Two Evils: Proverbs 17:4

Two Evils: Proverbs 17:4

An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
    and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
Proverbs 17:4

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? 

Discerning Your Way: Proverbs 14:8

Discerning Your Way: Proverbs 14:8

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
    but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Proverbs 14:8, ESV

Many of us use a GPS when traveling. We do that so we do not get lost. Most of the time, that system works well, and it gets us where we want to go. The same is true for life, as Solomon points out in this verse. This wise saying mentions two types of people: the wise man who is prudent in his activities, and the foolish one who is led astray by the folly of his errors. A few observations may be helpful as we meditate on these words.

First, the wise person exercises prudence in his life.  What does it mean to be “prudent.” It can mean, ” the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.” It can also mean, “caution or circumspection as to danger or risk.” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). The Hebrew term carries the idea of being “shrewd or sensible.” The point is that a wise man considers his actions (“his way”) and contemplates the road as well as the end of that road. A wise person considers the end as much as the means and reflects on it in such a way as to keep himself from danger. Second, the wise person does not rely on his understanding of matters in this life but, instead, heed the directions given by the Word of God, and those appointed to shepherd his soul. Imagine you plugged an address into your GPS but then ignored it because you think you know better. In most cases, that leads to getting lost. A wise person does not rely on his experience (as helpful as that can be) but on the Word of God written and preached to guide his life. Third. The wise person discerns his way because this life is wrought with great danger. The wise person knows that he lives in a fallen world, and the reality of indwelling sin mars his understanding of things. Furthermore, the wise person knows that he faces a mighty Enemy who desires to see him fall from the way of righteousness to the pit of ruin. 

On the other hand, the fool has no regard for any of these things. He rarely, if ever, contemplates his path, considering the means and the end. Instead, he focuses on his understanding of matters, often justifying them in such a way that his heart becomes deceived by his thoughts. The fool rarely listens to the counsel of the Word of God or those men charged with his care. After all, why should he? He knows better. The fool does not contemplate the danger of this life and thinks he is above the efforts of the Evil One to ruin him. 

God’s people must be wise and prudent in all their actions. Therefore, meditate on the treasures of the Word of God and seek to apply them to your current circumstances. Do they agree with the guidance given by the Holy Spirit? If not, alter your course. Listen to the wisdom of counselors, especially those charged with the care of your soul, as those who will give an account to the Lord for the guidance they offer you. Do not dismiss them easily. Indeed, contemplating one’s ways is hard work, but it is necessary if you desire to avoid ruin and destruction. Don’t be a fool. Discern your ways and your actions. 

A Wise Son (and Daughter): Proverbs 13:1

A Wise Son (and Daughter): Proverbs 13:1

A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
    but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Proverbs 13:1, ESV

Solomon begins this section of his wise sayings by addressing his son, seeking to impart wisdom to him. There are many times he does that throughout the book of Proverbs. However, this instruction and effort to teach and guide is not reserved only for sons — daughters should also take note of this, lest they become fools in their understanding and actions. A few items to note:

First, it is the wise son (or daughter) who listens. Solomon uses the word “hear” in this verse, but the idea is not restricted to the child’s physical ability but to exercise what is being taught. Of course, this assumes a willingness to hear and do what is heard. Second, the instruction doesn’t come from just anyone. No, the instruction is given from a father to a child. The assumption is that the father desires to impart good things to his children as one who has learned from his father before him and is now learning from his heavenly Father. Fathers (and mothers) have lived much longer than their children. Of course, that is obvious. What is often not so apparent to the child is that this means they have years of knowledge and experience stored up. It is from that deep well that parents teach and instruct their children. The wise son (and daughter) listen to those things because they come from one who has walked the road they are currently traveling. Third, the instruction is not the wisdom of this age. Solomon was taught by his Father, King David. He was a godly man (but still a man) who learned from his father and so forth. He also learned from his heavenly Father. He was a man after God’s own heart. Presumably, David taught Solomon the things of the Lord. That means the instruction is rooted firmly in the unchanging Word, which contains the wisdom of the omniscient God. Fourth, sometimes, that instruction will contain rebuke and correction. Parents must correct their children. It is their responsibility to emulate their heavenly Father in loving discipline. If that is avoided, the child will not grow to be wise of heart and action but rude, self-centered, and godless. Yet, like the instruction before it, the child must listen. Rebuke that is not heeded profits very little, if anything. You can typically tell when a child is resisting the rebuke of his parents. Solomon calls it “scoffing.” What is a scoffer? According to one source, a scoffer is “a person who mocks or makes fun of someone or something, often of religion or moral values.” When a child is not listening to the instruction and rebuke of his parents, he is not wise but a fool. No, the child may not always understand everything the parent is teaching. No, the child may not always like what is being said. Yet, a wise son (or daughter) listens to their God-given parents because they know more than they do. Only a fool pretends to know more than those who have gone before them.  

