Category Archives: pride/humility

I’d Rather Be Poor

Proverbs 19:22

“The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.”
“What is desirable in a man is his kindness, And it is better to be a poor man than a liar.” – NASB

Nice Guys

A lot has been said about “nice guys.” Most of it is negative. According to everything I’ve ever heard, “nice guys finish last.” In other words, the only way to get ahead in one’s life or career is to be not nice.

This seems to hold true in many areas of life. For example, men know that women prefer “bad boys.” The heroes in movies are rarely 9-5 dads who drive the kids to ball practice in a mini-van. The sex symbol is usually a rough, tough, rule-breaking head-knocker in a leather jacket, not a law-abiding Presbyterian who mows the widowed neighbor’s grass.

Fortunately, God sees things differently. True nice guys (we’re talking men who want to serve God by serving others, not spineless wimps) will be rewarded for their works…if not in this life, then surely the next.

Poor Guys

Solomon said that it is better to be poor than to be a liar. True, but what does that have to do with the first part of this proverb? A lot, actually, especially if you understand how sales works.

I have heard sales managers tell me, “You goal is not to make friends, but to close deals.” They have told me, “You are too nice!” They have even said things like, “It’s not a lie, just as long as the client is happy.”

starving-bloggerDear reader, I would rather be poor than tell a lie. I have walked away from huge profits and badly-needed pay days in order to maintain my integrity.

It is truly better to be poor than to be a liar. Why? Because what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his own soul?

Father, teach us to be strong and courageous warriors for righteousness and soldiers of the cross. Yet, teach us also to be humble as Jesus was humble (Phil 2:7-8), showing kindness in truth.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” – Luke 6:35


It’s Our Own Fault!

Proverbs 19:3

“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.”
“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.” – NLT

Profound

When I read this verse in the King James version, the reality of what it was saying didn’t strike me at first. Then I read it in the New Living Translation, and that is when I turned around to my wife (who was behind me in the kitchen working on a wedding cake) and said, “This has got to be about the most profound verse I’ve ever read!”

Of course, every verse in the Bible is profound. But when it hit me what this verse was really saying, I could see its truth painted across the landscape of humanity. This one little verse sums up the situation with probably every human being on Earth.

Man Perverteth

This is the fact that so many want to avoid – it’s OUR fault! Foolishness, craziness, stupidity, and all the other things that go along with man wanting to do things his own way – these are the things that pervert our ways. WE are our own worst enemies. WE freely mess up our own lives every time we spite God.

The word “pervert” tells us that at one point there was something good, healthy, and whole. God gives us something wonderful, then we foolishly corrupt, stain, and scar it with our rebellion. It is something we do because we want to; we are not forced.

Man Get’s Angry

Yes, we mess up our own lives with stupid decisions. Our own foolishness is at fault. Yet, what does man do? He blames God.

I can’t even begin to tell you of all the people I have encountered who blame the Lord for their problems.

  • The drunk blames God for his poverty and liver disease.
  • The prayer-less minister blames God for a lack of power.
  • The smoker calls God “cruel” for letting him get lung cancer.
  • The teenager blames God for allowing her to get pregnant.
  • The abusive husband blames God for his marriage problems.
  • The irresponsible worker blames God for getting fired.
  • The gambler blames God for letting him lose all his money.
  • The disgruntled wife blames God for her lack of intimacy.
  • The selfish and self-centered curse God when He gives them freedom.

I wonder how many times King Solomon, as he sat and judged the people, wanted to scream out, “It’s your own stupid fault!” Did he ever have people thrown into prison after blaming the Lord for their own foolishness? I wonder.

Heavenly Father, we mess up when we don’t do things your way. Most of the time we know better, but choose to follow our own desires, anyway. Forgive us for blaming you. Forgive us for our arrogance. Create in us a humble heart that is obedient. Help us not to pervert what you have given us.


Repentant Sinner vs. Unrepentant Christian

Proverbs 18:23

23 The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly. (KJV)
23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. (NIV)

This could easily be about the differences between the wealthy and those in poverty.

This could easily become an indictment against many parts of the Church around the world.

Instead, this is based more on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), and it is a call to follow the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40).

Unrepentant Christian

When one has believed they have become saved by grace through faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ through the cross, it can become easy to forget those humble beginnings: you were a sinner in need of a Savior.

The danger comes when we change everything in our lives to cut off any attachments to our sinful lives before Christ. It is not that we have removed any danger of temptation and sin, rather that we surround ourselves with Christians. Sometimes this is to the point that we do not know any non-Christians or Christians from other churches/denominations. We surround ourselves only with the riches of God’s mercy, grace, and love.

This is dangerous, because we can forget how to act around non-Christians. We see the sinful behavior, the effects of sin, and dangerous lifestyles and choices. We see the ways of living and interacting with others that remind us of our own sins or what the Bible says about certain sins.

