Proverbs 19:15-29: Sweet Words of Wisdom!
September 3, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (19:15).
We constantly need to fight against the sweet danger of laziness: yes, it can bring you deep sleep (relaxation, calm), but if not addressed, laziness can lead to real “hunger.” The solution to every problem is not hard work, but it is the solution to many problems.
“Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die” (19:16).
In our minds is this false proposition: live life large or obey the rules. But actually, real life comes from following God’s Word—not “legalism,” for that is nothing more than a pretense at following God’s Word (and really seeking to justify ourselves). But true commitment to God’s commandments is the way of life, and to have contempt for those commandments in the end leads to death.
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (19:17).
Who could be a better person to “lend” to than God himself? Surely he will never default on the loan! The best way to “invest” in that secure investment, in God himself, is to be kind to the poor. Next time you have an opportunity to be kind to someone who has fallen on hard times, remember this proverb. You are loaning to God!
“Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (19:18).
The truth is that appropriate discipline of our children is hard work. It is much easier to let them do whatever they want, to watch TV endlessly, or lie around on the couch playing video games. Giving them a structure to their lives is a great gift for them that will last throughout their lives. They need to have boundaries, and to have those boundaries enforced in the safe environment of home, so that in the more dangerous environment outside of the safety of home, they have already learned to avoid danger. Discipline your children for in that there is hope. They are, after all, our future.
“A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again” (19:19).
What to do with someone who easily gets angry? According to this proverb, the only solution is to let them experience the negative consequences of their short temper. As it is sometimes said “the burnt hand teaches best”; we can tell people to avoid a hot surface, but sometimes you need to experience a sharp pain in order to realize that a bad temper is the one thing you cannot get rid of by losing it!
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (19:20).
Proverbs is advising us to be wise. Over and over again, it is saying, be wise. But how? Well, the most obvious and simple first step to take if you want to be wise is to listen to instruction. Listen to advice, accept discipline, and while it may take time, in the end you will be counted among the wise.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (19:21).
We can have hopes and dreams, goals and aspirations—plans aplenty—but what will last is God’s purpose. Therefore, bring your plans into line with his purpose as revealed in his Word. And plan constantly with his sovereignty in mind. As James puts it, we should say “if the Lord wills” when we make our plans (James 4:15).
“What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar” (19:22).
What is it that a person, any person, in any culture and at any time, most truly desires above all? Love. Cultures differ regarding the food that people eat, the music they prefer, the clothes they wear, and much else besides. But in common to all people is the desire for love. And behind that, when God’s Spirit works, is shown a need for the only unfailing love that is truly unfailing: that of God’s love!
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm” (19:23).
Where to find life? Fear God. With the fear of God, we can rest content. We leave the results in God’s hands. And though trouble may come to us, because we rest in God’s sovereignty, at a profound level we are still “untouched” by the trouble. It does not ultimately shake us, for we know that God has an eternal plan for us. Fear God, and you need fear nothing else.
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth” (19:24).
Ah, the sluggard! What a wonderful picture is this! He puts his hand to the dish to eat, but he cannot even be bothered to bring the hand back to his mouth to eat! Could someone really be like this? Yes, there are people who only go half way to the end result and give up in the middle. It is a temptation to us all when we face difficulties to give up and not persevere. But do not be a sluggard; never, never give up!
“Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge” (19:25).
Appropriately applied discipline, even rebukes, have different effects depending on the audience. The mocker perhaps will learn nothing from his rebuke, but those looking on, even the simple, will learn prudence. Whereas when you rebuke the discerning, they will thank you for it as they gain knowledge from that rebuke. If someone you trust, who is godly and who knows and cares about you, rebukes you, then do yourself a favor and listen! This listening to rebukes is one of the key ways we can gain knowledge.
“He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach” (19:26).
I suppose it is rare to find an adult son or daughter who treats their parents as badly as this proverb describes. And yet how many adult children farm their aged parents off to caregivers without ensuring that the care they receive is indeed care and not “elder abuse.” As your parents age, be ready to step in to care for them so that you do not bring shame and disgrace.
“Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (19:27).
Again, we hear of the key role that listening plays in learning to be wise. Look what happens if you stop listening to instruction! You will stray from the words of knowledge. It is not enough to have listened to instruction at one season of your life in the past; all through your life — young, middle-aged, and old — you will need to listen to instruction. Humble yourself to learn; otherwise, you will stray from knowledge.
“A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity” (19:28).
“Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools” (19:29).
It is good to be reminded that there are people who are “corrupt” and “wicked.” That does not mean that such a person should not still be loved (Jesus told us to love our enemies even), but it does mean that we should not be naïve about the damage they can cause and therefore seek wisely to protect against such calamities. Indeed, penalties are prepared for mockers and beatings for the backs of fools. If you are in a leadership situation, there will be times when you will need not only to be good, but also strong. Pray that God would give you wisdom to know how to, with appropriateness and Christian love, still exercise strength in leadership for the protection of those you lead.
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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