Tag Archives: proverbs

The Bear Facts about Fools

Proverbs 17:12

“Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.”

“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.” – ESV

Dangerous Bears

There are a lot of people who go hiking in forests where big, furry, and not-so-cuddly bears live. There are also people who swim in the ocean where razor-toothed guppies the size of cars hunt surfboards. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Personally, I prefer to swim in chlorinated kiddie pools rather than in a shark’s kitchen. And when it comes to hiking, well, I prefer forests where the bears ain’t. Otherwise, I’m taking a 12 gauge with slugs in it.

You see, it’s like this: bears are dangerous. They especially don’t like it when people pretend to be Goldilocks and mess with baby bear. Believe me, it’s better to stay away from Little Red Riding Hood’s back yard unless you seriously know what you are doing; otherwise, you may end up Pooh poo.

Dangerous Fools

But no matter how dangerous a she-bear is, Fuzzy Wuzzilina is nothing compared to a fool caught in his foolishness.

The fool is terribly fond of his lustful pursuits and passions, more so than a bear of her cubs. Threaten them, or take them away, and what you have on your hands is an angry, ferocious, indignant enemy determined to destroy.

Many years ago, when I was young, my father worked for a man who was having an affair. When my father and another employee witnessed the business owner having sex with his mistress at work, the man admitted what he was doing was wrong. However, as time went on, the businessman became indignant, hateful, and angry over the thought of giving up his relationships.

I still remember the drive-by shooting, the attempt to gun down my father behind the pulpit, and the phone calls saying, “I know where your wife and kids are, and when you’re not looking…

Eventually, as my father warned, sin’s payday would come. Sure enough, the husband of the mistress found my dad’s boss and the woman and killed them both.

Stay Away

Solomon must have had some experience with fools. Maybe we should heed his warning.

“A person who can accept criticism has an approachable personality and can function well in social interaction. People who cannot accept a rebuke, however, cause chaos in the public arena. It would be better to try to deal with an angry bear in search of her cubs!”*

*Duane A. Garrett, vol. 14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 161.

 


Bribery and Corruption

Proverbs 17:8 

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (NLT)

Other translations of this verse use the word bribe instead of gift. Strong’s translates the word as a donation, bribe, gift, present or reward. Matthew Henry’s take on this proverb is that: ‘Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!’ What influence indeed?

There is a further warning about gifts/bribes in the book of Exodus when the law was being given to the nation of Israel:

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8 KJV)

My first experience of bribery occurred in the 1970s when there was port congestion in the Persian Gulf, and many ships and their crews waited months at anchor for a pilot and a berth in port to discharge or load cargo. I spent three weeks there at anchor in 1975. Each day a small boat would come out to us (and all the other ships) and a man in uniform would demand to see our Captain. Each day the request was the same, “200 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky, Captain, and you get your pilot tomorrow.” No doubt many captains were tempted to provide such a bribe, uncertain of whether the uniformed official had the power to provide a pilot. Our Captain refused to meet such requests. He had other plans. But similar challenges were often faced in other foreign ports when various officials expected to be paid to make things happen. Like the man in the uniform in the Persian Gulf, their hearts had become focused on what they could get in material terms.

I think Matthew Henry got the meaning of this verse absolutely correct. If money and the like are what warm your heart, then eventually you may do anything for the sake of money or gifts. What influence should the gifts of God have on our lives? How are we investing these gifts, and how are they changing our values? Jesus taught that it was more important to seek the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)

What Are You Listening To?

Proverbs 17:4

“A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.” (KJV).

Be Careful What You Hear:

There is an old Sunday school song that says, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear!” It’s a fun song, but it also promotes a very Biblical principle. Jesus Himself said, “Therefore take heed how you hear.” (Luke 8:18a). To take heed means to be careful. We need to be careful what we choose to listen to! Words are powerful, and words can either bring life or death into people’s lives.

