Category Archives: Wisdom

The Fruit of Your Tree

Proverbs 11:30

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”

Connected Wisdom

This blog is all about gleaning wisdom from the book of proverbs. What is interesting is that in terms of the Bible proverbs is quite a strange book. There isn’t really another book like it. We have these couplets some that link to others, some that can stand alone, others make perfect first glance sense while others still talk about pigs and women. It all seems a bit random… at first but look long enough and you will start to see the connections.

Finding the Threads

One thing I have been diligent at over the last couple of years is reading through the Bible. Every six out of seven days I sit and I make time for it. Not an awful lot of time but time. And something has happened. I know the Bible better than I ever have done. I remember bits of it. I know my way around it. And when I read proverbs like this my mind is draw on a journey through the Bible to get to the truth.

The Truth

So let’s take a look – ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life’, the first thing is that this is talking about a tree of life not the tree of life. So the verse seems to be implying that the righteous will bring life by their fruit. In John 10:10 Jesus tells us that He has come to bring ‘life to the fullest’ so it’s a good bet that the fruit of the righteous involves Jesus. In fact in John 15 Jesus Himself tells us that the way to produce this fruit is to remain in Him. What does this mean? Quite simply that if we plant ourselves in Jesus then we are more likely to produce His fruit which will bring life to all who taste it.

Of course we still have a choice. We can stubbornly remain in Jesus or gladly remain in Him. Which ever we do will shape the type of fruit we produce and therefore the type of life we are bringing to others. I wonder what type of fruit others are getting from you? Nice to look at but bland in taste? Or fresh and full of freedom?

Soulsome Fruit

The second part of the verse is also a theme clearly picked up by Jesus – that of building eternally rather than temporarily.

Stop reading and think about all the things that were on your mind before you started reading. Now on a piece of paper draw two columns one for temporary and one for eternal. List the things you were thinking off in the correct category. How did you do? Balanced? More on earth than heaven? I could go on but I’m guessing your list will be challenge enough for today.

Matt 6:19-21 ‘ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”‘

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Reaping What You Sow

Proverbs 11:27

“He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.”

Definitions

Before we do anything else, let’s define the words “procureth” and “mischief”. These are not words that most people use in their everyday language. Procureth simply means “to seek”, while the word mischief means “evil”. The ESV says it this way, “Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it”.

A Simple Concept

Both of my grandfathers were farmers. They worked very long and hard hours in their gardens, working the soil and bringing in the crop. One of the concepts they learned from a very young age was that if they wanted a garden full of corn, as strange as this may sound, they would plant corn! When the harvest would come and the ears was ready to be shucked, then they would harvest CORN!

I know this may be a hard concept for some people to understand, but it is very true – if you plant corn, then you will reap corn. If you plant tomatoes, you will get tomatoes. If you plant squash – you guested it – you get squash.

This concept is not a new concept. The Bible talked about it in Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

This is not only true with planting physical seeds but also with anything we do in life! The verse we are looking at today says that if we purposefully seek to do good (planting), then we will seek favor (reaping). But we must be aware of one thing – it goes both ways. The last part of the verse says that evil (reaping) comes to him who searches for it (planting).

The Choice

According to this verse, we have a choice – we can either choose to live our lives by intentionally doing good or purposefully doing evil. It is up to you, but don’t forget – YOU WILL REAP WHAT YOU SOW!

Lord, help us to intentionally live our lives seeking to do good. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you each and every day.


Counselors

Proverbs 11:14

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

Poor Counsel

This is a bit of a strange one. The first part is easy to understand: Without good advice there are going to be problems. This applies on an individual level, but also to churches, companies, local and national government. Newspaper and television reporters from around the world have no shortage of subject matter when it comes to the failure of businesses and governments where there is no counsel or poor counsel.

One or Many?