And we judge them and thank God we are no longer like them. Which is good … to a point …

… but we forget to love them.

Repentant Sinners

What is easy to forget is that non-Christians, and even some who were raised in the Church, are pleading, sometimes begging, for a demonstration of mercy. They have not partaken of the riches of God’s mercy, grace, and love.

They may be painfully aware of how their lives are not perfect. They may understand what they are doing is wrong.

They do not need more reminders.

They need mercy, grace, and love.

And all we seem to show them is distaste and superiority. We seem to show them they do not deserve what we have been given.

Saved Sinners

May we remember that we are sinners saved by grace. We are the saints of God having been washed in His blood.

May we remember that God has entrusted their salvation to us.

May we remember to show the same mercy, grace, and love God has shown to us and not hold onto these riches to the detriment of those around us.

Merciful God rich in grace and love, remind us that we need You every day. Help our hearts to long for You. Remind us to share Your love and mercy every day. Help us to not answer harshly to the lost as You have not answered harshly to us.


What I Thought Was a Good Thing Was Not

Proverbs 18:1

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh [and] intermeddleth with all wisdom.”

Embarrassing

When talking through the Proverbs on one Wednesday night at church, my own wife, sitting on the front row, asked a question that caused me a little embarrassment. I had just read the above verse from the King James Version and was about to give my thoughts when she asked, “Why does my version read so differently?”

You see, I encourage my congregation to compare translations when doing a verse-by-verse study of Scripture, for, like turning a faceted jewel, a different perspective can bring out color and sparkle never seen before. It’s the same flawless stone, but from a different angle. Granted, not all translations agree on every interpretation, but where one might be off, a group of translations will clarify the proper meaning of the text.

So, my wife’s version read: He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom(NASB). At that, another church member volunteered her version’s take: “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense” (NLT).

I didn’t have an answer. What’s even worse, my interpretation of Proverbs 18:1 and the application I was going to make was no where even close to the idea the other two versions were conveying. What we had here was a preacher who didn’t follow his own advise and got caught not doing his homework.

My Original Thoughts

My original thoughts on Proverbs 18:1, based simply on a cursory reading of English I thought made perfect sense, went something like this:

“Through desire,” because a man has to have the desire or drive to do something worthwhile, a man who wants to learn sometimes has to get alone, push aside distractions, and “separate himself.” It’s something that takes commitment – you have to want it. But it’s not simply the “getting alone” that makes all the difference; it’s the seeking of wisdom from multiple disciplines that gives one understanding in more than one area of life. Or, you could just say that learning takes hard work, but you can’t be lazy – you have to work for it.

But that wasn’t what this verse is saying.

The Real Meaning

Please understand, the King James Version’s translation of verse 1 is not incorrect; the way we say things and how we use our words have changed, that’s all.

The other translations I mentioned rendered Proverbs 18:1 in a way modern readers, such as myself, could better understand the original text. Where I thought “desire” and “separated himself” meant something noble, the actual meaning of the original text (and the way an Elizabethan reader would have understood the KJV) was something selfish and arrogant.

Where I thought “intermeddleth with all wisdom” was saying the man checked out more than one book in the library, the word “intermeddleth” means to “to expose, lay bare,” or “quarrel with anyone, especially in dice, drinking, or in dividing an inheritance” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).

So, another way you could interpret Proverbs 18:1 might go like this:

“Loners and arrogant know-it-alls think they’re in a class all to themselves and make few friends. They also have contempt for any wisdom that doesn’t come from themselves and are always trying to meddle with or subvert it to gain an advantage.”

Would you have interpreted it differently?


Gates of Destruction

Proverbs 17:19

“He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.” 
“Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.” – NIV

Always Arguing

I know people who will argue over anything – and I mean anything. If you say the sky is a pretty shade of blue, they will argue that it isn’t really blue. If you say you like a particular movie, book, or food, they will give you every reason your choices are flawed.

People like that are tiring and have few friends, and they bring it on themselves. They complain that no one likes them, that everyone hates them, and that no one wants to listen to their opinions, but they are the ones responsible for driving everyone away.

This is the type of person being spoken of in this verse. It is the type of person who loves to argue. It is also the person who loves sin.

Loving Sin

It may come as a shock to some, but many who claim to be righteous are really lovers of sin. I know a particular person who willfully admits his failures and flaws, but continues to do the very things that are wrong. He says, “I know I have a problem with (blank), but I know I’ll never change, so I’ll just have to keep asking for forgiveness.

The real problem is that he loves the sin, and therefore refuses to truly repent and “turn from his wicked ways.” His particular sin is his claim to fame, therefore he gets all the more attention. Without it, he wouldn’t be noticed as much.

