Read Proverbs 6:1-19
God’s wisdom as revealed in the Proverbs often has many witticisms, but is still wisdom delivered full strength. It uses literary devices—metaphor, hyperbole, and rhetorical tools—but is still 100% wisdom applicable today. Sometimes the topics seem to come on pretty strong and touch some sensitive areas, but this is still wisdom and we benefit from studying it.
Today, we are immersed in the world’s wisdom conveyed through all manner of media, the internet probably claiming the top spot in this new century. You can’t check you Facebook page without seeing some sort of witty and sometimes wise quote.
Recently, I noted one that stated, “Almost 47% of what you read on the internet is not true.” That tidbit of wisdom was attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
How absurd! We know that Lincoln said that over half of what you read on the internet is false.
Kidding aside, we are immersed in so many quips and quotes and tidbits of apparent truth that the truth and wisdom often become obscured in the volume of offerings.
It’s good to come home to the Proverbs on a recurring basis, even when the topics are sometimes a little sensitive.
This 6th chapter contains some strong counsel, often delivered in an imperative mood. Three main areas are encompassed in this first half. They are dangerous promises, laziness, and wickedness.
Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. We are warned against putting up surety for another person. This counsel doesn’t mean that you don’t cosign a loan for your son or daughter to get their first car. In today’s world, teaching our children not only to drive safely but financial responsibilities are good practices.
But if there is no existing relationship in place, we should be very careful about guaranteeing the commitments of another person. What is the real commitment of the other person?
Thomas Paine once said, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”
If I can get you to guarantee my loan, how committed will I be to making the payments myself? The world is full of people that would do wonderful things with your money, put only so long as they don’t have to commit any of their own.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Now there’s a modern day quip that seems to make sense. Let’s adapt that to a surety. When the going gets tough, the guy we vouched for may just get going right on down the road leaving you with his bills to pay.
There are people, times, and places to commit our finances to another. Marriage is certainly one of those. Consider the typical Hollywood marriage. Finances are addressed before the wedding vows are taken. This is prudent practice so everyone knows what they are getting when the marriage falls apart.
But for real marriages, we do commit to each other. We do vouch for our partners.
In business, true partners vouch for each other. The relationship before the surety has been established and maintained.
The guy with the sure thing that you have known for a week, well, not so much.
Don’t make promises that you can’t keep or shouldn’t keep. If you find yourself in one of these situations, figure out quickly what you must do to get out of it. Don’t rest until you do and don’t let your neighbor rest until he relieves you of this commitment.
The second area addressed is laziness, sometimes labeled indolence or idleness. This is not admonishment against genuine rest. There are times to do nothing. There are times to catch up on your sleep. There are times to get out of your cell phone coverage and just enjoy the day.
But idleness is not the governing quality of your life. Initiative and industry are what take care of our needs and our families and help us prepare for leaner times.
We are asked to consider the example of the ant. The ant stores away food when there is plenty so it does not starve when there is none. Squirrels do the same thing, but the ant is so tiny compared to man and the contrast needs to be that significant to get someone who has a lazy nature off their butts and into gear.
Earlier in the context of surety, cosigning a loan for a son or daughter to help them purchase a vehicle was presented as something within the bounds of wisdom. Let’s note an exception to that. It is not wise to cosign such a loan if your son is 25 or your daughter is 30 or whatever age you feel they should stand on their own two feet financially, at least as far as making commitments go.
There is an unhealthy extreme on the other end of the laziness spectrum. That is when we are burdened with busyness. We fill every waking minute with some sort of job, or task, or event. The counsel of the proverbs is not to work ourselves to exhaustion but to work with wisdom. It is not to make work into your life and your life into work, but to work sufficiently so that you may live more fully and not be anxious about lean times that may come.
The wisdom lies in balance. Work enough to meet your needs for today, some needs for the future, and enough to meet the needs of some who are in need, and don’t go too much beyond this.
There is balance. Jesus put it into these terms.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
Laziness not only leaves us at the mercy of everyone else, it insults God. To sleep much of our lives away is not to value life itself. It is not to see our life as a sacred trust. We throw garbage into the trash heap. We value that which is sacred and put it to use according to God’s purpose.
