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A Timely Word

Proverbs 15:23

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”

In yesterday’s Proverbial Thought – “Purposes Established!”, it was discussed just how important it is to seek counsel. Today’s verse we flip to the other side of the coin and talk about when someone come to us seeking advice what is our response. Today’s verse focuses on not only giving the right advice but giving it at the appropriate time. I love the way the HCSB says our verse, “A man takes joy in giving an answer; and a timely word — how good that is!”

The book of Proverbs contains many words of advice and wisdom regarding our speech. It also gives us several reasons for our words:

It’s All About the Timing

As it was says earlier, a wise person not only knows the correct response to give but also gives it at the correct time. This wise counsel was given to us in Ecclesiastes 8:5-6:

“Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.”

Proverbs 25:11 also tells us:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” 

We have all either heard of stories or experienced them ourselves. The story of someone going through a hard time, having a loved one die or receiving some extremely bad news. And then it happens. Someone who is trying to console them with words tells them of their cousin’s best friend’s mother who went through the exact same thing but tells them of the horrific end that took place.

Why do we (yes, I have done this myself) think this is going to make them feel better? The timing was way off and not at all comforting to the receiver.

This reminds me Job. During the time that he was devastated by the news he had just received, three visitors came to him and basically started telling him it was all his fault. How is that for positive reenforcement!

Solomon is telling us in our verse that the proper words spoken at the proper time will be good news to both the giver of those words and the receiver.

So the next time you are going to give advice to someone, not only remember that there are right words to say but that there is also the right time to say them.


Feeding Habits

Proverbs 15:14

“The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.”

Food Choices

I am not the best example of physical fitness. My body may be the temple of the Holy Ghost, but it needs a little renovation and a serious yard sale. Too much “stuff” has accumulated along the outer areas of the temple grounds. Can you say XXL?

me with potatoOne of the reasons I am not in the best shape is my desire for certain kinds of foods – the kinds with flavor. It’s not that I eat a whole lot, but the types of food I do eat might be considered unhealthy.

However, now that I’ve witnessed my little girls turn into young ladies, healthier foods are becoming more important to me. I want to be around for their weddings; to see my grandchildren; and to play all those games only a grandfather can play. Only a fool would continue to eat bad things, never considering the future.

Contrasting Appetites

In this proverb Solomon contrasts a man that has a desire for knowledge with a man who wants to keep shoveling in foolishness. It reminds me of the difference between someone who understands the need for healthy foods and the one who devours pizza, cup cakes, and sugary drinks every day. One understands what is needful, the other only cares about pleasure.

A man of understanding knows what he needs – knowledge and wisdom. A foolish man feeds on what continues to make him a fool.

A wise man will seek those things which will make him wiser. A fool will satisfy his appetite with worthless information and stimulation.

A wise man will read and study. A fool will watch movies and play video games.

What are you feeding on? 


Don’t Try to Hide

Proverbs 15:11

“Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?”

“Full-Body Scanners”

Not long ago airports around the world introduced the use of “full-body scanners.” These machines have the ability to expose what is beneath a person’s clothing, with expose being the operative word.

Airline passengers used to be subject, in extreme cases, to strip searches. When deemed necessary  a security person might ask a potential passenger to undress in order to prove no form of weaponry was present, such as a knife or hand gun. Now, with the use of this new technology, all people boarding aircraft are forced to walk through a scanner that shows a naked picture (in black and white) to security personnel.

1117-AIMAGING-TSA-screenings-airports-Patdowns_full_600Many men and women object to the use of the “full-body scanner,” and for good reason. Ordinary, law-abiding folk are being forced into virtual strip searches and they don’t like it. In some cases security personnel have actually kept the nude images, which adds to the degrading sleaziness of the whole matter. Even though “full-body scanners” may prove useful, normal people enjoy their privacy and don’t like getting naked in front of strangers.

God Sees All

Privacy is the last thing we should expect with God. As a matter of fact, even the deepest, darkest secrets we keep are fully exposed to His ever-watchful, all-seeing eye.

Anyone can avoid being exposed by a “full-body scanner” by staying away from airports. But when it comes to God, there is nowhere anyone can hide, not even hell.

Today’s proverb states that the “hell and destruction” (sheol and abaddon), the place of the dead and hell itself, are in full view of the Lord. Not even the most advanced microwave scanner can peer beyond this realm into the world of the dead, but God can see every corner of the abyss. Solomon says, “If hell is fully exposed before God, what make you think you can keep anything from Him?”

