Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 27, Wisdom Causes Us To Thrive

The king discusses several ways in which godly wisdom causes us to thrive and bear fruit in this world. Wisdom helps us stay out of unwise business deals, it helps us attain honorable names, it wins us the favor of our fellow man, and it bestows upon us blessings from the Lord.

We've noted that money is never far from Solomon's mind. It's never far from anyone's mind, since we need it to provide our basic necessities. He reminds us that the wise person will know better than to enter into a risky financial venture. "Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe." (Proverbs 11:15) Earlier in the book of Proverbs, Solomon warned us against putting up security for a neighbor. He said we must be very cautious about co-signing for anyone, no matter how well we know them. With that in mind, we should completely avoid promising to pay a stranger's debt if he defaults on it. There's probably a good reason why someone we don't know very well would ask us to do this, and it's likely because he has already asked all his family members and friends and they have said no. They have said no because they know him well enough to realize he's not going to pay his debt.

Now Solomon moves on to speak about how our own character improves when we are wise, and he uses a woman as an example. "A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth." (Proverbs 11:16) In Solomon's day women weren't treated equally with men, so it's important to note that he takes the time to point out that many women attain what many men do not: honor. Honor is something that must be earned. It cannot be taken by force. Ruthless men gain wealth by force, and by doing so they may earn the fear of others, but they won't be liked and respected and honored. A good woman earns an honorable name. A woman with a kind heart is respected and loved by those around her. In a time when men were viewed as being far superior to women, Solomon is very forward-thinking when he says, "If I had to choose who I could be in this world, I would rather be a woman who is kind and honorable than to be a man who is ruthless and cruel."

"Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves." (Proverbs 11:17) Our mood doesn't benefit when we give in to grouchiness or bitterness. We just sink further into misery. If we go out of our way to be nice to others when we are feeling blue, we will soon find that we feel more positive about life. I once read an article about a scientific study that indicated that the act of smiling activated "feel good" chemicals in the brain, automatically improving the mood. So we should try to smile even when we don't feel like it for, as Solomon will later say in Chapter 17, "A cheerful heart is good medicine". A smile on our face is healthy for our body and mind.

"A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward." (Proverbs 11:18) The wicked person has deceived himself into believing it's alright to earn his money dishonestly. But he can't count on keeping his dishonest gains. If caught he will have to repay the money along with his debt to society, which may include a prison term. But the one who lives honestly earns a reward that can never be taken away. Even if the righteous person doesn't become wealthy in this life, he is building up treasures in heaven, and those treasures can never be lost.

"Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death. The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but He delights in those whose ways are blameless. Be sure of this: the wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free." (Proverbs 11:19-21) Solomon says, "You can count on God to set things straight. It may look for a while like the wicked are getting away with their cruelty, but their day is coming. God is a righteous Judge. He will reward the wicked for their evil ways, and He will reward the godly for their righteous ways."

The king has something else to say about women, and this time it's about women who are devoid of godly wisdom. "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." (Proverbs 11:22) Personally, I think pigs are kind of cute, but to a Jewish man like Solomon pigs were unclean animals. They were not to be consumed, so Jews did not raise pigs or have any contact with them. Solomon probably didn't think pigs were very cute, so he says, "You can put a gold ring in a pig's snout but it's still a pig. Beautifying it on the outside doesn't change what it is. In the same way, no matter how beautiful an ungodly woman makes herself look on the outside, she's still morally and spiritually corrupt on the inside. You should avoid this type of woman as strictly as you avoid unclean foods. She will corrupt you and make you as bad as she is." The dictionary defines discretion as "the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment, the ability to make responsible decisions, the ability to separate or distinguish". Godly wisdom will provide us with discretion, then we will be beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside.

Women have it rough in this world, for we are constantly told we have to be young enough, thin enough, and sexy enough in order to be of any value. The word of God wholeheartedly refutes this idea. The word of God says the most beautiful way we can adorn ourselves is with the good deeds that come from a godly heart. (1 Timothy 2:10) The Bible says our true beauty is "that of the inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight". (1 Peter 3:4) Solomon was married to many beautiful women, women whose character evidently let him down, since he said out of a thousand women he had not found one who was righteous. (Ecclesiastes 7:28) He was in a unique position to know how valuable a godly woman is, since he had so much trouble finding one. He says, "Beautiful women are a dime a dozen. Because I'm the king of Israel, and because I'm wealthy and famous, I can have any woman I want. But what I'm really looking for is a woman of character. I'm looking for a woman who is beautiful on the inside. I'm looking for a woman who is intelligent and honorable and respectable." The book of Proverbs will end with a discourse about godly women, and it will reassure us that the things the world values in women are not the things God (or a godly man) values in women. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." (Proverbs 31:31)

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