Category Archives: advice

Mother Knows Best

Proverbs 31:12 

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies……
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

ScanMother knows best when it comes to many things, with this verse one of several, beginning with verse 10, that deal with attributes every mother would like to see demonstrated in her daughters-in-law. My wife Marilyn and I have three daughters-in-law, but I’d rather use Marilyn as an example.

Now I don’t know if my mother judged Marilyn by any of the criteria listed in Proverbs 31 but I do know that after nearly thirty-five years of marriage I have absolutely no regrets that God chose us for each other. I do not need an ABC of virtuous women to tell me how fortunate and blessed I am to be married to Marilyn, who as well as a wonderful wife and mother, is also an excellent grandmother.

Thirty-five years of marriage is a long time. It is closer to forty years that we have been together, if you add in the years we spent courting. We have changed in appearance, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the heart of my wife. I look at Marilyn and I see a very special person. Someone who has not only enriched my life, but the lives of other people around her. Quite simply, I have never met anyone like her. Marilyn has, in the words of this proverb, done me good – all the days of my life. And I am truly grateful.

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Give Them Wine

Proverbs 31:6-7

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

Debate Addressed 

Chris Jordan did an excellent job of dealing with 31:4 and 5. With wisdom and tact, he expressed both sides of the alcohol debate, ultimately showing that “under the new covenant of grace, all things may be lawful for us, but not all things are beneficial.”

My Baptist upbringing was one that left little room for debate on this subject. It was only after a lengthy (before computers) study of the word “wine” as used in the Bible did I begin to realize that there may be more to the debate than a simple black-and-white, drink-or-not-drink argument. Even king Lemuel’s mother understood there were times when alcohol could be useful (and not just in cough syrup).

The Perishing

Just today, not more than a few hours before writing this, I stood beside the hospital bed of a man in pain, a man dying. Cancer had taken over his body, his breathing and heart rate were rapid, and his mouth was dry. The family was standing around crying as they waited for the inevitable.

As I stood beside him, a nurse came in with a sponge on a little stick and placed it in some ice water, then put it in the man’s mouth. At that moment one family member said, “What he really wants is a milkshake.” Then the man’s sister said, “He should get whatever he wants.” Had he wanted a shot of Jack Daniels, they should have given it to him! He will be dead long before you, the reader, read this.

If alcohol was a sin (not just the consumption of it), then it would have been wrong for Lemuel’s mother to suggest giving strong drink to him that is “perishing.” But the king’s wise mother understood that when a man is at the end of his life or even the ends of his ropes, something that will ease his pain, or lift his spirit, is perfectly appropriate in moderation. But is to be used as a temporary remedy, one that can help one deal with his situation, not completely hide from it.

A Giving King

But there is even a deeper message in all this. What kind of king keeps hoards his wealth when his subjects are suffering? What kind of leader draws comfort from his cellars, while the poor search in vain for relief from their heavy hearts?

“Look at all you have,” Lemuel’s mother might say. “You have more than you need, and you don’t even need what you have. Therefore, open up your wine cellar; give to those who are perishing; lift the spirits of those who are discouraged; and lead your kingdom with clarity and compassion.”

Wouldn’t it be great if more kings, queens, presidents, and politicians would think less about what makes them happy, less about their own ambitions, and more about the needs of others? Most are drunk with the wine of power, forgetting the law and perverting judgment, while the powerless suffer.


The King’s Beverage

Proverbs 31:4-7

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:  Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.  Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

Teetotaler?

As a life-long Baptist, I know that I am treading on thin ice when I tackle this passage. There are many within my denomination who are what we call “teetotalers,” which is a term for those who will never touch a drop of beverage alcohol. And because of this, if I say anything positive about alcohol I am likely to be censured.

On the other hand, there are whole denominations within the Christian faith that have no problem with drinking beer, wine, or whatever suits their fancy, even purchasing wineries with tithes and offerings. For the record, I don’t approve of going that far.

However, I do feel that there is more to the subject of drinking alcohol than totally abstaining or totally imbibing. Wisdom is the key. And that is why, as we look at the verses above, we can see that king Lemuel’s mother was evidently not a proponent of “teetotalism” (total abstinence), but rather a developer of wisdom in a son who was destined to lead.

Not for Kings

There are several things this godly mother warns her son about in the first part of this chapter, but much of her focus is on the use of alcohol. Why is that? Could it be that alcohol is a dangerous, mind altering, inhibition-destroying drug? Could it be that even though it may have its uses, a leader worth his salt is wise enough to avoid it?

