Proverbs 29:15-27: The Battle for Spiritual Wisdom!
September 23, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Isaiah 59-61, Proverbs 29:15-27, Luke 24:28-35, Hebrews 12:14-39
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (29:15).
It is tempting as a parent to spoil your children: you want what is best for them, and therefore you like to give them what they like. But parenting, to be effective, must deny itself: there is a way that seems right to a child but in the end leads to trouble. The task of a parent is to train a child in the right way so that when he or she is old they will not depart from it. Children will not always respond to good training; a child must make their own decisions. But a parent’s job is to do what they can to structure the life of a child to give them the right tools for living a life for Christ’s glory.
“When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall” (29:16).
Wicked people tend to do wicked things; the first part of this proverb seems almost a tautology or redundant statement. But it is evoking the despair that we can have when people who are bent towards evil rise to prominence, or “thrive,” and the harmful impact they can have. And having evoked that feeling of despair, it is then providing us with solace. Either here, or in the age to come, wickedness will meet its judgment. Therefore, hide yourself in Christ and believe and follow him!
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (29:17).
Another proverb about discipline; for comments, see under verse 15 above. But there is a further motivation here: peace and delight. In the normal course of events, a well-disciplined child will bring you peace and delight! Therefore, let that thought motivate you to instruct and gently but clearly train your children.
“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction” (29:18).
Because this proverb was traditionally translated, “where there is no vision, the people perish,” it has often been used as a proof-text for the need for churches to have vision statements. But while there is nothing wrong with a church having a vision statement—it can be a helpful thing to do—this proverb is not about vision statements in the sense of the modern theory of corporate organization. The proverb is talking about biblical revelation; the point of this proverb is when the Bible is not being taught, when God’s Word is not being given its rightful place, then damaging effects come as a result. Instead, “blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”
“Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond” (29:19).
If you are wondering why a piece of communication does not seem to be penetrating or getting through or speaking to a group of people, it may be because you need more than words. Ancient theorists described how communication requires not just the “logos” of the word, but also the “ethos” of character (as well as the “pathos” of passion). This proverb is probably talking about the importance of having rewards and consequences to motivate people that you lead. We all need rewards to keep us focused; and there are real consequences if we do not do our work well. A leader needs to make the consequences of performance clear if he or she wants people to perform well.
“Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (29:20).
Be slow to speak, and quick to listen. Do not try to solve a problem before you know clearly what the problem is that you are trying to solve. Do not utter words about a topic without having a clear grasp of the topic about which you are speaking.
“A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent” (29:21).
Sometimes Christians can misunderstand “love” to mean they should never act with firmness. But pandering and flattering and being weak are not virtues: we need to be good and strong.
“An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins” (29:22).
Anger is tempting. There is such a thing as righteous anger, but it is a dangerous virtue. Most of the time what we need to do is to be patient. And bite our tongue. And wait.
“Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (29:23).
Pride comes before a fall, we say, and the truth of this proverb in verse 25 is often proven true. Being “lowly in spirit” does not mean having a low opinion of yourself or putting yourself down. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. The humble person is characterized by an interest in things other than himself. He talks about things other than himself. He is interested in people other than himself. Most of all spiritual humility is being interested in God above all.
“The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify” (29:24).
Being an accomplice to a crime will get you into trouble. Be brave enough to refuse to be a part of something that is wrong.
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (29:25).
Don’t fear what people think, fear what God thinks. When we fear people, we find it hard to have boundaries. We find it hard to say no. We find it hard to discover what it is that we are meant to do—because we are concerned with what other people think we should do. The solution is to fill our minds and hearts with the awesome, fearsome majesty of the living God. Then trust in him.
“Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice” (29:26).
In the end, the rich and the powerful “rulers” are not the ultimate arbiters of what is right. It is human nature to try to get an audience with a powerful person hoping they will advance your career or open doors for you that otherwise would remain shut. But, truly, “it is from the Lord that one gets justice.” Therefore seek God!
“The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright” (29:27).
Being righteous does not mean approving of everything. It is not being a “yes” man to any proposal. It is not thinking that everyone else is always “nice.” No, there is a clarity to righteousness, a firmness, a toughness. For the righteous see clearly that wickedness is truly wicked. They see its damage, for they have experienced that damage and then emerged from that pit of darkness and never want to go back there again. Likewise, the wicked stand opposed to the upright. There is a battle between the forces of darkness and the kingdom of light. And the spiritual battle is real. Therefore, put on the armor of God! (Ephesians 6:10-20).
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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