An Observation, and a Wise Example

Somebody you’d like to “tell off?” You think he needs a piece of your mind—a good talking to? Think twice; but first, read the following:

When there are many words, sin is unavoidable.
Proverbs 10:19

Most of Proverbs is filled with wise observations given in FYI form (as in this one).  That is to say, they are not in the form of commands, but of information that a wise person, wishing to be wiser, will pay attention to. He will apply them as he sees need to do so.

These proverbs don’t promise anything when setting forth truth in this form—they merely tell you what is happening (generally) in God’s world—in relation to Him and others. The wise will wisely apply what he learns from such observations.

The proverb that you are examining is plain enough—but don’t stop with it. Instead, use the understanding that we have reached about many of the Proverbs from chapter 10 on, and begin to learn how to live wisely as a result.

Choosing Friends

Here is a word of wisdom for you:

Stay away from a foolish man; you will gain no knowledge from his speech.     Proverbs 14:7  (CSB)

One of the issues you should consider in choosing friends is what sort of truth you will gain from the choice. It may seem wise to befriend a foolish person for various other reasons (his wealth, his notoriety, etc., etc.) but here is one of the most important criteria to consider in making the choice: what will be his influence upon you?

His speech, the proverb infers, will influence you—but if he is a fool (by God’s standards) what you learn from him will not be “knowledge.”  That is to say, knowledge of what it is important, good and uplifting.  He will not be a source that you can trust to enhance your love and knowledge of God!

Check out your friends, and evaluate them according to this biblical injunction.  How do they fare? What are you learning from your associations with them?

“I’m not being influenced wrongly by them,” you say. Wrong!

All associations are influential: You either influence another or are influenced by him. If you are unaware of his influence—either positive or negative—it is probably of the latter sort.  Do some checking: has your friend led you closer to God’s holiness or away from it?  Are you more enlightened about His will because of his friendship—or not? It may be one of the most important questions you have to consider.  Failure to do so almost surely will end up badly.

 

Responsibility

Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is empty; But an abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox.—Proverbs 14:2 (HCSB)

The easy way is to avoid responsibility is to take on as few obligations as possible.. Having an ox to help with the plowing also means taking responsibility for his upkeep—filling the trough with food.  Supplying it; hauling it, having it there when needed at the right time, etc. It’s easier to avoid all of this by having an empty (lit., “clean”) trough,

But to fail to assume responsibility means that one fails to reap the benefits that come through it. This principle can be applied widely to all sorts of work that requires added responsibility to receive additional benefits.

But there are lazy people who make no effort to assume responsibilities beyond what a minimum of effort requires. Are you one of them? A Christian ought not be. You should endeavor to do all that God has enabled you by strength and opportunity to do to live a thoroughly responsible life.

Why? There are a number of answers to that question; I’ll mention one:  so that from the abundance which you receive you will be able to help others who, because of their lack of such endowments, cannot keep up on their own. We’re not speaking of helping other lazy persons, but those who truly are in need.

Is your oxen’s trough full—or clean?

Our usual Friday series of Dr. Adams’ articles on Preaching is on hiatus until after the Christmas holidays.

What Is Your Focus?

The question is worth asking because, in time, it may make all the difference in your life.

Perhaps you don’t have much of a focus—that’s equally as harmful to you as having a wrong one. Listen to what God says:

Wisdom is the focus of the perceptive; But a fool’s eyes turn to the ends of the earth –Prov. 17:24 (HCSB)

What do the words in the second line mean?

There is no focus in your life if you are looking first at one thing then at another—never able to settle on any one thing above others. There are lots of people like that today: whether it is in determining what sort of work God has suited them for, what their goals for life are, etc. They are at sixes and sevens.

Focus—that’s the key to success, the Proverb suggests.

So, how about it? What is the focus of your life? First, it ought to be upon God and how you can please Him.  This focus develops as you contemplate His goodness to you.  But that larger focus must then be narrowed to what ways you may specifically honor Him the most. Of these, perhaps you will discover one or two matters (probably related to one another) that will be your major, fulltime focus.

So, what do you focus upon? Think hard. If here is nothing—you have the sort of life that briefly focuses everywhere and really focuses nowhere. And that’s the kind of life that God—in this Proverb—deplores!

Pride and Humility

When pride comes disgrace follows; But with humility comes wisdom.     Proverbs 11:2 (CSB)

What a wonderful verse—so clear; so cogent. Everywhere around us people speak proudly.  How the warning of this verse needs trumpeting about!

But it’s the second half of the verse that I wish to emphasize: humility is the way to wisdom. How is that? What is the writer telling us?

The answer is simple: unless one is humble enough to day “I don’t know,” he will not learn the facts and skills that are a part of God’s wisdom. Until a person admits his lacks, he is not ready to receive anything from anyone else. That is true in everyday life among men. But it is particularly so when it comes to learning the true wisdom of God.  You can be filled to overflowing with such wisdom if you are only willing to submit to the humble discipline of going to the Scriptures with an open heart and mind, anxious to be taught those things that you don’t—but need–to know.

