Proverbs Study

In Search of an Excellent Wife

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A woman who is well-loved radiates enduring beauty. I heard this wise statement many years ago at a marriage conference, and it's stuck with me ever since. I've seen this true in my own wife.

When I love her in an unselfish way, it's reflected in her appearance and manner. She's still a beautiful woman after enduring more than four decades of marriage to me. And that's according to the observation of others.

Beauty that's only skin-deep—physical beauty— fades over time, and can mask a person's true character. But a woman with a deep, inner beauty retains this beauty regardless of her age.

Scripture

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. [vss 10-12]

Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. [vss 23-27]

Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise. [vss 28-31]

(Proverbs 31:10-23 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 31]

Key phrase— Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.

[bctt tweet="Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?"]

Digging Deeper...

What is said about this wife? What is the key element of her value?

What are we told about her husband, and how does this reflect upon the wife? 

What are other qualities that describe this wife? What does her husband say about her?

How do the thoughts in the last verses connect with the earlier verses (10-12)?

Reflection...

This last section of the Book of Proverbs (Prov 31:10-23) is often titled, The Virtuous Woman. It's not the description of one woman, but an ideal. Countless women have felt pangs of guilt when husbands, or other well-intentioned teachers, encourage them to be like this ideal model.

But this is not intended as a model for women to live up to, but a guide for men. The intent is to advise men to seek a wife of strong character (verse 10), rather than for her charm and beauty.

It is written as an alphabetical acrostic, and reflects the virtues of godly wisdom, as in earlier chapters of Proverbs. These are indeed virtuous characteristics, but it is unrealistic to challenge women to live up to them. Rather, it is a reminder of the value of godly wisdom, and an exhortation for men to choose a wife based on her character, not her appearance.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What do you think an ideal woman and wife would be like? What do you base this on?

Why do you think our culture puts so much emphasis on a person's outward appearance?

What do you value in a person? What is most important to you about your own identity?

How do you keep yourself from trying to live up to unrealistic expectations?

Don't Waste Your Strength

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Growing up, I realized certain things were expected of me. Some of these expectations were spoken, and many others were not. All parents have expectations for their children. It's built into us. We know it inherently.

Not all expectations are good and beneficial. We all tend to replicate or reject what we know from experience. Children growing up in difficult or dysfunctional homes may become strict or harsh parents. On the other hand, their own household may have little structure or discipline.

Each of us choose the way we will go. Either we choose something similar by default, or consciously choose a better or different way. This choice has consequences. We either make wise and beneficial choices, or squander our opportunity in self-destructive behavior.

Scripture

These are the words of King Lemuel, the message his mother taught him: “My son, I gave birth to you. You are the son I prayed for. Don’t waste your strength on women or your time on those who ruin kings. “Kings should not drink wine, Lemuel, and rulers should not desire beer. [vss 1-4]

If they drink, they might forget the law and keep the needy from getting their rights. Give beer to people who are dying and wine to those who are sad. Let them drink and forget their need and remember their misery no more. [vss 5-7]

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; defend the rights of all those who have nothing. Speak up and judge fairly, and defend the rights of the poor and needy.” [vss 8-9]

(Proverbs 31:1-9 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 31]

Key phrase— If they drink, they might forget the law

[bctt tweet="If they drink, they might forget the law"]

Digging Deeper...

What is the wise advice this mother speaks to her son?

Do you think this is an anti-alcohol message, or is there more to it than that?

Why is this son (the king) encouraged not to indulge in excessive drinking?

What is this son (the king) encouraged to do? How is it expressed as a choice?

Reflection...

It was said of King Solomon that he was the wisest man in the world. Even the queen of Sheba traveled to Israel from Ethiopia to hear this great king's wisdom. But at the end of his life, King Solomon strayed from the wisdom he wrote and expressed to others.

These verses are a reminder to remember the higher calling God has for each of us. We are not to "waste our strength" or give ourselves to what ruins our life. It isn't just intoxication, it's settling for less than what is the best God intends.

There are much higher purposes in life than indulging in what occupies the lives of others. When we lose sight of the truth—the truth of God—we neglect what is right, true, and good. We become like everyone else who is adrift in life.

You and I may not be kings and queens, but if we know what is just and true, we are responsible to uphold these virtues, even on behalf of others who have no voice.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What gifts and skills has God given you? Are you utilizing those gifts and skills as God intended?

Do you follow along with the crowd, or stand up for what is right, true, and just?

Do you cave in to the expectations of those around you, or live by a higher code of life?

In what way do you speak up for the weak, help protect their rights, and defend those who have no voice or strength?

A Happy Medium

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Balance. A lot is said today about keeping things in balance. But it's not a new thought at all. The same idea can be found in ancient wisdom, even in the Proverbs of King Solomon.

Another way of expressing the idea of maintaining balance is to find a happy medium. Either way, the idea is to find a place between two extremes. However, a happy medium isn't about mediocrity or blandness.

Sometimes, there may not be a good place between two extremes. Sometimes, we need to go as far as we can from an extreme, and sometimes, the extreme may be desirable. In the end, it's not about finding a comfortable place, but the right place.

Scripture

I ask two things from you, LordDon’t refuse me before I die. Keep me from lying and being dishonest. And don’t make me either rich or poor; just give me enough food for each day. If I have too much, I might reject you and say, " don’t know the Lord." If I am poor, I might steal and disgrace the name of my God. [vss 7-9]

Greed has two daughters named "Give" and "Give." There are three things that are never satisfied, really four that never say, "I’ve had enough!": the cemetery, the childless mother, the land that never gets enough rain, and fire that never says, "I’ve had enough!"

There are three things that are too hard for me, really four I don’t understand: the way an eagle flies in the sky, the way a snake slides over a rock, the way a ship sails on the sea, and the way a man and a woman fall in love. [vss 15-16, 18-19]

There are three things that make the earth tremble, really four it cannot stand: a servant who becomes a king, a foolish person who has plenty to eat, a hated [unloved] woman who gets married, and a maid who replaces her mistress 

There are four things on earth that are small, but they are very wise: Ants are not very strong, but they store up food in the summer. Rock badgers are not very powerful, but they can live among the rocks. Locusts have no king, but they all go forward in formation. Lizards can be caught in the hand, but they are found even in kings’ palaces. [vss 21-28]

There are three things that strut proudly, really four that walk as if they were important: a lion, the proudest animal, which is strong and runs from nothing, a rooster, a male goat, and a king when his army is around him. [vss 29-31]

(Proverbs 30:7-9, 15-16, 18-19, 21-28, 29-31 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 30]

Key phrase— Keep me from lying and being dishonest. And don’t make me either rich or poor.