The second part of the Proverb suggests that having many counselors is good. That doesn’t fit with a more modern proverb: ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’ I can relate to that. As a young second officer in the Merchant Navy my experience was gained mostly on cargo ships. Then in 1978 I joined a tanker. The only cargo equipment on this vessel was a couple of derricks for handling hoses and the gangway. Our Hong Kong deck crew had gained most of their experience on tankers, as had the other deck officers. Nobody had a clue how to use the cargo gear.

The first time I watched the crew trying to position the gangway between the ship and the jetty they came close to demolishing a shore installation. I did not need to speak Cantonese to ascertain the problem. One man, the bosun, should have been giving instructions. The problem was that every man in the deck crew thought he was the bosun, meaning that opinions and advice were flowing from all quarters. At the next port I took charge, issuing one set of instructions and positioning men and ropes where they needed to be. The crew were stunned at the ease with which we positioned the gangway. In this case only one counselor was needed to ensure safety.

One Counselor

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Sometimes we get swamped with opinions and instructions and supposedly good advice. It also comes from all quarters, especially in church. Every person is a bosun. Or so they think. Jesus knew what would happen when He left Earth to sit at the right hand of the Father. He knew that every person would have an opinion and want to give counsel. He knew that everyone would want to be the bosun. So He took action.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 (NIV)

There may be times when it is right to take earthly counsel, but too often we forget that there is another Counselor. Who are you listening to?


What’s In Your Heart?

Proverbs 11:12

He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”

Have you watched any TV or movies in the past few decades and seen those stories with neighbors that fight about who has the best lawn, the best toys, or the best Christmas decorations?

Most of the best end (or at least have middles) with these enemies coming together to work together or even in friendship.

War and Peace

The funny thing about all of these stories is that these neighbors (usually men, but sometimes women or both) fail to see just how much in common they have with each other, even to the point of hating something both parties have in common, or go beyond reason in their hatred. It is as if they have declared war, not only against their neighbor, but against common sense and reason.

These neighbors spread rumors, sabotage each others’ endeavors, and openly mock each other without realizing how foolish they look to most other people.

Many times, this attitude ends up carrying over to others, including family and friends.

Compare this to the neighbor everyone loves and wants to be around.

This neighbor often lends a helping hand to others, even those people others might not be inclined to help … including unliked neighbors.

This neighbor rarely, if ever, has anything bad to say about others, oftentimes because of an understanding of how bad hurtful words can feel.

You and I

What about us? Have you considered the words that leave your mouth? Do you think about what you say before you say it?

Do you know what is in your heart?

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: – Matthew 15:18-19 KJV

Perhaps the reason neighbors can not get along, people look and sound foolish, and we say things that we are ashamed of later is that we have those things listed above in our hearts.

You and I need to lift each other up as we seek the heart of Jesus Christ. We must help each other in our desire to have Jesus change our hearts to be like His.

You and I, to be able to hold our tongues and no longer have the need to hold our tongues, need the Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, dwelling in our hearts.

Heavenly Father, without You we have evil hearts and defiled tongues. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, live in our hearts and change them to be like Your Son’s. Teach us to love our neighbors. Give us Wisdom to not only say what needs to be said but to want to choose You.


Passing Us By

Proverbs 11:9

“An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.”

“Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.” – NLT 1996

Polluted

The word hypocrite has its origin in the Greek word for stage actor. In Greek drama actors apparently used masks to portray different characters. While we understand that a hypocrite is a two-faced person who pretends to be what he is not, the Hebrew word used in Proverbs is ‘chaneph’ which may be translated as polluted, corrupt, profane or godless. Polluted aptly describes the condition of all humanity at birth. Although we cannot change the way we were born, God provided a way through Jesus Christ in which He can change the way that we live, if we let Him. This includes what comes out of our mouths.

