Rich and Satisfied

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One person spends freely and yet grows richer,

while another holds back what he owes and yet grows poorer.

A generous person will be made rich,

and whoever satisfies others will himself be satisfied.

People will curse the one who hoards grain,

but a blessing will be upon the head of the one who sells it. (Proverbs 11:24-26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 11:20-31 GW)


"It's not about you!" You've likely heard this expression, maybe even said it. It's become a favorite put-down said when a person doesn't want to answer someone or explain something.

The trouble is—we live in a world of "me." It's common for people to ask, "What's in it for me?" Millions of selfies and personal opinions flood various social media daily.

The focus on getting rich and being satisfied is an American obsession. It occupies most every free moment we're awake, including daydreams at work, and perhaps even our dreams at night.

Yet, the idea of growing rich and being satisfied in these few verses of Proverbs is based on unselfishness. It's the opposite of what you might think and is expressed in contrasting and complementary statements.

The first of these three verses make this clear. Here it is from another Bible version—

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. (Prov 11:24 ESV)

As Jesus told His followers when He sent them out for ministry—"Freely you have received; freely give" (Matt 10:8 NIV). 

This is so contrary to a self-centered idea of getting rich. In the wording of Proverbs being rich or prosperous speaks of far more than material wealth (see link below or here — Proverbs Study Guide).

Many Americans who travel to poorer nations see the generosity and hospitality of people living in poverty and marvel at it. Why? The concept of contentment and happiness is often tied to material possessions.

Can a person be generous and still become prosperous? Yes, especially in God's economy. If the focus is on wealth and prosperity, it's a setup for disappointment and discontent.

Many wealthy people give away great amounts of their wealth for the benefit of others. It's called philanthropy. Of course, there are plenty of wealthy people who hold on to all to their wealth and possessions tightly and whose lives are empty and lacking satisfaction.

The obvious focus in these verses is on others, not self. This is the point. It's not a formula or scheme. It's an attitude of the heart.

Want to be rich and satisfied? First, figure out what is motivating you. Also, are you thinking short-term or long-term?

If you run after personal riches and satisfaction, you might find it in the short-run but you'll end up poor and dissatisfied in the end. But if your concern is for others, God will honor it. 

The Lord values those who care and value others. And His blessing isn't restricted by time—the present and future are all the same to Him. He often honors us with temporary wealth and satisfaction when we don't hold on to it too tightly in this life.

The key to richness and satisfaction that honors God and is a lasting blessing to us personally is unselfishness—when we are considerate of others not just ourselves.

Reflection—

Running after personal riches and satisfaction in the short-run leads to a personal poverty and dissatisfaction in the end. But concern for others honors God who in turn will honor us for our unselfishness.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for a heart that seeks what honors God and for an unselfish attitude of heart daily. As you seek God for this, look for the opportunities God brings into your life where you can give freely and to enjoy what satisfies in the truest sense.

 

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Joy of Integrity

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When righteous people prosper, a city is glad.

When wicked people die, there are songs of joy.

With the blessing of decent people a city is raised up,

but by the words of wicked people, it is torn down.

A person who despises a neighbor has no sense,

but a person who has understanding keeps quiet.

Whoever gossips gives away secrets,

but whoever is trustworthy in spirit can keep a secret.

A nation will fall when there is no direction,

but with many advisers there is victory. (Proverbs 11:10-14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 11:1-19 GW)


When I hear people complain about the government, I think of the many places I've traveled to and when we lived overseas for 15 years. I know from experience these complaints are short-sighted with a narrow focus.

It doesn't matter where a person's convictions fall on the political spectrum—we all tend to judge things based on our personal view of things, through the lens of our biases and opinions.

No government is perfect because they're made of people and none of us are perfect. But some governments provide more safety and stability than others. A few afford freedoms and opportunities not commonly found elsewhere.

Living and traveling overseas will likely give a person a clearer perspective on all of this unless their eyes are shut—blinded by arrogance, indifference, and prejudice.

As an observer of history and people, I've gained some perspective over the years. Things aren't nearly as dire as some would have you believe nor as wonderful as others might say. I've learned to be thankful and prayerful.

I'm thankful for the Lord's kindness and provision, for the place and time in history I was born into and live, and thankful for the truth and wisdom God gave me that brings clarity and perspective.