Life is special.
Rest is essential.
But laziness has no place in our lifestyle.
Finally we come to wickedness. It should be no surprise that these three topics come in juxtaposition to one another. The use of numerical progression as a rhetorical device accentuates 7 things that the Lord hates or finds detestable. They are:
· Haughty eyes. What does that mean? Try these instead--disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant. Truly these are the opposite of the humbleness that we are called to practice with each other as we have come to know through the humbleness that Christ showed us. There will be more on this subject and it will sound all so familiar when we reach that point.
· A lying tongue. This one comes a little easier though keeping a lying tongue at bay is more difficult than just telling the truth. It is telling the whole truth, and as Jesus would tell us later on, we should speak the truth in love. Our world is full of half-truths. These form the substance of gossip and have no good purpose. Jesus also commended us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. James warned us that no man could bridle the tongue. He also told us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We need to slow down, carefully consider our words, and speak the truth.
· Hands that shed innocent blood. OK, this one is just about a no brainer. Our thoughts go quickly to Sandy Hook and the innocent children who died at the hands of an evil heart. We get this. We understand this. It is repulsive to us as well. But this wisdom is also counsel to us not to seek revenge when the death of a loved one is an accident. In ancient times, sanctuary was available in certain cities in the Promised Land for those who killed another by accident. Their blood was still considered innocent and not to be taken in the eye for an eye sort of justice of the time. If you murdered someone, that was another matter. You could be extradited from these cities of sanctuary.
· A heart that devises wicked schemes. Not all wicked schemes are acted out, but God despises the wickedness taken to the level where plans are laid even if they are never executed. Paul reminds us to hold every thought captive to Christ Jesus. Sometimes we have thoughts and we have no idea where they came from but we know they are evil. We do not dwell on them. We take them captive and do not let them have a home in our minds that strive to be the mind of Christ.
· Feet that are quick to rush into evil. We are to pick our battles. We are always to be on the right side though we don’t always have to be right and bring others into agreement. We don’t go out just looking for something to get into. We don’t go looking for a fight. We don’t go looking for times and places and events where we can take advantage of others. Some do. Jesus told us that the eyes are the lamp of the body. If our eyes are healthy then the whole body is healthy. So be on the lookout for evil and steer clear.
· A false witness who pours out lies. We should not be surprised to find this here. It is on God’s original top 10 list, but why do people do this. This goes beyond the courtroom setting where the laws of perjury apply. This is about life and being made in God’s image. We sometimes forget that we are made in God’s image and are being made in the image and likeness of Christ. Not making the connection? Sometimes we forget that our value and worth come from God and we take this drug of false witness that says if I put someone down or say they did evil that they did not do or look at them with disdain and say something not true or a half truth about them, then I might feel superior to them.
· A man who stirs up dissention. I commend to your reading agenda, A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard. It was in this classic that I first noted the term, firebrand of discontent. Some people seem to have this affliction and it has been given prominence in today’s society. Enter the world of social networks. I love them. I can keep up with birthdays, post links to my articles, and even remind people about the Bible study or Wednesday evening meal and classes. Some have used this media to mainline their need for dissention. Some see everything as a Petri dish for discord. I am always up for a good discussion or even a civil argument. Such things strengthen the mind. Other opinions refine my thinking skills and ignite creativity, but dissention brings no value. To stir up for the purpose of conflict, discord, disaccord, discordance, discordancy, disharmony, and other things that move us away from being a people who live in one accord, in God’s harmony, and in fellowship with one another; that’s dissention. Do not confuse it with dissent. To dissent is to say, I differ with you on that subject. Dissention is to use those differences to disrupt harmony.
That’s a lot to chew on. There is considerably more substance here than in most Facebook threads which thrive indefinitely at the sophomoric level. Many of your Bibles have subheadings. One of my Bibles gives an umbrella heading to these three areas: Warnings Against Folly.
The Book of Proverbs will present us with many dichotomies, but one that will prevail throughout is wisdom and folly. Here’s the short version: Choose wisdom.