Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Trusting something or someone can be a difficult and threatening act. We usually trust those we know and who have proven themselves to be trustworthy. Yet, there is always a risk because we are fallible people. We want people to trust us, yet there will be times when we will fail because we are not perfect. Though we may not desire to let others down, we sometimes do. Our best intentions do not change the fact that we are fallible. Others are as well. Yet, Solomon points us to something beyond our fallible disposition. A few observations on these well-known verses:
First, the object of our trust is the infallible Triune God. Solomon tells us to trust in the name of the Lord. Unlike those he made, the Lord is trustworthy because he can never fail. He is not like us. He will never fail to keep all his promises. The Lord has made many promises to his redeemed people. We can trust him because he is trustworthy. Yes, it is true that we often have trust issues, even with the Lord. But if we reflect throughout our lives, we will note how often he has kept what he said he would do — and he will never stop doing it. The object of our trust is the Lord God, who made heaven and earth.
Second, the method of our trust is with our entire being. Solomon says to trust the Lord with all our hearts. With every fiber of our being, we are to trust the name of the Lord. Unlike everything else in this world, we can place one hundred percent of our hope and confidence — our trust – in the God who holds all things in his hands.
Third, the fallacy of our understanding of things is presented. Solomon tells us not to lean on our trust in our understanding of things. We are finite beings with minimal understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. Yet, there is One who has those things to an infinite level. The God of heaven has a perfect understanding of all events and circumstances. He is infinitely wise in all that he does. His knowledge is not measurable. Therefore, we must seek the wisdom that comes from him as given to us in his divinely offered Word. To avoid trusting in our understanding of matters, we must seek the perfect wisdom of God.
Fourth, we must pray for those things that are before us. Because we cannot trust our limited understanding of things and do not know what the future holds, we must pray for God’s help and wisdom as we pilgrim this earthly home. Sadly, we often run headlong into matters without bathing them in prayer.
Fifth, as we trust the God of heaven and present our needs and circumstances to him, he has promised to take us where we need to go. Yes, he leads us on the journey and guarantees that we will ultimately arrive at our heavenly rest. Though we often fail to trust him, he will use those failures to bring us safely to the place and station he desires. Still, we must trust, and we must pray. Our infinitely wise and good God will do all he has promised.
Most Christians have some Bible reading plan that they follow. There are many good plans available. The important part is that you are reading God’s Word daily. A Bible reading plan is a tool, nothing more and nothing less. I have found that reading the Bible in large chunks is very helpful. That allows me to read the Bible many times each year, noting the overarching theme and structure of the Word of God and noting facts, people, places, and various events and circumstances through the biblical record. It has benefited me greatly in preaching and teaching. I commend that idea to you.
As a result, I have developed an intensive Bible reading plan for my congregation at Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Evansville, IN. The plan is not dated (I dislike it because it usually brings unnecessary anxiety, especially when I fall behind). If the plan is followed, the Bible can be read thrice yearly. It is intensive, but as has been observed, the Bible can be read in roughly 72 hours (if you did it in one sitting).
I offer this plan to you. Please let me know if you find any mistakes, and I will fix them.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
I have heard the following expression, “I don’t care what people think about me,” many times. I have often used it, mainly when I lived as though I knew it all. I grew up and learned that I don’t know it all, and I do care what people think about me within certain specific circumstances: those times when I can exercise a certain degree of control over it. What do I mean? I mean that there are times when people will not think highly of me due to circumstances they are not fully aware of or do not understand. There are times when I know I am walking with integrity, yet some will besmirch my good name. I cannot control that. Some people are ignorant and speak to matters they don’t understand or know. They are annoying, to be sure, but I rarely care about those things. What is important to me- and should be important to you – is how you have some control over your reputation and good name. Sadly, many give little thought to their reputation and wander into matters that only leave them with a ruinous one with little to no respect from anyone. The list of those times is legion, frankly, and it would cause a very long article on this subject. Most of us inherently know what they are because we are moral creatures made in the image of God. Of course, that requires an honest evaluation of your life. However, there are two items to consider:
First, to have a good name, you must first desire it. Many people, sadly, do not give much thought to this subject. They wander into stupid issues without considering the morality of the matter. Then they wonder why people lose respect for them and blame others for their sordid opinions. That is foolishness. Many people give more thought to what they are going to have for lunch than they do the way they are living. They steal, lie, twist the truth, get into compromising circumstances, etc., and then wonder why people think less of them. The blame resides, first, in the fact that they did not care enough about their reputation to walk carefully through the various affairs of life. The second reason is below.
Second, if you desire a good name, you will consider your life. You will know your frame and know that you are dust. All of us are weak, unprofitable servants of the Lord. We easily stray from the life God has commanded us to live. We are like sheep, and the pasture God has us is not always pleasing, and we then jump over the fence into a field not made for us. In other words, we do not consider the consequences of our behavior. How often do we consider things beyond our noses? Most of us live moment by moment and rarely consider the implications of our choices and actions. Therefore, you must consider your life and behavior. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is a life motto for all Christians: “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Therefore, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to do glorifying to God?” Putting it more simply: “Are my actions disobedient to the plain teachings of the Bible?” Of course, things are not always easy to anticipate. Life is messy. A person concerned with a good reputation will first consider the name of the Lord and then pray for wisdom.
