Proverbs 13:13-25: Speech, Knowledge, and Discipline
August 17, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This section seems to be divided into three main subsections, one related to instruction or speech, another to knowledge, and the third related to discipline.
First comes a series of proverbs related to speech:
“Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded” (13:13).
“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (13:14).
A recurring theme in Proverbs is the importance of the right kind of talk. Verse 13 reminds us that we are to listen to instruction, not merely give instruction. One of the occupational hazards of being a teacher is to feel that you have to always be right because you, after all, are a teacher. If you are given to teaching, make sure you are also given to learning. Verse 14 exalts teaching, but a particular kind of teaching: the teaching of the wise. Smooth tongues and pleasing rhetoric on their own do no good. Listen to the teaching of a wise person.
If teaching is important, it is based in true knowledge:
“Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction” (13:15).
“All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly” (13:16).
“A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing” (13:17).
Knowledge is not only about information accumulation, it is also about “good judgment” (13:15). Whence comes such good judgment? It begins with character. “The way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.” It is prudent to act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly (13:16). It is a foolish course of action to ignore the facts, or to not read and study to find out the truth. Find such knowledge and act upon it. Because right knowledge is so important, those who bring it (“a trustworthy envoy,” 13:17), are much to be prized, while those who wickedly deceive will fall into trouble.
Surprisingly, for many people today, such right speech and right knowledge are rooted in real discipline, which itself is rooted in character:
“Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored” (13:18).
“A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil” (13:19).
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (13:20).
“Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things” (13:21).
“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous” (13:22).
“An unploughed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away” (13:23).
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (13:24).
“The righteous eat to their hearts’ content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry” (13:25).
When you are corrected (13:18), listen well: no one is perfect, and if you have failed, listen to the correction, and in time to come you will be honored. Discipline is the “long game,” as it were, but a “longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul” (13:19); whereas those who refuse discipline detest turning from the evil. They focus on the immediate pleasure rather than have the discipline of focusing on the long term reward.
How do we get wisdom? Part of it is simple association: the discipline to have companions who are wise, to “walk with the wise and become wise” (13:20). If you want to be wise, the most important lifestyle change you can make is to look at your calendar and schedule more time with wise people.
Whereas the “sinner,” the one who in ill-discipline gives in to their intemperate desires, is pursued by trouble (13:21); whereas those who discipline themselves to pursue being “righteous” are, in the long term, rewarded “with good things,” ultimately with the greatest thing of all, an unending and ever satisfying relationship with Christ.
A “good person” has the discipline to leave an inheritance for their grandchildren (13:22). But someone who gathers wealth by unrighteous means only provides wealth, in the end, for the righteous. Therefore, discipline your business life to follow Christ too.
Similarly, to structure your “field” so that there are parts that are “unploughed” (13:23), that is there are leftovers for the poor, means that the disciplined farmer provides food for the poor. Injustice sweeps it away. Injustice – perhaps the ultimate foolish, undisciplined selfishness.
Verse 24 is a controversial verse today – “spare the rod spoil the child” is the colloquialism that comes from this verse. But what this verse is advocating is not lashing out in anger at your children, but careful “discipline.” Such discipline, hard as it is to achieve and do right, is actually a sign of “love” for your children, so you do not take the easy way of leaving them ill-disciplined so that you can have an easier lifestyle.
Verse 25 is a verse that is related to how things normally are in normal circumstances. The proverb is not saying that a righteous person has never been hungry. It is saying that in normal circumstances, the discipline to pursue God and build a character of righteousness will result in stability, peace, and security in God, whatever the circumstances of life.
Once again, we are being encouraged to “wise up” – to consider God, fear him, and build our life according to his gospel. In particular, make the most of the gift of speech (and listen well to those who are wise); find knowledge; and act with discipline.
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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