Don’t Lie to God

Sometimes people walking into airports may forget they brought a little item like a pocket knife. They try to hide it and deny they are carrying anything prohibited, but then the scanner shows the truth. What follows is not pleasant. How much more should we be honest with our Creator?

Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned,” yet so many want to deny it. They think they can hide the lust, hatred, greed, and envy. They think a thick coat can cover their bitterness and betrayal. What they fail to realize is that God can see beneath the human shell and straight into the heart.

My advice? Before you take that final flight into the great beyond, admit what you are carrying, hand it over, and accept the free ticket to eternal life. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Otherwise, the place where violators go is far worse than anything airport security can dish out.


Don’t Speak Too Soon

Proverbs 14:33 

“Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.”

Keep Quiet

One thing I learned from my father was to keep my mouth shut. No, not in the way that you may think…he didn’t tell me to be quiet…he just told me to watch my number of words.

My dad used to say, “You always appear smarter when you don’t tell all you know.” In other words, as long as your mouth is shut, people will never know how much or how little you actually know. They may just assume you are the wisest in the room. The one who runs off at the mouth is the one who exposes his ignorance.

Exposing One’s Ignorance

This proverb is about being quiet and letting things settle. It’s about knowing you have an answer, but waiting for others to share their mind. It’s about patience.

The man with understanding knows that the longer he listens to an argument, the better the response he can make when the moment is right. The fool jumps into the fray before he knows all the facts, exposing his ignorance too soon.

Watching Words

Did your parents ever tell you to “watch your mouth?” Mine did. They would also tell me to “think before you speak.” I can’t tell you how many times I have stood in the middle of a group of people without saying a word. When it did come time to say something, what I said stood out as something worth hearing, as opposed to more of the same.

Lord, help us to be prudent with our words, and may they always be a reflection of godly wisdom.


Planning Evil? You’re Messing Up.

Proverbs 14:22

“Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.”

 A Silly Question

Sometimes a question is so simple it shouldn’t have to be asked. A good example is when one person loses an arm in a freak juicing accident and another asks, “Are you hurt?”

Many, many years ago I was pretty good at martial arts, so I participated in tournaments from time to time. In one tournament I had made it all the way to the final round in a point-fighting competition and received a spinning heal kick to the side of my head. Down to the floor I went.

Lying there on the floor, I experienced the strangest sensation: I saw blue. When the referee came over to me and knelt down she asked, “Are you OK?” I said, “Uh…no…I see blue.” I thought to myself, “What a funny question to ask someone who just got kicked in the head!” However, I did recover in the allotted time and actually won the fight (yay me!).

Aren’t They Messing Up?

This proverb asks a question about foolish people that “devise” or plan evil: “Do they not err?” In other words, is it not so that those who devise evil plans are always messing up? Of course! What a silly question!

Well, it’s not too silly, or more people would learn from their mistakes. It sorta reminds me of villains on crime dramas; don’t they know the hero always wins?

Have you ever watched the Road Runner and Coyote cartoons? Correct me if I am wrong, but you could have asked the question of this proverb every time Wile E. Coyote placed an order in to ACME. His evil plans NEVER worked.

The Hero Will Win

Do they not err? Aren’t they messing up win they plan their evil, rascally schemes? Yes, because the Hero will win. It may not be in this life, but all those who devise evil will suffer. They will lose.

Those who devise good are going to be the ones that are OK. Mercy and truth will be theirs. And what’s more, when the Hero wins, they will be on the winning side, too.


The Thinker

Proverbs 14:16

“A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.”

Warnings

As has been said many times on Proverbial Thought, the book of Proverbs is a book of warnings. Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, has penned warning after warning to help guide and direct us in the our lives.

The ThinkerThe Thinker

One of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures is The Thinker, a piece originally conceived to be part of another work. The Thinker was part of a commission by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to sculpt a monumental door based on The Divine Comedy of Dante. Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters in the epic poem.

Wikipedia describes the statue of The Thinker as the following:

“It depicts a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle.”

Today’s verse reminds me of this statue. Here is why, and please stay with me. The name God is never mentioned in this verse. I thought of this statue because I believe that this verse is saying that a wise man is one who thinks before he encounters evil and is afraid of the consequences of his actions and therefore departs, or gets away from evil.

On the other hand, a person who does not think at all of the consequences just plows ahead no matter what it may cost him. He exemplifies the old saying: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The ESV says our verse this way, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”

Count the Cost

When faced with evil, do you jump in with both feet before even thinking about what it may cost you? Or are you like the wise man, and ponder what would happen if you gave into the evil.