Inviting Destruction

The second part of this proverb reminds me of what happens to people who choose to park their exotic luxury cars in more than one parking place. They say they do it to keep people from dinging their doors. In reality, they are doing nothing more than inviting a sledge hammer to the fender. I have seen plenty of nice cars that have been “keyed” by irritated “poor” people.

The prideful man is depicted in this verse as building a tall, elaborate gate to protect his belongings. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that his audaciousness is only an invitation to robbers.

The same can be said about Christians who go around bragging about their own spirituality. What fools! Don’t they know that it won’t be long before humility  comes crashing through the gate?

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

 


Do I Hear Nathan?

Proverbs 17:13

“Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.”

Did Solomon Remember?

I can’t help but wonder if Solomon was thinking of his own house when he wrote this. How well did he know the words that Nathan spoke unto his father, King David?

Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” – 2 Samuel 12:9-10 ESV

Uriah had been nothing but a loyal, devoted soldier. Even when David tried to get him to go home to be with his wife, Uriah couldn’t bear the thought of being comfortable while his fellow soldiers were sleeping on the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:11). And what did Uriah receive in return for his loyalty? A death sentence.

Was Solomon thinking of his brother, Absalom, the one who tried to kill his father? Did he think of his sister, Tamar, who was raped by her brother, Amnon (2 Samuel 13:10-20)? I wonder what he thought when he looked around at his family. Did he ever think to himself, “Why, dad? Why?”

Do I Hear Nathan?

It is one thing to reward evil with evil. Most people understand the concept of “an eye for an eye.” However, it is a vile, ruthless, selfish man who accepts good from another, only to give evil in return. He deserves whatever bad may come.

That should make all of us think. Has God been good to us? What have we given Him in return?

The prophet Nathan told David, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). What would he tell us?

By the Way

On a different note, some say the Bible cannot be the Word of God because it defames the character of the prophets. They (Muslims) say stories like the one told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 are proof the Bible is a fabrication. The Koran, they say, would never, never allow the moral character of a prophet to be questioned, but would hold such role models in high esteem, blotting out any record of sin.

Fortunately for us, the Bible IS true. It doesn’t candy-coat the bad but shows how God can work through flawed, fallen men. The Bible, because it is true, highlights the goodness and grace of God, not the righteousness of man.

David was “the man,” but David was human. Unlike the “perfect prophets” in other religions, David prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin [emphasis added]” (Psalm 51:2).

Don’t let evil move into your house.


Golden Calves

Proverbs 17:11  

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”
“Evil people are eager for rebellion, but they will be severely punished” (NLT).

History is full of stories of rebellion. Some succeeded, but many failed. While not all of those who rebel against authority are evil, motive is rarely taken into consideration when rebellions are crushed.

One famous incident in British history concerned six agricultural laborers who reacted to the unfair treatment that they and their colleagues suffered. They met together and under an oath of secrecy formed a trade union. The local squire was not happy about the prospect of a unionized workforce, and action was taken to stamp out this act of rebellion. Six workers were arrested and charged with taking an illegal oath. They were sentenced to transportation to Australia and seven years hard labor.

While many of us today would probably fancy a trip down under to take in the sights and the sun, this was no tourist trip. Transportation to Australia and the conditions for convicts who were sent to Australia were brutal. While few returned, the Tolpuddle Martyrs as they became known were pardoned and freed after three years. Freedom came after a huge campaign by the British working class, and the presentation of a petition containing 800,000 names to Parliament.

Rebelling against the establishment, or against the rulers of this world is one thing. But what about the rebellion of humanity against God? The Bible records many examples involving the people of Israel. Their attitude soon after their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt seems unbelievable. After Moses climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God, the people persuaded Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship instead of God.

It is easy to judge others. We can look back in amazement at the golden calf incident without considering whether there are any golden calves in our lives. We may compare ourselves with the Tolpuddle Martyrs and think that because we are not engaging in an evil rebellion we will not receive a severe punishment. But consider a child receiving punishment from a loving parent. My own experience of punishment for childhood misdemeanors was that the hurt I saw in my parents’ eyes was more of a punishment than anything they devised to persuade me that I should mend my ways.

crossWe have a loving God in heaven who allows us to call Him Father. His Son took the severest punishment possible so that God did not have to punish us. So why do we rebel against Him? If we consider the hurt and the pain He suffers when we choose golden calves in our lives instead of Him, then perhaps we will begin to understand the extent and the cost of His love for us, and how much He values it when we return His love, and destroy our golden calves.


Making Fun of the Poor

Proverbs 17:5

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Me? Poor?

I live in one of the richest countries on the planet, so who am I to talk about being poor? Compared to some people, I am rich as a king. Even though I may not have the best of everything, or even the third or fourth best, I am still better off than people who have to live in cardboard boxes under a bridge.

