August 12, 2018: Be Wise; Be Christlike!
August 12, 2018
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Proverbs 11:1-15: More “wise advice”—pithy and to the point! “The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him” (11:1). When weighing of goods or food was done with physical weights, it was possible to use a variation in the weights or the scales to gain a subtle profit for the seller. Such underhanded, under-the-table, unnoticed-to-people cheating is still noticed by God. And he detests it. Therefore be straightforward with your business deals! “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (11:2). Our culture tends to think of “pride” as a good thing. We encourage people to have high self-esteem, for instance, and tell people they should be proud about who they are. Often when we say things like that, we mean something different by “pride” than the Bible does. We might mean “confidence,” for instance. But at other times we mean something very similar to what the Bible means by pride. Surprisingly, pride does not lead to victory; it leads to disgrace. A puffed-up person will in the end “believe his own press” and will make some awful mistake as a consequence. But humility—in the biblical sense of humility, meaning not thinking of yourself as greater than you are, but rather spending your time thinking about God or other people—comes from wisdom. It goes unsaid in this proverb, but this kind of humility is a sure foundation for a life of credibility and genuine confidence. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (11:3). When you have “integrity”—you mean what you say and you say what you mean—then such straightforwardness acts as a compass in difficult situations. It is never wrong to do the right thing, as the saying goes. But by contrast, if someone has “duplicity”—that is, they are part one thing and part another thing, part good and part not-so-good—then that will be a problem in the end. The conflict internally will create conflicts externally, and that will lead to destruction finally. “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (11:4). Oh, how needed is this proverb! Our culture seeks money above all things. But how useless is money in the day of wrath! Only Christ’s righteousness can deliver us then. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness” (11:5). Again we hear of the simplicity that comes with being righteous: your paths are straight. You do what is right according to the Bible, and you trust God with the results. It does not make every decision easy, but you can trust the sovereign God with decisions made prayerfully and that are submitting to God’s Word. By contrast, the wicked are actually dragged down by their own wickedness. Sin has pleasure initially—otherwise, we would not sin—but after the temporary pleasure comes bitterness and woe. It is this that brings us down, unless we turn to Christ in repentance and faith, and then he will lift us up! “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires” (11:6). A similar contrast here. The unfaithful are trapped by their evil desires: evil desires trap you in the end if they are not repented of. Read Romans chapter 1 for Paul’s teaching on how wrong worship leads to foolish desires and that leads to a trap. “Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing” (11:7). What a good antidote to the fear of man. As you get older, this truth becomes more apparent: the very great, apparently so, soon enough die, and then most of them are soon enough forgotten. Do not put your hope in people. “The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead” (11:8). If you trust in Christ, and you follow him with integrity (not perfection, for none of us is perfect), if we love God, then there is this great promise: all things work together for the good of those that love God! “With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape” (11:9). There is this constant connection, in Proverbs, between disposition and communication. Out of the heart the mouth speaks, as Jesus put it. And godless people speak unhealthy words and that damages those around them. What then to do? Have a character, a disposition, be a person of righteousness, that means you can see through the lies and escape. “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” (11:10). We are told by our culture that too much righteousness, too much commitment to morality and faith, damages communities, divides people, and is in general a negative. Far from it, says Proverbs. Actually when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices. Christians are salt and light; they benefit the societies in which they are placed. And it is even further true that when wickedness meets its appropriate justice, there is rejoicing as well. Evil behavior infects societies like cancer, and when it is removed, the body politic is able to regain its health. “Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed” (11:11). The same truth of verse 10 bleeds over into the speech of the upright, and that of the wicked: upright speech lifts up a city; wicked speech destroys a city. Today we see this so often. Ideas generate speech, and speech generates action. When ideas are “off,” then the speech is “off” and that creates action that is damaging. By contrast, when the word is right, it generates more and more health, gradually over time. “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue” (11:12). It is so easy, isn’t it, to speak detrimentally about those close to us, whether on our street or at work or people we know or our colleagues and friends. But when that feeling comes from within to offensively criticize, bite your tongue, hold your tongue. No good will come of derision! “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (11:13). This is one of those Proverbs that is self-explanatory or even redundant. Obviously, a gossip betrays a confidence, and the reverse is true of a trustworthy person. Why is it expressed? Because it is easy to be won over by people who tell us other people’s confidences thinking that we are then in their privileged inner circle. But if someone is telling us other people’s confidences, we can be sure that they will be telling other people our confidences. Don’t trust a gossip with your confidences, but a trustworthy person, someone who is trustworthy with other people’s information, is likely to be trustworthy with yours too. And ultimately the one who can be trusted above all, fully and completely, is Christ whose life is a testimony to trustworthiness and who kept all the promises of God when he saved his people. “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisors” (11:14). Why is it that a nation, once prosperous, seems to fall down? Often it is because of foolish decisions that are made, and they come out of bad advice, or at times no advice at all. If you are facing a troubling or complicated situation, be careful to get advice, and indeed “many advisors.” “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe” (11:15). We are called to be generous as Christians, but we are not called to be naïve or foolish. Throwing money at someone you don’t know, in this sense of guaranteeing their performance of being a “security” for their work, is not wise. Refuse to shake hands in that kind of foolish pledge. With all these proverbs, at the back of them is the Wisdom which is fulfilled in Christ. A good study would be to read each of these proverbs and trace them in the life of Christ. Therefore, be wise—which is to say, be Christlike!]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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