Solomon is telling us that we would be very wise to “think before we act”!

Next time you are faced with evil, stop and think about that it may cost you! Sin breaks our fellowship with God and when we really stop and think about what the results from that would cost us, I think you would agree with me that we would gladly depart from evil.

Lord, I pray that we would stop and think! In times of temptation and trials, help us to be cautious and turn from evil and back to you. I thank you for your grace and forgiveness for those times when I don’t think and plunder recklessly into evil. Thank you for your loving mercy toward me!


Clean Troughs

Proverbs 14:4

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

A long line of tightwads

      I have a disclaimer, everybody:  I come from a long line of tightwads.  When my parents became engaged, a mutual friend quipped that their engagement was an excellent match:  “Jim & Maryanne gettin’ married?  That’s good. They can pinch pennies together.”

In 1982, my parents took me and my two older brothers to visit the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you visited the Fair in mid-July of that year, you probably remember us.  We were the teenage boys carrying wilted cheese sandwiches in satchels dangling from our belts (in 92 degree heat and 98% humidity) to avoid the high cost of fairground fare for lunch.

That is to say, I “get it honest”.

I was 20 years old before I bought my first car, a 1973 Plymouth Scamp for which I paid $850. It came complete with a shredded and flapping vinyl top and fenders so rusted out from the salt on the winter highways of Southwest Virginia that I dared not drive the car through a car wash for fear of leaving too many parts behind.  When driving in the rain, water would pour in under the dashboard, soaking shoes, socks, and pants legs. I’m not exaggerating!

Early in our marriage, I can remember having discussions with my new wife concerning the threshold of excessive toilet paper usage.  (Just use your imagination.)  As I type these words, I examine my current attire:  a striped, button-down, long-sleeve shirt which came to me second hand from America’s Thrift Store, a worn pair of khaki pants purchased on sale in a discount clothing store three years ago for around $20, and socks and underwear that are, let’s just say, of mature age.  Only my shoes are of a brand name which you might possibly recognize, a brand and style I am medically required to purchase to give support to my very flat feet.

So today’s proverb is really for me and for others of the dying breed of folk who are allergic to the spending of money.

Expensive critters

Let’s face it:  Oxen are expensive critters to keep around.  It has been scientifically proven that they have to be fed a certain amount to survive.  Oxen require a ready supply of drinking water.  Oxen need routine preventative and maintenance veterinary care.  They need strong fences to contain them.  They need barns for shelter in severe weather.

Thus if you have no oxen in the stall, the trough is “clean”, or perhaps a better rendering would be, “the granary is empty”.  You don’t have to fill the barn with hay, or purchase corn for the crib, if you have no oxen to feed.  It’s much cheaper to own no oxen.

Wise capital investment

However, seen as a capital investment, oxen can bring the wise farmer great financial reward.  Of course the proverb harkens from a pre-industrial age, but the point is obvious.  Oxen drag the plow to cut the sod so that crops can be sown.  Oxen pull the carts and wagons when bringing in the harvest from the fields, and then they haul the harvest to market.  Indeed, “much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

Investment is risky business.  By its very definition, invested money may be totally lost.  Otherwise healthy-looking oxen drop dead of heart attacks on occasion, I suppose.  But wise, intentional investments create the possibility for wonderful profits.  To interpret the biblical proverb with a proverb from our popular culture, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Two gospel passages

In light of Proverbs 14:4, two New Testament texts come to mind.  The first is the Lord’s parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20).  Without recounting the parable’s details, I conclude that the Lord’s primary point is to emphasize the miraculous increase of the seed that fell on good ground (verses 8 & 20).  When it comes to our stewardship of the gospel, invest heavily!  Throw caution to the wind!  Proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom everywhere, and although three-fourths of the time it won’t amount to much, we can count on an astonishing, miraculous, God-given increase when the seed of God’s Word does hit the “pay dirt”.  There are so many Christian congregations which have the clean troughs of playing it safe in the ministry.  Our proverb would say, “Go big for the gospel of Jesus Christ!”

The second text is found in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents.  Space does not permit me to retell the passage, but the connection with our proverb is clear enough:  Invest for the master!  Don’t be a scrooge and hide heaven’s riches in a hole in the ground.  Take a chance!  Do something big and bold and risky for the Master!

Father God, make us to be wise and bold investors of all which you have entrusted to us, blessings both temporal and spiritual.  Forgive us when we fail, not for our sake, but for the sake of your own dear Son.  Through Christ our Lord: Amen.