Even thought I may not be rich, there are plenty of people worse off than me. However, I do know a little about what it’s like to be mocked. My sister and I were made fun of because my parents couldn’t always afford to buy their children new clothes. When we lived in a house that had no electricity or running water, and one could see the sky through the walls, we were mocked. I know how that feels.

For that matter, I know how it feels to drive a school bus full of public high school football players to a game at a private school where the tuition for one student exceeds $40,ooo a year, not to mention room and board. Not only do the football players get sneered at, but bus drivers like me get treated as “common help.”

Me? Like God?

The lesson that Solomon wants us to learn is that when we mock or make fun of those who poorer than us, we make ourselves out to be better than God. “What? How’s that possible?” you ask.

What if God treated us the way we sometimes treat others? Seriously, is the richest man in the world, even if he owned the whole world, as rich as the Maker of the Universe? The richest of the rich in this world are living in inestimable poverty before the King of Heaven. Aren’t we glad He doesn’t make fun of us?

Thankfully we have a loving Lord who humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), that we, the poorest of all, could become fellow-heirs with Christ (Eph. 3:6). If He doesn’t feel it proper to mock lowly sinners such as I, then who am I to mock one less fortunate than me?

Wishing Bad

But what if you have never been one to make fun of the poor, or the rich? Does that get you off the hook? Maybe. That is, unless you’ve ever been one to talk of the rich with words like, “I hope they go broke,” or, “I’d love to see them crash that fancy car!”

I asked my daughter, “How do rich people make fun of poor people?” She said, “I don’t know…all I ever hear is all the poor people griping and whining about the rich.” Hmmm.

What did Solomon say? “He that is glad at calamities will not go unpunished.” Maybe we all would be a little better off if we learned to be content.


Honking Escalade

Proverbs 16:19

“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

Rich and Poor

Not all poor people are humble. Not all rich people are proud. We should never jump to conclusions and assume that just because a man is poor he is humble, or prideful if he is rich.

That being said, today’s proverb addresses the heart of man, and that heart is usually more proud when he is rich, humble when he is poor. For instance, the people who blew their horn at my wife and I, as we sat at a stop sign and couldn’t go anywhere, were in a big Cadillac Escalade. They honked at us, but we didn’t honk at the little old lady in front of us who couldn’t decide where to go. (That actually happened just a few moments before writing this)

Riches and Poverty

This proverb also addresses the misconception that wealth is better than poverty. Sure, to have more money and possessions can be a great blessing, but it can also be a curse far worse than being destitute.

This verse also addresses the misguided belief that “the one with the most” wins. Many only have “the most” because they have taken advantage of those who have little.

The NIV translates this verse, “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” It might not always be the poor and rich we’re talking about, but the oppressed and the oppressors. Either way, the one who is worse off in God’s eyes is the one who sits with those who have become wealthy by taking from others, and is proud of it.

Be Content

Let us consider Proverbs 16:19 as we observe the words of the Apostle Paul…

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

Ultimately, it’s better to have nothing and a humble heart, than have everything and be at odds with our God.

(I hope the horn on that Escalade breaks and starts blowing when they’re behind a State Trooper)

 

 


… and in the darkness bind them

Proverbs 16:18

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Fantastic

G. K. Chesterton once wrote in the book Heretics, “We all believe fairy-tales, and live in them.”1

Think about it: our lives are based on dreams we have of our future, movie theaters bring in billions of dollars every year, and even Jesus spoke with fictional stories. We call those stories parables.

One of the greatest parables of the Twentieth Century was written by a friend of Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and is titled The Lord of the Rings.

Bound

The main antagonist of the book, though barely ever seen, is Sauron. He considered himself pretty important.

To attempt to control the world, known as Middle Earth, he created rings for each of the species that had power: Elves, Dwarfs, and Men.

He had one more for himself, The One Ring. Inscribed in magical letters on the ring was this:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Sauron used the one tool to control others that he possessed and that he knew the other races possessed: pride.

There was just one thing he never expected: two little creatures with no agenda other than to protect their comfortable lives. He expected great armies to attack him, because he is so great there is nothing less they could do.

He did not expect two little hobbits to walk quietly through the back door, destroying all of his hopes and dreams in one quick second.

His pride trapped him in a way he never expected.

Satan’s Trap

That old Devil, Satan, attempted to take the rightful place of God. It was his pride getting in his way that caused him to be cast out of God’s presence. Eventually he will be cast into the Lake of Fire of eternal destruction.

He realizes it is not enough to attack God, so he created rings to give the (seemingly) most powerful beings on Earth.

Each ring looks different, but they use the same trick as Sauron’s: our pride.

Every time we give in to our pride, we side with Satan. Every time we side with Satan, we guarantee our destruction.

Great God, help us overcome our pride. Teach us true humility, that we may not fall away from Your grace and forgiveness but into Your loving arms.