Category Archives: pride/humility

Getting Fat

Proverbs 28:25 

He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat.

The use of the word ‘fat’ in this proverb in the KJV is rather interesting, not to mention challenging. I am already thinking of the larger people at church and having difficulty in relating their physical size to their faith. The other thought that crosses my mind is that not getting physically fat is a daily battle in middle age. While my mind tells me I can eat the things I did when I was younger, my body refuses to process the incoming delicacies at the speed it used to. So I am trying to eat better and less, and exercise more.

But this proverb is not about physical size. It is simply differentiating between those of us who think we have reached the point where our own resources are sufficient, and those of us who know that we have to life our lives totally reliant on God. Jesus said; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Acknowledging that we are spiritual tadpoles puts us in a place where God can begin to work in our lives. That requires trust. When we find ourselves able to trust God, we start to grow, or get fatter in Him.

Problems occur when we think that we can do life without too much reliance on God. Our hearts may not become instantly proud, but bit-by-bit we start to switch off from God as we look to ourselves rather than to God. John Eldredge, in his book ‘Beautiful Outlaw’ talks about a time when family and friends were urging him to take a sabbatical because of his physical and emotional condition. When John Eldredge finally came to Jesus for a solution Jesus told him there was just one problem that needed to be resolved: “You don’t look to Me – you look to yourself.”

John Eldredge writes: “The truth of it was indisputable the moment Jesus finished speaking. All the years of striving, sacrifice, loneliness, heroic exertion – so much of what I took to be noble about my life was suddenly exposed as godless self-reliance.” That sort of sums up this proverb. Proud hearts, self-reliance, call it what you will – it all leads to difficulties and strife. When we learn to look to Jesus instead of ourselves then He will anoint us,  equip us, and bless us according to His will for us. And the word ‘fat’ will come to have a new meaning.

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Lions and Bears

Proverbs 28:15

“As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.”
“A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.” – NLT

Tyrants

Plenty of tyrants have no regard for their subjects. One only has to review the last one hundred years of history to come up with scores of individuals who preyed on the poor, helpless, defenseless masses; each one a mad, blood-thirsty animal.

“[They are] brutish, barbarous, and blood-thirsty; [they are] rather to be put among the beasts of prey, the wildest and most savage, than to be reckoned of that noble rank of beings whose glory is reason and humanity.”[1]

Lion

Lion (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Even worse are the kind that convince their victims that the carnage being inflicted is supposedly for their own good. As self-proclaimed kings of the beasts, they claim it is their right to thin the herd, to remove the weak, so the strong can survive. But they are only hungry animals, void of compassion, fulfilling their natural desires.

Tyrant Topplers

To many it would seem like lions and bears are unstoppable. To be sure, those who value life run in fear from them, or at the very least give them what they want whenever they growl. But lions and bears are not invincible.

“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” – 1 Samuel 17:34-35 KJV

Lest the tyrants become to smug and confident in their power, it would be wise of them to remember all it takes to topple them is nothing more than a little boy with a big God.


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1018.


Oppressing the Poor

Proverbs 22: 22-23 

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
 and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. (NIV)

Once again the writer challenges our attitudes to the poor. How we treat those who are poorer than us, or even weaker than us is important. Most of us would probably read this proverb and think that it doesn’t apply to us personally because we haven’t robbed or oppressed anybody. Perhaps we haven’t, but are we sure? What about times we have failed to stand up for someone? Take it right back to the school playground where it was easier to walk away than stand up for a fellow pupil facing ridicule or even physical violence. I can remember thinking ‘rather him than me’ on more than one occasion.

Then there is the work place. When I joined the Merchant Navy as a sixteen-year-old cadet it was made perfectly clear to me that I was at the bottom of the pecking order. The chief officer on my first ship used to shout at me regularly, perhaps because he had been treated the same way when he was starting his career. I remember the captain sticking up for me one day and the treatment I received improved a little after that. A few years later when I was an officer I found myself speaking up for a young Rastafarian able seaman who was assigned to my watch. In this case the bosun and another seaman were making this young man’s life a misery, with the knowledge of the chief officer! He had nobody to plead his case until I stepped in. I did not make myself popular in the process, but I could not ignore what was going on.

Oppression takes many forms. Read through these verses again – there is a significant warning in verse 22. Is God challenging you about your attitude to others, or is He calling you to take a stand in someone’s defense today?


The Praise Test

Proverbs 27:21.
“As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.” (KJV).
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (NLT). 

Student Writing

The Purpose of the Test:

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys tests. I have three children in high school and one child in middle school, and none of them have ever expressed a joy about having to take a test. I’ve never heard one of them come home from school and say, “Dad, I’m so excited, we get to take a test at school tomorrow! I’ll have to study all night. Awesome!” But like it or not, if they were never tested, they would never know if they were learning anything in their classes, and they would never know if they were growing or progressing in their studies.

In today’s Proverb, Solomon tells us that the refiner’s fire is used to test the purity of silver and gold. As these precious metals are heated up, all of the scum and junk that’s hidden within them come to the surface so that the refiner can remove it from the top, so all that remains is precious and pure. In the same way, a person is tested when they are praised.

The Fire of Praise:

When you stoke up the fire of praise, you will quickly find out what is in a person’s heart. Someone said once about praise that “vain men seek it, weak men are inflated by it, and wise men disregard it.” How do you respond when someone praises you?

If someone becomes proud or conceited when they are praised, and take the glory that only God deserves, they will show that they are really a weak or a selfish person. However, if when someone is praised he responds by giving God the glory, and endeavouring to live a life that reflects that shows that they were indeed praiseworthy, then they are a humble or a wise person.