[bctt tweet="Keep me from lying and being dishonest. And don’t make me either rich or poor"]

Digging Deeper...

What strikes you about the way these lists of wise thoughts are expressed?

Do you see mostly contrasted thoughts or comparisons?

Which of these numbered lists resonates with you the most? Why is this?

Is there one expression, or thought, or one list that surprises you?

Why do you think these sayings would be put into lists this way?

Reflection...

When Proverbs was written, most people in the world could not read or write. It might surprise you, but this is still the case in many nations, even in North America. Many people are either non-literate, or partly literate, yet live in a literacy-based world.

Ancient wisdom writers and storytellers understood the need of most people, so writings were expressed in a way that made them memorable. The use of images (picture language), alliteration (same first letter of each line), and even-numbered lists are memory aids for nonreaders.

These things are even helpful to those who are highly literate. We think and speak in groups of words, especially when there's a clear association that connects them. Go back and read these verses again, and see how they are associated.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you have a love for the truth? Are you content with what you have?

What things are hard for you to understand in life? Are they mentioned in these verses?

What other things do you marvel at in life, and the world around you?

Are you able to trust God with the things you don't understand? If not, why not?

Vision, Discipline, and Justice

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I recently underwent cataract surgery. It's become the most common type of eye surgery. Although I'm relatively young for this, it was time. Why? My vision in one eye was getting worse and I started needing a new lens prescription too often.

Physical vision is valuable and important, but so is a more internal sense of vision. Businesses, non-profits, and ministries know the importance of vision as a basis for direction for their work. This is also true in a spiritual sense for all of us.

Vision provides perspective. My eye that needed surgery affected my depth perception and perspective. Try looking only at the immediate path of your feet, you'll likely run into something or someone. We need to look ahead to go in a straight line, and to avoid running into things (or people).

Scripture

A person who will not bend after many warnings will suddenly be broken beyond repair. When righteous people increase, the people [of God] rejoice, but when a wicked person rules, everybody groans. A person who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for him to step into. To an evil person sin is bait in a trap, but a righteous person runs away from it and is glad. [vss 1-2, 5-6]

A righteous person knows the just cause of the poor. A wicked person does not understand this. Mockers create an uproar in a city, but wise people turn away anger. A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them. If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked. A poor person and an oppressor have this in common: The Lord gives both of them sight. [vss 7-8, 11-13]

Correct your son, and he will give you peace of mind. He will bring delight to your soul. Without prophetic vision people run wild, but blessed are those who follow [God’s] teachings. An angry person stirs up a fight, and a hothead does much wrong. A person’s pride will humiliate him, but a humble spirit gains honor. A person’s fear sets a trap [for him], but one who trusts the Lord is safe. [vss 17-18, 22-25]

(Proverbs 29:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 11-13, 17-18, 22-25 GW) [Context– Proverbs 29]

Key phrase— Without prophetic vision people run wild

[bctt tweet="Without prophetic vision people run wild"]

Digging Deeper...

Where are the wise statements addressing vision, discipline, and justice?

What are the contrasts made between the righteous and wicked? Do you see this true in life?

What are the many things spoken here that show the importance of internal discipline?

Why do you think it says people will run wild without prophetic vision? What seems to be an important resolve for this?

Reflection...

When we don't have a clear sense of direction for our life, it is easy to lose heart and give up hope. In working with people battling depression, I found that structure and a sense of hope were very important.

Simply having some structure in their day seemed to help people have a little hope things would get better. Being able to see things can get better creates a sense of hope, which is the opposite of hopelessness, the effect of depression.

It's the same when we see injustice and lack hope that justice will prevail. This also produces hopelessness. Do you wonder why riots occur? Whether you think they are just or not, or make sense, they are the product of hopelessness and a lack of vision.

We all need vision. We need clarity for our own life, and for the world around us. The truth of God and trusting in God are important. They act as anchors in our life. When we make them priorities in our life, we will experience prophetic (far-seeing) vision.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are you able to discern what is true and right? By what means do you determine this?

How have you struggled with injustice? How have you contributed to justice being done?

What are areas where you struggle with self-discipline? What have you found that helps you develop self-discipline?

Do you have a sense of vision and direction for your own life? If not, what will you do to gain this?

Do You Long for Justice?

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Cries for justice rang out in the streets of Baltimore, MD recently, but they were mingled with the chaos of rioting. Cries for justice ring out throughout the world every day, but often go unheard.

I've heard many say, "If God is a God of love, why is there so much evil and injustice in the world?" Yet, a more important and vital question is, "What is the basis for true justice?"

Too often, cries for justice are a mask or desire for revenge or retaliation. But true justice can't be based on emotion, nor on a singular cause. True justice must be based on genuine, honest, and objective truth.

Scripture

The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions. When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops. To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them. [vss 1-4]

Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely. Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich. Young people who obey the law are wise; those with wild friends bring shame to their parents. Income from charging high interest rates will end up in the pocket of someone who is kind to the poor. God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. [vss 5-9]

Those who lead good people along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the honest will inherit good things. Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them. When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding. People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble. [vss 10-14]

A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear. A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people, but one who hates corruption will have a long life. [vss 15-16]

(Proverbs 28:1-16 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 28]

Key phrase— When the godly succeed, everyone is glad

[bctt tweet="When the godly succeed, everyone is glad"]

Digging Deeper...

What seems to be the recommended basis for true justice, according to these verses?

What do these verses say about the character of those who are a blessing as leaders?

What is the description of the character of those who treat others poorly and are bad leaders?

Do you think the wisdom expressed in these verses is true, and have you seen it proven out in a general sense?

Reflection...

When you vote for leaders in an election, are you just concerned with what the candidate's party affiliation is? Are you more concerned with what their stand is on certain issues, or do you weigh their character and how they carry themselves?

Good character, and so a good leader, doesn't develop in a vacuum or in some random fashion. The wisdom expressed in these verses in Proverbs 28 indicate good leadership is based on good character, and good character is shaped by genuine truth. The principle of rule by law, held to by most any form of democracy, has its roots in the Law of God.

The people of God, who were defined by a covenant based on law, were to reflect their Creator. They were to be a light in the midst of darkness. The light of true justice will penetrate the darkness of oppression, ethical and moral corruption, and benefit those who love the truth. If we want true justice, we need to have a sure foundation for it—an impartial basis of truth.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What is your experience with good or bad leadership, and with true or corrupt justice?

How do you respond to ethical or moral corruption? Do you ignore it, or resist it, or take a stand against it?

