Tag Archives: Matthew Henry

Little Is Much

Proverbs 13:23

“Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.”
“A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.” NIV

We Complain 

Many times we complain about what we don’t have rather than thank God for what we do have. Have you ever complained about how small your house is, how old your car is, or how out of style your clothes are?  Sure you have. And you know, of course, that there are plenty of people out there who don’t even have a roof to sleep under, much less a new car or stylish clothes.

It might be a shock to you, but even pastors (ministers, preachers, bishops) have times when they complain about the “field” they are called to plow. I have done it. I even did it today, right before I read Proverbs 13:23.

We Whine

Today [at the time of this writing] we had a death in our church. The loss of this key member has been a blow to all of our congregation. And being that our numbers are small, the loss of any member is painful, especially when growth has been extremely slow.

At one point I began to feel anxious. I asked God, “How can we grow a church if our younger adults start dying?” I thought to myself, “If we lose many more, we won’t be able to pay our utility bills, not to mention the little I get to feed my family.” For a moment I considered this field too small for even a minimal harvest.

No Excuses

Then I read this proverb. Then I read what the wise Matthew Henry had to say. Then I felt ashamed.

See…[how] a small estate may be improved by industry, so that a man, by making the best of every thing, may live comfortably upon it: Much food is in the tillage of the poor, the poor farmers, that have but a little, but take pains with that little and husband it well. Many make it an excuse for their idleness that they have but a little to work on, a very little to be doing with; but the less compass the field is of the more let the skill and labour of the owner be employed about it, and it will turn to a very good account. Let him dig, and he needs not beg.[1]

Sounds like I need to just get back out in the field and turn the soil, doesn’t it? A small field can be full of produce if worked well and wisely. It is those who complain that let a harvest waste away.

Like the old song says, “Little is much when God is in it...”

Dear Heavenly Father, strengthen our hands and energize our hearts for the work. The fields are truly white unto harvest, so who are we kidding? We just need to work a little harder to bring it in.

[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 13:23.


Zee Doctor Vill See You

Proverbs 12:20

“Deceit [is] in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace [is] joy.”

The Evil Psychiatrist

Try to imaging an evil psychiatrist. Can you? Picture in your mind a tall, slick-haired, skinny man in a long, white lab coat. In one eye is a spectacle, the other a creepy glare.

Now, just imagine this guy asking you to come into his office. He offers you a quasi-comfortable couch on which to recline, then pulls out a yellow pad and pencil to take notes – notes of your deepest, darkest secrets.

When your hour is up, you have talked about your parents, your dead dog, a lost love interest, and your lack of self worth. What do you get in return? The Doctor says,

“I zink vee hav made much progress, but vee hav much fartha to go, yes? You take dis book I vrote, ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ and pay de receptionist on the vay out, yes? Today vill be $120 – the book vill be $30.”

The Caring Counselor

Now, think of someone who wants nothing in return for simple, good advice. This person is caring, can see the end of the road you’re traveling, and wants what is best for you.

You go to this person, pour out your soul, problems and all, and in return you get both sympathy and solid guidance. You are not made to feel like an idiot, but your own words are used to point towards better choices to be made. Hopefully, you can see the difference between the two, yes? No? Vhat iz vrong vid you?

“Imagine Evil” vs “Joy”

One point of today’s proverb is that there are some who would offer counsel for their own selfish desires, while there are others who do it for the joy of bringing about peace. The operative word in the verse is “counselors.”

As a pastor, I have to counsel people all the time. Unlike a psychiatrist, however, I don’t get paid lots of money for my advice.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the advice of both, but if the intent of either is selfish, then the advice is evil – free or not.

What Goes Around…

But there is even more to this verse. The idea is that the reason for the advice one gives will ultimately come back upon him. The great Matthew Henry wrote:

Those that devise mischief contrive, for the accomplishing of it, how to impose upon others; but it will prove, in the end, that they deceive themselves.*

If you want to experience joy, then give “peaceful” counsel. If you want to be fooled, then seek to fool others.

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 12:20.

 


Does Your Dog Bite?

Proverbs 10:10

“He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.”

Biting Dogs

If you have ever owned a dog, or been around them, I am sure you have heard someone say, “Does your dog bite?” The reason they ask this question is because one can never tell if a dog is safe by appearance.

One of my favorite scenes in any movie came in the Peter Sellers classic, the Pink Panther Strikes Again. In that scene Inspector Clouseau asks a hotel manager, “Does your dog bite?” The manager replies as he shakes his head, “No.” Clouseau then reaches down to pet the little dog and gets bit.