Words

It isn’t difficult to see how a hypocrite might destroy his neighbor with his mouth. It all comes back to words. The NLT Life Application Study Bible note for Proverbs 11:9 states: ‘The mouth can be used as a weapon, or a tool, hurting relationships or building them up.’ We need to choose our words carefully. But we also need to remember who lives in us. In John 20:22 Jesus breathes on the disciples and instructs them to receive Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit lives in us then how we say anything hurtful to another human being? If the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is present in us, then how we be anything other than relationship builders, who use words wisely to encourage. Are we speaking words of life to those around us? Do our words point others to the One who speaks words of eternal life?

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68 (NIV)

Reflections for Ragamuffins. Brennan Manning


Overboard With Everything (11:4)

Proverbs 11:4

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.”

Extending Life

According to Wikipedia approximately 250 people are believed to have invested in cryopreservation as a means of maintaining their bodies in a suspended state after death. They hope that science will one day find a solution to whatever it was that killed them so that they may live again! Considerable wealth is necessary to fund cryopreservation, but the fact remains that even the wealthy die. No amount of money can change the fact that our days on earth are numbered.

Death Approaches Silently

Years ago while anchored in the Shatt-al-Arab River we hosted some officers from another British ship in our bar one night. I spent a long time listening to one of them telling me about his perfect his life. He had bought a new flat (apartment) back home, and a new car. He had a wonderful girlfriend and a great job. He showed me the expensive Seiko watch he had purchased in Japan earlier in the trip. I can remember being envious. I was only a cadet at the time, and the lowest paid person on the ship.

Later that night our officer of the watch got a VHF call from the other ship asking if we could put our boats down and help them search for a missing officer. The very person who had spent the evening telling me about his absolute satisfaction with life had fallen out of the boat when trying to board his ship. It was three weeks before his body washed up further downstream. He died with everything he ever wanted, but without the only thing he ever needed: Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Rich Fools

Jesus told a parable about a rich fool who had his best year ever on the farm. The harvest was so good that he decided to demolish his barns and build bigger better barns so that he could store away plenty for years to come. That night the farmer died. The NIV version is shown below:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21

The writer of Proverbs captures this parable in a single line, ably demonstrating the simplicity of the message. You cannot buy salvation. Eternal life is a gift that may be claimed only by surrendering your earthly life to God.


Consider Your Words

Proverbs 10:32

“The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Think Before You Speak

The power of words and the language we use should never be under-estimated. Words can build up or words can destroy. A wise and righteous person thinks before speaking, and chooses his or her words carefully. A foolish or wicked person rarely stops to think, and words fall out of his or her mouth like tiny bombs that inflict all kinds of damage.

When I think back to my childhood I remember hearing words that shaped me. Call a child stupid enough times and he or she will grow up believing that they are stupid. My year four teacher at junior school made it clear that she didn’t like me, and that she thought that I was no good. I was eight years old. I knew I could never please this woman of harsh words, so I gave up trying. But I didn’t just give up trying in her class. I gave up trying for a long time, and never really enjoyed school again. I left school at sixteen.

Worse Than Profanities

Words spoken without thought, and especially those spoken with evil intent, are worse than profanities. Most children are brought up not to use profanities. My father would have punished me if he had heard me swear. But I have heard many words that are worse than profanities. Any word spoken with the intention of causing hurt, for instance. Why use words designed to cause pain, when words could be used instead to encourage family members, colleagues at work, friends in church, and friends outside the church? Sadly, it is all too easy to say the wrong thing.

The Bible teaches us to be encouragers, and provides many examples. These include Moses and Joshua, Samuel and David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and His disciples, Paul and many of the early evangelists who accompanied him on his travels. Most of these relationships also contained a significant element of mentoring. These were intentional relationships in which one person sought to build up and encourage another, the aim being to help and enable the other person to fulfill their God-given potential.

Stop a moment and take a brief look at your own life. Consider the words spoken to you and the words you say to others. Who is encouraging you, who is an encouragement to you, and who are you encouraging? Could God be pointing you into a mentoring relationship?