How do you personally promote genuine justice? What is your attitude towards the poor and those who are oppressed?

What is the basis for justice as you see it? Is it a reliable and stable foundation for justice?

Reflection of the Heart

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People use the word heart in many clichés and figures of speech. Here are some familiar ones— Let's get to the heart of the matter. Home is where the heart is. He wears his heart on his sleeve. We need to have a heart to heart talk.

But what are these expressions speaking of? What is meant by using the word heart?

It is not referring to the physical organ in our chest that pumps blood throughout the body. It refers to the intangible, internal nature of a person. Some people keep it hidden more than others, but it is revealed in various ways.

Scripture

Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring. Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—a stranger, not your own lips. A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier. [vss 1-3]

Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous. An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. [vss 4-6]

A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry. A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away. [vss 7-10]

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. As workers who tend a fig tree are allowed to eat the fruit, so workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded. As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person. [vss 17-19]

Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied. Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised. You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle. [vss 20-22]

(Proverbs 27:1-10; 17-22 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 27]

Key phrase— As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.

[bctt tweet="As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the various relationships referred to in this chapter of Proverbs?

What are the emotions and actions connected to the wisdom expressed about these relationships?

What descriptive and contrasting observations, wisdom, and advice are given in these verses?

In what ways is the nature (heart) of a person revealed through relationships and life events?

Reflection...

How a person handles both praise and criticism reveals a lot about them. Insight into a person's heart is also gained by observing their friendships and interactions with others. Even a person's view of themself, and how they live their life day-to-day, reveals their inner nature.

Life is full of ups and downs. People don't always see eye to eye on things. We all say and do things we wish we didn't. But we need other people in our lives, and they need us in theirs. So, what we need is wisdom that penetrates and settles in our hearts, and is clear in our minds. Then we will value those who are honest and genuine, and have the capacity to be likewise.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

How do you handle praise and compliments? Do they go to your head and puff you up?

Are you able to receive correction and constructive criticism, or do you resent it?

How do you handle disappointment, jealousy, and resentment from others?

Do you have an honest, realistic view of yourself and life in general?

Do you have trustworthy friends and mentors to help you a healthy perspective in life? If not, will you pursue such relationships?

How to Answer a Fool

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The internet can seem like a maze of opinions that blaze through a forest of knowledge. Many people are earnest in their efforts to post quality articles, news, and resources. But trolls and cyber bullies also abound, thrashing and trashing what's posted without restraint.

What's a person to do? How do you deal with people who look to start a fight and bait people into useless debates? Prevailing wisdom is to ignore them. This may work within the noisy environment of virtual reality, but what about dealing with foolish people in real life?

Scripture

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! [vss 1-3]

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison. [vss 4-6]

Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by. As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them. [vss 7-12]

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own. Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” [vss 17-19]

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. [vss 20-23]

(Proverbs 26:1-12; 17-23 NIV) [Context– Proverbs 26]

Key phrase— There's more hope for a fool than a smug person

[bctt tweet="There's more hope for a fool than a smug person"]

Digging Deeper...

What graphic and descriptive things are said about foolish people? What stands out to you?

How can we make sense of what appear as two contradicting admonitions for answering a fool?

What are the strong, even harsh things said about those who cause trouble by what they say?

What are the expressed and implied ways we are to deal with those who gossip and are quarrelsome?

Reflection...

It's all fine to read these admonitions and indictments of those who gossip and stir up trouble, but how can we deal with real people in real life who do these things?

The key is in the advice for answering fools, which seems contradictory. Which is it? Do you answer a fool according to his folly, or don't you? Yes! There isn't one answer that fits all situations. Here are those two verses (Proverbs 26:4-5 MSG) expressed in a different version—

Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.
Answer a fool in simple terms so he doesn’t get a swelled head.

It requires discernment, also a reliable base of wisdom, and an objective mindset. Those who trust in God can seek His wisdom and guidance, through prayer and reflection on the Scriptures. Don't get baited into fruitless, emotional arguments. But don't walk away from declaring the truth with integrity.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What will you rely on for wisdom in dealing with foolish and quarrelsome people?

Are you easily drawn into emotional debates that become fruitless arguments?

Do you listen to and pass on information about others that is unnecessary, nonsensical, or destructive?

How can you better answer devious, disruptive, and contentious people?

Picturesque Words

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You've heard the expression, "One picture is worth a thousand words." But some words are so descriptive they paint a picture of their own.

They are picturesque words. It's also called figurative language. These are words that trigger an image in our minds, and are also referred to as picture language.

But some wording is so descriptive, it's picturesque. When we read or hear picturesque prose or poetry, we know an artist was at work.

Scripture

The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. A wise warning to someone who will listen is as valuable as gold earrings or fine gold jewelry. Trustworthy messengers refresh those who send them, like the coolness of snow in the summertime. People who brag about gifts they never give are like clouds and wind that give no rain. With patience you can convince a ruler, and a gentle word can get through to the hard-headed. [vss 11-15]

If you find honey, don’t eat too much, or it will make you throw up. Don’t go to your neighbor’s house too often; too much of you will make him hate you. When you lie about your neighbors, it hurts them as much as a club, a sword, or a sharp arrow. Trusting unfaithful people when you are in trouble is like eating with a broken tooth or walking with a crippled foot. Singing songs to someone who is sad is like taking away his coat on a cold day or pouring vinegar on soda. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. [vss 16-22]

As the north wind brings rain, telling gossip brings angry looks. It is better to live in a corner on the roof than inside the house with a quarreling wife. Good news from a faraway place is like a cool drink when you are tired. A good person who gives in to evil is like a muddy spring or a dirty well. It is not good to eat too much honey, nor does it bring you honor to brag about yourself. Those who do not control themselves are like a city whose walls are broken down. [vss 23-28]

(Proverbs 25:11-28 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 25]

Key phrase— The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.

[bctt tweet="The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl"]

Digging Deeper...

What do the picturesque words describe in the first group of verses (11-15)?

What are the values and consequences of speech expressed throughout all these verses?

How do the second group of verses (16-22) express the consequences of excess?

What are the good and not so good outcomes described in this third group of verses (23-28) for both those who speak and listen to what's said?

Reflection...

Some sayings don't express the whole picture, they only convey a single dimension. "Talk is cheap," is one of those sayings. It expresses the idea that mere talk doesn't accomplish anything. But words of wisdom are talk that is valuable.

The value of the wisdom given throughout the book of Proverbs sees more than one side of things. This wisdom is often expressed through comparisons, contrasts, and extended thoughts.

