free to quote me 200 years from now.

A man is a fool when he employs a fool to complete a task. However, the biggest fool is one who thinks God, the Almighty Archer, will miss the target when He holds the wicked accountable.

We are always under His watchful eye, but the fool is never out of His “sights.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 500.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 213.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 387.

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


Worthless Legs

Proverbs 26:7

“The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.”

This verse and verse 9 are very similar; both talk about worthlessness of wisdom given to fools. In this verse we see a parable compared to a crippled person’s legs. In verse 9 we will see a parable compared to a thorn in a drunk’s hand.

Parable

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand what a parable is. One dictionary defines a parable as “an extended metaphor or simile which compares a religious truth with a common experience or circumstance in life.” [1] But if that was too confusing, a parable is “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.” [2]

Jesus was famous for using parables to illustrate certain truths to His disciples. For example, you may remember the parables of the mustard seed (Matt. 13:31), the seed and the sower (Mk. 4:3), and the ten talents (Matt. 25). Each one was used to illustrate a point in such a way that the hearer could relate truth to a common experience.

Legs of the Lame

The King James version describes the legs of the crippled person as “not equal.” At first glance it may seem like Solomon is talking about one leg that is shorter than another. However, That “not equal” is another way of saying limp, worthless, or shriveled.

Imagine legs that have no strength, unable to bear the weight of the owner. They are deformed, curled under, twisted, and completely useless. Taking into account the original meaning of the Hebrew term (see Strong’s H1802), they may do nothing more than hang like string.

Parable In the Mouth of a Fool

Now, take the image of crippled legs that you have in your head and imagine them being a parable. How good is a parable that is incapable of illustrating truth? How good is a story that bears no resemblance to common experience? A parable like that can’t even stand on it’s own two feet.

How worthless, then, is the advice of a fool? What good is his counsel? Why should we listen to him?

Keep that in mind the next time you are offered emotional, spiritual, relational, and marital advice from someone who doesn’t even believe there is a God.


[1] David H. Wallace, “Interpretation of Parables,” ed. Ralph G. Turnbull, Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1967), 107.

[2] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).


Muddied Water

Proverbs 25:26

“A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.”
“A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.” – NLT

Well Water

Years ago, when I was young (many years ago), we got all of our water from a well. Instead of “purified” city water, we had an electric pump that drew water from deep down inside the ground. The water was cold and sweet – and free.

However, the only problem with our well was that when it rained really hard, especially after the weather had been dry for a while, the water from the well would turn a muddy red. Runoff from the mountains would somehow find its way into the underground stream from which our water was drawn.

Red Rice

Once, when I was single, poor, and living on my own, all I had to eat one evening was some Uncle Ben’s white rice. That day it had come a hard rain, and as usual, the water was as red as Georgia clay. Since I had no fancy bottled water, the only option I had was to boil my rice in muddy water, which, as you can imagine, also turned my rice red.

I have had red beans and rice, but red rice, especially muddy-tasting red rice, is not particularly appetizing. It’s not something I would recommend.

Dirty Water

There is nothing more naturally refreshing to one who is thirsty than cold, clean, fresh spring water. And when it comes to those who are thirsty for clean, pure truth; for hope that sustains; for counsel that refreshes; there’s nothing more helpful than a word of wisdom offered by a righteous man of God.

However, a righteous man who has given in to the influence and pressures of the world “is as useless to society and as harmful to the good cause as a spring that has been defiled by mud stirred up or extraneous matter introduced is unserviceable for drinking and prejudicial to those who use it.”[1]

Be Careful

The saddest thing is that unless one knows the source of a spring, or unless one is able to determine the water’s purity, polluted water can go undetected until it is too late. Water doesn’t have to be visibly muddy to be unhealthy, or even deadly. Therefore, unless the source of wisdom is Wisdom himself, then the well must be suspect.

How many thirsty men and women, boys and girls, have been sickened by “polluted springs?” Even worse, how many of us have allowed ourselves to be polluted by sin, only to poison others?

The only water guaranteed to “spring up into everlasting life” comes from Jesus (John 4:14), and He said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).

Don’t muddy the Water.


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 485.


