Read Proverbs 11:15-31
Security and recklessness, kindness and cruelty, wages and rewards, and many such contrasts are the style of the proverbs. Almost all of us can remember having to write the compare and contrast paragraphs and papers long ago in some English class. We might have thought that we couldn’t write another word that compared and contrasted one more thing.
But the Proverbs explain with opposites or with positives and negatives and if we read enough of them, we sense a rhythm to this wisdom. There is a way to walk and a way to steer clear of. There are things that prosper us and our neighbors and things that bring ruin, destruction, and sometimes death. But these are more than one choice over another. It is more than choosing good over evil, right over wrong, generous over stingy.
It is about walking in a path set for us and in this proverb; much is tied together in the final pairings.
29 Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and the one who is wise saves lives.
31 If the righteous receive their due on earth,
how much more the ungodly and the sinner!
Inheritance was a huge thing in this ancient world. Those who had made something of themselves felt they could live on by passing on their inheritance to an eldest son. That doesn’t mean that other family members were left out, but the hope of the father was a good son to bless with his estate.
This world was far removed from what we know. The American Dream was unheard of, and frankly, unthinkable. A person of humble estate rising above his or her station in life through hard work just didn’t happen. At best a servant might be put in charge of other servants, but would not become a business owner or entrepreneur. Your life was based upon what your father left you.
As God’s children we too look forward to an inheritance. We have not earned our way into God’s Kingdom. He chose us. He provides for us. He provisions us. Through Christ he grants us an eternal relationship. We have an inheritance because we are God’s children.
But the counsel of the Proverbs is that the one who chooses the wicked path, the destructive path, the lazy and selfish path will not get an inheritance. They will inherit the wind. If you live in western Oklahoma or Texas you might think that there were some despicable people around here at one time because the wind never stops. There is quite the inheritance of fast moving air in these parts.
Who would want that as their inheritance?
Many of us won’t inherit much when our parents die. In our culture, our inheritance was our upbringing and good start in the world. A few might have family estates where the kids stay home and work the family farm, but most in our day and locale receive an inheritance of character through a good upbringing. We may not get much in the way of material wealth when our parents pass.
But the little we do receive, even if it is just a few household items is far better than inheriting the wind. This is not to just be left out of any material inheritance; it is to be granted status as a fool for life. To inherit the wind is more than the occasional sin and indiscretion. It is a legacy of walking apart from God.
This proverb moves beyond the one who inherits the wind to the one who is compared to a tree of life. Remember the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was deceived and Adam disobeyed God and both ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil so God kicked them out of Eden so they would not eat of the Tree of Life.
God’s intent was not that we should not live or live eternally, but that we must be right with him before we enjoy life and life abundant and life eternal. Wickedness, disobedience, selfishness, laziness, and unrighteousness just don’t go in the same sentence as life.
Christians often think too much about heaven. We long for streets of gold, calorie free chocolate and endless days at the lake with no mosquitoes. But we are called to follow Jesus. That takes place in the here and now. There are eternal rewards but our eyes are to be focused on Jesus. Our steps are in trace of Jesus. Our trials and tribulations are in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
This proverb challenges us to consider that if the righteous receive their just due in this life, then so also will the wicked.
This comes back to trust.
This is about trusting God and not our own understanding.
This is about in all of our ways and in everything we do, acknowledging God and submitting to him.
This way of life trusts him to make our path straight.
The human heart longs for a pound of flesh when we are wronged, but the heart of the godly man or woman trusts God’s justice. Our hearts ask, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The proverbs tell us that both reward and punishment are a part of this life. We know that there is also judgment in the life to follow but the person who follows God understands that there is justice now and in eternity.
God is holy and just.
His application of justice and mercy is always right and always administered at the right time.
Believing this gives us the freedom to forgive. If there must be consequences for someone who has wronged us, that action belongs to the Lord. We are called to forgive. The answer to Abraham’s question as he pleaded for the innocent housed among the wicked in Sodom is revealed to us in this proverb. The Judge of all the earth will do right.
How do these tie together?
Consider that Abram, later called Abraham, was approaching the century mark without a son. Abraham had much to pass on to his heir. It would go to his servant without an heir. Inheritance was a huge thing in ancient times.
Now we know that Abraham did get his son. Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you…
We have an inheritance today as well. I don’t mean houses and cars and favorite pictures in our parents’ houses. We have an inheritance of life and life abundant and life eternal.
As children of God, we inherit life, but what will we do with it?
Let us live wisely.
Let us trust God for justice now and in eternity. His timing, not ours, is always best.
Let us live as his children walking the path he has set for us.