Proverbs 30-31

Proverbs 30-31…The excellent wife.

Few influences affect a man’s heart for God more than his wife, for better or for worse. She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it. What kind of wife encourages her husband’s spiritual growth? Proverbs 31:10–31 provides a profile of the wife who is worthy of her husband’s trust. Such a wife is the embodiment of true wisdom from God, causing the husband to confide in her with complete trust.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). Such a good wife is hard to find. The word excellent (hayil) can mean “strength, capability, valor, or dignity.” This woman exemplifies each of these qualities, having great competence, noble character, and a strong commitment to God and her family. Only the Lord can provide such an excellent woman: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). This virtuous woman is a priceless gift from God.

Is it any wonder that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (v. 11)? The husband has faith in her because “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life” (v. 12). She brings her many strengths into their marriage, each one uniquely suited to complement his weaknesses. Her gifts immediately become his gains, and she provides much that causes him to trust her.

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Proverbs 28-29

Proverbs 28-29…Self control.

Self-control is a crucial ingredient of godly wisdom. Proverbs 29 provides an excellent opportunity to recap or review many of the ingredients of wisdom seen throughout this book of wisdom. We’ve seen that wisdom is closely associated with righteousness, trust in God, sexual faithfulness or purity, justice, order, good leadership, acting for others’ benefit, joy, blessing, care for the poor, being slow to anger, integrity, honesty, fairness, being diligent in parenting, obedience, peacemaking, humility, attentive listening, an openness to rebuke or correction, and the fear of the Lord. We’ve also seen that foolishness is associated with wickedness, tyranny, disorder, trust in self, adultery or sexual immorality, injustice, oppression, stubbornness, tyranny, exploiting the poor, being hot-tempered, deceit, dishonesty, disobedience, pride, ears closed to rebuke or correction, greed, destruction, insincerity, self-centeredness, rebelliousness, anger, violence, a lack of self-control, and no fear of the Lord.

Self control really does bring more joy, as we were created to enjoy living under glad submission to our Creator. A foolish person falls into his own trap, but the righteous “shout for joy and are glad” (Pr 29: 6). That trap is defined as “fear of man”—it’s fear of the Lord that is the true key to wisdom, safety, and blessing (Pr 29:25).

Proverbs 25-27

Proverbs 25-27…Gossip

When a fire finishes burning through the material it feeds on, it goes out. Similarly, when gossip reaches the ear of someone who will not repeat it, it dies.

Gossip, like other sins, is like “tasty trifles” (Proverbs 26:22). We like to hear it and share it with others because it “tastes” good. Gossip is rooted in our need to feel good about ourselves. As we bring others down, we gain the illusion that we are moving upward.

That’s why spreading gossip is so difficult to resist. It takes prayer and God’s grace to bring us to the point where we refuse to pass it on or even hear it—even under the guise of personal concern or a request to pray for a sinning friend in trouble. If we have an eternal focus we’ll see gossip as a form of prideful unbelief and selfishness.

We must ask God for the wisdom to know when to speak, what to speak, and when to simply keep our mouths shut. For “in the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

It is often wise to be quiet and speak few words. But if we must speak, let’s talk of those things that encourage and move others closer to God, not those things that will discourage and hurt them. “The tongue of the wise promotes (spiritual) health.”

Proverbs 14-24

Proverbs 14-24…Choosing friends.

Cultural proverbs are a storehouse of community wisdom. For example, here are several proverbs about friendship: “It is better to be in chains with friends, than to be in a garden with strangers” (Persian). “Hold a true friend with both your hands” (Nigerian). “The death of a friend is equivalent to the loss of a limb” (German). And, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends” (Japanese).

Proverbs 13 likewise advises, “walk with the wise and become wise” (Pr 13:20). Friendship is a key area in which wisdom can be seen. To choose the right friend both shows character and develops it. Another area in which wisdom can be seen is in how a person responds to friendly advice and instruction. To fail to heed correction is proud (Pr 13:1). To take offense or start a quarrel is foolish (v. 10). The wise do not make these mistakes.

The content of Proverbs covers every area of life. Similarly, the literary form of the proverb is quite broad. A proverb might be a general maxim, such as the comment that righteousness tends to be blessed and wickedness is not (Pr 13:25). It might be explicit moral instruction—a wise person acts one way, a fool another (Pr 13:16). It might be an observation on a psychological or emotional event: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Pr 13:12).

More than a few proverbs offer practical economic counsel, such as that the best way to save is slowly but surely (Pr 13:11). Many offer consequences-based moral exhortations or warnings, as in Pr 13:3: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”

Proverbs 11-13

Proverbs 11-13…Our words matter.

The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.

Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. And as we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

How do we stay off that list? For starters, we need to watch what we say. Gossip and slander are out, and words that hurt instead of heal are not welcome. Boasting, lying, and all the rest of the ways we use words to hurt and divide need to be gone as well. In their place, words that extend love and the healing power of forgiveness, mercy, and truth should rule our words and relationships. After all, where would we be if Jesus hadn’t spoken words of forgiving love and grace to us?

So, put the “knife” away and use your words to help and heal.

Proverbs 5-10

Proverbs 5-10…Unity

The language of Proverbs 6 is strong. In the citing of seven things the Lord hates, sowing “discord among brethren” makes the list. The reason for naming this sin is that it spoils the unity that Christ desires for His followers (John 17:21-22), particularly in the context of the local church.

Those who sow discord may not initially set out to create divisions. They may be preoccupied instead with their personal needs or the interests of a group they belong to (James 4:1-10). Consider how Lot’s herdsmen argued with those of Abraham (Gen. 13:1-18); Christ’s disciples argued about personal preeminence (Luke 9:46); and divisive groups in the church at Corinth elevated party factions above the unity of the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:1-7).

So what is the best way to promote unity? It begins with the transformation of the heart. When we adopt the mind of Christ, we develop an attitude of humility and we focus on service toward others (Phil. 2:5-11). Only in Him can we access the power to look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. Soon the needs and hopes of others become more important to us than our own.

With growing bonds of love among us, we find discord replaced with joy and unity (see Ps. 133:1).

Proverbs 1-4

Proverbs 1-4…Wisdom.

The book of Proverbs is loaded with practical ways to get wisdom. We read in chapter 1 that wisdom is primarily rooted in the “fear of the Lord” (1:7), which characterizes those who obey His law (Ps. 34:11–16; Acts 5:29). The fear of the Lord has an intellectual component: we must study and memorize God’s commandments to know and follow His will (Deut. 6:4–9). But the fear of the Lord is also an emotional response of love for the Father and trusting obedience to His commands (Mark 10:28–31; James 2:14–26; 1 John 4:16). Satan can quote Scripture, but He does not love the Lord and therefore foolishly rebels against Him (Matt. 4:1–11). Jesus calls the rich man a “fool” because he had no regard for his Creator — not because his life lacked wisdom altogether (Luke 12:13–21).

Wisdom is a virtual synonym for righteousness in the book of Proverbs — the prologue tells us these proverbs are given for wisdom and righteousness (1:3). Wise teaching and righteous living produce life (12:28; 13:14), but the godless person and the fool wander the wide road leading to death (10:14; 11:7). Clearly, we cannot be wise without holiness, and we cannot be holy if we do not seek after wisdom (see also Matt. 6:33).