This might be one of my favorite Proverbs, simply because there are so many New Testament parallels that we can lift up. Let’s start at vss.6-7 where we find that a person should never put themselves too close to the seat of honor, but rather there is more dignity in being asked to move forward. We find the same message given to us in Luke 14:7-11 where Jesus tells us to always put ourselves in the back row so that we can be moved up, and not vice-versa. The opposite of this can be seen in James 2:3 where the wealthy person is asked to sit up front in worship. Yeah, that isn’t going to fly either.
This reminds me of this commercial which was popular so many years ago:
Basically Proverbs here is telling us: don’t be a Bob Uecker.
But there is also vs.22 which is picked up again by Paul in Romans 12 and especially verses 9-21 where we actually read in vs.20 a direct reference to treating your enemies with respect and assistance because by doing so you will be heaping coals upon their head. Who doesn’t want to heap coals on their enemies’ heads?
Once again this chapter is broken down into two sections. The second part is called further sayings of the wise and it begins at vs. 23. I couldn’t help as I was reading it to think of those who are convinced the stronger they are, the louder they are, the more effective they can be. There are those who believe that they are able to talk themselves out of anything, even those things which are fundamentally wrong and even evil. We read a castigation to those who would say to the wicked that they are innocent. The implication is not that they are saying it to the wicked, but rather trying to justify them to the rest of the world.
The beginning of this chapter once again gives us the juxtaposition between wisdom and folly.
This is a real beating on those who drink in excess and focuses on alcohol as the source of their enjoyment. The author draws a straight line between those who drink and those who have woe, sorrow, strife, complaints, are wounded, and have redness of eyes. He equates alcohol to a snake which at first might be pretty and almost hypnotic, but when you actually get close to it, and try it out, it bites you and leaves you bleeding and about to die. The author looks at alcohol as an addiction which cannot be broken and which drives the person to ruin.
This is not the only place where literature describes alcohol in such a way. But it is very strongly worded her. We see this approach especially at the end of this chapter. In the middle we hear a warning to not be among the “winebibbers”. Now, that is a new word, and one that I have never heard before.
At the beginning of the chapter he warns the reader to stay away from the wealthy who take pride in their wealth and find their identity only in their wealth. There is a warning in vs.10 about encroaching on the fields of orphans and that if you dare do that then their redeemer will come to their aid and you will not be able to stand up against him. Throughout these chapters you have these random warnings about alcohol, and prostitutes, and pride, but then you have this wonderful verse which reminds us of what Jesus’ primary message about the kingdom of God was all about. It was about making sure that everyone knows that they are welcome to the banquet table. I like that.
It is almost as if this chapter contains two distinct parts. The first part goes from vs.1-16, and then the second part goes from 17-29. In the first section I want to focus on vs.9 which states that those who are generous are blessed, because they share their bread with the poor. The blessing that comes with identifying yourself as a child of God, and then being able to identify all other people the same way, regardless of the means that we have accessible to us, is a blessing ultimately to us. Our ability to help others ultimately is an incredible blessing to us. We should never feel entitled because we have the resources. We should never feel as if people should be coming to us on our terms because we have the means. No, instead, God has placed us in that situation as someone who has an opportunity to be blessed because they have a task to do which is God inspired. We are the ones who are blessed when we bless others with material goods.
There are a couple posts where Solomon lifts up what he would call the misery of being with a wife who is either contentious or fretful. It seems like Solomon probably had some life experiences which made him calloused to the role that women, and especially wives, played in his day and age. A big part of that would have been the number of wives which he had. This had to, I am sure, translate into a disrespect and view of women that was not healthy at all. Solomon was very flawed and those flaws do reveal themselves even in these Scriptures.
If you look at vs.17 you will find a counter intuitive truth. If you love pleasure you will always be needy. If pleasure is your pursuit, then you will never have enough and you will never be satisfied. That is a sad state of affairs for that person. But he goes on. If you love wine and oil, the finer things in life, then you will never gain material possessions beyond your pursuit of wine and oil. Now, let’s be clear, becoming rich should not be anyone’s goal or pursuit. I know, this may sound counter intuitive to some of you. Our goal ought not to be to amass as much material goods as we possible can. If that is our goal, then we will never be satisfied. What a terrible way to live with this goal.
