Category Archives: Wisdom

Stepping on Snakes

Proverbs 17:24

“Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”

If It Had Been a Snake

I have heard this saying all my life: “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you.” What exactly does that mean?

One time I heard it after I had been searching for a water hose in some tall grass I should have mowed earlier. My dad and I had to look for the missing hose, so when my foot slipped on the round rubber tube, my dad said, “If it’a been a snake, it would’a bit ya’.”

The meaning is that sometimes we miss the most obvious things, even though they may be right in front of our face.

It Was a Snake

800px-Copperhead05

Credit: Wikipedia

Because we lived next to the woods and near the Tennessee River when I was younger, rattle snakes and copperheads (venomous snakes) were common. One day, when a friend of mine came to visit for the evening, he walked in front of me to the front door of our house. What he failed to see stretched out on the ground in front of him, right below the door, was a 3-foot copperhead. He didn’t see it, but I did – just in time – so I threw him (my friend) off the porch and into the yard (I guess it was the adrenalin).

The reason my friend did not see the snake was because he was looking other places.

Not a Snake

Wisdom is not a snake, but you probably knew that. Yet, why is wisdom so hard for some to recognize? Solomon previously described Wisdom as even crying out in the streets (Prov. 1:20). It’s not like we can call wisdom elusive, can we?

I am reminded of what God said through Moses,

11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.[1]

Wisdom is as close as our face, if we would just pay attention. All it would really take is for one to want to see it.

The Fool Will Get Bitten

Unlike the man with understanding, the fool has his eyes looking around for anything and everything that doesn’t matter.  Instead of recognizing what is in front of his face, he looks up to the stars and across the seas.

In the end, it won’t be wisdom that bites, but another kind of Serpent.


[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Dt 30:11–14.

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It’s Healthy To Be Happy

Proverbs 17:22 

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Happy Health

Her name is Kay, and she’s my mother-in-law, and without a doubt she’s the happiest person I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  Kay’s happiness is contagious.  There would have to be ice flowing in your veins not to break into a grin when Kay enters the room.  Over the years as my mother-in-law has been deeply transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ, a sincere and powerful love for people has grown inside her, a cheerful love that embraces all and disarms all.  Whether Kay’s changing a baby’s diaper or greeting one of the great potentates of industry (and she does both regularly), the same hearty chuckle wells up from within.  And you can’t help but smile along.

The first half of today’s proverb is one of the most quoted of all the Proverbs, and its verity is universally recognized.  Cheerfulness is good for the body.   It’s healthy to be happy.  The second half of the proverb, though not as well known, nonetheless does contain an equally recognized psychological principal.  A crushed spirit or melancholy disposition will tend to manifest itself in physical infirmity.  However, please remember that the proverbs are to be interpreted as principles, and not as promises.  Cheerful people do become ill, and depressed people can be (otherwise) physically healthy.  But those exceptions merely serve to prove the general rule that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Pharmacists of Cheerfulness

Granted, we come into this world with variations in temperament.  Some people tend toward cheerfulness, while others tend toward melancholy.  I count myself in that latter group!  That’s why I need people like Kay in my life.  We need those pharmacists of the merry heart to dispense the good medicine of cheerfulness for its psychological as well as physical benefits. To the reader who would describe herself or himself as a melancholy, I urge you to prayerfully and intentionally seek out friendships with Christian brothers and sisters who have the merry heart.  We need them!

Christ’s Joy and Our Responsibility

Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  This verse is found in the context of Jesus telling the disciples that He is the True Vine, and we are the branches.  In a vital, dynamic relationship of faith with the Son of God, His joy overflows to us.

However, to return to the metaphor of the pharmacy, it’s our responsibility to drop off the Rx and pick up the meds.  Is the marrow drying from your bones? Take some time alone with Jesus.  Remember, re-claim, and re-apply the promises of the gospel to your life.  Make a list of the things that are good in your life, for which you are grateful to God.  Pray for a fresh anointing of His joy.

