Tag Archives: Religion

An Honest Salesman?

Proverbs 12:5

“The thoughts of the righteous [are] right: [but] the counsels of the wicked [are] deceit.”

It is not often that I choose to quote another author, but I found the following words instructive.

The plans of the righteous are right.” His designs are well-intentioned and morally sound because the mind of the righteous man is disciplined by wisdom. On the other hand, “the counsels of the wicked are deceit.” Their warped minds invent crooked methods for reaching their goals. To them the end always justifies the means.”*

The Ends

Do you ever stop to think about the “ends?” In other words, do you ever stop to think about the results of your actions, or your thoughts? Do you plan ahead? Do you think about consequences?

The “thoughts of the righteous are right” because the righteous have right hearts. And because of their righteous thoughts, the means to an end matter just as much as the result. They want to do what is right, because it is right.

On the other hand, the wicked think only of self-gratifying goals. As the above quote says, “To them the end always justifies the means.” Because of an unwise, wicked heart, what is right does not matter, only the desired result.

The Means

I have known many salesmen over the years. As a matter of fact, I was actually a pretty successful salesman at one time. But if there was anything that characterized the average salesman, it was the desire to make a sale, to “close the deal,” even if his “counsel” was a little deceitful.

The problem with many salespeople is that they will tell you whatever you want to hear, even things you don’t, in order to sell a product or service. What the customer needs or can afford is rarely a consideration when sales bonuses and large paychecks are at stake. As long as a dollar can be made, it is thought “the end justifies the means.”

So how do you know when you have met a “righteous” salesman? You will know him when he won’t sell you something, even when you think you want it. Happily, I can say that there were times I did just that, even when the rent was due. Taking advantage of customer was wrong, and even though I might have needed the money, the end didn’t justify the means.

Believe it or not, there are some honest salespeople out there. However, there are also a lot of deceitful customers, too. Just saying.

A Prayer

Dear Lord, give us a righteous heart that thinks right things. Keep us from wicked and deceitful thoughts. Give us a heart for others over the needs of self. Reprove us, Jesus, when we are tempted to deceive, for what waits in the end is anything but gain.

 


*James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Pr 12:2–7.

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Roots of Faith

Proverbs 12:3 

“A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.”
Uprooted

Over the last several years there have been a lot of storms come through where I live. Many of those storms produced very strong winds, even tornadoes.

I hate tornadoes.

But when I look at this proverb, there comes to mind mental images of trees uprooted and blown over, smashing houses, cars, etc. And when I think of those trees, I can remember what they looked like lying on the ground. Huge trees with roots that spread out in every direction – except down.

Trees

When we think of trees, we think of strong, healthy plants that grow tall and impressive. They are symbols of stability. They almost always win when challenged by automobiles, woodpeckers, or lovers with initials to carve.

The wicked and the righteous are both trees; both have leaves, and both have roots. But only one has roots that run deeper than the surface. Only one can stand in a storm.

Roots

The roots of a tree primarily do two things: they bring nourishment from the ground and tie it to the ground. Without roots a tree would die. Without deep roots, a tree could could be toppled by a strong wind.

But strong winds aren’t the only danger trees face; drought can kill a tree with shallow roots. Yet, if a tree has deep roots, it can find the water it needs to survive.  Maybe you will remember the following verse…

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psa. 1:3

Established

But we are not trees, are we? We are people. We don’t have roots; we have faith.

The deeper our root system, the less likely we are to fall over when the storms of life come our way, or when there seems to be little rain of hope.

Wickedness will not produce roots that will hold. Wickedness produces roots that grow outward and just below the surface. They bring in everything needed to grow a beautiful, leafy tree, just not one that can hold on in a gale. Nor can they soak up water from the dry soil when the blessings of God seem to be withheld.

On the other hand, righteousness goes deep and anchors the believer to the solid ground. The roots of faith find refreshment from hidden sources of hope.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. – Jer. 17:7-8 NKJV

How are your roots?


What Are Your Expectations?

Proverbs 11:23

“The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”

Righteous People

When we think of the term “righteous,” think of someone who is fair and just, for that is what the word entails. We’re not necessarily talking about a pious saint, or something, but a decent, God-fearing man or woman.

What are the characteristics of this type of person? The proverb says they “desire…only good.”

Now, some interpret this verse in such a way as to say, “The godly can look forward to a reward,” as in the New Living Translation. The ESV says that the desire of the righteous “ends only in good.” But I think it is better to interpret this verse as saying, “The object of the desire of the righteous is good.”

