Read Proverbs 27:1-12
Thematically, these next few proverbs are going to take us all over the place but perhaps have some common ground in friendship. Some will sound familiar and others may bring a new quip or two into your wisdom arsenal.
We begin with a reminder that we can only live one day at a time. We may look forward to tomorrow, but a lot can happen between now and then.
We should not boast about our own plans and grand designs but be about the day’s business. James would remind us to temper our best intentions with “if the Lord wills it.”
The proverbs tell us.
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
Many a farmer has seen his bumper wheat crop pummeled by a hail storm in a few minutes.
Many a football team has looked too far down their schedule and been surprised by a team they overlooked.
Many a political candidate has taken votes and voters for granted and found themselves out of office in a single election day.
Having a vision is good, even essential.
Planning your work and working you plan is just sound practice.
But boasting in a day or a time of which we are not promised is just not wise.
We are blessed to live this day and enjoy our daily bread. The only boasting that we should do is in the life we know in Christ Jesus.
On the heels of boasting is tooting our own horn. We are counseled not to do this.
Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.
But what if you are busting your butt to do a good job and it seems that nobody is noticing. This is a problem in our modern culture, especially in business. Leadership skills seem to be less about making your team successful than working on your own advancement. The basics of a leader recognizing the quality efforts of his people have atrophied much in the last few decades.
But even in these self-indulgent times, do not go around tooting your own horn. Remember that Jesus counseled against making a big show of your offering. He said, that person has received his reward in full. Some rewards we experience now and others are stored up for us.
So in everything you do, do it as if working for the Lord and not for men, and don’t think you have to announce your good deeds to anyone. The Lord is the one that you really want to get a “Well done” from anyway.
But on occasion, it is nice to hear a compliment about yourself from someone that you did not expect to hear it from. These are sweet and sometimes motivating words, but we must also remember our previous counsel about humility. Accept and enjoy the compliment but don’t let it go to your head.
Solomon continues with some interesting comparisons.
Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
Perhaps the modern equivalent is the quip, “I can’t fix stupid.”
We can teach wisdom, correct bad and even criminal thinking, discipline the mind to become a vehicle for creativity instead of chaos—we can do so much with the person that has an inclination to learn and to better himself.
But I can’t fix stupid.
Solomon tells us that a foolish person who attaches himself to you is like carrying a heavy burden.
In some few, let’s say rare occasions, I have elected to tell someone that I won’t meet with them until they meet certain criteria.
That might be several months of sobriety.
It could be attending a budgeting class.
It might be the completion of a reading assignment and report.
But until the person who is stuck in their ways and reluctant to change takes a least a small step or two in the right direction; they only consume my time. They are a burden.
Am I being harsh? My prayer is that I am applying the Wisdom of Solomon.
For those of us who are seeking God, his kingdom, and his righteousness—we are to carry each other’s burdens.
For those who defy God’s wisdom and his righteousness, we are not commanded or expected to carry their burdens. Should they repent and desire God’s goodness and wisdom and mercy, then it is a whole new ball game.
Until then, we don’t need to make any time for fools. We will invest that time saved being about our Master’s business.
Solomon next turns the tables on us. Instead of dealing with others, he gives us a proverb about dealing with ourselves.
Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
Jealousy is about selfishness, coveting, and vain ambition.
You have something that we want. We covet.
I might lose something that I have. I become anxious and jealous that someone else might get something—more often, someone—that I want.
And we can consider this verse in the context of the first verse in this chapter. We boast in things that we want but don’t have.
Solomon tells us that anger and wrath and fury either coming against us or dwelling within us can overwhelm us, but jealousy is worse.
The next couple of verses are about true friends. Modern wisdom might say it this way.
Everyone needs at least one friend who loves them enough to hurt them. Solomon said it this way.
Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
I have loved to write for many years. I became pretty good at self-editing, but not as proficient as I would like to be. I appreciate the friend who looks at something I have written and says, “Did you mean to say that?” or “shouldn’t it be less instead of fewer?
Their corrections, especially when received before going to print, are not attacks, but gifts.
Likewise, the person who is a true friend tells us:
· You have had enough to drink. Let me have your keys.
· Your language seems to be a little on the foul side lately.
· Did you really mean to kick that cat across the yard?
· Dude, here’s some mouthwash. I want to be subtle but a good friend at the same time. I got the industrial strength.
We are not talking about a friend who casually says, “Your shoe is untied.” We are talking about a friend on the order of Nathan to David. “What you did was wrong.”
There need not be judgment, but truth—even to the point of wounding a friend—defines the nature of this valued friendship.
The wisdom of the world is let people do what people will do. They will learn from their mistakes.
The true friend will let you learn from your mistakes, but will offer you truth in the rawest form first. The true friend is his brother’s keeper, especially in matters of truth and trust.
Sadly, much of my ministry is to people with no true friends. Sometimes, I am the first person to be truthful with them.
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.
Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,
and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.
Solomon reminds us that heartfelt advice from a friend rivals the best perfume or pleasant fragrance. Then he counsels us to have at least one good friend who is not a part of your family.
When I counsel couples before marriage, I charge them to find good, Chirst-following friends outside of their relatives.
Blood relatives tend to just side with you in a crisis. What you need when disaster strikes, in a time of real need, is a real friend You need a friend who doesn’t have to take sides but is free to speak the truth to you, even and especially, if it is going to hurt.
Solomon next speaks to the hopes of the wise—that their offspring will continue in God’s wisdom. What better way to respond to the critics and criticism of the world than with the evidence of wise children.
Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart;
then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.
The proof is in the pudding, especially when our children take hold of wisdom and fill our hearts with joy.
Solomon concludes with what Jesus might call “eyes to see and ears to hear.”
The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
I have previously discussed the many people with whom I work that rely on the words, “If only” or “If I had only known;” but the truth of the matter is that in almost every case, we did know.
If you don’t make the car payment, it should come as no surprise when someone comes and tows your car back to the lot.
If you point your pistol at your big toe, it might just go off. Many a death and injury have come at the hands of an ‘unloaded” gun.
The wise see and assess risk and take appropriate action. The foolish see it as well, but make no assessment and do not alter their course.
Which brings me back to, “I can’t fix stupid.”
We as followers of Christ are charged and commissioned to go into the world. We meet people where they are. We bring good news. We want to lead people to a better place.
But God’s wisdom tells us not to spend much time at all on those who are dead-set on living life on their own terms, very often in opposition to God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.
Jesus told us, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”
He is telling us not to spend our best efforts on those who refuse to hear God’s wisdom.
Instead, give you best efforts to a friend. Take what time and effort and counsel that would be wasted on a fool and be a real friend to your friends even to the point of raw honesty.
If you can’t tell your friends from the fools, then you don’t have any friends.
Be a real friend and find a real friend. We all need someone who loves us enough to hurt our feelings every once in a while.