Tag Archives: Proverb

Proverbial Pretenders

Proverbs 13:7

“There is that maketh himself rich, yet [hath] nothing: [there is] that maketh himself poor, yet [hath] great riches.”

Pretenders

When you read this verse the first time, what did you think it meant? The first time I read it I thought it was talking about people who were rich, but had nothing of real value. I thought it was praising those who gave away everything to have riches in heaven. But that is not what this proverb is about. The word “maketh” has to do with appearances.

“One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” – Proverbs 13:7 ESV

This proverb warns us about pretenders who appear to be something they are not. Some live extravagantly, yet have nothing. Others try to make everyone think they are penniless, yet they are loaded.

The Sad

Several years ago I had a relative who lived in one of the biggest houses in town, always drove a new car, wore the nicest clothes, and was responsible for the best gifts under the Christmas tree. Yet, when this person died, the truth came out: few things, if any, were not mortgaged, and credit card bills totaled in the hundreds of thousands. Nothing was what it seemed.

Not long ago there was a man named Walter Samaszko Jr. who was found in his Carson City, Nevada home a month after he actually died. Known as a recluse, he was the opposite of my relative. He didn’t try to impress; looking rich was the last thing Mr. Samaszko, 69, wanted to do. Yet, even though he left only $200 in the bank, hidden in his home were $7 million worth of gold bars. He could have used the gold to pay for a doctor.

The Sinister

This proverb is a warning to all of us who would make judgments based solely on outward appearances. It is a warning, not only because it is unwise to judge a person by his looks, but because we need to be wary of scammers and con-artists.

Some people are experts at taking advantage of others. This truth is comically portrayed in the 1988 movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, staring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. In this movie two con-artists, acting like men down on their luck, steal fortunes from compassionate, wealthy women. They “maketh” themselves poor (or rich, depending on the circumstance), yet take everything they want.

But real life is not funny. I have seen gypsies worth millions begging on the streets of eastern Europe. I have helped “needy” families with food and funds from our church’s stores, only to find out that the “needy” were only greedy. I have heard healthy men and women who refuse to work brag about “working the system” in order to obtain assistance meant for the poor and disabled.

Be warned, and don’t be like them.


Get a Job! Or 3 or 4!

Proverbs 13:4

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

“I’m Gonna…”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I’m gonna (do this or that).” I have heard grand schemes, everything from opening a new business, to joining the military, to inventing a never-before-heard-of product that will revolutionize the world. Yet, nothing ever gets done.

The “sluggard” is a man or woman that is flat-out lazy. The word comes from the idea of calling a person a slug, or a snail. But at least a snail is usually on his way somewhere, albeit slowly. The sluggard does nothing but talk of plans in the works, but work is never seen.

Get a Job!

Just today I was talking with a mother of a grown man out of work. He constantly takes from her, then runs off until the money is gone. He abuses her property, never gives her respect, and tries to play “daddy” with a girl who is not his wife. And when it comes to work, he complains that he can’t find a job. Baloney…Hogwash…Cow feces!

I thank God for allowing my wife and I to hit rock bottom years ago. I went from making a large income to making nothing. Just to put food on the table and keep a roof over my family’s heads, I (and my wife) did everything from deliver news papers, to clean toilets in factories. I delivered pizza, worked on a dangerous assembly line, and even sold insurance. At one point I was working 3-4 jobs at one time!

You see, the lazy sluggard has big desires, but won’t take responsibility and work for it. The diligent will do whatever it takes.

Little Patience

Today’s proverb reminds me of how little patience I have for “sluggards.” In my opinion there is no excuse for someone to sit on his duff and whine about what he doesn’t have. A real man will work, even if it is not the type of work he prefers. It is his responsibility, especially if he has a family.

Some want to use the “system” as an excuse for laziness. Others want to blame the government or the “bourgeoisie.” But in reality, the only one to blame is the one who desires something, but does nothing honest to obtain it. Honest, hard work is the answer to a great deal of society’s woes.

“But, there are no good jobs!” you may say. Sorry, washing dishes is a job. Cleaning floors is a job. And, if you do both at the same time, along with getting tips from waiting tables, you can live without mooching off your mother.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” – 1 Timothy 5:8

The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.” – Ecclesiastes 5:12

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” – Ephesians 4:28

Thus sayeth the Lord: “Get a job.”