A wise son (or daughter) will trust the instruction of their parents. A wise son (or daughter) will receive correction, rebuke, and discipline because a wise son (or daughter) knows it is for their soul’s good. 

The Way of a Fool: Proverbs 12:15

The Way of a Fool: Proverbs 12:15

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15

There are several items to consider from this verse. First, as people, we are not an island of one. We live with others and are not isolated from the rest of history. Many who have gone before us have many life experiences that teach those who come after them. Second, to listen to advice, one must first ask for it. Sadly, due to the human heart’s pride, we do not seek advice from others easily. Third, when seeking advice, we must do so from others who are wise and discerning and are firmly rooted in the Word of God. Fourth, as we seek advice, we must be willing to listen to it even if it conflicts with what we desire to do. Many people seek advice only to confirm their own desires and wants. That is not advice-seeking. Fifth, listening requires doing. More is needed to hear advice. We must be ready to act on it.

To refuse to seek advice is to be a fool. To seek advice from the wise and discerning and not heed it is to be a fool.

As a pastor, I am often in a position to give people advice. Sometimes, it is sought, and sometimes, it is offered unsolicited out of concern for those charged to my care. Sometimes, people listen. Often, they do not. I have learned many things as a pastor, and one (of many) seems clear: Many people do not want to be shepherded. They are like the fools described by Solomon. They are not interested in being corrected, advised, or rebuked. Of course, it isn’t that a pastor is infallible. Certainly not. Yet, the pastor does have the faithful operation of the Spirit of God, enabling him to function in his office as that ordained man seeking to guide the sheep. I know many people who refuse to listen. They know better. They are fools. I have lost count of the times I have advised people only to watch them refuse to listen and fall into grievous sins and circumstances. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Of course, pastors are not immune to being fools. They need advice from others who have gone before them. They must listen to those men who have faithfully pastored churches over the long haul. They should heed the direction of the wiser and more experienced among them. No, pastors will not always agree, but they should be willing to listen carefully lest they become a fool as well. 

Daily Proverb for August 10, 2023: Proverbs 10:4-5

Daily Proverb for August 10, 2023: Proverbs 10:4-5

A slack hand causes poverty,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
    but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Prov. 10:4-5

We live in a world that prides itself in doing as little as possible and, if called on to do anything at all, doing it with as little effort and diligence as possible. For the Christian, that attitude is reprehensible. The Christian, of all people, should be the most diligent in whatever they put their hands to do. Yet, I have witnessed as a pastor and, in my previous life as a retail manager, that some of the laziest people on the earth are those who name the name of Christ. In Solomon’s words, they are those that possess a “slack hand.” Sure, they do things. It isn’t like they stay in bed all day. But, whatever they do, they do it speedily, half-heartedly, with as little effort as they can muster. After all, they don’t want to be bothered with such things because, in many cases, the things they are called on to do (like clean the house, the fellowship hall at the church, the church building, their room, their job) are not usually pleasant. Work has become a burden due to the fall of man into sin. It was not always that way. It is that way now. However, that does not mean that we should run away from work. It does not mean we should avoid it and, if called on to do it, do it half-heartedly. I know people who work that way and whose behavior defies the God who saved them. After all, we are told by the apostle to do all that we do as unto the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31). Why are Christians lazy? There may be many reasons. I suspect for some, they are that way because when they were being raised, they were never called on to do much, and if they were, the path of least resistance was the goal. The goal was never excellence. It was to get it done with as little pain and frustration as possible. That is not diligence. That is laziness. For others, they may not understand the value of hard work and the pride that comes from doing a job well, as unto the Lord. As Christians, our work is done for him. What does the Lord Jesus deserve from you? Does he deserve a half-hearted approach to cleaning your bedroom, the bathroom, the house, the church, secular employment, etc.? It seems to me that he gave all for you. You ought to work as hard as possible, with the highest degree of diligence and excellence for him. 