I'm prayerful for my nation and for leaders to have integrity. When people of integrity lead a nation it opens the door for prosperity beyond economics—a prosperity not defined by wealth but more of a sense of favor and well-being.

That's what I think of when I read these verses in Proverbs. I know that people of integrity—people of character—who lead in various levels of government—local, regional, or national—are a blessing to their communities and spheres of influence.

I know there's a great need for people of integrity to be raised up in civic, business, and spiritual arenas. When people of integrity lead—that is, people of "understanding" who are "trustworthy in spirit"— there is joy, gladness, and a prosperity of well-being.

The next time you find yourself complaining about the government or leaders in any other sector of life, take some time to be thankful and pray for integrity instead. It will help adjust your perspective and help you to see God's blessings and help you to become a blessing.

I believe this is why the prophet Daniel had such great favor with the emperors he served under (Daniel 2:46-49; 6:28) and why the apostles Paul and Peter exhort us to pray for those in positions of authority (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

These men knew what it was like to live under tyranny and oppression. They had an eternal perspective and were thankful, prayerful men of God.

Reflection—

We're told that when the righteous—people of integrity—are leaders, it's a blessing to everyone and brings honor to a city, even a nation.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for leaders with integrity to be raised up in all spheres of government and influence—including local and national, civic, business, and spiritual leaders. And as you pray, be thankful!

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Lingering Toll of Laziness

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Like vinegar to the teeth, like smoke to the eyes,

so is the lazy person to those who send him ⌊on a mission⌋. (Proverbs 10:26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:22-32 GW)


Laziness is not a virtue. But the thought of being lazy is appealing when faced with the daily grind of life. In the midst of time demands and the tyranny of the urgent, we may daydream of taking a day to just do nothing.

But laziness as a lifestyle or a lazy approach to life—with no ambition or motivation—has an accumulative effect. Laziness becomes its own treadmill of dread with no jumping off point.

Childhood play is not laziness nor is recreation or vacation for adults. There is a creative and restorative purpose in playing and having fun or taking time for rest. Much is written on this.

But laziness is neither play nor rest. At its best, it's apathy and slothfulness. At its worst, it is destructive and disruptive—for the lazy person and for those impacted by their laziness.

This proverb is quite descriptive—

Like vinegar to the teeth, like smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy person to those who send him ⌊on a mission⌋. (Prov 10:26 GW)

If you've been around a campfire when the wind shifts and smoke blows in your eyes, you know how much it burns and how this lingers after you get out of the path of the smoke.

Vinegar has a distinct and lasting taste. If you've tasted bad wine, certain home remedies, or an oil and vinegar dressing with too much vinegar, you know the taste. Drinking water doesn't wash it all away—something sweet is needed to counter the acrid, bitter, and sour taste left in your mouth.

How is this proverb of any value to our daily life?

Depending on someone who is lazy or does their work in a lazy manner is more than futile or frustrating. It leaves a bitter taste in our mouths that lingers. The burn of being let down by someone has a ripple effect.

It's easy to see this with others but how about ourselves? We only fool ourselves when we make excuses or blame others for our own slackness in carrying out a task.

I've heard complaints from people who work with Christian believers who don't do their jobs well and excuse their poor work performance because they are "witnessing for the Lord." The trouble is, they are a poor example of Christianity and this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those who work with them.

Those of us who are people of faith—people who have chosen to follow Jesus—need to show excellence in the workplace, as well as with any task or service we're engaged in at church.

We also need to do whatever we do with a cheerful and gracious attitude. This honors the Lord and won't leave a bitter taste in anyone's mouth or heart.

Reflection—

If you are a person of faith and follower of Jesus, you are to be an honorable example in your workplace or any other place you serve others. Do so with a cheerful and gracious attitude so the Lord is honored and others are blessed by your presence.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to show you where you might need to improve your effort at work or while serving in some ministry or church role. If the Lord shows you things that could be done better, ask Him to show you how to do make those necessary changes.

©Word-Strong_2018


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A Tongue of Pure Silver

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Whoever conceals hatred has lying lips.

Whoever spreads slander is a fool.

Sin is unavoidable when there is much talk,

but whoever seals his lips is wise.

The tongue of a righteous person is pure silver.