Some wisdom is given in such picturesque wording that we see it in our mind's eye. These pictures are so thought provoking it makes us stop to ponder them, and that is exactly what they are designed to do.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Have you experienced someone speaking the right word at the right time in your life?

Have you been hurt by what others have said about you or to you?

How often have you spoken hurtful things to someone or about them?

When you've been on both ends of hurtful or destructive speech, does it cause you to be more careful with your words?

Who around you—in your daily life—need encouraging or comforting words? Go ahead and share them with those people!

Do Not Envy the Wicked

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We humans can be a dichotomous brew. We venerate heroes and glorify outlaws.

We like heroes and heroines from the fields of medicine and the military, and applaud unsung heroes who defy oppressive governments and criminal cartels.

Yet, many popular movies and TV shows present a romanticized view of criminals and monsters. In days gone by, it was Bonnie and Clyde or the Corleone family ("The Godfather"), now it ranges from outlaw biker gangs to vampires.

The revealing dichotomy is how we look for heroic criminals or vampires, as if searching for some redemptive merit in them. It's both strange and absurd.


Scripture

Don’t envy evil people or try to be friends with them. Their minds are always planning violence, and they always talk about making trouble. [vs 1]

It takes wisdom to have a good family, and it takes understanding to make it strong. It takes knowledge to fill a home with rare and beautiful treasures. Wise people have great power, and those with knowledge have great strength. So you need advice when you go to war. If you have lots of good advice, you will win. [vss 2-6]

Foolish people cannot understand wisdom. They have nothing to say in a discussion. Whoever makes evil plans will be known as a troublemaker. Making foolish plans is sinful, and making fun of wisdom is hateful. [vss 7-9]

If you give up when trouble comes, it shows that you are weak. Save those who are being led to their death; rescue those who are about to be killed. If you say, “We don’t know anything about this,” God, who knows what’s in your mind, will notice. He is watching you, and he will know. He will reward each person for what he has done. [vss 10-12]

My child, eat honey because it is good. Honey from the honeycomb tastes sweet. In the same way, wisdom is pleasing to you. If you find it, you have hope for the future, and your wishes will come true. Don’t be wicked and attack a good family’s house; don’t rob the place where they live. Even though good people may be bothered by trouble seven times, they are never defeated, but the wicked are overwhelmed by trouble. [vss 13-16]

Don’t be happy when your enemy is defeated; don’t be glad when he is overwhelmed. The Lord will notice and be displeased. He may not be angry with them anymore. Don’t envy evil people, and don’t be jealous of the wicked. An evil person has nothing to hope for; the wicked will die like a flame that is put out. [vss 17-20]

(Proverbs 24:1-20 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 24]

Key phrase— Save those who are being led to their death; rescue those who are about to be killed.

[bctt tweet="Save those who are being led to their death; rescue those who are about to be killed."]

Digging Deeper...

How are evil and wisdom contrasted in these verses? Why are we to desire one over the other?

What are the benefits of wisdom in contrast to the consequences faced by the foolish and evil?

What is the somewhat heroic exhortation given here? What are the consequences of not rescuing people headed for destruction?

Why are we not to rejoice over a fallen enemy? What should our attitude be towards them?

Reflection...

The problem with romanticized violence or evil is that it's an unrealistic view. Violence begets violence. The nature of violence is that it's harsh and judgmental, with no respect for its victims.

Wisdom and good are contrasted with evil and foolishness because their outcomes are so different. One is short-sighted and self-absorbed, while wisdom and goodness are others-centric with a more positive end-view of life.

It's not just about not doing wrong or evil, but that there's a good to be done. Don't envy the evil, but rescue those who are overpowered by evil. Also, there's a consequence for ignoring those headed for destruction, and a blessing when we step out to rescue and restore others.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you secretly admire certain people who have power and influence over others, or who seem to get away with wrong-doing?

Who do you hold as heroes or people you want to emulate? Why? What is it about them that you value?

When you have opportunity to rescue or restore a person, what's your first reaction?

Where do you find wisdom to nourish your soul? Do you make this a priority over other influences in your life?

Foodies, Fools, and Drunks—Beware!

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It's an understatement to say things have changed over the last century. Air travel not only became a reality, but thousands fly internationally everyday, something only millionaires thought of even 50 years ago.

Communication has gone from wired to wireless. McDonald's only sold burgers and fries in the beginning, but now offer salads and lattes. Cats and dogs can eat gourmet food now, while millions scrounge for the next meal, living at subsistence level poverty.

It seems like things have changed a lot, even over the last decade, but maybe not as much as it might seem. One thing that hasn't changed is human nature.

Scripture

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, pay close attention to what is in front of you, and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite. Do not crave his delicacies, because this is food that deceives you. Do not wear yourself out getting rich. Be smart enough to stop. Will you catch only a fleeting glimpse of wealth before it is gone? It makes wings for itself like an eagle flying into the sky. [vss 1-5]

Do not eat the food of one who is stingy, and do not crave his delicacies. As he calculates the cost to himself, this is what he does: He tells you, “Eat and drink,” but he doesn’t really mean it. You will vomit the little bit you have eaten and spoil your pleasant conversation. Do not talk directly to a fool, because he will despise the wisdom of your words. Do not move an ancient boundary marker or enter fields that belong to orphans, because the one who is responsible for them is strong. He will plead their case against you. [vss 6-11]

Live a more disciplined life, and listen carefully to words of knowledge. Do not hesitate to discipline a child. If you spank him, he will not die. Spank him yourself, and you will save his soul from hell. My son, if you have a wise heart, my heart will rejoice as well. My heart rejoices when you speak what is right. [vss 12-16]

Do not envy sinners in your heart. Instead, continue to fear the LordThere is indeed a future, and your hope will never be cut off. My son, listen, be wise, and keep your mind going in the right direction. Do not associate with those who drink too much wine, with those who eat too much meat, because both a drunk and a glutton will become poor. Drowsiness will dress a person in rags. [vss 17-21]

(Proverbs 23:1-21  GW) [Context– Proverbs 23]

Key phrase— Do not envy sinners in your heart

[bctt tweet="Do not envy sinners in your heart"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the first five things we are warned not to do?

What is the reason for each warning? How is it expressed through picture language?

What are we exhorted to do in contrast to the other things we're warned about?

Why do you think we want what we don't or can't have, and envy those who do have these things?

Reflection...

Customs, culture, social norms, and fashions change over the years, but not human nature. Greed and envy are still active and strong. Those with power and influence still wield it regardless of its cost to others.