How can you ascertain if you are lazy? A few comments:

  1. You do a job just to get it done. You are not very interested in doing it well as long as it is over. 
  2. When you are at work, you spend more time watching the clock than focused on your responsibilities.
  3. You must always be asked to do things and, when asked, roll your eyes about it (in your head or face). 
  4. When you are asked to do something, you run away from it instead of attacking the labor and doing it well. 
  5. You leave things to be done by someone else, expecting others to work for you. 

Some suggestions:

Parents, if you have children in the house, teach them to be diligent in everything they put their hands to do. Teach them that they serve Christ in their homework, classwork, room cleaning, house cleaning, and whatever else they do. Give them responsibilities around the house, and don’t tolerate a half-done job. If you teach them those values today, they will pay off in dividends later in life. No one likes a lazy person. As an adult, that will be expressed in your child getting fired from their job. 

If you find that you are as described in these verses, repent of those things and seek the Lord’s face for help and relief. He will forgive and grant you the zeal to work diligently for him. Notice how Solomon expresses it when he says that those who are diligent in labor are prudent. They are wise because they will not lack what they need. Laziness is a sin of the heart. Therefore, seek the Lord’s face, ask him if you are lazy, and turn away from it before you starve to death. 

Daily Proverb for August 8, 2023: Proverbs 8:10-11

Daily Proverb for August 8, 2023: Proverbs 8:10-11

Take my instruction instead of silver,
    and knowledge rather than choice gold,
 for wisdom is better than jewels,
    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
Proverb 8:10-11

We value things in our lives: our homes, cars, relationships, our church, and a host of other items that we probably could not list if we tried. We have unique items, of course, that have been passed down from generation to generation. Then there are those pictures we value, protect, and probably place in an album for safekeeping (or store in the cloud). Whatever those things are, they are valuable to us, and we would be heartbroken to lose them or see them ruined. 

The same can be said  — Indeed, ought to be said, about the wisdom and knowledge of God. We value many things, but the question these verses press on our minds, hearts, and will is: “Do we value that which is most important?” Proverbs 8 has often been referred to as one that describes the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the full embodiment of perfect wisdom. In him, we find hope and rest; in him, we find true knowledge and instruction. He declared that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jn. 14:6). Therefore, what we should prize and value, more than anything else, is him! Note that we should desire him, and in him, we find all the wisdom and knowledge necessary for the affairs of this life. We desire to possess Christ in all his beauty and majesty. We want to know Christ in all his glory, revealed in the Holy Scriptures. We are thankful for the blessings that flow from this knowledge: peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, an increase of grace, and perseverance to the end. We are grateful that in him is all the wisdom and knowledge one needs. Most adopted children of the Most High would quickly agree with those statements and acknowledge with their lips that they are true and needful. Yet, I wonder, does that knowledge cause you to pursue Christ as he is offered in the Word of God? What does that look like? 

First, it is demonstrated by a desire to hear him as he is communicated in the Scriptures. The wisdom of God is poured out in the books of the Bible. There, we learn of the mind of the Spirit who wrote them. We cannot expect the right knowledge and wisdom if we do not spend time in them each day, meditating on the glory of Christ, the commandments of our God, and the precepts and principles that are found within. 

Second, do you take advantage of the means the all-wise Savior provides for you each Lord’s Day? Do you prioritize your week to ensure you are sitting at the Savior’s feet, listening to his voice as the Word of God is read and preached? There, God uniquely meets with those who desire his wisdom more than all the other treasures of this life. Do you focus your entire day around his worship, public and private? Perhaps you struggle with other things that are not wrong in and of themselves. Yet, are they worth missing Christ and the wisdom and instruction he desires to give you? Are those things worth your soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul? 

These verses probe us and demand an answer from us. They ask us: “Who is your first love?” They require a response. Where your treasure – those things you find meaningful and valuable – is where your heart will be. Where your heart is, is where you will give your attention and time. There are many good things in life, but nothing can compare with Christ. Do you prize him above all things? Is there proof of that?