Read Proverbs 20:1-15
You have a used car to sell. You think it is worth $3000 and I think it is worth $1000. You say that’s the Blue Book value and I say the Blue Book assumes that everything is in pristine condition and the tires are about worn, the vehicle needs a new alignment and the serpentine belt is about to go.
You say, “Well let’s split the difference.”
I say, “You mean that you would take $2000?”
You say, “Yes.”
It sounds like a quick negotiation, except now I say, “Well if you can come down to $2000, I guess I can go up to $1200.”
All of a sudden the negation has moved my way. How? It is called manipulation. It is truly not a best practice among negotiators, but it happens more than you might think.
Much of this 20th chapter is about fair practices and rewards for hard work or as it is presented, penalties for laziness.
The proverb warns that a buyer will talk down the value of what you have to sell. Once he gets the price down low enough, he buys it and then goes and brags to his buddies what a steal he got.
Businesses have incorporated this thinking into their sales approaches. How many times have you walked by that jewelry counter and seen the 70% off sign. These places have to mark their items up a few days each year so they can claim they are having a sale. The truth of the matter is that even at the sale price, the retailer makes a healthy profit.
When you go to the premier clothing store and something is marked half of half and half again, make no mistake; the retailer is still making money.
Look at some of the goods and services associated with the oilfield business. Someone from the outside would look at what things cost and ask, “Why do they charge that much?”
The answer: “Because they can.”
I went to Oklahoma City a few years ago so they could run some kind of scope up my femoral artery and look at the blood vessels around my heart. After I came out of the procedure and sobered up, the doctor told me that my arteries were big and clean.
That was good news.
Then there was the bill. It was about $12,000. My insurance paid just over $1000. Oh my, this could be ugly.
Well, my part of this was also just over $1000. There was a $10,000 write off by the hospital.
That’s a lot of money to just say, “Oh, never mind.”
But I know that the hospital isn’t losing money. So what is the real cost of health care?
The proverbs talk about honest weights and measures. They say that God detests those who would manipulate the measuring instruments for undue gain.
Most of the people who read these verses will just say, “Yup, makes sense.”
But I see a strong admonishment for our nation and much of the western world. We are so commercialized that we have an anything goes mentality towards our business transactions—in our life transactions.
People complain that we can’t post the 10 Commandments on public buildings, but the same people will manipulate each other in a business transaction.
We are losing our work ethic. If the farmer doesn’t plant his crop in season, he doesn’t expect a crop at harvest time; but we have a generation that expects a harvest all of the time but won’t do the planting.
We have a nation where we are content to manipulate each other.
This is a generalization because I know very many people who work hard and are always fair with their neighbors, but sadly, that group has become the minority.
What can we do?
We may not impact the nation or the world, but we can hold the line in our own households and communities on work ethic and integrity. We can be known as people who work hard and treat each other fairly all of the time.
This selection of proverbs also includes one which advises us of another way to deal with people, perhaps with a special person.
The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out.
Earlier this year, I challenged everyone in the congregation to pray for someone who needed the salvation of the Lord, to pray for some who have been saved but needed to come home; and then to invest in another person—to help them flourish.
What is the significance of this last challenge?
Within each of us is our God-given purpose. Some of us have realized it and engage it each day, but others are still just drifting through life.
Those of us who have insight—wisdom if you will—can help others find their purpose. We must not be content to just say, “I’ve got mine.”
We are to invest in another person. Sometimes that investment is to help them find their purpose or to confirm a spiritual gift or special talent that we see in them. Sometimes it is to pass on wisdom or a skill to them.
We are a people who know that each of us has a purpose and life is not truly satisfying until we are living that purpose. We can help draw out that counsel and purpose with others. Listen to this 5th verse in other translations.
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding will draw it out.
New King James
People’s thoughts can be like a deep well,
but someone with understanding can find the wisdom there.
New Century Version
For some, we dig deep to find our own purpose, but others need a second or third party to help them. Some of you, perhaps all, are called to invest in another person and help them find the counsel, direction, and purpose that God has placed in them.
There are many other areas of counsel in this selection of proverbs, alcoholic beverages is one of them. There is nothing wrong with alcoholic beverages per se, but if the substance begins controlling the user then you can count on problems. The Bible never says that alcohol is a bad thing. There is neither license nor prohibition on this matter, but there is risk.
Just as you would no more put a 10 year old kid behind the wheel of a semi-tractor trailer on the interstate, we admonish those who cannot abstain from drunkenness and violent behavior when they consume alcohol, not to drink at all.
Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin”?
We know that we cannot take care of the sin in our lives, but God can. God can create in us a clean heart. The blood of Jesus can take away our sin.
But in the midst of these proverbs that often come with some severe consequences for disobedience or ignoring wisdom is this reminder that we have all fallen short of God’s glory. While the original readers of this proverb only had an inkling of a Messiah to come and surely little understanding that he would be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, this verse gives us all a dose of humility and counsels us against judging others.
None of us have managed to keep our hearts pure. Thank God that he has rescued us from our own shortcomings and failures.
Let’s be careful about judging others when we too have fallen short.
So as we consider these somewhat diverse but familiar quips of wisdom, we are reminded to:
· Do our best at both seed time and harvest.
· Treat others fairly, resisting the temptation to use unfair tactics or take advantage of each other.
· Help others to realize their God-given purpose, calling, and potential.
· Remember that we all come from the dust of the earth and have sinned. Only God can make us clean and right with him.
· Let’s not look upon our neighbors with judgment but with love and mercy.