Plenty of men and women from all walks of life have been able to drink alcohol with little or no adverse consequences. However, the gutters of history are strewn with the carcasses of leaders who drank away their kingdoms. The broken hearts and ruined lives caused by drunkeness are innumerable.

I can envision a young prince Lemuel, his mother’s hand on his shoulder, as they walked by the equivalent of a modern bar. As they peeked in on the raucous behavior brought about by the effects of wine and strong drink, she may have whispered in his ear the words he later penned: “It’s not for kings, my dear Lemuel, it’s not for kings; nor even when you’re just a prince.”

Proper Place

Even though a king, a man whose decisions carry so much weight, should avoid strong drink, king Lemuel’s mother, and thereby king Lemuel himself, knew that there was a time and place for it. You see, wine has the dangerous ability to make one “forget law” and “pervert judgment,” but it also has the ability to lift a heavy heart, to numb the pain.

Warnings against wine are plenty, but king David declares that God creates the “wine that maketh glad the heart of man” (Psa. 104:15). The key is to not only know its proper place, but the proper place of the one who must choose.

Wisdom should be the king’s beverage of choice.


A Mother’s Advice

Proverbs 31:1-3 

“The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.”

Lemuel’s Words

For most of Proverbs we have read the words of King Solomon, son of David. Now, in the last chapter, we read the words of king Lemuel, of whom we know nothing about. Some go as far as suggesting that Lemuel is another name for Solomon, but there is no way of knowing.

Why is it, then, that we have the words of another king? Wasn’t Solomon the wisest man to live? Yes, but even Solomon was wise enough to recognize wisdom in others. It may be (and this is only conjecture) that Solomon included these words of Lemuel, along with Agur, because he thought, “I couldn’t have said it any better…My thoughts, exactly!”

On the other hand, could it be that the compiler of Proverbs wanted to insert wisdom that Solomon would not, or could not have penned? Was it not Solomon who gave his strength to women? Could Proverbs 31 be a final warning to would-be kings that even though wealth and wisdom may be desirable, the wisdom of a godly mother is priceless? Just a thought.

A Godly Mother

Notice that this chapter starts out by saying, “The words of king Lemuel…” But notice, also, that the words of king Lemuel are actually the teachings, the advice of a mother who loved him, who felt for him, and who devoted him to God.

In verse 2 Lemuel’s mother describes him as her son, the son of her womb, and the son of her vows. Here is expressed a natural love that a mother has for her child; there is a deeper love that connects in a physical, pain-feeling way; and there is a love expressed in the fact that Lemuel was a son, probably like Samuel, who was dedicated to God. Why shouldn’t we listen to what she has to say?

Needed Mothers

There are probably numerous ways one could apply the third verse. However, I can’t help but think Lemuel’s mother is calling upon her son to remember who he is. God is also calling us to remember who we are.

“You are a man,” she said. “You are a king!” Oh, how we need more mothers to encourage their son’s masculinity…their leadership potential…their status as “kings.” But needed, even more, are mothers who would warn their sons of the dangers of the fairer sex. We need fathers, but we also need mothers who will shoot straight with their sons and tell it like it is: the wrong women can destroy you, and your kingdom.

I am thankful, not only for a godly father, but for a godly mother who loved me enough to teach me truth…to warn me…to beat my butt when I needed it. I’m thankful for a mother who said, “Listen! Be a man…be a king.”

There are strength-sappers and king-destroyers out there. Warn your son, mom, before it’s too late.


Fighting Talk

Proverbs 30:33 

Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.
As the beating of cream yields butter and striking the nose causes bleeding, so stirring up anger causes quarrels. (NLT)

Some things in life are inevitable. This proverb gives two examples of the inevitable that are painfully obvious. Churn milk and you get butter. Hit someone on the nose hard enough and there will be blood. The only reason to churn milk would be to turn it into butter. As far as I know there is no way of turning butter back into milk. But why would anyone hit another person on the nose, or stir up anger in any other way? As with milk and butter, once a punch has been thrown the damage cannot be undone.

The problem is less with the inevitable and more with the consequences. Hit someone on the nose and there is a possibility that you may find that you get hit on the nose in return. Making someone angry could have the same result. It is important to carefully consider the consequences of words and deeds. Neither can be undone, and some create problems that last for a very long time. A good example is a recent parking dispute in the UK between two pensioners. After a heated argument one of these gentlemen punched the other one, who fell to the ground striking his head on a curbstone. The consequence was that one man died and the other is now serving five years in prison having been convicted of manslaughter. All because of a senseless argument.