Not super crazy about that last verse here, let’s not read into it, although that was certainly the mentality that beatings cleansed the innards and righted the ship. We have come a long way, fortunately, from that verse.
My focus on this chapter, though, is recognizing the role that alcohol plays in some people’s lives. He begins this chapter not as a teetotaler, but rather as someone who preaches prudence. It is something that can easily lead astray. Interestingly enough he follows that up with a statement on anger, and I can easily see how these two can be related.
A couple verses caught my interest. Look at vs.17 where it states that bread gained by deceit is sweet, but then it turns to gravel. The other verse which struck me was vs.20 where we are told to stay away from the gossiper, not because they will tell us gossip, but because they more time we spend with them then the more they will find out about us and tell others about our lives. Just stay away from them and they won’t be able to speak poorly about you.
Do you feel like these chapters seem to run together and overlap each other? There continues to be advice on how to live and underlined is the necessity to treat the poor with dignity and respect. I love the line where it states that when you give to the poor, you are giving to the Lord. Look at vs.17. There is not the sense that we see in some circles today that the poor just haven’t applied themselves enough and so are to be scoffed and mocked and not taken seriously. We simply do not know their story or why they are in the position in which they find themselves.
Since we do not know that story then we are to treat them with the same dignity and respect that we treat our own family members because they should be considered family. We do see a lot of emphasis on how we ought to treat the poor and I like that in Proverbs. It is a bit ironic because we have a king, King Solomon, writing about the poor when he was the richest man in the land. But he was also a man of God, so I guess he got it.
As I was reading this Proverbs I couldn’t help but think of this song, even though I know it comes from Psalm 61:3. But look at vs. 10 and maybe you can understand why I thought it was an appropriate Scripture.
So verse 13 doesn’t quite have my benediction covered, in fact, it is probably the opposite. Every Sunday I charge the congregation to return no one evil for evil. Vs. 13 tells us “evil will not depart from the house of one who returns evil for good.” That is a logical sensible statement. But a less sensible statement we find in Matthew 5:44 where our Savior, you know Jesus, states the following: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That is very different, especially since we are told that those who are evil, we should pray for them. Another less sensible statement we find in Romans 12:17 where we read that we are not to return anyone evil for evil.
So all that we are reading in Proverbs is just incredibly sensible. There are no ultra radical thoughts, but rather it just reflects the common sense of that day and the common sense of today. But what we often find is that what we consider to be common sense, is not at all common to the Lord. The common sense at times is our own thinking, when the Lord demands, at times, that we take risks which would be frowned upon by society, and probably by Solomon as well. If you love your enemies and pray for them, aren’t you also enabling someone to do the wrong thing?
I’ll never forget the crisis we had in our food bank in Florida when a police officer caught one of our food clients selling the food that they got from our church in order to get crack/cocaine. We almost shut down the program because we did not want to enable anyone in their drug addiction. But then we realized for every one person who was an addict and used our food to help their problem, we had 20 who were using this food as a supplement to their already stretched budget. We kept it up and running. We are told to love our enemies whether it enables them or not.
I guess we can focus on vs.18 here. The verse is where we get the statement: pride comes before the fall. But it doesn’t limit itself just to that. It actually states: “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Yes, it is the same thing, but there is a double understanding that is important for us to recognize. Pride is that within us, which we mentioned the last chapter, which makes us think that we can handle things on our own. At times it goes beyond that. At times we think we are invincible and nothing that we do can be stopped. Pride is that within us which makes us believe that we are the creators and we are the ultimate arbiters in all things in our life.
At a certain point in our life we ought to come to the realization that there is so much more beyond our control than we could ever imagine. Just that realization alone ought to be humbling, but not debilitating. Humility is not an excuse for inaction. Humility is not synonymous with submission. Humility is not the same as cowardice. Humility is what Jesus exhibited. Fear is the opposite of humility. It takes strength to be humble, it is not weakness. I could go on and on, but I am not sure I know of any other identifying feature of my Savior which is more inspirational than His humility, except maybe His love.