Read Proverbs 24:23-34
If you have been following along with the Proverbs up to this point and the last section that you read was 30 Sayings of the wise, what would you expect next?
How about more sayings of the wise? The 24th chapter concludes with just that.
Remember that these are not just more wise sayings, but sayings of the wise. These may be something of a general anthology with many contributors.
The next chapter includes wisdom specifically attributed to Solomon, but this 24th chapter concludes with wisdom from multiple authors or perhaps wisdom that might have been considered collective knowledge.
These sayings begin with the topic of justice.
There is the story of the two judges who both got traffic tickets for running a red light on the same day only a few minutes after each other. They were the only two judges in town so they had to hear each other’s case.
The first judge appeared before the other judge and decided to plead guilty and ask for mercy. The judge accepted his plea and awarded him a verbal warning, sternly shaking his finger at the judge. “Let’s have no more of this sort of behavior around here.”
The judges changed places and the second judge pleaded guilty and asked for mercy. The judge found him guilty and fined him $300.
Shocked at the punishment, the penalized judge blurted out, “I let you off with a warning.”
To which the other judge replied, “Yes, but this is the second case of running a red light today. We can’t let this sort of criminal behavior get out of hand.”
Serving as a judge is a tough job. It is really tough if you don’t set out with good intentions.
Dispensing justice requires much attention and effort. Justice is a hard target to hit, but it is impossible without pure motives.
Enough about justice for now—let’s move on to a more likeable subject.
Daryl Hall and John Oates sold a few million records with the words, “Because your kiss is on my list of the best things in life.”
Kisses are good.
A kiss on the lips is extra special.
Wisdom says that honesty—an honest answer—is as sweet as a kiss on the lips.
An honest answer garners such esteem because it seems to be uncommon. Lies, little white lies, bold lies, deception, half-truths, spin, spin-doctoring, and spinning the spin-doctoring are the way of the world.
Honesty is refreshing.
Japan Airlines Flight 2 was a flight piloted by Captain Kohei Asoh on November 22, 1968. The plane was a new Douglas DC-8 named "Shiga", flying from Tokyo International Airport to San Francisco International Airport. Due to heavy fog and other factors, Asoh mistakenly landed the plane in the shallow waters of San Francisco Bay, two and a half miles short of the runway. None of the 96 passengers or 11 crew were injured in the landing.
Both Asoh and his copilot had thousands of hours of flying experience without a mishap and there was a great fervor developing over the hearing that would surely drag on for days, perhaps even weeks.
But when the hearing came and the review panel asked Captain Asoh what happened, he said: “As you Americans like to say, Captain Asoh messed up.”
The original language was a bit more colorful, but before the board and the world for that matter, this man who was expected to bring all manner of mitigating circumstances to his defense, just said, “I messed up.”
How sweet is an honest answer?
The problem was that it deflated all the hype expected from these hearings.
How unexpected is an honest answer?
An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips, and we all need more of these kinds of kisses these days.
The next quip of wisdom tells us:
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.
The Good News version of the Bible puts it this way.
Don't build your house and establish a home until your fields are ready, and you are sure that you can earn a living.
In the last century we might have said, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.”
Every week I meet with people who say, “I can’t pay all of my bills.”
I say, “Let’s get rid of some of them.”
People look at me like I am crazy—which might be an accurate assessment—but then they say, “I don’t want to give up anything.”
This old crazy man says, “That dog don’t hunt.”
We are a nation of debt, kids moving back in with parents, and an insatiable appetite for stuff we don’t really need.
The proverb says first go make a living then live within what you make. Earn it before you spend it. What a novel concept.
Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—would you use your lips to mislead? Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
Again we get a proverbial look at justice, but this time it comes with a warning. Don’t drag everything to court. You may misspeak and vengeance clouds your judgment when it comes to justice.
We don’t need to live with eyes and hearts that constantly seek to balance the scales of justice. We are reminded that God sent Jesus not because we had earned forgiveness through our good behavior but because we were still sinners and could never earn it.
The last grouping in this chapter brings us back to that most pitiful character, the sluggard. Fortunately, the writer describes this lesson in the third person.
He says I learned a life-long lesson from the lazy and it wasn’t alliteration.
It is that your permanent predicament will be a pitiful plight of poverty if you don’t get off of that Play Station.
The apostle Paul might put it this way: If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
I talk with people all of the time who have some sort of government subsidy for some manner of disability. When we work on a budget I ask, “Can you work?”
The most popular answer to that is, “I guess so, but I would have to give up my disability.”
I say, “You mean that check that you get for doing nothing that isn’t enough to meet your needs.”
The stifled reply, “Yeah.”
My offering, “So do you want to get a job so you can earn enough to meet your needs?”
The conversation-ending reply given as someone walks out the door, “Preacher, you don’t understand.”
The problem is that I do understand. There is a mindset that says doing as little as possible in life even though it is not enough to get by one is victory.
Laziness pays dividends. The currency is paid in loss of self esteem and poverty.
Invest in initiative, industry, perseverance, and hard work. These pay dividends that you can live on.
This is not being harsh. It is just faithfully conveying the wisdom woven into the fabric of creation.
Learn these lessons of wisdom while you are young so you don’t end up being the example used of laziness and poverty in the years to come.
These sayings of the wise tell us:
· Don’t go around looking to impose justice in every situation, but if justice is required, be fair.
· Honesty is just cool beans or as sweet as kiss on the lips.
· Earn a living before you buy a house, or get satellite TV, or upgrade that phone, or get the new Nintendo.
· Don’t expect to buy a house if you are lazy. Poverty is your home.
Now here is a 21st century take on most of the proverbs. If you don’t like how the proverb reads, it may apply to you the most.
The wise cherish wisdom.
Fools can’t stand it.