In today’s Scripture, Solomon gives us warnings about two different kinds of people: Wicked people, and liars. He tells us that a wicked person will give heed – or listen – to false lips, and a liar will give ear – or listen – to a naughty (malicious, spiteful, destructive) tongue. We know that as Christians, God doesn’t want us to be a wicked person or a liar. Therefore, we would be wise to not listen to false lips or naughty tongues.

False Lips and Naughty Tongues:

There are many false lips and naughty tongues in the world today. Wicked people and liars will use their lips and tongues to tell lies, slander people, gossip about others, and stir up strife and disunity – in families, churches, and indeed all relationships. Therefore, we must be on our guard against such people! It’s sad to say that you can even find those people… in the church. As a pastor, I can tell you that there is nothing more dangerous or harmful in a church than people who will stir up strife and division through their negative words!

So what do we do when we find ourselves surrounded by people with false lips and naughty tongues? We can’t just go and bury our heads in the sand or move into a monastery, can we? Of course not. However, we must still guard our hearts from such negative words. Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon gives us this warning: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). (Click HERE to read Jason’s devotional about this Scripture). Our ears and eyes are the windows to the heart, so we must be careful what we put into them.

How to Guard the Heart:

How can we keep our heart from being affected by hearing negative words – lying, strife, gossip, slander and more? First of all, make a decision that you will not allow your heart to be a garbage can for other people’s negative words. The next time someone starts gossiping to you, or talking negatively about someone else, refuse to listen to it. (And remember this – if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you! This is not the kind of friend you need…). And secondly, make a decision that you will watch your words, and make sure that no negative speech comes out of your mouth. Use your words to bring life to people!

Here’s a link to a youtube video of the old Sunday school song Oh Be Careful Little Eyes:

 


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.

 


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!


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.


Non-Verbal Communication

Proverbs 16:15

“In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.”

NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Depending on which study you go on, somewhere between 60 and 93% of all communication is said to be “non-verbal.”  Along with the actual words heard, the listener is also processing the speaker’s inflection, facial expressions, gestures, posture, and a host of other context clues.  Most of the time, we process this non-verbal communication instinctively to arrive at the speaker’s total meaning.  Communication is complex, but God has gifted man’s intellect to sort through it all in the beautiful art of human conversation.

Today’s proverb is about non-verbal communication between the king and one of his subjects.  Perhaps the subject has been arrested and charged with a crime of a serious nature.  For whatever reason, the poor man is hauled in before the king.  As the charges are read, the subject dares not lift his eyes from the parquet marble floor of the throne room.   But then the defendant’s legal counsel urges him to look up at the king!  Trembling, he lifts his chin, and against all hope, he see the light of acquittal in the king’s eyes!  Overwhelmed with grateful joy, the king’s subject falls to the floor. With tears streaming, he thanks his king for granting him life.

STANDING BEFORE KING JESUS

Dear reader, one day soon you will face King Jesus.  It may be this very day, or it may be years hence. But God’s Word testifies that God the Father has granted to His Son the authority to judge the world with justice.  That this unique honor is given to Jesus is proven by God’s raising Jesus Christ from the dead (Acts 17:31).  What do you expect to see in the eyes of Jesus on that awesome day?  The light of life? Or will his face be full of wrath and the verdict of death (Proverbs 16:14)?

The gospel tells us that in His great love, God did the most amazing thing:  He sent His Son, the King, to earth to receive God’s wrath against the sin of man.  God has a measured, just, hatred of sin.  Sin cannot be ignored.  That’s why King Jesus went to the Cross!  To be the sin-bearer!

Now the gospel commands all men, women, boys and girls, from every nation, tribe, language and people group to repent of their sins and to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Acts 2:38, 17:30).  The result?  That you will one day look into the eyes of your Judge, and there you see the loving eyes of your Savior—even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father God:  In the countenance of your own dear Son, we see the light of life.  May his face shine in all of its glorious, merciful brilliance upon the reader this day.  Through Christ our Lord we pray: Amen.