Proverbs 18: Judicious Words!
September 1, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (18:1).
Friendliness is much prized by many people and for good reason. For behind a belligerent unfriendliness is often a selfish goal, and that leads to quarrelling. How to be friendly? Pursue not selfish goals but loving goals. And do that because of what Christ has done for you.
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (18:2).
The “fool” in Proverbs keeps on appearing! Here he is characterized by being a talker, not a listener. Wise men and women listen more than they speak; fools tell you their opinion on everything. But when you spend all the time talking, you’re not learning anything you didn’t already know!
“When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace” (13:8).
Sin has its attractions; otherwise, no one would sin. But it is a mirage. With wickedness—as momentarily pleasant as the sin may seem—soon comes contempt. One of the best tools for avoiding giving into temptation is to remember what the fruit of that sin will be: bitter contempt, shame, and reproach.
“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (18:4).
Some people can come up with very complicated, deep sounding verbiage. But true biblical wisdom is something else. It’s more like a rushing stream. It moves and has life to it. It is a fountain, not a stagnant dark pool.
“It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice” (18:5).
Why would anyone be partial to the wicked? Sometimes wicked people are powerful people. But if we are in a position of authority, it is our task to give justice to the innocent. How to do that when facing a powerful bully? Remember who is the ultimate judge. Fear him and do what is right.
“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (18:6-7).
You sometimes come across people who seem to be always getting into trouble, and you wonder why. On occasion, it has nothing to do with what that person is doing: circumstances and life patterns are different for us all. But sometimes, it is because of what that person says. If you have a big mouth, you invite trouble. Be kind with your words.
“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (18:8).
Gossip is a plague. What is gossip? Gossip is passing on to someone else what was said to you in confidence. Gossip is often slanderous. It is sometimes malicious. It is always cancerous. The rumor mill inevitably spins a negative gloss on anything that is said. Why do people gossip? It makes you feel special, as if you are in an inner circle. How do you resist gossip? Remember if someone gossips to you about someone else, then that person will gossip about you to someone else.
“Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (18:9).
Laziness! There was a time when all were burning the midnight oil and doing everything they could to climb the corporate ladder. Now some people are so into “life-balance” that you wonder whether it has become code for “little work.” What does it matter? It matters because if you are slack in your work, it is like you are destroying things. What does not get done when it needs to get done will miss an opportunity, not close a deal, and in the end lead to the destruction of whatever enterprise you are in. How to get rid of laziness? Remember its effects. It will destroy you and others.
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (18:10).
What do you do when you are under pressure or trials? The righteous have a stronghold. It is the name of the LORD. The name, in ancient thinking, stands for all the reality of the person that it represents. So to say the name of the LORD is a strong tower is to say that the LORD himself is a strong tower. Perhaps you are feeling under pressure today. Spend time in prayer, run to him, hide in him. Also do what is right by him. It is never the wrong thing to do the right thing. For the LORD is a strong tower for those who do what is right.
“A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination” (18:11).
By contrast, look at the pagan wealthy! They think they have a fortified city and not just a strong tower! What do they need God for, or why should they do the right thing? Money is a powerful drug. But, as Jesus told in the parable of the rich fool, it can suddenly be taken away from you, and your life can suddenly end. Do not trust in riches. Blink at them and they are gone.
“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (18:12).
Pride comes before a fall. Be careful not to become proud. How do you know if you are proud? One surefire way is if you do not think you are proud! The person who does not struggle with pride is the person who has not been born (this side of the fall and excepting Jesus!). Therefore, humble yourself under God’s mighty hand that in due course he might lift you up. How? Remember who God is. Remember how great and powerful he is. Look at the creation all around you. Bring yourself into proper perspective based on the reality of your creator. In that spirit, you are well-positioned to receive honor because your soul is not likely to be damaged by it.
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (18:13).
How often do we fail in this regard! The great secret of wisdom and of counseling is to listen. Listening is hard work. Watch the body language. Listen to the cadence of the tone of voice. Hear what is said and note carefully what was not said but might have been said. Ask careful questions. And do not give answers until you are reasonably sure you know what the questions that the person has in front of you really are (rather than what they first say they are).
“A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (18:14).
The great remedy for most ills and crises is inner strength. But what do you do if you do not have it? A crushed spirit is a reality for some people. How do you get your inner strength back? Ask God to renew you. It may be that it is in your very weakness that he wishes to pour out the strength of his Spirit, so that his power is made perfect in your frailty.
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (18:15).
You wonder sometimes how certain people become so knowledgeable and insightful. The answer very often is that they really want to. To understand a problem, let alone find a solution, takes time and effort. If you desire to do something, learn something, be someone, then look to yourself and seek out the solution! Do not give up, keep on keeping on.
“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great” (18:16).
A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great. A gift or a bribe? Gifts can be wonderful things, kind things, appropriate things. Be generous with your money and with your time and with your kindness. The one who is generous rarely lacks for friends.
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (18:17).
So true! Whether in a lawsuit itself or some other cross-examination situation, it can often be the case that the person who speaks first can seem as if they must be right—until you hear the other side of the argument or until you dig deeper and ask questions. Therefore, do not be quick to rush into judgment. Ask good questions. Keep on digging until you get to the solution, the real picture.
“The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders” (18:18).
Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart. There is a place for randomized selection. If you are facing a situation where it does not matter who gets the role or the position, and you find the candidates for that particular place are of equal value, then a random pick can be a helpful way out. Why? Because there is no such thing as luck, even that is under God’s hand. But casting lots is not something to practice in normal circumstances.
“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle” (18:19).
Once someone has been offended, it is very hard, perhaps sometimes impossible, to open the gates of friendship again. Be careful then not to wrong those near and dear to you.
“From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (18:20-21).
Speech is a powerful tool. Take the time to formulate your words well. Don’t be sloppy with what you say or what you write. Words have power.
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (18:22).
A good wife, or a good husband, is a wonderful gift from God. If you are looking for a spouse, therefore, pray that God would provide you someone and that he would also prepare you to be a good wife or husband yourself. If you are already married, take the time to thank God for your spouse. You may have difficulties at times, you may have troubles. But a wife or husband is a provision from God. Work at your marriage; marriage is the fulcrum for God’s favor on your life.
“The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly” (18:23).
The first part of this proverb is what often is; the second part of this proverb is what must not be. If you are wealthy, turn a kind ear and a gentle tongue to the poor. Remember that God made them too. Do what you can to take care of the poor, not because in doing so you will necessarily solve the problems they face, but because it is the right thing to do for they are made also in the image of God.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24).
Be careful who you pick for friends. Nothing will more shape a man or woman than his friends (or lack thereof). Many companions, that is not the solution; it is finding that one or two friends who are like a brother to you. If you have one person like that in your life, treasure them. Spend time with them. Encourage them. Be a friend to them.
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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