". . . for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck." ESV
"He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." NKJV
Everyone has been told that who they choose as friends is important. Patrick McManus said “Back when I was a kid, my mother constantly warned me about falling in with bad company. Then one day it occurred to her that I was probably the bad company, and she had to warn other kids about falling in with me.”
This truth is evident in our world. The people that we spend time with and invest energy in are the ones we become like. If those people are wise we will begin to pick up bits and pieces of their wisdom. The people with knowledge and wisdom are the ones that we can gain understanding from. Our habits reflect theirs and vice versa. If you are walking with wise people and studying God’s word, you are on the road becoming wise, and at some point those you walk with will also become wiser from walking with you.
The contrast here is intense, though. The companion of fools will be destroyed. Other translations say he will suffer harm. When you follow wise people, you will be made wise. When you follow fools, you will be a fool. Not only that, but by nature a fool will suffer more than a wise person with understanding. Take care to seek out good company and wise people that fear God.
"Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense." ESV
The example of a farmer working for food is one that translates easily across most cultures. I understand that when someone works hard to raise a crop they can eat what they grow. I have watched my wife plant strawberries with plans for eating them. It doesn’t stop at the planting, though. She gives them good soil and puts them in a basket where they will be out of reach of animals. She makes sure that they have enough sunlight and waters them frequently, and when they are fully grown we eat them (fortunately for me she shares.) She has a clear goal and works towards it through logical steps, and in the end, we enjoy the fruits of her labor. Were my wife to indulge in Mario Kart all the time we would never have strawberries. Not that there is anything wrong with her taking some time to relax and do something that she enjoys, but if that is all she did it would be senseless and have no worth.
Of course, having a goal and working towards it applies to far more than strawberries and there are many worthless pursuits besides video games. Those who work to find wisdom will gain it, and those who chase pleasure after pleasure have no sense.
"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." ESV
This verse starts on a painful note, hatred stirs up strife. While not overly descriptive it shares a truth about the world. Strife is everywhere being stirred up by hatred. Hatred between countries, people groups, political factions, and relationships. Strife is basically defined as angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues. Sounds about right. Anger and bitterness are issues that I struggle with almost daily in my own life and I believe them to be common among most people. In a world full of hate and bitterness, Christians are called to live differently.
Jesus said something crazy 2,000 years ago that changed the world. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 27-28 The truly crazy thing about this statement is that Jesus didn’t just state it. He lived, died, and was resurrected to validate what he said. Proverbs tells us that love covers all offenses and that is what we see here. Romans 5:8 puts it this way “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus’ sacrifice for us gives an astonishing example of how ultimately love covers all offenses.
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise."
"Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it." NKJV
When I read this verse my first question was is wisdom in fact gained from hearing instruction? That is what the verse is saying, although the NASB translates the word “hear” to “heed” which does seem an important thing to add. Hearing in this case requires follow- through and listening to instruction without acting on it is useless. James 1:22 says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” When a wise person gives us instruction we should listen to them whether it is hard advice to accept or not. This verse tells us not to disdain instruction. Disdain is the feeling that something is unworthy of one’s consideration or respect. In the next chapter in Proverbs we are told that a wise man will receive instruction and become even wiser.
The difficulty for me now is that I know not all instruction is worth listening too. I have been told many things in my life that are simply untrue, and whether innocently or with malicious intent people have given me poor instruction. If I do hear instruction from someone who I know to be wise -- I should listen to, and then act on their words.
Better even than the words of a wise person, I have the written word of an all-knowing, all-powerful God who has great love for me. That is instruction that is worth listening to, considering, and then heeding.
"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I have been established from everlasting to everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth." NKJV
In Genesis we can read that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Proverbs adds that before God’s works of old and the creation of the earth God had wisdom, a characteristic very central to God. Along with his power and love we read about the heavens and the earth coming about as He speaks them into existence. As he does, he declares what has been made to be good. Verse 30 describes wisdom being with God through creation. “Then I was beside Him, as a master craftsman: And I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” Here is the idea that wisdom was with God and played a role in the creation. I am certainly glad that a wise God assigned the sea its limits, established clouds above, and settled the mountains.
