Proverbs Devo

Valuable Words

Take the impurities out of silver,

and a vessel is ready for the silversmith to mold.

⌊Like⌋ golden apples in silver settings,

⌊so⌋ is a word spoken at the right time.

⌊Like⌋ a gold ring and a fine gold ornament,

⌊so⌋ is constructive criticism to the ear of one who listens. (Proverbs 25:4, 11-12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 25:1-14 GW)


What makes something valuable? Is it scarcity? This is the prevailing and popular belief. But scarcity creates a temporary value not a lasting value.

Lasting value has worth because of intrinsic qualities. Qualities that endure cultural fluctuations, people’s opinions, and time.

Words are valuable when they have an enduring sense of worth. What’s spoken or written isn’t dependent on their situational context or timing.

We live in a day and age when words—written or spoken—have little value. They’re neither scarce nor worthwhile.

An advertising slogan goes, what happens here (said city), stays here. If only this were true about what’s spoken and written on the internet! What gets posted online lingers on long after its initial arrival and eruption in the public forum and can’t be extracted or erased.

How do words become valuable?

How can words become valuable? They need to have intrinsic and enduring worth. Valuable words are true regardless of their situation or time. Truth—pure truth—endures. Its value lives on because it’s untainted.

A precious metal gains value when impurities are removed from it. This requires intense heat and sifting out the dross that collects on the metal’s molten surface—what’s common, corruptive, and invaluable.

When a precious metal such as gold or silver is purified, it becomes mirror-like in its molten state and reflects the image of whoever looks into it, such as the one who refines it.

Words spoken wisely—at the right time and in the right way—are “Like golden apples in silver settings.”

The purity of the silver sets off the purity and beauty of the golden apples. The pure silver frames the gold in a refined and reflective way.

If we want to speak or write valuable words, they need to be true and free of impurities.

Jesus said—

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matt 12:34 NIV)

So, if we want to speak valuable words then our hearts need to be pure. Our motive and intent for saying something needs to be pure—free from bias, malice, jealousy, or other such things.

But how is this possible?

First, the truth of God needs to be valuable to us—as if it were a precious metal or jewel. Then God’s word of truth needs to find an abiding place in our hearts. We need to treasure it.eLikewise, the truth needs to be prominent in our minds and on our tongues. This requires reading and speaking the truth of God so it impacts and refines our thinking.

When we love the truth it will become evident to others. Even truthful and constructive criticism—though hard to hear—will be welcomed for its value.

But keep in mind—only God is able to purify our hearts. He is the master Refiner of hearts (Mal 3:2-3) And God’s Spirit brings to life and reveals the truth of God to us (John 16:13).

When the Lord does His work in us and we reflect Him to others through our life—our words will become valuable when spoken at the right time.

Reflection—

The truth of God needs to be valuable to us and abide in our hearts, and be prominent in our minds and on our tongues. We need to treasure it.

Prayer Focus—

If you know your words aren’t always beautiful and valuable to you and others, or don’t reflect and honor God, ask the Lord to give you an understanding of the value of His truth. Then ask God to help you love the truth in a new and fresh way.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Truth, Dishonesty, and Consequences

Giving a straight answer is ⌊like⌋ a kiss on the lips.

Do not testify against your neighbor without a reason,

and do not deceive with your lips.

Do not say, “I’ll treat him as he treated me.

I’ll pay him back for what he has done to me.” (Proverbs 24:26, 28-29 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 24:23-34 GW)


Consequences have gotten a bad rap over the years. Generally, we think of a consequence as something negative. But it’s not. A consequence is a result or effect, a conclusion or product of some cause or action.

The popular sense of a consequence is negative. This was the premise of the popular TV show, Truth or Consequences, which a city in New Mexico was renamed for. But, a consequence can be good or bad or neutral in its impact.

A straight answer

Giving a straight answer, or an honest answer, has a good consequence—it’s, like a kiss on the lips. This figure of expression indicates respect and affection. It’s the opposite of deception.

Directness and honesty are not so common these days. Not a day goes by without an indication or revelation of untruthfulness by someone we encounter in daily life, a celebrity, or government leader. At least, it seems that way.

