Proverbs 25:15-28: Patient Wisdom!
September 15, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (25:15).
Such wise advice! We think of patience as weakness, but really it is strength. How different would our public discourse be if we remembered this lesson: be patient. Think once, twice, thrice before speaking (or blogging). And when you do speak, write gently. Gentleness is also not weakness: a gentle tongue can break a bone!
“If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit” (25:16).
Good advice for all legitimate pleasures. C. S. Lewis once said that the devil can only spoil pleasures, he cannot create them. And one of the tactics for spoiling them is to tempt us to over-indulge. When you find “honey” (something sweet, good, relaxing, pleasurable), eat just enough, not much. In everything, moderation. Aristotle called it the Golden Mean.
“Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—too much of you, and they will hate you. Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor” (25:17-18).
Even someone whom you like, or who likes you, can grow tired of you. Don’t overdo your familiarity with your neighbor. Friendship should be tended regularly, but not constantly. But that does not mean that we do not have responsibilities towards our neighbor. At the very least, we should speak truthfully about them (as well as to them). As people of the truth, we must speak the truth too.
“Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble” (25:19).
Faithfulness is a great virtue, perhaps the foundation of all virtues, if not the greatest (the greatest, according to Paul, is love). But what of unfaithfulness? Having to rely on someone who is not reliable is like having a broken tooth! Therefore, aim to be reliable yourself. The corollary is that there are unfaithful people; we should not naively assume that we can trust everyone!
“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart” (25:20).
Too many Christians, perhaps relying on that medicine of rejoicing always, try to do precisely this: they attempt to cheer up the downcast with happy words or songs. There is a time to sing, but there is also a time to mourn. What someone who has a “heavy heart” most needs is understanding. Take the time to listen. And in that soft soil that listening generates, a form of intense love, there will come a time when you can plant the seed of truth too.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (25:21-22).
Paul quotes from this proverb in Romans 12:20. Again note the realism of Proverbs: we will have enemies. In this world, there is no escaping conflict. As far as it lies in our power, we are to live at peace with all men. But it does not always lie in our power. And when you have an enemy, what do you do? Proverbs has a radical solution. Let God deal with it. This does not mean that governors, rulers, and military commanders are wrong to battle enemies. Romans 13 teaches us that those in authority “bear the sword” for a reason. But in our own personal lives, forswear the chimera of bitterness and short-lived pleasure of vengeance for the longer gain of winning over an enemy through love. With this philosophy, you have an added bonus beyond all: The Lord will reward you!
“Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look” (25:23).
Some people naturally have a quick wit and an even quicker tongue. Some people even have a sly tongue, able to sneer and undermine at will—unless they restrain themselves. But a sly tongue is no great merit; it only provokes a horrified look. It is like the north wind that brings unexpected rain. If you are someone with a sharp or sly tongue, then learn at times to bite your tongue and say nothing! And if you are the victim of a sly or sharp tongue, comfort yourself in the truth of the proverbs above in verses 21 and 22.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (25:24).
How true, how true. What to do if you are married to someone who is quarrelsome? First, take a long look in the mirror. Maybe your wife is quarrelsome because you are more so! And then after a long look in the mirror, take a long look at Christ, the One who gave himself for you. Can you not love the one who has betrothed herself to you? The other lesson from this proverb is the following: don’t be in haste to marry.
“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (25:25).
A beautiful picture—and so true to the experience of someone who hears something good communicated from a place far away. It cheers your soul; it lifts you. But even more is this true of the good news of the gospel! Let us be constant in communicating that message, that good news, both to ourselves and to the world around us.
“Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked” (25:26).
It is good to be righteous, of course, but such righteousness is tenuous unless it is also confirmed with strength, tenacity, perseverance, and the fear of God (not the fear of man). When you start on the path following Christ, people may applaud you at first. But before too long, people will oppose you. And criticize you. Make sure you are strong to follow Christ to the end. Gather with others in community or small groups, at church, to encourage you—to give you courage to stick to Christ!
“It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep” (25:27).
We have a proverb above about not eating too much honey or over-indulging in legitimate pleasures. Now this is compared to another human ambition: to know. Being a scholar is good; wanting to understand is good. But remember that, according to proverbs, it is the fear of the Lord that is the foundation of wisdom. It is wise to admit that there are things that we do not know. It is even wiser to admit that when we come to the person of God, there are things that by definition we could not ever know, for he is God and we are not. Humility is the right companion to wisdom, and without it, a man of learning can give himself to increasingly search for things that are unfindable.
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” (25:28).
Self-control is perhaps the least popular of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). And yet such an important and necessary part of bearing fruit spiritually. Each day, each week, each moment we will have many opportunities to lose our self-control. Pray that God would give you self-control. Use the image that is present in this proverb to motivate you: when you lose self-control, it is like a city with walls to protect it from attack having all its walls broken down. Losing your self-control leaves you vulnerable and exposed. Stick to what you know to be true from God’s Word, even if at the moment you are being tempted to doubt it. Stick to what you know to be right from God’s Word, even if at at the moment you are being tempted to break it. Guard your heart and your life with boundaries of self-control!
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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