How can a person navigate life facing challenges where we feel powerless? The Serenity Prayer has some helpful wisdom— "God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change...." Perhaps the most powerful wisdom is contained in verses 17-18—

Do not envy sinners in your heart. Instead, continue to fear the LordThere is indeed a future, and your hope will never be cut off. (Proverbs 23:17-18 GW)

This is not wisdom found in philosophy classes, nor corporate boardrooms. It is wisdom that endures and gives hope, and it helps anyone navigate any challenge in life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What do you find yourself longing for or wishing you had?

How much time do you spend each day thinking about what you will eat, drink, or wear?

Do you make a point to pursue godly wisdom, even at the cost of popularity?

Do you have healthy, encouraging relationships that help keep you from envying others?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T—What Does it Mean to You?

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One of the most popular songs of the 1960's was called "Respect." The most popular version was by Aretha Franklin, although it was written by another great R & B artist, Otis Redding. And yes, I'm a fan of 60's R & B.

One of the famous lines Aretha sings is, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!" Indeed, we all have our own sense of what respect is, and it can be very different for each of us.

But is respect really so variable? Is respect just based on personal preference, or is there more to it than that?

Scripture

Being respected is more important than having great riches. To be well thought of is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor are alike in that the Lord made them all. The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble. [vss 1-3]

Respecting the Lord and not being proud will bring you wealth, honor, and life. Evil people’s lives are like paths covered with thorns and traps. People who guard themselves don’t have such problems. Train children to live the right way, and when they are old, they will not stray from it. [vss 4-6]

The rich rule over the poor, and borrowers are servants to lenders. Those who plan evil will receive trouble. Their cruel anger will come to an end. Generous people will be blessed, because they share their food with the poor. Get rid of the one who makes fun of wisdom. Then fighting, quarrels, and insults will stop. Whoever loves pure thoughts and kind words will have even the king as a friend. The Lord guards knowledge, but he destroys false words. [vss 7-12]

The lazy person says, “There’s a lion outside! I might get killed out in the street!” The words of an unfaithful wife are like a deep trap. Those who make the Lord angry will get caught by them. Every child is full of foolishness, but punishment can get rid of it. Whoever gets rich by mistreating the poor, and gives presents to the wealthy, will become poor. [vss 13-16]

(Proverbs 22:1-16 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 22]

Key phrase— Being respected is more important than having great riches

[bctt tweet="Being respected is more important than having great riches"]

Digging Deeper...

Which verses speak specifically of respect, and what is said about it?

What is said in other verses that point to the value of respect?

Based on these verses, what do you see that brings lasting respect?

What are the things that bring disrespect, both in the short and long-term?

Reflection...

Respect is shown in many different ways—gratitude, fear, affection. Likewise, respect is gained through various means. Some respect is short-lived, even disingenuous, while respect for some people outlasts their lives on earth.

What causes this distinction in how long respect lasts? What do you think? The wise words in the Book of Proverbs reveal that integrity of character is connected to long-lasting and universal respect.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What causes you to respect others, and how do you express it?

What are the various ways you show respect to others?

How do you think the Golden Rule (Do unto others... Matt 7:12) relates to respect?

When you are shown respect, how do you return the favor?

The Importance of a Heart Examination

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Scientific study and research reports are a staple of news media. It could be the latest indicators of climate change, or some new insight for a healthy life.

One report tells of the danger of certain foods that drive cholesterol up, then another report seems to contradict the first one.

As noted by many, the health and fitness industry is a popular and lucrative one. We're also reminded that heart disease continues to be a top health problem.

But what about the heart issues spoken of in the Bible? They're not related to cholesterol, diet, or exercise, but they are important.

Scripture

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the lordhe guides it wherever he pleases. People may be right in their own eyes, but the lord examines their heart. The lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin. [vss 1-4]

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. Wealth created by a lying tongue is a vanishing mist and a deadly trap. The violence of the wicked sweeps them away, because they refuse to do what is just. The guilty walk a crooked path; the innocent travel a straight road. It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home. Evil people desire evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them. [vss 5-10]

If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded become wise; if you instruct the wise, they will be all the wiser. The Righteous One knows what is going on in the homes of the wicked; he will bring disaster on them. Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need. [vss 11-13]

(Proverbs 21:1-13 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 21]

Key phrase— The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than...sacrifices

[bctt tweet="The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than...sacrifices"]

Digging Deeper...

Which verses speak of the heart, and what is said about it?

What contrasts do you see in these verses, and how are they related ton one another?

What descriptive picture language stands out to you in these verses?

Which of these verses describe attitudes and motives that move a person to certain actions, or prevent them from doing what is right and just?

Reflection...

You've probably heard expressions like, "Good health is everything, " or "...priceless," or "...better than wealth." But is this true? I believe it's a blessing to have good health, and I'm conscious of that.

But, if I'm just healthy on the outside (my body and physical heart), and not on the inside (my mind and inner heart), how is that good?

Physical health is valuable while I'm physically alive, but my soul will outlast my body. More than that, our internal, spiritual health has a direct impact on our physical health, as well as our attitude and behavior.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you ever take time to examine your heart, your motives, and attitudes?

Do you ever find yourself struggling to do what you know is right to do?

How do you determine what is valuable and important in your life, and what are these priorities based on?

Are you willing to evaluate what fills up your life and time, and what your actual priorities are?

Impulse Control and Motivations

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Most of us don't like being told what to do nor how to do it. Especially nowadays, when you can learn how to do most anything via the internet or on YouTube.

On the other hand, we can be appalled at the lack of restraint and viciousness of others—in verbal and physical ways—from bullying to terrorism. We are shocked by the actions of ISIS or Boko Haram, or the indiscriminate violence of school shootings.

Yet, when we lack restraint, we create fertile ground in ourselves for destructive, unrestrained behaviors.

Scripture

Wine [makes people] mock, liquor [makes them] noisy, and everyone under their influence is unwise. The rage of a king is like the roar of a lion. Whoever makes him angry forfeits his life. Avoiding a quarrel is honorable. After all, any stubborn fool can start a fight. A lazy person does not plow in the fall. He looks for something in the harvest but finds nothing. [vss 1-4]

A motive in the human heart is like deep water, and a person who has understanding draws it out. Many people declare themselves loyal, but who can find someone who is [really] trustworthy? A righteous person lives on the basis of his integrity. Blessed are his children after he is gone. A king who sits on his throne to judge sifts out every evil with his eyes. Who can say, “I’ve made my heart pure. I’m cleansed from my sin”? A double standard of weights and measures—both are disgusting to the Lord. Even a child makes himself known by his actions, whether his deeds are pure or right. [vss 5-11]

The ear that hears, the eye that sees—the Lord made them both. Do not love sleep or you will end up poor. Keep your eyes open, and you will have plenty to eat. “Bad! Bad!” says the buyer. Then, as he goes away, he brags [about his bargain]. There are gold and plenty of jewels, but the lips of knowledge are precious gems. Hold on to the garment of one who guarantees a stranger’s loan, and hold responsible the person who makes a loan on behalf of a foreigner. Food gained dishonestly tastes sweet to a person, but afterwards his mouth will be filled with gravel. [vss 12-17]

(Proverbs 20:1-17 GW) [Context– Proverbs 20]

Key phrase— A motive in the human heart is like deep water

[bctt tweet="A motive in the human heart is like deep water"]

Digging Deeper...