Angrily, Clouseau said, “I thought you said your dog did not bite!” The manager replied, “That is not my dog.”

Commenting on this verse, the great Matthew Henry said, “The dog that bites is not always the dog that barks.” In other words, the dog that bites is not always the one you expect.

Prating Fools and Winkers

Some fools are easy to spot (Spot – get it?). They run around acting like idiots, saying things that are obviously out of line with all wisdom, and make their true colors known. They are the barking dogs with foaming mouths. They are the wild hounds running the streets. They are the ones you know are trouble, so hopefully you stay away.

Other people are like the quite, fluffy dogs who look at you with big brown eyes, just begging to be petted. Then, just as you trust them, they explode into a white hot ball of canine terror* and rip your arm off. They are the ones who seem so friendly, so sweet, yet anything but nice.

The prating fool is someone who will come to an end by his own making. He is dangerous, but mostly to himself. But the man that “winketh” is bound for destruction, but not before he hurts the unwary who trust him.

Fakers are Biters

If there is anything I hate, it is fake concern. God hates it, too. “Winking” friends allow you to think they care about what you are going through; that they are concerned with your pain; that when the time comes they will find a way to help you through your difficulties. They may even say things like, “I’ll be praying for you, brother.”

The fakers, the winkers, want to let you think they care, but their goal is to use you for their own gain, even if the gain they seek is their own self-edification. Shame on those who say they care only to look pious and holy! They are nothing more than biting dogs, and somebody always gets hurt.

*”White hot ball of canine terror” is a line from a great Steven Spielberg cartoon, “Family Dog.”

Hungry for Grace

Proverbs 10:3

“The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.”

Unlike Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Shakespeare, or David Welford, I occasionally have a hard time with words. This is one of those times.

There is so much that can be said about this verse, Proverbs 10:3, but it really all comes down to a few observations.

First. Treasures of wickedness profit nothing…” (Proverbs 10:2). In order to better understand verse three, we can’t drag it far from verse two. There the idea is that money is worthless when it comes to buying life. Only righteousness delivers from death.

Second. A hungry soul cannot be satisfied with money, nor with anything else the wicked can produce. As a matter of fact, the only soul with any hope is the righteous one. “The LORD will not let the godly go hungry, but he refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked” (Prov. 10:3 NLT).

Third. The wicked soul will always feel hungry. Some will even try to buy food for their soul, but God will only throw out their offer.

At this point I can’t help but remember the words of a Bruce Springsteen song, Hungry Heart. Remember these words?

“Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart.”

Grace. More than anything, it’s all about grace. God offers peace, rest, and nourishment for the soul that depends on Him. He doesn’t sell that peace, but offers it freely. If you try to buy it, He will just turn you away.

That reminds me of the words to another song…

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee…
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling…”

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.


The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” – Proverbs 21:25

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


A Difficult Thought

Proverbs 26:10

“The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”
“Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” – ESV

This proverb is a challenging one because of how many different ways it could be translated. As a matter of fact, practically every scholarly commentary admits the Hebrew in this proverb is difficult to interpret. That is why I am going to quote several of them before I leave my final thought for you.

Spence-Jones (The Pulpit Commentary)

Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. [1]

Garrett (The New American Commentary)

The Hebrew of v. 10 is almost unintelligible and thus subject to numerous interpretations, all of which are hypothetical. As the NIV has it, the verse reaffirms that one should not commit important tasks to fools (as in v. 6). Notwithstanding all the difficulties of the text, that does seem to be the main point.[2]

Friedrich and Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament)

All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

            Much bringeth forth from itself all; But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.[3]

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry

Our translation [KJV] gives this verse a different reading in the text and in the margin; and accordingly it expresses either, 1. The equity of a good God. The Master, or Lord (so Rab signifies), or, as we read it, The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work. … Or, 2. The iniquity of a bad prince (so the margin reads it): A great man grieves all, and he hires the fool; he hires also the transgressors. When a wicked man gets power in his hand, by himself, and by the fools and knaves whom he employs under him, whom he hires and chooses to make use of, he grieves all who are under him and is vexatious to them. We should therefore pray for kings and all in authority, that, under them, our lives may be quiet and peaceable.[4]

Anthony Baker (Proverbial Thought)

So, here is what I think. Feel free to quote me 200 years from now.

A man is a fool when he employs a fool to complete a task. However, the biggest fool is one who thinks God, the Almighty Archer, will miss the target when He holds the wicked accountable.

We are always under His watchful eye, but the fool is never out of His “sights.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 500.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 213.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 387.

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