Guard Your Mouth

Proverbs 13:3

“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: [but] he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”

Big Mouth

What can be said about this proverb that is not painfully obvious? Would it help if we read it in another translation?

The Holman (HCSB) puts it, “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.” The ESV says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” I’d say the message is the same, wouldn’t you?

A big mouth will get you into serious trouble. It may even cost your life.

Loose Lips

There used to be a saying back in the 1940’s: “Loose lips sink ships.” During World War II enemy spies were known to make friends with the families of soldiers and sailors. Knowing the tendency for proud parents, spouses, and children to talk about letters from the front, the enemy would listen and take note.

Many times, without even knowing it, something was said that gave details of secret missions. Lives were lost when people said more than they should.

Sometimes people get into serious trouble because they can’t keep secrets. Some people say things they don’t mean to say. Some people open their big mouths without thinking, then destruction comes.

Post a Guard

If you have a tendency to say things you shouldn’t, you may need to erect some barriers, or even post a security guard in front of your mouth. You can never be too safe when you know you possess something so dangerous.

Look back at the proverb; it says, “he that keepeth..” That means “to put a guard around.” A wise man will have in place a guard – a mental guard – that checks his words before they cross his lips.

Guard:  Good evening, Mr. Word. Going out for a stroll, tonight?

Mr. Word:  Actually, Mr. Security Guard, it’s none of your business where I am going.

Guard:  Oh, most certainly it is! If you don’t provide a good reason for leaving the premises, I must ask you to return.

Mr. Word:  All right, then. I was about to tell my wife that dress looks better on the hanger than her.

Guard:  (Speaking into a radio microphone) I need backup, immediately  Get back sir! Get away from the gate! You are a danger to all of us!

A Real Danger

If you don’t think your words are worth guarding, consider what James said about the tongue…

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” – James 1:26 NLT

Now, consider the words of the Apostle Peter…

“For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.'” – 1 Peter 3:10-11 NLT

Be careful what you say.

 

 


Generally Speaking

Proverbs 12:28 

“In the way of righteousness [is] life; and [in] the pathway [thereof there is] no death.”

Generalities

As a genre, many of the Proverbs are spoken in general terms, such as with Proverbs 22:6, which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The principle is trustworthy, obviously, but we all know that there are going to be children who go astray and never come back.

Similarly, when we read this verse we see the statement that “the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.” Well, what does this mean? Is the writer trying to say that if one lives a righteous life he will never die? What about Christian martyrs? Did they not die?

Specifics

The general idea is that the way of righteousness, and the ones who travel down its path, will fare better. It is much like a verse I commented on a while back, “The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness” (Proverbs 11:5 HCSB).

But there is a truth that is very specific to the follower of Christ. It can be found in another verse.

“But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” – 2Timothy 1:10

Generally speaking, it is more likely that you will experience life, not death, when you travel a righteous path. But when it comes to the end of life, which will eventually come, eternity awaits.

Specifically speaking, the person who puts his faith in Jesus Christ and believes His gospel will have immortality.

That’s the path I want to be on. What about you?


You Think You’re Better than Me?

Proverbs 12:26

“The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.”

I’m No Better

How many times have you been told that you should never think of yourself as better than anyone else? I have to remind myself of that every time I get behind the wheel of a car. You may have to be reminded every time you go through the checkout isle at the grocery store.

So, if we are to believe that we are all human and no better than our neighbor, why does today’s proverb say that “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor?” Maybe it would help to look at some other ways this could be translated.

Three Versions

The English Standard Version reads, “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Now, let’s read what the Holman Christian Standard says: “A righteous man is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.”

Finally, the Revised Standard Version says, “A righteous man turns away from evil, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Even though the last part of the verse remains consistent, the first part does not. What’s the deal?

Translating

I am no Hebrew scholar by any definition of the term. However, if you were to look at the Hebrew text for this proverb you would find that there are only 6 words. What is interesting is that it takes anywhere from 15 to 19 words to say the equivalent in English.  The key is “equivalent.”

