Proverbs 12:15-28: Wise Up!
August 15, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This section of Proverbs advances several important themes related to living the wise and productive life that pleases God. May God give us this wisdom!
First, there is a theme related to what characterizes this character “the fool”, a character that plays a prominent role in Proverbs:
“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice” (12:15).
“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (12:16).
What is a “fool”? A fool, strange as it seems to our ears today, is one who is very self-confident. “The way of fools seems right to them.” We are told that the most important thing of all is self-assurance, self-confidence. But self-confidence is only any good if you are right. There is no point being self-confident if you are wrong! That just makes you a fool! What is the antidote? “Listening to advice.” Make it your ambition to be the kind of person who listens to the counsel of real friends, of brothers and sisters in your church, of elders and pastors.
How else is this “fool” characterized? A fool is someone who gets angry quickly. He “shows his annoyance at once.” Note, a wise person also feels annoyed at times, but he does not show his annoyance at once. A fool then is someone who cannot “overlook an insult.” As we jostle through life, we are bound to receive insults—some deliberate, some unintentional. There is nothing to be gained by giving in to vitriol. Read the biographies of the great leaders—Winston Churchill, for instance. What is stunning is their ability to overlook personal insults for the task of a greater cause: building a coalition to accomplish an important end. The prudent overlook insults. Be prudent and overlook an insult that you have received this week.
Next comes a section related to truth-speaking:
“An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies” (12:17).
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (12:18).
“Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (12:19).
“Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy” (12:20).
“No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble” (12:21).
“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” (12:22).
“The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly” (12:23).
We live in a day and an age where “lying” as a legitimized tactic is making a comeback. In the ancient world, lying was so prevalent and supported in certain circumstances that Augustine wrote a famous treatise “On Lying.” Today, we are allowed to “spin” the truth. We advance a perspective, a point of view. We have truths; we tell our truth (not the truth). Read the verses above and gain a clearer view of God’s approach to truth-speaking: it matters. Reckless words pierce like arrows; but the words of the wise bring healing. Be that kind of person, the person who can bring healing through your words. “Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (12:19). If it seems tempting to give a quick “white lie,” then remember that speaking the truth is what lasts. As Solzhenitsyn famously said: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” This, though, does not mean “wearing your heart on your sleeve.” For, “the prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.” Speak the truth, then, but don’t say every thought that passes through your mind: some of that will be foolish, for we are sinful and fallen people. Use your mind to sift through the thoughts until you discover the truth, and then when you have, in submission to God’s Word, speak the truth. For “the Lord delights in people who are trustworthy” (12:22).
Next comes a section about work:
“Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor” (12:24).
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (12:25).
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26).
“The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt” (12:27).
A decade or so ago, there was a huge tendency in Western culture—and from that, bleeding into the church—towards over-work. Since then, we have any number of fashionable movements to redress the balance: the work-life balance movement, the “simple” lifestyle movement, etc. No doubt there are still places and there are still people who work too hard and do not take any “Sabbath” rest. But if my own judgment of the situation is in any way correct, we need to listen more these days to these wise words from Proverbs. “Diligent hands will rule.” That is, if you want to do well, you have to work at it, and work hard! “The lazy do not roast any game”; what a wonderful picture! Imagine someone going to all the bother of hunting and capturing an animal to kill, but then not being bothered to actually cook the thing! But that’s what laziness is like. You go halfway to where you need to go, but you don’t follow-through. Very few people do nothing at all; most laziness and its temptation come from doing half the job but not finishing it. Perseverance is the lead-stone to success in life. Never give up. Keep on keeping on.
In the middle of this section on work there are a couple of proverbs that perhaps at first glance don’t seem to fit, but really do. One is about anxiety, for with many responsibilities come multiple opportunities to be anxious. How do we address this prevalent problem? Seek to have people around us who can be kind to us. It is amazing what a word of kindness will do to an over-burdened leader. Which then leads to the next proverb in the middle of these, about friendship. If you are working hard, you must not thereby neglect your friends. Samuel Johnson said that friendships must be kept in good repair. If you have a friend, do not neglect him or her. You need your friends (and they need you).
Finally, a summary statement:
“In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality” (12:28).
Who would not want then to be righteous? Who would not want then to put their trust in Christ and receive his righteousness? Who would not want then to follow Christ with diligence and discipline, striving to improve their walk with Christ each day? For such a life of righteousness is the path to fullness of life now and life forever! Wise up!
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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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