Which of these admonitions have to do with impulse control? Which ones deal with motivations of the heart?

What assurances or benefits do you see in these verses, and which ones speak of consequences?

Which of these admonitions stands out or surprises you? Which one is your favorite?

How have you seen any of these admonitions played out in your life or in the lives of others around you?

Reflection...

Why do we do some of the things we do? It may be hard to understand at times, but often there are patterns of thought and behavior in our life. One leads to the other. This is one of many reasons we need other people in our life—those who are reliable friends and mentors, even our spouse.

Many times I thought I had a brilliant idea until I shared it with my wife or someone else I trust. Then they begin to ask questions I can't easily answer, or point out flaws in my "brilliant idea" that I haven't considered. There's always a motive buried within us that impacts our behavior, even though it may seem hidden to us at the time.

Getting a handle on our impulse control—those immediate reactions we tend to have—requires an inner discipline. This inner discipline requires a foundation of truth in our hearts and minds. This is the wisdom so often spoken of in the book of Proverbs. Wisdom—godly wisdom—will help us develop healthy and godly motives, which answer the question of why we do what we do.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Have there been times in your life where you've wondered why you reacted or acted a certain way?

Are there certain patterns or habits that have developed in your life that you don't seem to have much control over?

Who are trustworthy people in your life, who will be honest with you and have your best interest in mind?

What are you doing on a daily basis to develop a foundation of truth and wisdom in your heart and mind?

When Kindness is Like a Secured Loan

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Living with a sense of immediacy can be both good and bad. When we're able to enjoy the present moment and engage with people in real-life time, it's good. When our life is focused on moment by moment experiences, we will never find contentment or fulfillment.

A life of faith is a life of trust. It's an investment that has a sure return, though it may appear risky or even short-sighted to others.

Scripture

Being kind to the poor is like lending to the Lordhe will reward you for what you have done. Correct your children while there is still hope; do not let them destroy themselves. People with quick tempers will have to pay for it. If you help them out once, you will have to do it again [vss 17-19]

Listen to advice and accept correction, and in the end you will be wise. People can make all kinds of plans, but only the Lord’s plan will happen. People want others to be loyal, so it is better to be poor than to be a liar. Those who respect the Lord will live and be satisfied, unbothered by trouble. [vss 20-23]

Though the lazy person puts his hand in the dish, he won’t lift the food to his mouth. Whip those who make fun of wisdom, and perhaps foolish people will gain some wisdom. Correct those with understanding, and they will gain knowledge. A child who robs his father and sends away his mother brings shame and disgrace on himself. Don’t stop listening to correction, my child, or you will forget what you have already learned. [vss 24-27]

(Proverbs 19:17-27 GW) [Context– Proverbs 19]

Key phrase— Being kind to the poor is like lending to the Lord

[bctt tweet="Being kind to the poor is like lending to the Lord"]

Digging Deeper...

What statements do you see are like investments with rewards or returns to come later?

Where do you see admonitions that express caution or warn of long-term consequences?

Which verses express thoughts in vivid picture language?

Of all the counsel in these verses, what surprises or even puzzles you?

Reflection...

A life of faith, guided by godly wisdom, provides a different perspective on life. The view of faith sees beyond the immediate.

It sees kindness towards the poor isn't just about giving them money. Faith sees the benefits of discipline and wisdom at work in relationships at home, work, and everyday life.

Faith also sees past the folly of lazy and ill-tempered people. It produces and leads to faithfulness in all aspects of life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What ways can you think of to be kind toward the poor that go beyond giving money?

Do you struggle with laziness or lack of motivation, or have problems with your temper?

Who in your life do you trust to receive counsel from and who will honest with you?

Are you willing to pursue godly wisdom and discipline, and seek out others who have these qualities of character?

Life, Death, and Deep Waters

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Words can be powerful. They can encourage, scar, empower, and even confuse a person. They are more than the letters and sounds used to express them.

Words embody meaning, but not just in themselves. The meaning of words depends on how the words are spoken—their context, the tone of voice, and even who spoke them.

Some people love to talk, and may be careless with their words. Others use words sparingly, but might have a lot to say. What a person says and how they say things reveals a lot about who they are.

Scripture

A loner is out to get what he wants for himself. He opposes all sound reasoning. A fool does not find joy in understanding but only in expressing his own opinion. When wickedness comes, contempt also comes, and insult comes along with disgrace. The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters. The fountain of wisdom is an overflowing stream. [vss 1-4]

It is not good to be partial toward a wicked person, thereby depriving an innocent person of justice. By talking, a fool gets into an argument, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin. His lips are a trap to his soul. The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily, and they go down into a person’s innermost being. [vss 5-8]

Before destruction a person’s heart is arrogant, but humility comes before honor. Whoever gives an answer before he listens is stupid and shameful. [vss 12-13]

The first to state his case seems right [until] his neighbor comes to cross-examine him. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love to talk will have to eat their own words. [vss 17, 21]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭18‬:‭1-8, 12-13, 17, 21‬ GW) [Context– Proverbs 18]

Key phrase— The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters.

[bctt tweet="The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the harsh, stronger things spoken of in these verses?

In what ways do you see persons and their words described?

How are wisdom and humility beneficial in respect to words, attitudes, and timing?

What do you think it means about a person's words being like "deep waters"?

Reflection...

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about words, wisdom, and foolishness. Often times foolishness is known for carelessness in speech and attitude. Wisdom, on the other hand, is noted for being the opposite.

Gossip is destructive in many ways. It affects the person on the wrong end of it, and the person who takes it to heart. It's also destructive for the person who starts and passes on the gossip. This is where the "deep waters" of a person's words can take on different meanings.

For a person with ulterior or malicious motives, their words can be a trap for those who believe them. This is why we need to be careful of what (and who) we listen to, and being too quick to believe or act upon what we hear.