Interpreters of Scripture sometimes have to translate meaning, not just word for word definitions. And when this happens, the idea of what the original is saying may take more than just a few words to express. That is possibly why there are so many different versions of this one verse.

What’s the Idea?

Well, the idea of this verse is not that we as believers should think of ourselves as better than anyone else, but that the righteous should care about where the unrighteous are heading.

The contrast between the two parallel parts of verse 26 is meant to highlight who cares more for his friends – the righteous man. To put the KJV in a way that compares more with the other versions, it is saying that the heart of the righteous and the way he cares for his friends is much different than the wicked man who only wants to deceive and lead astray.

The righteous man is not “better” than his neighbor; he only cares about where his neighbor is going.

A Prayer: Lord, help us to be good neighbors. Help us to care about others and guide them to You. Don’t let us lead others astray.


I’m a Word Farmer

Proverbs 12:14

“A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompense of a man’s hands shall be rendered unto him.”

Word Farming

It should come as no shock to anyone that I use words on a daily basis. I talk, write, sing, preach, teach, and even counsel second-graders on my school bus regarding their poor dating choices (but that’s a different story).

I am a word farmer, and my mouth could be compared to one of those big machine-thingys (non-farmer terminology) that spreads seed across a field. From morning till evening I am like a John Deere pulling a seed drill (farmer terminology), planting row after row of something that should grow.

The hope is that whatever I am planting will produce a good harvest. And if I am planting good seed, then I will be satisfied with the “good fruit.”

Don’t Work, Don’t Eat

But it is important that we pay attention to the negative side of this, not just  the “fruitful” positive. The New Living Translation of Proverbs 12:14 reads, “Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards.

What happens when we don’t plant? What happens when we don’t work? What happens when the farmer parks his tractor, sleeps late, and watches television all day? Plants don’t grow, no one is satisfied, and grown men end up watching the Lifetime Channel.

Rewards are the result of effort; harvests are the result of planting. To be satisfied with good from the fruit of your mouth, you’ve got to plant seed. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

Just be careful of the seed you plant, “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.” – Isaiah 3:10-11 ESV


Be Humble, Don’t Fumble (11:2)

Proverbs 11:2

When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

The simple message of this proverb is that the prideful person is more likely to get knocked down to size than the person who is already humble. Shame follows on the heels of pride, while wisdom is already with the humble.

A Story

I don’t know where the original story came from, but years ago my dad told me a story about a proud preacher. The young minister was confident in his abilities and his preparation. So, when asked to preach in a conference, the young man jumped at the opportunity, strutted up to the stage, and manned the pulpit.

It didn’t take long for the prideful young minister to realize he was blowing it. When he was finished, he slowly shuffled down the steps from the stage, head hung low, looking totally dejected. Then, feeling like a total failure, he sat down by an older, wiser man of God.

How do you think you did up there?” the older man asked.

I totally blew it,” the young preacher said. “I don’t know what happened. I knew the material, was prepared, and wasn’t even nervous.

Gently, the old pulpiteer asked, “So what you’re saying is that you went up there with your head held high, but came down with it hanging low, correct?

Yessir, that’s about it,” said the young man. “I don’t know what I could have done differently.

With a slight grin the old preacher looked at the younger and said, “If you’d went up there the way you came down, you’d have come down the way you went up.

You Down With That?

When some people ask if you understand something, they may say, “You down with that?” Ironically, in the case of this proverb, being “down” with it, or being “lowly,” is where wisdom can be found.

Do you understand what the old preacher was saying? He was only echoing Solomon in today’s proverb. Pride, cockiness, and self-assurance are not far ahead of shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. The wise, by being humble from the beginning, will rise in due time, and not in their own strength.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

Don’t let pride cause you to fumble a scoring opportunity.


Check the Mirror

Proverbs 9:7

“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.”

How not to Deal with Fools

The advice provided in this verse seems a little strange. Surely an idiot wants to know that he is an idiot? But who should tell him/her? The NIV translation is a little easier to understand:

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.

Is it really our place to correct a scorner, a mocker? The likely response according to Proverbs is that the scorner will turn on the person providing correction. Does this mean we should suffer in silence?