No one said having a good name is easy. Some people are ignorant and will draw conclusions without any basis or reason. Some, however, deserve the reputation they get because they do not carefully consider their lives and frame them according to the standards of God’s holy Word.
Better is a poor person who walks in with integrity
than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
We know what it is to compare two things. For instance, I can compare an apple to an orange. I see the difference. One is red (typically), and the other, well, orange. The skin is very different, so much so that one makes me itch and the other doesn’t. Of course, there are other comparisons. Due to my allergy to apples (the skin, primarily), I must know the difference. One bothers me physically, but the other does not at all.
Solomon makes a comparison in this verse before us today. The comparison is between the person who walks with integrity and the one who doesn’t. It compares the wise person (implied) and the fool. It compares the one who uses his speech with integrity and the fool who doesn’t. The question: Which one is to be desired? Of course, most professing Christians will immediately say: “the first one!”. That’s good. Yet, upon closer examination, it seems apparent that they prefer the fool’s way rather than the wise way. A few observations:
First, Solomon says it is better to walk with integrity. The term itself is related to the use of speech, but it doesn’t have to end there. What does it mean to walk with integrity? According to one dictionary, it is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” That is, the wise person strives to live a morally ethical life. He is conscious that the world is a dangerous place and that an enemy seeks to destroy his reputation. He knows his frame and knows that he is a creature of dust, prone to every sin imaginable. As a result, he erects boundaries and establishes checkpoints in his life to guard his heart and actions from any effort of the Evil One to ruin him. An illustration may help. I am a pastor. As a result, I have to interact with members of the opposite sex in various circumstances as I seek to fulfill my pastoral duties. That means I sometimes have to counsel ladies. Yet, because I understand the human heart, I refuse to counsel them alone, always having a third party (typically my wife or an elder) with me. Some may consider this to be “old fashioned.” No. It is prudent. There are many circumstances in this life where a Christian who desires to walk with integrity must avoid appearances of evil and not give room to the Evil One.
Second, Solomon says it is better to frame your life with integrity. The term he uses (walk) is a term of enduring practice. It is a consistent effort to walk according to moral uprightness daily. It is an understanding that it is not something we do once, and it is over. It is a daily occurrence, something to relive and repeat daily.
Third, Solomon implies the source of that moral uprightness. No, we do not get it from the world. Our moral frame should be fashioned according to the Word of God. For instance, we know an enemy is roaming about seeking whom he may devour. We are told to put on the whole armor of God because we are in a war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. The source of that which is moral and frames our ethics is the Word of God that teaches us that we, on our own, are no match for the Evil One. Yet, greater is he that lives in me than he that lives in the world. Therefore, we must use the means God has given, keeping ourselves from unnecessary situations in which the Evil One may find occasion to do us harm. We root our ethics, therefore, in the Scriptures and not in the wisdom of this age.
Fourth, Solomon compares the wise person to the fool. A fool doesn’t prepare for battle. A fool says silly things like, “I could never sin that way.” A fool pretends they are not at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. A fool uses crooked speech that proves his true heart as a fool. A fool makes boastful statements about how they would never do “such and such.” They don’t qualify it. They merely state it. Peter was like that. He would often say things before speaking. In one case, he proudly stated that he would never deny Christ — but he did. A fool thinks too highly of himself and his heart. He is not humble at all. His lips defy his professed wisdom and leave him as he is: a fool.