Sadly, disinformation—a common euphemism for indirect, often untrue statements—has become the norm. It’s not just people in the spotlight—the news media, government spokespersons, celebrities, etc.—but also in advertising or companies who justify not honoring a guarantee.

Before we get indignant and outraged at all this indirect and dishonest communication—think about yourself.

How many times have you been less than truthful or avoided the full truth in conversations between you and your spouse, parents, children, friends, co-workers, or neighbors? We use the euphemistic label white lies to describe this behavior.

How many times have you or I said or thought something like—Why didn’t you just tell me the truth? What we mean is this—Why didn’t you care enough and respect me enough by giving me a straight answer?

Dishonesty and a deeper problem

As far as negative consequences, these other verses speak for themselves. Well, it ought to be obvious these lead to negative consequences. But is it obvious to us?

The problem with lying—even half-truths and white lies—is the continual need to reaffirm the first lie with other lies. Lying becomes habitual. It’s a behavioral mode called avoidance—of consequences, confrontations, or just continued conversations.

But there’s a deeper problem here. One we tend to mutter under our breath or just think without saying—payback. Payback is just another word for revenge. Revenge is a distorted sense of justice—of making things right as we see them.

What we are called to

As believers—followers of Jesus—we are called to be beacons of light in a dark world (Matt 5:14-16; Phil 2:14-16) and to love our enemies rather than get retribution (Matt 6:43-48; Rom 12:19).

So, we are called to give direct, honest answers to one another. To love the truth and speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). To love our neighbors and to be merciful even as our Father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Reflection—

God calls us to be beacons of light in a dark world, to love our enemies, to give direct, honest answers and to love the truth and speak the truth in love to one another, our neighbors, and others—and to be merciful.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself being less than honest with someone or even yourself, ask the Lord to give you a love for the truth and for others. Seek to be light in the midst of darkness and to be merciful when others are not.

©Word-Strong_2019


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A Sign of Real Strength

If you faint in a crisis, you are weak.

Rescue captives condemned to death,

and spare those staggering toward their slaughter.

When you say, “We didn’t know this,”

won’t the one who weighs hearts take note of it?

Won’t the one who guards your soul know it?

Won’t he pay back people for what they do? (Proverbs 24:10-12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 24:1-22 GW)


A myriad of cliches are tossed about when difficult times comes.

There’s the famous British saying—Keep Calm and Carry (or Chive) On. How about the classic American expression—When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

But when a crisis hits, especially a life-threatening one, cliches are like chaff in the wind. They have no substance nor weight. Action not words is needed.

People of character rise to the occasion in a crisis. They’re able to meet challenges beyond their control because they don’t trust in circumstances. Their trust is anchored much deeper.

Those who are strong in character and within times of crisis are not centered on themselves. They don’t trust in themselves. Their world is larger than themselves.

Looking beyond ourselves

When our life and world revolve around our self, it leaves us unprepared to handle the change and interruption of a crisis—whether small or great.

Also, a self-absorbed and self-focused life insulates a person from others. This breeds an unhealthy isolation. It also pushes a person towards indifference—an apathetic attitude toward others.

Left unchecked, indifference leads to a hardness of heart. Everyone of us needs to guard against indifference and hardness in our hearts—it can keep us from fainting in times of crisis.

Those who don’t faint in a crisis are those who have more concern for others than themselves. Looking at verses 11-12 reminds us the world is much larger than us. As is often said, “It’s not about you!”

More than that, each of us are responsible to be considerate and caring for others—to show mercy and grace towards people we encounter in daily life.

Coming to the rescue

When we get our eyes off ourselves and become aware of the needs and challenges other people face, it helps put our own concerns into perspective. When I think of rescuing captives (verse 11), it brings many people into view with vastly greater needs than my own.

Many women and children are trapped in the inescapable maze of human trafficking. Unless we or others intervene, they are condemned to a living hell—even death at the hands of merciless captors. It’s not just a global problem but a much more local one.

They need mercy. They need rescue.

Millions of people suffer under oppressive and repressive governments or now live as refugees who fled savage warfare into an indefinite life stranded between danger and uncertainty. Their plight is through no fault of their own and is beyond their control or power.

They need a hand of grace extended to them. They’re crying out for mercy.

Thousands of people are trapped in addiction or in bondage to something too powerful for them to overcome on their own. They need merciful and gracious intervention—just as the Lord showed us.

