lies

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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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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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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The Evil of Double Standards

A double standard of weights and measures— both are disgusting to the Lord. 

A double standard of weights is disgusting to the Lord,

and dishonest scales are no good. (Proverbs 20:10, 23 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 20:9-25 GW)


“The numbers don’t lie!” Well, maybe not the numbers but those who manipulate numbers for their own gain at the expense of others—they do lie. This is the nature of a double standard. What should be trustworthy isn’t.

Remember the Enron scandal? The numbers lied. Well, those who reported the numbers lied about the numbers. How about Bernie Madoff? Remember him and his Ponzi scheme?

Both of these scandals involved billions of dollars and affected thousands of lives. Not just the principal investors but the ripple effect it had on others. But none of this is new. The scale may be greater but the schemes are ancient.

The double standard in these verses refer to the use of differing weights used to measure goods paid according to weight. The principle is the same—deception of others to profit the deceiver. Somewhat of a bait and switch approach or shell game ruse.

It’s nothing new and God hates this type of deception. It “disgusts” Him. Or, as said in another version, it’s “an abomination.”

Seem to harsh? Well, it’s evil but for more than obvious reasons.

Photo by  Pau Casals  on  Unsplash

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

My wife and I delight in our grandchildren, as most grandparents do. We play and interact with them as we did with their parents (our children) but without the immediate responsibility as parents. That’s part of the fun of being grandparents!

I’m a jokester, always have been. My kids and now my grandkids are on to me though. They expect me to joke with them, tease them, and play tricks on them. And believe me, as they grow older they learn to turn the tables on me and it gets harder for me to trick them.

One silly thing I would do, as they became conscious of weight as a measure of their growth, is to step on the scale behind them as they weigh themselves.

When the numbers are much higher than expected, their eyes widen with astonishment. Then either Nana or I tell them how I tipped the scales to fool them. I can’t do this but once or twice before they wise up to my trick.

Now, as innocuous as my tipping the scale is, it reveals an underlying principle of humanity. We are trusting by nature. It’s innate. We trust until we learn not to trust.

To trust is innate until we learn not to trust

This is the real issue with double standards and differing weights and why God hates this. I’ve seen this truth over and over. Trust only exists until it’s violated.

God hates it when trust is broken. When trust is violated it breaks the bond of relationship.

This goes back to the garden with Adam and Eve. When they stopped trusting God implicitly because they believed the lie of the serpent, their innocent and pure relationship with God was broken (Gen 3:1-10).

They believed God was holding something back from them and it all went downhill from there (Gen 3:11-19). Since then, deception of others and of self continues to prevail because lies—even small ones—violate trust and break relationships.

Trust is easy to break but hard to mend

I’ve learned that even with my jokes and teasing, I need to be careful not to cross a line. I don’t want to break or undermine the trust of those closest to me nor anyone else who looks to me as a trustworthy person.

We all need to be careful in our interactions with others in whatever environment or situation in life we find ourselves—home, work, business, community, church, or wherever. Trust is a fragile element—easy to break but hard to mend.

Reflection—

The real issue with double standards and differing weights and why God hates them is an issue of trust. Trust only exists until it’s violated. It’s easy to break but hard to mend. Lies and deception only lead to broken trust and broken relationships.

Prayer Focus—

If you find yourself trapped in some form of deception—of others or yourself—ask God to help you see how to put an end to it. Ask the Lord to help you be honest and open, and if relationships and trust have been broken, ask Him how to restore them.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Hating Evil

Evil is real and present in our world. Evil is typically characterized as moral vileness or violent and intimidating power. But not all evil is that obvious.

Evil is often more subtle and secretive. It doesn't want to be exposed. It doesn't want to be discovered nor accept responsibility for its own evil nature and actions.