Wisdom may be an overflowing stream, but not because of the volume of words it speaks. It's good to be careful with the words we speak and listen to, especially when we react to them. If we're not careful, we may have to eat some bitter words and humble pie.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are there times when you feel you've spoken out of turn or spoken too much?

Why do you think gossip is so destructive? Why is it so easy to listen to it?

Do you tend to react too quickly, or do you carefully weigh what people say before responding?

What exhortations or encouragements in these verses do you see as most helpful?

Family, Friends, and Forgiveness

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On any given day, things happen that defy understanding. They take form in many ways, from bullying to murder, suicide to child abuse. And we wonder, "Why do these things happen?"

They don't take place in a vacuum. Although we don't immediately perceive why something happens, or make rash judgments about its cause, it is certain there are underlying issues.

This is our general assumption, "they have issues," whatever that may or may not mean. Yet, the underlying issues have a history, they didn't just happen randomly. They stem from how we treat one another.

Scripture

Better a bite of dry bread [eaten] in peace than a family feast filled with strife. A wise slave will become master over a son who acts shamefully, and he will share the inheritance with the brothers. The crucible is for refining silver and the smelter for gold, but the one who purifies hearts [by fire] is the LORD. [vss 1-3]

Whoever makes fun of a poor person insults his maker. Whoever is happy [to see someone’s] distress will not escape punishment. Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents, and parents are the glory of their children. [vss 5-6]

Whoever forgives an offense seeks love, but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends. Whoever pays back evil for good— evil will never leave his home. Starting a quarrel is [like] opening a floodgate, so stop before the argument gets out of control. [vss 9, 13-14]

A friend always loves, and a brother is born to share trouble. The parent of a fool has grief, and the father of a godless fool has no joy. A foolish son is a heartache to his father and bitter grief to his mother. To punish an innocent person is not good. To strike down noble people is not right.  [vss 17, 21, 25-26]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭17‬:‭1-3, 5-6, 9, 13-14, 17, 21, 25-26‬ GW) [Context– Proverbs 17]

Key phrase— Whoever forgives an offense seeks love

[bctt tweet="Whoever forgives an offense seeks love"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the contrasting reversals seen in these verses? 

What are the encouraging things expressed in these proverbs?

What positive exhortations are given? How are they helpful in relationships with others?

Why is forgiveness so valuable in our relationships with others?

Reflection...

Tests and trials in life are common to all of us. How we deal with them is a constant variable. If we internalize lessons learned, we benefit from them. But, when we react to them as if they're personal attacks, our life can spiral into self-absorbed, self-destructive actions.

Even the most grievous wrongs can be forgiven. My wife and I have seen this over and over again, while working with abused girls. Forgiveness brings freedom from resentment and the control of what others have done to us.

Often, we have a choice in how we handle every day conversations and disagreements. This is where character development is crucial. Are we willing to allow God to purify our hearts and motives? If not, we will likely fall into self-justifying and self-defensive measures. These will not prevent, nor resolve conflicts, but aggravate them. The choice is ours.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

How have you handled injustices and wrongs in life?

In what way have you contributed to conflicts you've experienced in life?

When have you seen forgiveness and kindness bring change in relationships?

Who in your life needs a kind and encouraging word from you?

Plans of the Heart

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How are you doing with those New Year's resolutions you made? Maybe you didn't make any to avoid any failure. But then, that's just failure by default.

Plans and goals can be good things, as long as they're attainable and beneficial. But how do you know?

Nowadays, lots of people offer advice, some for free and some for a fee. But how trustworthy or practical is this advice?

Sometimes, the plans we make with our mind are sabotaged by the plans of our heart.

Scripture

The plans of the heart belong to humans, but an answer on the tongue comes from the LORD. A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives. Entrust your efforts to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. [vss 1-3]

By mercy and faithfulness, peace is made with the LORD. By the fear of the LORD, evil is avoided. When a person’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better a few [possessions] gained honestly than many gained through injustice. A person may plan his own journey, but the LORD directs his steps. [vss 6-9]

Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall. Better to be humble with lowly people than to share stolen goods with arrogant people. Whoever gives attention to the LORD’s word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the LORD. There is a way that seems right to a person, but eventually it ends in death. [vss 18-20, 25‬]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭1-3, 6-9, 18-20, 25‬ GW) [Context– Proverbs 16]

Key phrase— A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives

[bctt tweet="A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives"]

Digging Deeper...

What insight is given to us about motives and plans, and God's guidance with them?

What are the ways we can find peace and escape evil and heartache?

What are the pitfalls of pride? What are the benefits of humility? 

Why is it hard for us to know the difference between our self-motivated plans and God's guidance?

Reflection...

Intellect is not the same as wisdom. A person can be intelligent and diligent, yet unsuccessful with their plans. When a person gains wisdom—insight and understanding— it enables them to see things with a better perspective.

Arrogance could be described as a combination of pride and ignorance. Arrogance distorts a person's view of the world and people around them. Humility and respect, especially a healthy fear of God, open doors of opportunity, and provide for a better perspective on the world and people.

When our heart is filled with ourself, with our motives left unchecked, we're headed on a destructive course of life. When we listen to God's wisdom and allow Him to guide us, the road ahead is sound.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you seek out wisdom from God when making plans, or just ask Him to bless what you think is best?

Do you have contentment and peace in life, or anxiety and frustration?

How have you learned from past failures, and plans that didn't turn out well?

What direction is your life headed in now? Are you willing to make any course adjustments with the Lord's help?

The Good, Bad, and Ugly Use of Words

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I wonder if encouragement and civility are becoming lost virtues. Encouragement and kind words are recommended if you want success in business or some other venture.

 A well-managed establishment will insist their personnel are careful how they address customers and clients. But what about day-to-day transactions at the store, bank, restaurant, or other place of business or entertainment for those of us on the receiving end?

When you are engaged in some transaction, how do you respond? How about while driving or parking? What about at home? We may expect encouragement and courtesy from others, but do we extend it to others?