Recommended Reading

For further study, order yourself a copy of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure.

Father God:  I pray for the reader whose spirit is broken, and the marrow of joy has dried within.  Touch the reader with the unconditional love of the Lord Jesus, and renew his or her joy this day.  May cheerful, Godly laughter overflow.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.    


Tibetan Bookstore

Proverbs 17:16

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (KJV)
Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?” (NIV)

Our world is constantly pursuing wisdom.

Just look in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and in many ads on TV and at bus stops.

There are numerous self-help books, videos, and seminars. New Age gurus push their spiritual teachings in each of these venues.

Dietitians sell their knowledge.

Parenting experts share their learning.

Pastors sell their understanding.

Financial experts sell their know-how.

Some people buy all of the expensive gear to climb the mountains of Tibet to buy a relic from Tibetan monks.

And yet we keep buying more.

Why?

Because we keep failing. We do not live up to the standards that are set. We do not see results quickly enough. We do not understand why it never works.

That is what this verse is speaking about today.

Our world wants wisdom, but we never want to take the time to understand it.

If we do seek to understand wisdom, we often take whatever is quickest, easiest, or most appealing to our wants, desires, or circumstances.

The catch is that we fail to turn to God with complete honesty.

If they can not be completely honest with God, if they admit He exists, then they do not truly wish to understand wisdom … no matter how much they are willing to pay.

What about you?

Creator God, guide us in all wisdom, and help us to understand. Help us realize that true wisdom is found in Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.


Six, or Half a Dozen

Proverbs 17:15

“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.”

My Daddy Used to Say

Down here in the southern United States it is common to hear someone say, “Like my daddy used to say…” What did my dad use to say? He said a lot of wise things. Here are a few examples…

  • daddy“You haven’t really worked until you’ve shed some blood.”
  • “It’s colder than a witch’s upper torso outside.”
  • “I love your soul, but I’m gonna woop your flesh.”
  • “I brought you into this world; I can take you out” (he borrowed that from Bill Cosby…before the scandal).
  • “Right before God does something, the devil will always try to mess it up. So, if something bad is happening, God’s just about to do something.”

But when I read this proverb, the first thing that came to my mind was something else my father used to say all the time: “Six of one, half-a-dozen of another.” In other words, one thing meant about as much as another thing.

My God Says

Well, my Abba Father has said a lot of wise things, too. And when it comes to people who either justify the wicked (say what they are doing is OK) or condemn the just (say what is right is wrong), His disgust with them is about “six of one, half-a-dozen of another.” God despises them both equally.

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”


Dam Busters

Proverbs 17:14 

“The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” (NIV)

In Proverbs 17:12 Solomon used ‘bear wisdom’ to make a point. While this verse advised that it was better to confront a bear robbed of her cubs than an idiot indulging in foolishness the point is the same. There are things we can say or do that once initiated are unstoppable. Get in the way of an angry bear searching for her cubs and you probably will not live to tell the tale. If you stand in front of a dam as it breaches you will get swept away, never to be seen again.

Dam 2Dam breaches have featured in several movies. The most obvious, and perhaps the most memorable for me, is the wartime story of The Dam Busters in which bouncing bombs were dropped to breach important dams with the aim of interrupting hydroelectric power generation and flooding an important German industrial area. Superman dealt with a dam breach in a movie, and X-Men 2 concluded with a dam breaching threatening lives and taking lives. Poor workmanship lead to a dam breach in the movie Evan Almighty, with a torrent of water flooding a valley and sweeping Evan’s Ark away and through the streets of Washington all the way to the United States Capitol.

The problem in comparing the movies with real life is that either we don’t get the full story, or it never quite happened/happens that way. The German dams that were breached were soon rebuilt as the Allies failed to carry out any follow-up raids. The other three movies mentioned above all involve fantasy rather than reality.

What is reality? Anyone who has ever had a heated argument knows the reality is that there are no winners, only losers. A wise person should understand that arguments do not deliver peace. With two opposing views, one person must always compromise.