The hearts of wicked people are worthless. (Proverbs 10:18-20 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:8-21 GW)


If you "Google" silver-tongued, you might find something like—a person who has a clever way with words. Or, the old song, The Silver Tongued Devil and I might pop up. It alludes to the dark and evil side of a person hidden behind a saintly smile. Obviously, to be silver-tongued gets a bad rap in public opinion and Google searches!

So, how could it be a good thing to have a tongue of pure silver? 

Pure silver—when it's clean and polished—is beautiful. It shines with a mirror-like luster and understated dignity. Pure silver reflects everything around it through its beauty.

The key to the verse about the tongue of a righteous person being pure silver is found within the context of its nearby verses. Contrasting statements clarify the intended meaning—the exact opposite of the popular perception of a silver tongue.

When I seek to understand a verse in Scripture, I look at the context first, then observe anything the specific wording reveals. I'll compare various Bible versions to help me with other word usages for the same verse.

What stands out as most obvious is the comparison and contrast of the worth of the tongue or lips of a righteous person with the value of the heart of wicked people.

Why does this stand out? The tongue and the heart are different parts of the body having different functions. This is figurative language that illustrates the intended meaning.

The tongue represents a person's mouth and what they say, as made clear from the context of the nearby verses. The heart represents a person's inner being—their nature.

As so often is the case, Jesus helps us connect the dots for a clearer sense of the meaning. In response to some self-righteous religious leaders, He said—

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matt 12:34)

Jesus was blunt and direct in saying this and it stung those to whom it was directed!

We've all said something out loud we wished hadn't come out and then tried to excuse it or explain it away. But the problem isn't with the words so much as where they originated.

Reading the greater context of Proverbs 10:20—verses 8-21—speaks to our need to choose wisely what we hold in our hearts and minds. Sooner or later our true nature will be revealed by what we say.

Reflection—

We all need to be careful about what we hang on to and hold in our hearts and minds. Sooner or later, what is in our hearts and minds—our true nature—will be revealed by the words we speak.

Prayer Focus—

Guarding what comes out of our mouths requires constant self-monitoring but it often seems like an impossible challenge. Prayer—continuous prayer—and the constant presence and guidance of God's Spirit enable us to overcome this challenge.

©Word-Strong_2018


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An Antidote for Hate

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Hate starts quarrels,

but love covers every wrong. (Proverbs 10:12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:1-12 GW)


The book of Proverbs begins with personalized encouragements, admonitions, and instruction from a father to a son. The first 9 chapters also include parables that contrast wisdom with foolishness in general.

But starting in Chapter 10, various topics are addressed more specifically—mostly with contrasting couplets and comparisons. Proverbs 10:12 is a great example of contrasting statements very relevant to our present time. Here it is in another version—

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Prov 10:12 NIV)

Hatred is defined in various ways—extreme dislike, disgust, ill will, resentment, prejudiced hostility, animosity—you get the idea.

Hate is often expressed by finding fault or projecting blame or making false accusations. Sound familiar? There's way too much of that going around! Regardless of its motivation or source—it stirs up strife...conflict...quarrels...even war.

Hatred doesn't have to run too deep to accomplish this. Think of the many times "I hate you!" is hurled by one person at another. It's pretty common among siblings in childish fits of anger and all too common between spouses. Sadly, I know this from experience.

But love is a powerful antidote for hate!

We have historical examples of love "covering" hate—Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and of course, Jesus who said this as He's crucified—Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

But examples are only valuable to us if we learn from them and follow what they model. These couplets of wisdom are intended to be useful and practical for daily life. How can we apply this bit of practical wisdom?

The next time someone throws some flaming words your way or tries to start an argument—extend kindness and conciliatory words. Don't answer with a bitter barb of your own—extend forgiveness and grace.

It will take some practice but it could change the world—at least your own sphere of it. Who knows, if enough of us keep extending love for hate, the world just might change much faster than you or I can imagine—one opportunity at a time, one relationship at a time.

Reflection—

When someone throws flaming words your way or tries to start an argument—extend kindness and conciliatory words—don't answer with a bitter barb of your own—extend forgiveness and grace.

Prayer Focus—

Prayer is much needed to extend love for hate in the process of daily life, so ask for God's help often—even throughout the day. The Lord is an expert at extending grace and mercy and love to people who don't deserve it—people like you and me.

©Word-Strong_2018


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