Proverbs 14:19-35: Wisdom’s Goldmine!
August 19, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
More nuggets of gold to extract from wisdom’s goldmine of Proverbs! First, a proverb about the ultimate triumph of good:
“Evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous” (14:19).
At times it can seem as if the way to get ahead is to do evil—certainly cheats and liars can seem to make progress in this world. But this proverb assures that in the end the worm turns: evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good. This proverb surely has an eternal time frame by which it is ultimately fulfilled. But even in this life, evil people tremble in the presence of the righteous; a John the Baptist or a John Knox can make rulers fear God in their presence.
Now a selection of proverbs about neighbors:
“The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends” (14:20).
“It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy” (14:21).
Verse 20 is one of those proverbs that describes things as they are, rather than as they should be. This is how it is, the proverb is saying. How can we improve this situation? How can we make this right?
Verse 21 follows it up with more plain instruction: do not despise your neighbor (whether they are rich or poor), but instead be kind to the needy. Love your neighbor, as Jesus affirmed, as yourself.
Then a proverb about strategic planning:
“Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness” (14:22).
Some Christians seem to feel that all planning is unspiritual. For sure, James tells us to plan with the proviso “if it is the Lord’s will,” but such a proviso does not make planning for the future wrong. Certainly, only God knows the future, so we cannot guarantee that our vision will come to pass, but that does not make it wrong to make plans, knowing that all is according to God’s will (not ours) being done. The issue about planning is the ultimate objective: if we plan what is good, we will find love and faithfulness. If we plan what is evil, we will go astray. Therefore, plan for what is good, and have confidence that God will use those plans, even if he redirects those plans, for good.
Now a proverb about work-ethic:
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23).
Don’t just talk about what you need to do. Do it! Certainly it is better to work “smart” rather than merely work hard, but even if your hard work is not as smart as it could be, it will still bring about profit. Whereas simply sitting in planning meetings (see the two proverbs above!) will lead to nothing if there is no work to follow it up.
Now a proverb about wealth:
“The wealth of the wise is their crown, but the folly of fools yields folly” (14:24).
This sits in the same overall theme of this sub-section of work and planning. Those who plan wisely and work wisely are (all things being equal) likely to have wealth as their crown. Those who do not do so will only “yield” folly. If you have wealth as your crown, use that wealth for God’s kingdom: invest your treasures in heaven by investing in evangelism and discipleship and the local church; in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy.
Now comes a proverb about the importance of impartial truth speaking:
“A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful” (14:25).
How more important could it be to be on the witness stand; there we must speak the truth. But so it is also in everyday life—when it comes to the truth of the gospel especially. Speak the truth about Christ and save lives!
Here now are two proverbs about fearing God:
“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge” (14:26).
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (14:27).
The “fear of the Lord” is a far from popular theme, but it is a recurrent one in Proverbs. It is the fear of the Lord that gives us a “secure fortress.” It is the fear of the Lord that gives your children a “refuge.” It is the fear of the Lord that is a “fountain of life.” It is the fear of the Lord that turns someone from the “snares of death” as they trust in Christ.
What is this “fear of the Lord”? To fear God is to treat God as God. That is: Almighty, Holy, Omniscient, Omnipresent, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator and Sustainer of all things; more majestic, beautiful, and filled with awe than any human mind can possibly conceive. Treat God as God!
Now a proverb about politics:
“A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined” (14:28).
Demographics are the key to long-term planning—economically, militarily, socially, educationally. There are other factors too, for sure. But the sheer size of a population, the health of its children, the number of its children, are key factors in bringing about health to a country. Wise rulers encourage stable families with children and a large population.
Now come three proverbs about negative emotions:
“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” (14:29).
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (14:30).
“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (14:31).
Patience is not weakness, but instead the fruit of great understanding, verse 29. That is, the more you understand people, the more you understand life, the more you understand yourself, the more patient you are with other people’s weaknesses. To be quick-tempered, therefore, is only to show your folly. Verse 30 tells us how envy even affects us physically; it “rots the bones.” We are psychosomatic units, and our feelings impact our health—whereas a heart at peace gives life to the body. How precious then is the peace of God which passes all understanding! Seek that peace in the face of Christ by submitting to him and his will! Be content with what you have and do not envy what someone else has, for God is a good God and will give you what is best according to the riches of his wisdom. You do not know another person’s pains, and what you envy, they may as soon give away as keep. Verse 31 tells us not to oppress the poor, for to do so is showing contempt for their Maker. Instead, we are to be kind to the needy, for that honors God. Here is emotive motivation for caring for the least around us: not because they deserve it, not because we are so special, not because our technique of help is necessarily the very best, but simply because to be kind to the poor honors God as he is their Maker.
Then is a proverb about calamity and trouble:
“When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God” (14:32).
It is wise to think of life in its extremities. Most can be brave and happy when life is good. But what about when calamity comes? There, what you will need is character, and a character that is rooted in the righteousness of God. Therefore, seek that character now so that you are ready when the storm comes.
Now we come to a proverb about wisdom:
“Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known” (14:33).
Sometimes, perhaps, it can feel as if wisdom is too hard and lofty a goal to attain. But this proverb assures that wisdom is in the heart of the understanding, and even among fools you can detect wisdom if you look carefully enough. What makes wisdom hard to attain is not that it is not present around us, but that we do not wish the discipline necessary to attain it.
Two more proverbs about politics and leadership:
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people” (14:34).
“A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful servant arouses his fury” (14:35).
Certainly, we no longer live in a theocratic state as did the nation state of Israel in the Old Testament. Our rulers are not directly divinely appointed, and our ethnic people are not the people of God. The people of God are the church. But even so, it is still true that righteousness exalts a nation and sin condemns any people. To make a policy that encourages right living will lead to the exalting of a nation, all other things being equal. Verse 35 tells us what delights a ruler: a wise servant, whereas a shameful servant can make a leader furious. Therefore, if you are in a position of leadership, pick your team wisely.
Pick up these nuggets of wisdom from wisdom’s goldmine of Proverbs and invest their truth in living a life to the glory of God and in the name of Jesus Christ!
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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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