Another verse that comes to my mind on this subject is Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse,” I would qualify God’s wisdom as an invisible attribute that can be seen through nature. Romans goes on to describe unthankful foolish people that did not glorify God and corrupted His image to be like that of a person.
I hope that this is not also a description of us, rather that we can dwell on God’s true attributes and bring him glory.
No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved
"Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house."
Big pictures are made of small brush strokes. Lives are made of individual decisions. Your choices today - choices between heeding instruction or forging your own way - are life and death decisions. Today, when you make the small choices, remember this simple proverb: "Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life."
". . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God." ESV
Some 3,000 years ago, a man was observing something in his own heart that we still struggle with today. At least, I do. I find it ironic and sad that my times of greatest devotion, trust, and prayer are times of hardship or trial. I want to highlight that aspect of this Proverb: He prays against riches, because in the ease of wealth, he may "forget" his God.
I know I do this. When there is little pressure on me, and I am left to my own self-discipline, my worship suffers. My prayer life suffers, my thought-life suffers, my effort to study Scripture suffers. What's worse, I don't really notice until I'm in the hot-seat again. When the going gets tough, and I begin leaning on the Lord, only then do I realize I have been negligent. No wonder he allows trials and challenges in my life.
Does this resonate with you? Do you find yourself devoted to God, clinging to him, and seeking him daily for needed help only when you are suffering, lacking, or overwhelmed by a challenge? Brad Bigney once said, specifically about parenting: "You are either desperate, or delusional." Well, when life is easy, I am so often delusional. I'm not sure if it is comforting or discouraging that the author of this Proverb found the same reality in his own heart millennia ago.
My prayer is simple: I ask God to grow me into the kind of person who is always aware of my needs, always devoted to him, and disciplined enough to seek him earnestly even when I don't feel like it.
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them.
“The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all.” ESV
In some senses, God is the original egalitarian. That is, with God there is no class, no special privilege based on birth or wealth, no “leg-up.” That is why Paul says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All people are equally guilty before the Living God. That is a part of the human legacy. We have all inherited a place in the great cosmic rebellion – whether rich or poor, you are guilty of high treason against the cosmic emperor. That is what you have received from your fathers, and that is your legacy to leave to your children.
Likewise, all people share the dignity of being created by God. More than that, humans have been made in his image. The poorest beggar standing by the off-ramp is created in God's image, designed to be a prince over the world, just as much as the richest and most influential CEO. They may or may not be fulfilling their role equally, but one thing is certainly equal: God created them both, sustains them both, and will judge them both. The human legacy is more than rebellion and condemnation. The human legacy is also one of imago dei – bearing God's image, ruling the earth as his vice-regents. Dominion.
Whether you are rich or poor, whether you make $7/hour or $700, you were created by God to take part in ruling the world. And likewise you are guilty of participating in the great treason of the ages, of trying to depose God and assume his throne for yourself. Yes, in God's economy, some things are totally equal.
"It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” ESV
Men: Choose well before you make wedding vows. I do not say this Proverb is prescriptive, but descriptive. If you choose this kind of wife, especially in today's egalitarian society where you are totally autonomous in your choice of spouse, perhaps you deserve the misery of living with her. Consider well your choice of spouse.
Women: Does your husband constantly hide from you? Do you have to go to the roof-top to find him so you can nag him? You might be this quarrelsome wife. Look in the mirror, and determine if you are a blessing or a curse to your husband. Which would you like to be?
Everyone: Don't be the kind of person people hide from! Your life will be unfruitful, your relationships rotten, your legacy poor and quickly abandoned. Don't be quarrelsome. Bickering, arguing, fighting, all of it, is centered around selfishness, and this is a quick way to waste your life. Instead, look toward the mission, and find a way to be a productive part of the team.
It's a mark of good character to avert strife, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.