integrity

A Simple Prayer—Just 2 Things

I’ve asked you for two things.

Don’t keep them from me before I die:

Keep vanity and lies far away from me.

Don’t give me either poverty or riches.

Feed me ⌊only⌋ the food I need,

or I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

or I may become poor and steal

and give the name of my God a bad reputation. (Proverbs 30:7-9 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 30:1-9 GW)


A futile pursuit

We want everything. But we can’t have it all. It’s not humanly possible. It also leads to self-destruction and emptiness.

Scores and scores of people in every generation find this out the hard way. Either they lose everyone of real value in their life or lose what they pursued, or both.

This is the primary message of King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. He literally had it all—wealth, women (way too many), wisdom, and worldwide fame. But the theme throughout Ecclesiastes is—

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (Eccl 1:2)

Other Bible versions use a different word for vanitymeaningless, futile, absolutely pointless—to describe the pursuit of everything this world has to offer.

The book of Proverbs, as with other books in the Bible, is written in a memorable way—so people can memorize and retain general truths. This was vital for people who didn’t have the privilege to read and write. They were oral learners.

This is why numbering and lists are prominent along with repetitive phrases. Contrasts and comparisons are used to make helpful distinctions. And, of course, lots of figurative language is used to describe conceptual and spiritual truths in more familiar images and pictures.

[For more insight on this, download my free Study Guide for Proverbs]

Just 2 things

These three verses are expressed as a prayer requesting two things—the first request is related to character and the second concerns day to day life.

Integrity of character is at the heart of the first request–the removal of what’s not true.

When the writer says keep vanity…far away from me, it speaks of self-deception—the fertile soil where arrogance and foolishness grow.

The request isn’t restricted to the lies we believe or tell ourselves, it’s an appeal for protection from the lies and deception of others. If we want integrity of character, we need to guard our hearts from what is not true—whatever its source.

The second request of this prayer focuses on contentment in daily life—something most everyone longs for but is so often elusive.

The author asks for God’s provision somewhere between two extremes—poverty or riches—then explains why.

The concern is that having too much in the way of riches may lead to ignoring the Lord—I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Another way to put it is, “I’ve got all I need and more. Who needs the Lord?”

Keep in mind—the intended audience for these proverbs were people whose identity was tied to their relationship with God.

The concern with being poor and not having enough is it may lead to stealing, which would dishonor God.

The author realizes how our life example—how we act and what we do in daily life—reflects on the Lord, too.

It’s a simple prayer, just two things are requested. The question is—Is it your and my prayer?

Reflection—

Integrity of character—inside our heart and mind, as well as how we live in the real world—will always honor the Lord.

Prayer Focus—

If you believe the world needs more truth and less lying, and a sense of contentment that honors God—make this your daily prayer.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Transparent Wisdom

A rich person is wise in his own eyes,

but a poor person with understanding sees right through him. (Proverbs 28:11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 28:1-14 GW)


American’s have a hate-love relationship with wealth. Most people would like to be rich and famous. We fawn over people who have made it big. And yet, we resent them and their wealth when we don’t have it ourselves.

One reason for resentment to rise is the arrogance of those who are rich. Not only do they act and talk as if they’re better than others—they think they’re more right than the rest of us.

Their status and wealth go to their head. But it’s a deception. It’s their own sense of rightness. But other people—especially those poorer than them—often see right through them.

Not all those who are poor understand this. I’ve lived in and visited other nations where despots rule with an iron fist clutching the wealth they’ve stolen from their own people. Still, people continue to elect and support such rulers with a futile hope they’ll benefit in some way.

Those of us who aren’t rich and powerful but who’ve rubbed shoulders with wealthy people in daily life—we know they are people just like us. Their wealth isn’t the problem. It’s how they allow it to affect them.

too often, the rich who aren’t arrogant are the exception

All rich people aren’t arrogant. Some know their wealth and status can disappear or diminish faster than it accumulated. Others see their wealth as a responsibility—they’re compelled to handle it and use it wisely.

Too often, the rich who aren’t arrogant are the exception not the rule.

What about the poor who have enough understanding to see right through the wealthy who are arrogant? Unless we keep our own mind and heart in check, we’ll become resentful rather than discerning.

For many years, I racked up lots of air miles by flying overseas often. This gained me certain benefits and privileges. On one flight, after taking my seat in the economy section of the plane, I was upgraded to business class.

As I made my way upfront towards the privileged section, another passenger made snide comments to me in an effort to make me feel bad. His misplaced resentment was because of jealousy and his own desire for the same privilege.

We only see through a rich person’s arrogance and false sense of rightness when we have sensible values and the perspective that comes with understanding.

A few verses prior to verse 11 above, we’re reminded of something important—

Better to be a poor person who has integrity than to be rich and double-dealing. (Prov 28:6 GW)

If we don’t want to be filled with resentment towards those who are rich nor caught up with the desire for their riches, we need integrity—a soundness of character.

When our values and sense of worth aren’t attached to what’s fleeting and tied to this life only, we’re more apt to be content with what we have, appreciate the people in our life, and be confident in who we are as a person.

we need integrity—a soundness of character

When we have integrity and true understanding, we’ll see people for who they are and things for what they are. And this carries over into the next life.