Be merciful as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36 GW)

If we say, “We didn’t know this,” or “It’s not my problem…I’ve got my own problems”—we aren’t excused. We can’t just look the other way.

This is the heart of what Jesus spoke of in His Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5:3-9) and Sermon on the Plain (in Luke 6:27-37).

Those of us who are Christian believers—who trust in the Lord Jesus as our Savior—we are called to be like Him in relationship to people we encounter in life and as we become aware of the needs of others.

We are to be salt and light in the world (Matt 5:13-16), an extension of His heart of compassion, grace, and love to those around us.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103:8)

Reflection—

When we get our eyes off ourselves and become aware of the needs and challenges other people face, it helps put our own concerns into perspective. Each of us are responsible to be considerate and caring for others—to show mercy and grace towards people we encounter in daily life.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself wrapped up in your own concerns or worries, ask God to help you look beyond yourself. Ask the Lord to fill you with His compassion and love—His mercy and grace—towards people in your circle of life and beyond.

If you’d like to help extend mercy and grace—

To help those trapped as victims of human trafficking— here are 4 organizations to consider—

To help people under oppressive and repressive regimes, as well as refugees—you can contact my friend Mike Parks with Global Hope Network Intl. or click on these links—Refugee Families in Lebanon / in Iraq

©Word-Strong_2019


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Crossing the Invisible Line

Who has trouble? Who has misery? Who has quarrels?

Who has a complaint? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has bloodshot eyes?

Those who drink glass after glass of wine

and mix it with everything. (Proverbs 23:29-30 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 23:26-35 GW)


Our American culture is framed around self-determination. This runs the gamut from becoming successful entrepreneurs to tackling poverty and global warming.

Early on we’re told, “You can do anything you put your mind to… If you can think or imagine it, you can do it.” If only this were true. But it’s not reality.

We are a nation plagued with opiate addiction across many ages and backgrounds, and alcoholism and other forms of drug abuse are as rampant as ever.

What’s crazy to me is the continuing push to legalize pot—marijuana, Mary Jane, weed, cannabis—beginning with medical marijuana—as one way to reduce societal problems and incarcerations. Say what?!

Back to school

While raising a young family and pastoring a church, I went back to school in the 80’s to get certified as a substance abuse counselor. It wasn’t to add to my educational attainment nor because I was bored or wanted a second career. It developed in response to a need.

One of the families in our church was impacted by an inequitable school district policy but the the superintendent and school board wouldn’t listen to my concerns without credentials. In order to challenge their policy, I needed credibility they respected—education.

I took night courses and went to reputable training workshops. I learned of the scientific elements and dynamics of basic chemistry and substance abuse, and gained important insight and practical training.

A few things stand out to me even now and still hold true, which brings me to these verses in Proverbs about wine and alcoholic drinks in general—

  1. Alcohol is a drug—just as opiates and cannabis are drugs. It’s a depressant not a stimulant.

  2. All drugs—yes, even the prescribed and legal ones—cause physical and psychological damage at some level in every person. Verifiable scientific data backs this up contrary to popular opinion.

  3. A person doesn’t need to become addicted to have a drinking or drug problem. If a person’s use—whatever the amount—causes problems for them at work, home, in relationships, or their life in any way—they have a problem and it will only get worse with time if left unchecked.

  4. Once a person becomes addicted—regardless if you accept addiction as a disease or not—they cannot free themselves from its power over them on their own. They’ve crossed the invisible line—a line only evident once it is crossed. It’s different for every person.

I’m not advocating total abstinence. Even the Bible says, “…use a little wine for the sake of your stomach….” (1 Timothy 5:23) and Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11).

Perhaps an old proverb gives the sense of these verses in Proverbs and what I’m saying—

A man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, the drink takes the man.

Seduction and self-deception

Photo by  Marcel Gross  on  Unsplash

These verses in Proverbs 23 (vss 29-35) speak to the seductive and self-deceptive power of wine. But it’s relevant for any form of drug whether legal or prescribed. Of course, in certain medical cases prescribed drugs are needed for the health of an individual but even those can be abused.

The problem comes when we think we can control this power. This is a lie. Self-deception. Foolishness. It’s power is seductive and subtle as the proverb says—the drink takes a drink…[then] …takes the man (person).