It isn’t always possible to avoid trouble, but the advice in this proverb is that we should always avoid being the instigator. That means being careful with our words as well as with our fists.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37 ESV)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-25346826


The Stinky House Connection

Proverbs 30:10

“Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.”

My Story

The following story is not a perfect example of Proverbs 30:10, but it is close. Let me tell it to you, after which I will try to make a connection.

A little more than a decade ago I was an insurance agent for a large, well-known life and health insurance company. My primary job was selling life insurance, which sometimes required I simply knock on doors in search of new clients.

One day, as I was canvassing a neighborhood, I came to a house and immediately smelled a very strong, nauseous odor, accompanied by the loud barking of dogs inside. The odor coming from inside the house was so bad it made me worry something was terribly wrong.

I left the house, continued to knock on doors close by, but inquired of neighbors if they had recently seen the homeowner coming or going. None had, which led one neighbor to tell me he’d ask another neighbor, a policeman, to go check things out. I did not stay, but went on my way, returning to my office a few hours later.

Upon arriving at my office in Nashville, Tennessee, I was immediately called into a meeting. My sales manager was very angry and began berating me for “sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.” Come to find out, the one living in the house that stunk was alive and well and very upset that the police had paid him a visit. The resident demanded that I be reprimanded for invading his privacy and causing him trouble.

After several minutes of being yelled at, I was told to go to my desk and stay out of other people’s business.

The Rescue

I went back to my cubicle feeling completely defeated. I had only tried to be a good citizen, but now I was about to lose my job! Just then I received a phone call…it was the father of the man living in the house…the father of the man who wanted me to be fired.

“Are you the one who visited the house on _______ Street?” asked the man on the phone. “Yessir,” I answered. “And did my son call your boss and get you in trouble?” he asked. “Yes, sir, he did,” I replied.

“Son, my boy has been nothing but trouble for me, and I have threatened to throw him out,” said the father. “He stays there rent-free, but he’s nearly destroyed my house, and I’m tired of those stinking dogs!” The man on the phone then told me not to worry about my job, or my manager, or about getting into trouble. “I’ll take care of it for you…you did the right thing…don’t worry,” he said.

The old man on the phone then told me, “Young man, I am a federal judge. Give me your boss’s phone number and I promise he will not give you any more problems. That’s my house, and I overrule my son.”

Ten minutes later I was called to my sales manager’s office once again. He was very nice to me, to say the least.

The Connection

Honestly, I don’t know what that powerful federal judge told my sales manager, but it was enough to make him act like a whipped pup. And I don’t know whatever happened to the son who lived in the house that smelled horrible, but my guess is he was made to move.

Were my actions appropriate? Was it right to report that house? I don’t really know.  All I do know is that when I was accused to my “master,” somebody besides me was found “guilty.”


Fear Pressure

Proverbs 29:25 

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety. (NLT)

There are occasions when we speak (or fail to speak) from a position of fear, rather than from wisdom. Mostly this involves other human beings and our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, folk at church, etc. We can end up walking on eggshells for fear of causing offence, when actually we need to take a stand, and perhaps even speak out, even though such action may make us unpopular.

There may also be occasions when we act from a position of fear, particularly when peer pressure is involved. The challenge is often one of fitting in, as opposed to being the odd one out. I remember such pressures from my seafaring days when the temptations were many, and the desire to be the same as others rather than different could be overpowering.

The fear of human opinion is indeed a dangerous trap, as stated in this proverb. We may not wish to conform, but we feel a need to be part of the crowd. We don’t want to be left out. In my school days that meant hanging around with the bad kids, much to the displeasure of my teachers and my parents. One of my school reports stated a correlation between my poor academic performance and the company I was keeping.

The solution to the problem is quite simply to trust God. This involves more than praying for forgiveness and asking God for a passport to heaven. Trusting God means living in a daily relationship with Him and consulting Him about all things, even the apparently mundane. It also means not being ashamed to be called His child, even if this makes us stand out as different to those around us.

We need to remember the example of Jesus who lived a life that was completely different to the norm. Such a life soon attracted the attention of those who took offence at the way Jesus lived, mainly because it highlighted the failures and hypocrisy of their own lives. But never once did Jesus indicate that He was afraid of these people. If Jesus had been afraid would He have turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple courts? If Jesus had been afraid would He have put himself in a position of betrayal leading to arrest, torture and ultimately death? We have to be different because Jesus was different. We have no choice but to live in this world, but we most certainly do not have to conform to its ways because of fear.