Righteous people are good people; they want good things to happen. And usually, because of their desires, good is the result.

Wicked People

Wicked people, on the other hand, want no such thing: they want trouble. What is good for the wicked is bad for everyone else. Wrath is what they hope for.

Again, some interpreters want to convey the idea that what the wicked will receive in the end is wrath. In other words, wrath is what they should expect in the end. That may be so, but there is something here in this verse worth noting.

Hope and Desire

The word translated “expectation” is also the Hebrew word for “cord,” as in a “line” of scarlet thread. Yes, it can mean “hope,” but interestingly it was the same word used in Joshua 2:18 that is translated “line,” as in the scarlet thread that Rehab hung from her window.

The word translated “desire” has more to do with a strong passion for something. Literally, it is the good version of lust. Lust is the wanting of something bad. In this case, desire is the longing of one’s heart for good.

It may not be a huge difference, but here are my “thoughts.” The only hope that a wicked, sinful heart has is the hope of selfish gain, even at the expense of every one else.

The desire of the righteous, however, is for good, and that selfless desire is a result of the Hope they have within.

Practically Speaking

Do you see all those people burning cars and beating people in the name of religion or anti-fascism? Do you see them calling for the destruction of others (including babies) in order to bring about or facilitate their desires? As they rejoice over the destruction of property and the death of innocents, they prove they are wicked.

Do you see those who walk into the fire to rescue the perishing? Do you see those who pray for peace? Do you see those who pray for the souls of wicked who persecute and mock them? They are the righteous.

So the question is: what are your expectations?


Not That Complicated

Proverbs 11:5

“The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.”

“The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.” – NLT

“The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness.” – HCSB

Straightforward, or Complicated

Some people love to live lives that are in constant turmoil. They love the drama. They thrive on making excuses for failure. They are the wicked. They live complicated lives.

Then there are others who love to live simple, ordinary lives. They deal with issues in a sensible fashion. When they don’t succeed, they try again, learning from their mistakes. They are the “perfect,” the godly. Their lives are pretty straightforward.

The difference between the ways of the blameless and the wicked can be seen in how complicated or straightforward they are. One is clear for travel, while the other is littered with obstacles.

9 to 5, or 90 to Life

Speaking of Prov. 11:5, one commentary says, “Righteous living results in a straight way (cf. 3:5-6), a life with fewer obstacles and troubles (cf. 11:8), but wickedness leads to a person’s downfall.”[1] It really all comes down to how a person lives his life.

Honest, hard-working people who go to work and provide for their families are not usually the partying type. And by virtue of their consistency, their lifestyle is usually free of trouble. But when you look at the lives of people who live to fulfill the desires of the flesh, they are constantly in and out of court, in and out of jobs, and in and out of jail.

The difference is that living right makes the road of life smoother, while living wickedly brings trouble. Sometimes I wonder why that truth is so hard to understand. Yet, there are many who would rather risk prison than live in a way that pleases God.


[1] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Pr 11:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


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.


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.”

A Fool Is a Fool

Proverbs 9:9

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”

A Different Angle

There are various commentaries that center on what is obvious about this proverb. However, what if we looked at it from a different angle? Let’s try to imagine it being written a little differently.

“Give betrayal, deceit, deception, falsehood, lie, misinformation, and misrepresentation (all antonyms of instruction) to a fool, and he will be yet more foolish: don’t teach a man, and he will increase in ignorance.”

When you look at it this way, do you see a contrast between the wise and foolish man? Do you sense any difference, other than what’s on the surface?

A Different Reaction

Given betrayal, deceit, deception, falsehood, lies, misinformation, and misrepresentation, what would the wise man do? Would he become foolish? “Give instruction to a wise man,” we are told, and he will become even wiser; but will his character be changed if given the opposite?

The real truth of Proverbs 9:9 is that no matter what instruction you give a fool, unless he has been transformed, he will always be a fool. Give instruction of any kind, true or false, to a wise man and he will be able to discern between good and evil. The key is whether or not the student loves Wisdom.

A Different Response

As a parent, I know that I will not always be able to manage what my children learn. One day they will go out into the world and receive instruction written by fools, for fools. But even in the midst of all that deception and falsehood, truth can be found. The key to success will be determined by instilled character and training in “the way [they] should go” (Prov. 22:6).

As believers, we should pray that God give us His Wisdom in ever-increasing portions. Because truth is so hard to find, we need Wisdom to give us discernment, allowing us to grow in wisdom, despite the misinformation of the world.

They say “the rich get richer, but the poor get poorer.” Profound observation, isn’t it?