Strife is never good. Not at home, not at college, not at work, and not at church. So drop the matter – before a dispute breaks out.


The Wise Servant

Proverbs 17:2

“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.” 

The Wise Butler

I wish I could remember the details of it, but years ago I saw a movie that that was like this verse. Of course, the fact that a movie from Hollywood reminds me of a story in Scripture shouldn’t amaze me; many of the plots in movies are stolen from the Bible.

Nevertheless, I remember seeing something about a butler who had to manage a wild, rebellious, reputation-ruining heir. I just can’t remember if the butler wound up with everything, or not.

The Wise Servant

In this proverb we read of a servant who was smart enough to look out for the family’s interests, even if the son only cared about acting the fool. The servant wisely took charge over the unruly son, maybe even saying, “Your daddy put me in charge, so yes, I am the boss of you!

It was not uncommon in those days for a servant to be very close to the members of the family he served. It was not uncommon, even, for a servant to have part in the family’s inheritance  especially if the servant was considered a family member. So, it stands to reason that the wise servant, caring for the family that employed him, might have seen the profit of keeping his master’s son out of trouble.

Sometimes, it was even the case that a servant got everything, but his master got nothing. We read about that happening to Ziba, the former servant of Saul (2 Samuel 16:1-4).

The Shameful Son

There is another way to look at this, however. Even though the son was related by blood to the master, he was still subordinate to the servant. Whether it had to be that way, we don’t know. But the way this verse reads, the son might have been old enough to have been out from under the control of a tutor. He may have been old enough to have been the one to give the orders. Yet, because of his behavior, the servant was placed over him.

Let this be a lesson to us. Even though we may be children of the King, when we act up and begin to bring shame to His name, someone not even in the family may be used to discipline us. And, if it goes far enough, the blessing once due us may even go to someone else.

 


Don’t Cover the Gray

Proverbs 16:31

“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” 

“You’re Worth It”

Do you remember the old hair-coloring commercials that tried to convince us that coloring one’s hair was worth the money and time, because, after all, “you’re worth it”?

Another advertisement for hair color contained a jingle which went, “I’m gonna wash that grey right out of my hair” (Clairol). What we the purpose of all this nonsense? The purpose was to appear younger.

Well, believe it or not, the longer one lives, the more wisdom he or she obtains and grey hair should be the emblem of their success. Where that crown! You’re worth it!

The Right Head

The “hoary head” is another way of saying the head that has white or grey hair. Solomon is saying that he who is blessed with that hair is blessed with a crown of glory, so long as he is in the “way of righteousness.” Without righteousness and godly wisdom, all that grey hair just means you’re old.

My Gray

I never thought I would live long enough for this verse to mean anything to me, but here I am, 48, with a silvery-gray goatee that constantly battles the razor that shaves my head. Some have asked, “Why don’t you color your facial hair?” My response is simple: I don’t want to look immature.

I don’t know about you, but I have battled with looking young all my life. For most that would be a blessing worth millions, but not for a preacher. I don’t want to look like a 25-year-old hipster who goes through a gallon of hair product a month to look good on T.V. I don’t want to look like the wavy-blond PhD who managed to get famous for writing 50 pages in 50 books, and probably still sleeps with a teddy bear.

I have earned my “hoary head”!  I wan’t to look like the 48-year-old pastor who has faced giants, slain dragons, and changed diapers – all while studying for Sunday morning. Gray is my medal of honor.

Respect Them

Modern culture is quick to throw out the elderly with the trash, and that’s a crying shame. Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 5:1-2) to treat the older men as fathers, and the older women as mothers. Paul even gave instruction to both Timothy and Titus to seek out the elderly and put their wisdom to use training the younger generations.

When I was young, our teacher made us all stand up in our classroom out of respect for a visiting adult. When a parent or visitor came through the door of our classroom we would stand at attention without even thinking. We were constantly reminded of Leviticus 19:32, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

 You keep your brown and black – my crown is staying gray.


