Friday, June 16, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 23, A Word To The Wise

Solomon has something to say about the relationship between wisdom and wealth, between foolishness and poverty. Not everyone who is wise will become wealthy by the world's standards, but the one who is wise with money will have his daily needs met. Not everyone who is morally and spiritually reprobate (translated as foolish in the Bible) will be destitute, but the odds are much higher, plus he will be destitute in his soul because he is so far from God. Solomon also has quite a bit to say today about the contrast between the words of the wise and the words of the foolish. We can use our tongues for godly words or for evil words. The wise person will make the correct choice.

"The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor." (Proverbs 10:15) Wealth builds the type of hedge around a person that cushions him from many of the worries and troubles the poor endure. I don't think Solomon is trying to exalt wealth but is simply giving some practical advice. If we work hard and are careful with our money we will have fewer things to worry about in the middle of the night. Granted, there are things that happen to us that we can't avoid, such as a job layoff, but while we have work we should save any money we might have left over at the end of each month because someday it might be needed. Solomon would consider this responsible money management, saving what we can for a rainy day.

Solomon grew up with wealth and he used that wealth to accrue even more, so we might be tempted to feel he can't understand the plight of those of us who have to get up and go to work every morning just to keep the light bill paid and to put food on the table. But this next verse proves that, although he may never have experienced an empty bank account, he has experienced an empty soul. There is more to being wise than he understood during his youth and middle age. Now, as an older man, he realizes that the most important wages we can earn are the wages of righteousness. There is no poverty worse than the poverty of the soul, and he ought to know because he's been there. "The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death." (Proverbs 10:16) Knowing the Lord imputes the righteousness of Christ upon us, which gives us eternal life because He paid the price of our sins for us. But rejecting the Lord leaves us in our sins, and we will pay the price alone.

"Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray." (Proverbs 10:17) The people around us watch how we live. If we are obedient to God's word and to His correction when we mess up, that sets a godly example for others to follow. But if we have a pattern of rushing into the same old sins over and over, and if we display double-mindedness and weakness, they might conclude that it's okay for them to participate in sins too. It's bad enough when we make a mistake, but if we are wise we will learn from it and avoid it in the future. But if we make the same mistake time and time again, never heeding the Lord's word, never learning anything, others may be enticed into the same sin.

Now the king moves on to discussing the power of the tongue. "Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool." (Proverbs 10:18) Solomon says, "Don't be two-faced! Don't pretend to be someone's friend and then talk about them behind their back. Gossip is an ugly thing. Even if the information you've heard about someone is true, you're still gossiping when you repeat that information. You're doing it for your own sinful enjoyment." Amen! I couldn't agree more! A person once said to me, "It isn't gossip if it's true," but I reject that idea entirely. I've been the victim of gossip that was true and I can tell you it was every bit as hurtful as gossip that wasn't true. In fact, it might even have been more hurtful, because I can kind of shrug off rumors that aren't true. I can rest securely in my integrity, knowing I didn't do it. But when someone gossips about a mistake I made or about a mistake a close family member made, what defense do I have? If you've ever had someone gossip about you, someone you trusted and considered a good friend, you know what a betrayal it is. Solomon says, "Don't be a 'frenemy'. A true friend will pray for someone who has made a mistake. A true friend will keep quiet about what they've heard."

The last three verses we will look at today go along with verse 18 above. The tongue can be used for good or for evil, to build people up or to tear them down. Solomon feels it's best to do more listening than talking, for sin often enters into the picture when we chatter constantly. "Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." (Proverbs 10:19) This is a hard verse for me because I'm a chatty kind of person. According to family and friends of the family, I started saying my first clear words at an unusually young age for a baby and my dad used to joke that I had never stopped talking since. In fact, he often laughingly cautioned me that I was going to sunburn my tongue if I didn't stay quiet for a little while. Being chatty has helped me make friends and has been beneficial in working with the public all of my adult life, but it definitely has its downside. I sometimes speak before I think. I have agreed to things that I later wished I hadn't. There have been times when my mouth got so far ahead of my brain that my words came out in unintended ways. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard things coming out of my mouth that I just wanted to kick myself for. So yes, Solomon is absolutely correct, sin is not ended by multiplying words. Sin is multiplied by multiplying words.

"The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value." (Proverbs 10:20) If we placed both a human tongue and a human heart on the scales we would expect the heart to weigh more. But spiritually speaking it doesn't always work that way. The righteous tongue carries more weight than the wicked heart. A wicked heart is useless; nothing good comes from it. But a righteous tongue is valuable because it speaks words of life. It helps those who have lost their way. It encourages those who are down. It shares the gospel, and what could be more valuable than that?

"The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense." (Proverbs 10:21) Godly words have the power to sustain others. They are like water for the thirsty and food for the hungry. But foolish and ungodly words lack any power to help.

I want to be the type of person whose words are able to help others, don't you? The better we know our Redeemer and the more we study the word of God, the more valuable our words will be. We can comfort those who are hurting and encourage those who are in despair. Most of all, we can share the gospel with those who desperately need to know they are deeply loved by a God who was willing to die for them.

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