Reflection—

When our values and sense of worth aren’t attached to what’s fleeting and tied to this life only and when we have integrity and true understanding, we’ll see people for who they are and things for what they are.

Prayer Focus—

If you struggle with resentment towards the rich and powerful, ask for God’s wisdom so you can have a better perspective on everything. Ask for discernment and understanding. God promises to give us the wisdom we lack (James 1:5).

©Word-Strong_2019


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Respect and a Good Name

A good name is more desirable than great wealth.

Respect is better than silver or gold.

The rich and the poor have this in common:

the Lord is the maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:1-2 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 22:1-? GW)


Every person wants a measure of respect. A sense of being appreciated and valued. It’s a pretty basic desire. Perhaps more of a need for gaining a healthy psyche.

This was the impetus for the song Respect. Otis Redding—the great R & B singer who died tragically and way too young—wrote it from a man’s point of view. A few years later, Aretha Franklin rewrote it (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) from a woman’s perspective and this pop version became more popular than the original.

Why were these two songs so well liked? Because they spoke to this basic human desire and psychological need for significance.

But the basic idea of respect gets morphed into an unhealthy desire when distorted by popular culture and when it takes on a much harder edge.

When respect is recast as intimidation—as a tough action hero image, or is idolized—such as with any current celebrity—it becomes a cartoonish caricature of respect.

Anchored in character

Respect and a good name speak of integrity of character—something far deeper than a projected image. An imposter projects a facade—an external representation—but is a fraud underneath. A popular example would be Frank Abagnale of Catch Me If You Can fame.

Solomon—a man of exceptional wisdom and wealth—says a good name and respect are more valuable than great wealth. They have an incorruptible and lasting value.

True respect is anchored in character. It’s not something we can demand as in the two songs, nor something to be commanded through projecting an enviable persona.

People who have integrity of character gain respect because of who they are. They don’t project an image of respect, they reflect who they are by how they live and treat others.

Integrity can be described in these ways—decency, goodness, honesty, virtuous, trustworthy, sound, completeness, honorable, truthful. These qualities have nothing to do with appearance or possessions. They’re not external but internal qualities.

In the context of these verses in Proverbs, respect and a good name are tied to respect and awe of God. They aren’t based on wealth or status. What God entrusts to us—whether wealth or status or neither—isn’t tied to our integrity—for the poor and rich have the same Creator.

Reflection—

True respect is anchored in character. People who have integrity of character gain respect because of who they are. They don’t project an image of respect, they reflect who they are by how they live and treat others.

Prayer Focus—

If you want genuine respect that a good name carries with it, pray for integrity of character. Ask the Lord to help you develop the qualities of integrity for every day life and for help with treating people with respect and grace.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Peaceful and Pleasing

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. (Proverbs 16:6-7 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 16:1-15 GW)


Stress—continuous and sustained—is unhealthy. This is well-documented and verified through life experience. Unhealthy stress can be emotional, mental, or physical—sometimes it’s all three at once. Stress can be self-induced but also beyond a person’s control.

Some common advice today is—focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control. This is echoed by gifted athletes and business leaders alike. If only it were that easy!

People in war-torn nations and refugees seeking safety from war and oppression are in situations way beyond their control. Still, they look for ways to create a sense of normality and safety in whatever way they can.

Those of us in less desperate conditions may have a lot more freedom and opportunity to exert control over stress in our lives. Yet, too often we add stress rather than lessen it. This is unnecessary stress we choose to live under daily—often by default.

Think about what causes stress in your life. Now, consider how things might be different without certain stresses and what that would mean for you.

What do you have control over? What can you do about it?

Even when we focus on what we can control, it’s usually external things—what we do with our time, how we do our work, who we spend time with, and so on.

Not all unhealthy stress can be relieved by changing things outside of us. Why? Because we tend to bring unhealthy stress on ourselves.

This is where we need to consider what we worry about and why we do. Such things are often called first-world concerns—what we think we need and what we want are easily confused.

What if unhealthy stress can be relieved in a simpler and better way?

Think internal rather external. Think surrender rather than control. Yes, surrender.

When everything depends on us—our ability, our strength, our efforts—it’s a never-ending strain that produces and adds its own stress.

When we trust in the Lord—the way a young child trusts her parents—we learn to surrender and submit our worries and concerns to the Lord. This reduces our stress.

But how do we go about this in everyday life and within environments and situations where we are not in control?

We can choose how we respond rather than react to situations and people we encounter in a given day. We can extend mercy where our tendency is to be judgmental and harsh. We can remain faithful when dealing with inequity and unfairness.

When we choose to be peacemakers, God extends peace to us, as well as through us. When we choose the path of godly fear and integrity, we’ll avoid the evil others encounter.

And here’s the best part—God will extend His peace in our life so that even those who seem to be enemies will be at peace with us. This is a peace and a way of life guaranteed to reduce stress!

Reflection—

We can choose how we respond rather than react and choose the path of godly fear and integrity instead of the path everyone else follows. As we extend mercy and peace to others, we’ll experience God’s peace and freedom from unnecessary stress in our life.

Prayer Focus—

Begin each day in surrender to the Lord, asking Him to help you show mercy to others and for strength to be faithful in the midst of difficult and unfaithful times. Pursue peace with God and ask for His wisdom to navigate each day.

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Joy of Integrity

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

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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