There is a story told that at a Washington, D.C., press conference in 1952, Sir Winston Churchill was asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech the hall is packed to overflowing?” Churchill responded by saying, “It is quite flattering, but whenever I feel this way I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”

Giving and Receiving Praise:

We’re not saying here that praise is bad. It’s not necessarily bad to give or receive praise. In fact, Romans 12:3 tells us that we are to give honor to whom honor is due. But we are also warned: “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2).

So if you see someone do something praiseworthy, commend them for it! But if you do something noble, don’t boast about it. Do it as unto the Lord, and let him reward you for what you have done. If someone praises you for something you do, then reflect that glory back to the Lord, the one who gave you the grace to do it in the first place. Amen?


Reflections of Reality

Proverbs 27:19

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.”
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” – ESV

A Little Complicated

Today’s proverb, especially in the King James Version, is not for the casual reader. The wording is complicated, to say the least. But even when we look at other translations, the truth of this proverb, like a flower in mid-bloom, is never fully revealed.

It seems that verse 19 is an extension of verse 17, but it takes “iron sharpeneth iron” to a deeper level, “where one is to seek out and discern good advice, but also to heed the counsel of one’s heart (as well as pray!).”[1]

There are evidently several ways to interpret this passage. The New American Commentary explains: “Some take it to mean that one sees one’s inner self reflected in the face of a companion; and others, that one comes to self-understanding by introspection.”[2] However, the explanation of this proverb may be no more complicated than the need to see ourselves for who we really are.

Exposing Reality

A friend once had some things happen that caused him to react in a very fleshly, un-Christian way. Because of the circumstances that led to his angry response to an obvious injustice, I was not going to judge him or think less of him in any way; I might have done the same thing had I been in his shoes.

But that evening, after reading Proverbs chapter 6 in preparation for the next day’s Sunday school class, my friend called me on the phone to apologize for his actions. Then, the next morning in class, as we talked about how reading the Bible exposes who we really are, my friend said, “But sometimes what I see in the reflection is not really me.”

mirrorAh, but that’s not so!” I replied. The fact, I explained, is that when we peer down into the water of God’s word, the reflection we see is the only accurate reflection available. While other mirrors show us what we want to see, the Bible reflects our reality.

“But that’s not who I want to be…I’m not that way,” he said. “Oh,” I replied, “but that is who you are…who we all are…The heart is wicked and capable of all kinds of things, and God’s word reminds us of that.”

The Point

So what’s the point? Is there any hope? Sure there is! It is only when we are able to reflect on who we really are, when we can see ourselves face-to-face, than we can move beyond the pretenses of our own pride and self-righteousness.

But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” – Colossians  3:8-10 NLT


[1] Rowland E. Murphy, Proverbs, vol. 22, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 209.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 220.


Kiss Me Kill Me

Proverbs 27:6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
    but an enemy multiplies kisses.

It Makes Sense

This is one of those proverbs we can look at and agree with. We all know it makes sense. It is much better to have friends who will be honest with us even when it hurts, then friends who will just pamper and flatter us even when we are clearly in the wrong.

The trouble is something making sense doesn’t guarantee we will follow the advice. In this case there are multiple reasons why we ignore this advice, our society is much more comfortable with flattery, even when it’s false, than truth; it can be hard to receive truth from a friend; we can find it difficult to speak truthfully to our friends in case they decide to ditch us.

First Things Firsts

To see more meaningful relationships we need to be ready to be examples. We need to be people who are good at taking criticism, and also brave enough to give it. Many people misread the plank in the eye parable. They use the excuse that as they will never be perfect, and therefore always have impaired vision, they cannot challenge other’s behaviour. I have even heard parents say that they cannot challenge their wayward ward because they were just as bad when they were children. But we only need to read to the end of the parable to see Jesus intention –

Matthew 7:5 (emphasis mine) ‘You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’ 

We are to be wounded and we are to wound. And all the better our friendships shall be for it.


Looking Inside the Pot

Proverbs 26:23 

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. (NLT)

This is the first of several proverbs dealing with the subject of hypocrisy. Loosely defined this is saying one thing and doing another. Jesus warned about hypocrisy when he spoke about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Matthew 23 verses 1-7:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

The Pharisees liked to dress up in fancy clothes and have the place of honor wherever they went. They constantly sought respect from the people of Israel, yet had a reputation for not practicing what they preached. The dressing up bit is mentioned in this proverb where it refers to covering an ordinary clay pot with silver. It isn’t what the pot looks like on the outside that matters – it is what it looks like on the inside.

The Apostle Paul taught that we should examine ourselves, especially before participating in communion (1 Corinthians 11:28-31). Communion in my church is scheduled twice monthly. What about the rest of the time? The fact is that we should be constantly checking up on ourselves. Portraying Jesus Christ is not an easy task. But we owe it to Jesus to do our best at following His example.

It is possible that Jesus appeared drab when standing close to the Pharisees, but only if you looked at what they were all wearing. When I read Scripture and look into Jesus I see the most beautiful person who ever lived. The problem is that He calls me to live like Him. If I claim to follow Jesus then I have to try and make that evident through the way that I live, not through what I am wearing, what I earn, what I drive, my position in church or any other thing. Jesus has to be visible in how I act, through the words that I speak, and in the thoughts behind the words that might not betray me to people, but are completely visible to God. I hate the thought of being a hypocrite. It is up to me to something about it.