Foaming Angry

Proverbs 25:23

“The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”

Which Is It?

This is one of those verses in the Bible that cause interpreters and writers of commentaries to scratch their heads. One puts it this way: “This little proverb is extraordinarily beset with problems.”* According to the scholars and biblical language experts, it is hard to determine what Solomon means, exactly.

You see, there are issues with the “north wind”: does the verb “driveth” really mean to “drive away” or to “bring?” The verb actually means to “bring forth, as with labor pains.” Either way makes the second part hard to interpret: does an angry look come because of a “backbiting tongue,” or does the indignant tongue make the “angry countenance” go away?

If the north wind drives a cold rain away, then the parallel is that an angry look should hush up a slandering tongue. However, if the north wind brings the rain, then a slandering, backbiting tongue causes angry looks. Which one is it?

My Interpretation

One day, a long time ago, I tried to help someone. With a humble, servant-like attitude I bent over backwards to accommodate this individual, even though I knew it was going to be difficult for me. Then, that very evening, I was informed of slander being spread about me – stories that I had done the complete opposite and actually refused to help the person in need.

The word in this verse translated “angry” means “to foam at the mouth, speaking of a camel…”** Dear reader, I am not super spiritual – I am still human – so when I heard of what was being said of me, well…let’s just say I’m glad the walls of my house are made of brick. You could say I was foaming-at-the-mouth angry.

However you choose to interpret Proverbs 25:23, backbiting and slander can cause serious problems. Talking about people behind their backs simultaneously drives away showers of blessing and brings in cold rains of sorrow.

Watch your tongue and the weather will be fine.

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalms 34:13-14 ESV

Sources:

*Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 209.

**Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 250.


Dealing with Enemies

Proverbs 25:21-22

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.

There is a famous story from the First World War in which British and German soldiers left their trenches on Christmas Day 1914 and exchanged handshakes, Christmas greetings and presents, and even took part in games of soccer. Wikipedia records that this so-called ‘Christmas Truce’ took place in several locations across the Western Front, although fighting did continue elsewhere.

There must have been spirit-filled followers of Jesus in both armies. One could speculate that an awareness of the teaching of this passage of Scripture, which is repeated by Paul in the New Testament, may have prompted the Christmas Truce on the battlefields of Northern France. But perhaps it took place because warfare at that time retained an element of chivalry, that was subsequently lost as the war described as ‘the war to end all wars’ dragged on all the way to 1918 resulting in at least ten million deaths. Whatever the reason, the teaching of Scripture is clear: We are to love our enemies, even if it is not reciprocated. Although that may seem difficult, even impossible in a war footing, we cannot argue with the words of Jesus who said:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV)

If you are serving in the military then it is important to follow orders, but that does not remove the possibility of loving the enemy and proving that love through prayer. It is not an option, it is a requirement. The same requirement exists for all of us in the daily relationships we encounter as part of life. At school, at college, at work, in church, and in our neighborhoods, we are to be known as people who love others, whatever the cost. That’s what Jesus did, all the way to the cross.


Get Out!

Proverbs 25:17

“Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.”

“Let’s Go to Bed…”

My mom and dad used to have some friends that we visited a lot. One time, after staying late watching television (we didn’t have one at the time), the man of the house stretched…yawned…then said to his wife:

“Honey, let’s go to bed so these people can go home.”

What a nice way to tell your friends to leave! Talk about shifting the blame, huh? It’s like saying: “These nice people feel obligated to stay here because we are awake. They must be tired of our company by now, so why not give them a way out?” In reality, it was a humorous way of telling someone “go home.”

Lingering Guests

Every once in a while people lose the ability to determine when a party is over. Some people, because of a host’s hospitality, feel they are more wanted, more part of the family, than they actually are. These people for get that the host has limited resources, both in food and patience.

Even those of us with close, intimate friends have times when we want to be alone. Good friends recognize this and are careful not to wear out their welcome. Selfish friends invite themselves over to ever family dinner, every game night, every outing, and never seem to get the message. When someone suggests going to bed so they can leave, they just say, “No problem, I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Loving others requires us to respect them, so be a good guest and a respectful friend.