Proverbs 11:16-31: The Fruit of the Righteous
August 13, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Nehemiah 7, Proverbs 11:16-31, Luke 17:11-19, 2 Timothy 2:14-26
Sometimes it appears that the individual proverbs are grouped into sections that address a common theme. There are a few such sections in this part of Proverbs.
First, we have the theme of kindness:
“A kind-hearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth” (11:16).
“Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves” (11:17).
We tend to think of kindness as weakness or an inadequate ability to be strong. But there is a type of kindness that is a companion of strength, and verse 16 describes this sort of kindness. A person who is kind-hearted gains honor. People think well of such a person. How could you be kind to someone who needs kindness? Of course, if you are ruthless, you might gain more money. But as Proverbs so pithily puts it: the ruthless men gain only wealth. Imagine the rich man hoarding his wealth, dragon-like, but alone and friendless. Scrooge is no example to emulate. Whereas, verse 17, the kind benefit themselves.
Here’s a thought: Being kind to someone else helps you too! The Bible ever has this logic. Denying yourself is good for you; putting others before yourself is good for you; centering your life upon God is good for you. Ruthless people, by contrast, think they are doing themselves a favor, but the reverse is true. In the end cruelty brings ruin on yourself! Think of the “great” dictators through history; in lesser ways the cruel are in the end most cruel to themselves.
Then comes a section about righteousness and character:
“A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (11:18).
“Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death” (11:19).
“The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (11:20).
“Be sure of this: the wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free” (11:21).
“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (11:22).
“The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath” (11:23).
Once again, Proverbs is seeking to persuade that what is often thought of as negative (discipline, character, righteousness) is actually good. “The desire of the righteous ends only in good”! Whereas the “beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (or we might add a handsome man “who shows no discretion”), who has no discipline, who flounders morally and flaunts sensually is “like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.” When we think the wicked, evil, debauched, and selfish are not getting their just deserts, remember this: “The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free” (11:21).
Now comes a section on money:
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty” (11:24).
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (11:25).
“People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell” (11:26).
“Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it” (11:27).
“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (11:28).
“Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise” (11:29).
How we need this wisdom! We are trained by culture to store up wealth for ourselves and to think of giving as “tipping” or “charity” (in a negative, patronizing sense). But instead, listen: “a generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (11:25). Do not trust in “riches” (“those who trust in riches will fall”), but instead put your trust in God (“the righteous will thrive like a green leaf”). That is a good thought to store up in your mind when you are given an opportunity to cheat, to make a fast buck; riches will not be reliable, but character will last.
And this part of Proverbs concludes with a return to that theme of character:
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives” (11:30).
“If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” (11:31).
Righteousness is not negative, nasty, or unpleasant; holiness is not twisted and bitter. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” Think of that picture: as you invest in following Christ, your life is becoming more fruitful, and the fruit that is being born is life in all its fullness. Have that picture in your mind next time you are struggling to say no to the temptations of sin and yes to the discipline of following Christ! And remember also this: “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” (11:31). In other words, even in this life, righteousness has its reward. Our faith is not “pie in the sky when you die,” but more “steak on your plate while you wait”!
The lesson, then, of course, is to invest in becoming more like Christ, or in the terms of this set of Proverbs, being more “righteous.”
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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