Apple or orange? Wise or the fool? Examine your life. Evaluate your actions and circumstances. Are you walking with integrity, or are you skirting dangerous issues, thinking somehow (or even saying it out loud) that you are not susceptible to the efforts of the Evil One? How you answer those questions will tell you if you are wise or a fool.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Perhaps you have heard the expression, “Those are so good that you can’t eat just one.” I have said that occasionally after wrapping my teeth around a good potato chip or other delicacy. Before long, you have eaten the entire bag of chips because they are so good. In some sense, they are habit-forming. Of course, eating enough of that type of food will not be suitable for your health. Gossip is much the same way. Because of our sinful nature, something is pleasing about listening to the tale-bearer who has nothing good to say about another person. Of course, it often ends in ruin for the one gossiping and the object of their slander. The danger of a sinful tongue is repeated over and over throughout the book of Proverbs. It has the potential to destroy lives and ruin churches. It often leads to destroyed reputations (I know, you don’t care what others think about you – a lie you tell yourself). Yet, it doesn’t have to happen. The fact is that those given to gossip have a much bigger problem: a lack of self-control. You see, gossip is merely a symptom of a gaping hole in the life of the talebearer. The real problem, at the very least, is an inability to exercise self-control. Gossip requires at least two people to sustain its dangerous course: the one offering the slander and the one listening to it. It is the latter that Solomon describes in this verse. It is the one who, for whatever reason, relishes the idea of listening to a bad report about another person. Admit it, they enjoy it, or they would not allow it to happen. I doubt I would continue to eat a potato chip I didn’t like. I would eat one and realize it is disgusting and throw them away. A few comments:
First, if you are prone to listening to gossip, you must admit that you enjoy it. The words of a talebearer are delicious to you, and they sink down into the pit of your belly, satisfying the deeds of the flesh. Second, if you are prone to listening to gossip, you need to realize that it is a vile sin before the God of heaven. The damage often done by listening to another’s evil tongue is incalculable. Who knows where that evil message has gone? If a person is a talebearer, they have likely told more people than you. Once they start, they don’t know how to stop. So, they spread it beyond your ears. Worse, they probably gossip about you as well. A slanderer is not a person of integrity. They are described as an abomination in Proverbs 6. Sure, it is easy to justify things. You can tell yourself that you are not the one who spread the lies. Yet, you gave room to it when you listened. Instead, it would be best if you had stopped it in its tracks and cut off the head of the snake. Third, there is a solution: Do not listen to it! Warn the person that what they are doing is a sin and call them to repent. Advise them of the heinous nature of gossip and then warn them that if it persists, you will follow the process of rectifying it by using the words of Matt. 18:15-17. You see, the danger of gossip is too great to ignore. It doesn’t go away on its own. A gossip will gossip. That’s what they do. Unless the Lord does a great work in them, they will continue spreading their “delicious morsels” around until someone eats of them and, as a result, destroys others. As a Christian, you have a duty to call people out for this sin. You do not have the right to eat their delicious morsels. They will sink down into the inner parts of your being and ruin you and others.
The Westminster Larger Catechism has something to say about this subject.
Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence; suborning false witnesses; wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause; out-facing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence; calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery; concealing the truth; undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale-bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vain-glorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defence; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt; fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report; and practicing or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.
The one listening to a talebearer has a duty to protect the good name of the one being slandered. He has a duty to call out the iniquity of the one spreading tales and slander. He has the responsibility to resist listening to an evil report about another person. Why is it that people rarely call out their neighbor, friend, or family member for this sin? Because they enjoy listening to it as much as the talebearer enjoys spreading it. It will only stop once someone stops it. You are not responsible for the words of another, but you are responsible for what you hear, and if it is evil, a slanderous comment, a lie, or talebearing, then you must call that person to account for their actions. You are not responsible for what they do with your rebuke, but you are responsible to do it.
Of all the sins people in the church commit, this is the number one reason for church splits and disunity within the body of Christ. My friends, gossip, and slander; talebearing should never mark a Christian. Yet, we should not be foolish to think it doesn’t happen. It does happen, which is why the Word of God warns us about it. Each of us must evaluate the use of our tongue and ears and mortify the deeds of the flesh.
An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
What is it about gossip and slander that excites the human ear and heart? Let’s face it: most people seem to delight in spreading evil about others. True or not, accurate or inaccurate, people relish the idea of destroying the name of another, usually so they can defend their behavior or attitudes. The sin of the tongue is destructive in many ways, and it is one of the reasons why Scripture spends so much time warning us about it.
In this proverb, Solomon wisely points out two evils. It may seem that he is only describing one, and the focus is more on one than the other. Yet, there are two evils here. First, there is the evil actions of wicked lips. Gossip doesn’t have much chance if others would stop it in its tracks and rebuke the one doing it as the evil that it is. It is interesting how Solomon describes the lips of the one spreading lies as wicked. He doesn’t pull any punches. He says their lips are wicked because they are wicked. We do not typically want to think of others in those terms. We look and see these people doing other things that are good and moral. We often make excuses for people who lie, slander, and gossip because they are not as bad as they could be. Yet, Solomon says that what they are doing is evil. The evil they are doing flows from their heart, which is wrong. Why is this abomination so severely categorized in the Bible? Because it destroys lives. It can ruin relationships, another person’s good name, their job, livelihood, and churches. The second issue pertains to those who listen. They are described as an evildoer. Gossip and slander require an audience. Sadly, most people are glad to listen and, sometimes, spread it further. The only thing that stops gossip is to cut it off at its source. An evildoer is more worried about what the other person might think if they call the gossip out for their sin. Rarely do they worry about the good name of their brother and sister.
So, what do you do if you are confronted with “wicked lips”? You stop them! Do not listen to the lies of the evildoer. Refrain from giving them an audience. Call them to repent. An excellent practical tip in this area is to tell the person, “Would you like me to go get the person you are slandering and allow them to listen in on this conversation?” Most people would be horrified at such a proposition. What should you do if you have listened to the lies of others about another? There is always hope in Christ. You seek his forgiveness and endeavor through all the means he grants to repent of this sin, turning away from it.
Yes. Slander and gossip — wicked lips – have the power to destroy. God’s people should be busy putting an end to this abomination. How many forest fires were started by a tiny spark?