It’s a Trap!

Proverbs 16:28.

“A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.”

The danger of strife:

In an earlier passage in Proverbs, Solomon describes seven things that the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). It’s interesting to note that three of those seven have to deal with sins of the mouth – a lying tongue, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord. As we are working on building healthy relationships, God warns us about one of the deadliest traps to avoid: strife.

Solomon tells us that strife comes from a froward, or a perverse, person. A godly man on the other hand will not stir up strife. Strife is so deadly that it can even separate the best of friends. It is very dangerous to cause strife, by gossiping about and slandering another person. Proverbs 6:15 warns us about the consequences about being a person who sows discord: “But they will be destroyed suddenly, broken beyond all hope of healing.” We must be ever-vigilant to guard against strife. Proverbs also warns us: “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” (Prov. 17:14). “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” (Prov. 26:20). Want to stop the deadly fire of strife? Stop gossiping!

The importance of unity:

In one of my favourite Psalms, David shows us why strife is so dangerous by talking about its opposite: unity: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious anointing oil… For there the Lord commanded the blessing– Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133). Here, David teaches us that unity is good, and that when we walk in unity with one another, God’s presence is there (symbolized by the anointing oil), His blessing is there, and eternal life – salvation – is found there. Is unity important? Absolutely.

As a pastor, when I work with a team of leaders, one of the most important principles I try to instill in them is an understanding of the importance of unity. If a leadership team (or a church, or a family – the principle works anywhere) walks in unity, they will experience God’s blessing. But once we allow strife to come in, it can destroy any team, church or family. It is one of Satan’s greatest weapons – it’s a trap! If God blesses unity, then the enemy will do whatever he can to stir up strife.

How to guard the unity:

How do we walk in unity? First of all, realize that offenses are going to happen. People are going to do things to hurt you, but you don’t have to pick up that hurt or offense. Choose to forgive. And if you have a problem with someone, go and talk to them about it, instead of talking to someone else about it. Guard the unity, keep out the strife, and you will walk in God’s blessing!


Pleasant Words

Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

honeyOver the last few days we have been talking about the heart of a wise man. Today’s verse continues our thought and explains to us that a wise man’s words are pleasant as honey and are sweet and healthy to us all.

In ancient days, honey was not only used to sweeten food but it was also used as medication for healing. It’s amazing what we can learn when we read the Word of God!

When was the last time you used pleasant words? When was the last time you used your words to build someone up instead of tearing them down? To encourage them instead of discouraging them?

The words we use each and every day can be used for good or for bad. Too many times we use our words in ways that are destructive or deceitful.

Wise men and women know, not only what pleasant words are but when to use those words.

The difference between a smart man and a wise man is that a smart man knows what to say; a wise man knows whether or not to say it.  ~Frank M. Garafola

Lord, please help us to use our words to build up and not to tear down. Help our words to be pure and sweet and healthy to others. 


THINK

Proverbs 16:21-22

The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning. Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.

Think before you speakWise Words (v. 21)

Are you a person who thinks about every word that comes out of your mouth or do you just talk and think later about what you said?

I had a professor in college that, when asked a question, he would take several minutes to think about his words and then proceed to answer the question.

This drove me crazy! Even if he knew the answer right off the top of his head – he still thought about every word he said. His reasoning for choosing his words correctly is that he wanted to make sure the words he used explained the question in the best way possible.

My professor was wiser than I thought!

Get Understanding

So what exactly is understanding? Understanding is the ability to comprehend or grasp the true nature of something. It is the correct and proper analysis of a dilemma, event, or situation that sees all the angles and consequences.

God wants us to be people of understanding but true understanding can only come from God. Proverbs 2:6 says:

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

According to our verse, those who have understanding are like a wellspring or a fountain of life.

Lord, I pray that each and every day we would seek after YOU and your wisdom. I pray that you would show us how to use our speech for good and not to hurt others around us. Keep us in your care and help us to strive to understand you more and more.