Scripture

A gentle answer will calm a person’s anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger. As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life, but dishonest words crush the spirit. Wise people use their words to spread knowledge, but there is no knowledge in the thoughts of fools. [vss 1, 4, 7]

Those who make fun of wisdom don’t like to be corrected; they will not ask the wise for advice. People with understanding want more knowledge, but fools just want more foolishness. People with quick tempers cause trouble, but those who control their tempers stop a quarrel.  [vss 12, 14, 18]

Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others. People enjoy giving good advice. Saying the right word at the right time is so pleasing. The LORD hates evil thoughts but is pleased with kind words. Good people think before they answer, but the wicked simply pour out evil. [vss 22-23, 26, 28]

Good news makes you feel better. Your happiness will show in your eyes. If you listen to correction to improve your life, you will live among the wise. Those who refuse correction hate themselves, but those who accept correction gain understanding. Respect for the LORD will teach you wisdom. If you want to be honored, you must be humble.  [vss 30-33]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭15‬:‭1, 4, 7, 12, 14, 18, 22-23, 26, 28, 30-33‬ NCV) [Context– Proverbs 15]

Key phrase— As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life

[bctt tweet="As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life"]

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are we told about how we answer and speak to others, in the first few verses?
  2. What is the difference between those who have and love wisdom, and those who don't?
  3. Why is giving and getting good advice beneficial, and what is needed to get and give it?
  4. What are the benefits of good words, self-control, and humility?

Reflection...

We all like to hear good news and encouragement, but are we dispensers of the same to others? Living in a self-absorbed culture, as ours is, it's easy to get jaded with one-way expectations. But if we're all waiting for the other to speak kind words, well... will probably not get many.

I've often seen simple words of appreciation and kindness change whole conversations, or the way a transaction is going. Most of the time, servers in a restaurant or representatives of any business respond more positively when I'm positive towards them. The reverse is true also. Many times my attitude changes when a person treats me with courtesy and pleasantness.

How about trying to be the bearer of good news, kind words, and encouragement to others, even when it's unexpected? Make a point of trying to do this for at least one person each day this week. If you do, let me know how that goes!

Make it personal...

When was the last time you encouraged someone you didn't know?

How often do you encourage those you know well, especially in your household?

Who has spoken encouraging and kind words to you recently?

How often do you make a point of saying something kind and encouraging to someone?

Is Fear Right or Wrong?

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What comes to mind when you think of fear? Monsters? Snakes? Bugs? Terrorism?

We know what President FDR thought—"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

What about the fear of God? It's not a popular topic in churches, and it's mocked by unbelievers. Yet, the expression is found in many places throughout the Bible.

Many believers and teachers of the Bible, and a few Bible versions, seem to minimize it as mere respect. But based on what's written about it in the Bible, there's more to it than that—far more. This chapter in Proverbs gives us some insight into it.

Scripture

Whoever lives right fears the Lordbut a person who is devious in his ways despises him.  [vs 2]

Stubborn fools make fun of guilt, but there is forgiveness among decent people. The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger can share its joy. [vss 9-10]

There is a way that seems right to a person, but eventually it ends in death. Even while laughing a heart can ache, and joy can end in grief. A heart that turns [from God] becomes bored with its own ways, but a good person is satisfied with God’s ways. [vss 12-14]

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to turn [one] away from the grasp of death. [vss 26-27]

A tranquil heart makes for a healthy body, but jealousy is [like] bone cancer. [vs 30]

(Proverbs 14:2, 9-10, 12-14, 26-26, 30 GW) [Context– Proverbs 14]

Key phrase— In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence

[bctt tweet="In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence"]

Digging Deeper...

What are we told about a person who fears the Lord?

What is said about people who don't fear the Lord?

What are the several things the "heart" knows and does?

How do you think the verses about the heart relate to fearing God, or do they at all?

Reflection...

The fear of God is not an anxious fear. In fact, it produces peace and assurance, not anxiety. It's not an emotion or feeling, but a conscious awareness of God, who is our Creator and is holy, powerful, merciful, and gracious.

He is worthy of more than respect. This awareness penetrates the heart and character of a person. It changes them inside, and their outlook on life and people.

The fear of God motivates a person towards goodness and doing right, while anxious fear paralyzes a person. God—because He's all-knowing and ever-present—knows the heart of every person. He knows our bitterness and grief, and He knows our joys and hopes.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What causes you to be fearful? Do you consciously entrust them to God?

How do you handle things like bitterness, guilt, unforgiveness, envy, or grief?

Does guilt motivate you to make things right, or cause you to withdraw or become stubborn?

In what ways have you feared others, but not God? Would you like to have a tranquil and content heart? Which kind of fear will you choose—anxiety or the fear of God?

The Perils of Pretentiousness

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We live exaggerated lives. If you live in a wealthy western nation, the chances are great that you live beyond your means. That's one way we live exaggerated lives.

Many of us have homes much larger than we need, which are filled with more things than we can manage. So, we fill up our garages with stuff, then rent storage units for everything else.

We have more knowledge at our fingertips than we can learn in a lifetime. That's not an exaggeration! But how much does all this benefit us? Are we wiser than previous generations? Are we happy and content?

It doesn't appear we are wiser, happier or vaguely content, though we consume vast amounts of... just about everything.

Scripture

Wise children take their parents’ advice, but whoever makes fun of wisdom won’t listen to correction. Those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined.  [vss 1, 3]

Some people pretend to be rich but really have nothing. Others pretend to be poor but really are wealthy. The rich may have to pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor will face no such danger. [vss 7-8]

Pride only leads to arguments, but those who take advice are wise. Money that comes easily disappears quickly, but money that is gathered little by little will grow. It is sad not to get what you hoped for. But wishes that come true are like eating fruit from the tree of life. [vss 10-12]

The teaching of a wise person gives life. It is like a fountain that can save people from death. People with good understanding will be well liked, but the lives of those who are not trustworthy are hard. Every wise person acts with good sense, but fools show how foolish they are. Spend time with the wise and you will become wise, but the friends of fools will suffer. [vss 14-16, 20]

(Proverbs 13:1, 3, 7-8, 10-12, 14-16, 20 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 13]

Key phrase

Spend time with the wise and you will become wise

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are the benefits of listening to sound advice and being careful with our words?
  2. What are the perils and problems of unchecked pride and pretending to be more than we are?
  3. What are the challenges of having wealth, and the benefits of good stewardship?
  4. What are the benefits of being wise, gaining wisdom, and living wisely?

Reflection...

Increased wealth and wisdom carries with it greater responsibilities. Life gets more complicated when we have more, of anything. I hear people marvel at the happiness seen in the faces of those we call the working-poor in other countries.

How can they be happy with so little? Because their lives, their expectations, are more simple. Hard, yes. But simple and less distracted in many ways.

Many of us in the west have a lifestyle only millionaires knew decades ago. We don't want to wait or be denied what we want. But it costs us more than we can afford. It costs us in ways that can't be quantified.

Make it personal...

How is your life better or different from your parents? If better, how do you measure this?

Is it difficult for you to wait to buy the latest gadget or style of clothing? Do you often find yourself looking for more?

When have you found yourself most content? When have you experienced deep peace or joy?

Are things or people most important to you? If people, how is this seen in your life?