So, what’s the take away from all of this? Go down the list of questions and statements in Proverbs 23:29-35. If any of this is somewhat true for you, then you’ve got a problem.

If so, it’s only a matter of time till you cross the invisible line unless you address your problem in an honest way.

I accept and believe the truth of these verses because of real life experience—personal experience with drugs and alcohol, family history, as a pastor and counselor, and my education and training.

If you’ve got a problem—whether small or large—get help. The first place to turn is to God. It’s also what the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous declare, whose origin is based in Scripture.

Reflection—

God calls us to Himself to set us free not imprison us with legalism. But when we find ourselves seduced and self-deceived, we need to call out to Him to set us free. Only He knows where the invisible line is for each person and He is the one who can set us free.

Prayer Focus—

If you find yourself heading toward the invisible line of addiction or have crossed it, humble yourself and cry out to the Lord for help. Then ask His guidance to help you find others who will support you in getting free from addiction or problems related to alcohol or drugs.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Consider What You Eat

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 eat the food of one who is stingy,

and do not crave his delicacies. (Proverbs 23:1-2, 6 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 23:1-11 GW)


Current American culture is obsessed with food—among other things. We’re absorbed with what we eat, how much we eat, when we eat, and the way we eat.

Our preoccupation with food fills a broad spectrum of concerns—health, cost, quantity, quality, variety, and availability are some of those concerns. But many people in the world are just concerned with having something to eat for themselves and their family.

I understand these concerns. Having lived in a nation where nearly half the population struggles at a subsistence level of poverty—a day to day concern for survival. That kind of obsession makes sense.

When I faced a health crisis, I developed a much stricter diet than in previous years. I still prefer to eat healthier foods, especially avoiding processed foods and excessive sugar. So, I relate to the focus many have on healthy eating.

Different concerns and situations

But these verses speak to another concern. They point out other reasons to consider what you eat—who we’re eating with and who’s paying for it.

These become practical concerns when eating out for business, or in my case, related to ministry work. This could apply when eating at someone’s home or a community-style meal like a block party, potluck, or progressive dinner.

I’ve eaten in many homes and a lot of restaurants over the years, and we’ve hosted many people in our home for meals. Here’s an observation—people notice what you order and what you do or don’t eat. It’s human nature to do so and it reveals something about us.

put a knife to your throat…

In the first situation—eating at a ruler’s table—it says, put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.

Most of us don’t have rulers so think of this as someone picking up the bill. This could apply to a meal with a boss, a friend, or your in-laws.

The simple principle here is—don’t be greedy nor be a glutton. On one hand, it’s a matter of consideration for others. But it also reveals something about us to others.

When someone else is paying, I don’t go for the most expensive item on the menu. That’s just being greedy. So, show some self-restraint and don’t take advantage of people’s generosity. They’re more likely to invite you again.

…do not crave his delicacies

The second situation requires us to consider who’s paying but in a different way. I’ve eaten with stingy people and know how uncomfortable it is. This requires sizing up people before just digging in to the food.

Consider who you’re eating with and what they value. Here’s why we are not to crave his delicacies

“Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. (Prov 23:7 NKJV)

Again, with potlucks or other community-style meals, be considerate of those who eat last. As a pastor, my family and I would wait to eat last at church potlucks and often wished Jesus was there to multiply the food.

Interestingly, each meal setting includes the admonition not to crave their delicacies.

This speaks to the need to be content. Don’t be envious nor greedy nor gluttonous. And don’t worry about what you’re going to eat—as Jesus reminds us—stop worrying about what you will eat (Matt 6:25 GW).

Perhaps, if we all learned to be more content with what we do have—what God blesses us with—we’d be a lot less obsessive about food. We’d also be the kind of people others like to have at their tables when they share a meal.

Reflection—

When we are content with what we have—with what God provides—it frees us from envy, worry, and even gluttony or any other obsession with food. Regardless of what’s on the table, we’ll be free to engage with and enjoy the company around the table.

Prayer Focus—

If you are concerned about what you eat—whether it’s worry or an obsession—ask the Lord to help you be thankful and content. Ask the Lord to help you be considerate and thoughtful towards those whom you join at the table for any meal.

©Word-Strong_2019


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