My sixteen-year old daughter finds suffering in silence impossible, and constantly tries to correct her twelve-year old brother. As most children are not keen on being corrected by parents or teachers, there is little possibility of correction from an older sibling being well received. But the reaction from her brother doesn’t stop my daughter, who often fails to see the plank of wood in her own eye while trying to remove the speck of sawdust from her brother’s eye. Jesus said:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV)

Perhaps the shame in attempting to correct a scorner is that we fail to look in the mirror first?

Policing the Wicked

There is a reason why most law enforcement officers wear uniform. It is to distinguish them from civilians so that they are easily recognized. While members of the public do occasionally intervene to disrupt criminal activity, an untrained response can be fraught with danger. There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. In other words, it is not our job to judge the wicked or attempt to punish or rebuke those we believe to be wrong.

There are earthly authorities with that responsibility, and a higher authority in God. He will deal with the wicked in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:16-17). We need to ignore the fact that the wicked seem to prosper in this life (Job 21) and focus on ourselves. How are we doing?


Deadly Lips

Proverbs 5:3-5

“For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.”

Still Relevant 

Many question the ability of a 3000 year old text to address the issues of modern life. They wonder how something written so long ago can have any relevance today. Yet, the wisdom of Proverbs came from the same Source that could see all of time in a glance.

The advice Solomon shared with his sons in these verses (and the next three) is as true today as it was back then. The siren song of a temptress can still woo a foolish, gullible man into the depths of hell.

Don’t Be Fooled

Unlike the modern intellectual who insists “perception is reality,” Solomon warns that false perception can kill. In effect he says, “Boys, don’t let a harlot fool you; she’s not what she seems.” In reality, her pucker is poison, and her “sweet nothing’s” a sword.

I’m reminded of the way Indians used to kill wolves. They would repeatedly dip a sharp knife in blood, freezing each layer, until the blade was completely covered. When a wolf smelled the blood it would find the popsicle and lick away. As its tongue became lacerated, its own blood made it lick more, until it bled to death.

In much the same way, a man’s desire for beautiful women is as natural as a wolf’s craving for blood. And because the Enemy knows our weaknesses, he places lipstick-covered blades in our path (and on our computer screens). Only wisdom can discern the danger.

Heed the Warning!

An old country song said, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Sadly, that’s what many men say when captured by her spell. Translation: “Her lips are sweet; her mouth is smooth; and I will partake of her pleasures all the way to the grave.”

Oh, that men would heed this warning! Oh, that our sons would remember “favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain” (Prov. 31:30). A woman that feareth the Lord is not only worthy of praise, but she probably won’t poison, stab, and waltz you through the gates of hell.

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman. For what has God above chosen for us? What is our inheritance from the Almighty on high? Isn’t it calamity for the wicked and misfortune for those who do evil? Doesn’t he see everything I do and every step I take?” – Job 31:1-4 NLT


Just Walk Away

Proverbs 4:14-17

“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.”

Magnetic Attraction

When my daughter was eight we spent a week staying in a small Austrian village during the summer. The weather was glorious, the scenery fantastic, and the lake was perfect for swimming. We spent a lot of time by the lake, as did other holidaymakers, and the locals. Despite not being able to speak German, my daughter soon found that she could not stay away from the most mischievous of the local children. They had some sort of magnetic attraction. Nothing I said to her made any difference, she just seemed to gravitate towards the bad kids.

Why is bad sometimes so attractive? Back in Exodus when Moses vanished up the mountain it didn’t take long for the people to lose the plot and become disobedient to the point of making and then worshipping an idol. It is difficult to believe that even Aaron went along with the crowd instead of walking away from what he knew was wrong.

Walk Away

Walk away is the wisdom expressed in these verses. Walk away from wicked people. Walk away from temptation. Walk away from anything you know will be hurtful to God, and keep on walking. Sometimes it seems so hard to take that step and go in the opposite direction, even though we know it is the right thing to do.

Solomon refers to the path or way of the wicked. This is the broad road that leads to destruction. When we walk out on it every step we take adds to the weight of the burden Jesus carried to the cross. Every step on this highway to hell is another hammer blow against a nail piercing the hand of our Lord, who once said:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13 NIV)

Walk away from the wide road of those who despise God. Don’t follow them for they are walking in the wrong direction. There is only one road. Only one way – with our eyes fixed on Jesus:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)