Think about this the next time you open your Bible!

Good Intentions

“But I meant well” isn’t enough. Listen to this Proverb:

If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning,
It still will be counted as a curse to him.     (Proverbs 27:13)

“Wake me up to tell me something good? It had better be real, real good or else!”

That’s how most feel, and what the proverb is getting at. Things must be done appropriately. And this applies especially to those things we do in God’s Name. Take witnessing for Christ, for example. You can do this well or poorly—depending upon how appropriately you present the Gospel.

Money, etc . . .

A man with valuable possessions, but without understanding is like the animals that perish.   Psalm 49: 20

What a terrible picture!  Can you see a dead skunk or rabbit in the middle of the road when you read this? Well you ought to. When it comes to an end, then that is it—it has no hope of anything beyond death.  While the man in question survives death (unlike the animal), he has no hope of anything good—only judgment and eternal suffering apart from God.  You who trust in your money—think about this verse.  If you do, you will want to come to Jesus Christ Who alone can provide, by His death for sinners, eternal life.

Boomerang

The proverb puts it this way:

The one who searches for what is good finds favor,
but if someone looks for trouble, it will come to him   (11:27)

What he looks for—i.e., trouble he can cause another—in the end, only comes back upon himself.

A pretty strong warning to trouble-makers—don’t you think?

Proverbs, Again

People are funny: when it comes to selecting friends they rarely do so. Rather, they allow themselves to drift into relationships at work, or elsewhere that, in the long run, may prove foolish. If the book the Book of Proverbs warns about one thing it is the associations we make. In 22:24 it warns,

Don’t make friends with an angry man, and don’t be the companion of a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways, and entangle yourself in a snare [trap]

Two chapters later, Proverbs 24:1 goes on to say,

Don’t envy evil men or desire to be with them; for their hearts plan violence, and their words stir up trouble.

Here’s another (23:20):

Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine, or with those who gorge themselves on meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will become poor, and grogginess will cloth them in rags.

There are warnings about associating with fools, troublemakers, violent persons, and on and on.

“Is Proverbs all negative?”

Not on your life! I’ve just chosen a few that are—by far, the positive content outweighs the negative. But we all need to be warned from time to time. You will find the way of life that pleases God and brings joy and happiness spelled out in the book—without reading too many chapters either!

“Sounds intriguing!”

Hardly a book that’s more so. But all of the teachings in Proverbs are for those who can keep them; that means, for believers in Jesus Christ who have the Spirit of God at work producing fruit in their lives (Gal. 5:22ff. ). Do you know what to do if someone speaks harshly to you? Well, Proverbs 15:1 will tell you. Look it up! Do you know how to keep yourself out of trouble? Read 22:3. Do your kids need discipline? Check out 22:15, and a number of other passages about the matter. Do you lack wisdom? There is a chapter and a half about how to become wise—search it out. As a matter of fact, why not read all of Proverbs? You could do so in a fairly short time. Mark those you want to return to in order to reflect upon more fully—then do so. Take a copy along on your next cruise to read when you’ve eaten to excess and you’ve become bored. It will be just the thing to straighten you up!

feedback@nouthetic.org

Proverbs

The book of Proverbs was written to impart God’s wisdom to His saints. It is not a book of moralisms; it is God’s input on many, if not most, facets of life. Following the proverbs is to be following God’s will so as to serve Jesus Christ.

As such, the Christian puts himself in peril to neglect it.

Moreover, it is an exceedingly important way to learn, remember, and utilize truth. Most proverbs are portable, packaged, and pictured principles. A great chunk of life, analyzed by the Lord for us, is squeezed into a small package called a proverb. The principle is illustrated, in many cases, so that it becomes concrete enough to understand, remember, and implement. Your task is to find and unpack those that you need at the moment, and use them. The picture illustrating the principle will help you do so.

I call proverbs portable truth because, being small enough to grasp quickly, and memorize easily, they can be carried in the heart for use whenever necessary. In 22:18 the writer urges,

keep them within you, and . . . on your lips to use.

They are useful to keep you from sin and to help you handle difficult situations. They are easy to remember, as I said. Take for example, Proverbs 26:16

The sluggard dips his hand into the bowl; he is too lazy to return it to his mouth.

This humorous picture makes its point without any elaboration. Moreover, whenever you think of laziness, having read this proverb, the picture will probably leap into your mind as it does in mine. The principle is, of course, that you ought not begin something that, because of your laziness, you don’t complete. How often in our churches could the proverb be used to describe (or awaken) people who are too lazy to finish a task!

On the other hand, there is the picture in Proverbs 17:14 that tells you when to quit something you ought not be doing in the first place. Check it out.

Why not read a chapter a day in Proverbs each month (it lends itself to such a program), determined to find and remember at least one portable truth from each chapter. In months when you have more proverbs than days, double up at the end—it won’t take that much more time!

feedback@nouthetic.org