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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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Gateways of the Heart and Mind

A conceited look and an arrogant attitude,

which are the lamps of wicked people, are sins.

Whoever shuts his ear to the cry of the poor

will call and not be answered.

Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue

keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:4, 13, 23 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 21:1-31 GW)


Your can observe a lot just by watching. (Yogi Berra)

Yogi Berra—a great baseball player, coach, and a humble man—was famous for some of his sayings, sometimes known as “yogi-isms.” They might sound funny the way they’re expressed but they made sense within their context.

It’s not hard to get what he meant from his point of view as a veteran all-star baseball player. If you know anything about baseball (I’m a lifelong baseball fan), there are many subtle elements and strategies to the game. As Yogi would say, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

Observation is watching with the intent to learn something. It isn’t a passive gaze. When we observe something we take in all that our eyes see. We may focus on certain things but even what’s in our peripheral vision is processed by our mind.

These three verses give some insight to how the eyes, ears, and mouth are gateways of a person’s heart and mind. What goes in and out of each gateway has consequences and benefits that impact the heart and mind.

The eyes

The eyes perceive and take in what they look at but are also an outlet of what’s inside a person. It’s pretty easy to distinguish eyes filled with joy from those flushed with anger.

The nature of a person, as well as emotions, are seen through the eyes. The attitude of the heart is conveyed through the physical eyes, especially when accompanied with emotion.

As Jesus said—

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

A conceited look and arrogant attitude reveal a darkness within a person and that darkness is destructive. It isn’t beneficial for anyone which is why it is sinful.

The ears

When I’m focused on what I’m doing, I tune out the noise and activity around me. This makes it easy to not hear someone telling me something, especially if I don’t want to hear it.

Children have very selective hearing when parents ask them to do or not do something. Husbands develop a similar form of selective hearing but tend to justify it. “Honey, can you take out the trash? It stinks! (wife) “I can’t right now, I’m in the middle of something” (husband while watching a sports event).

But when we shut our ear to the cry of the poor it points to a deeper issue within us. We’re not hard of hearing—our hearts are hardened. And yet, when we cry out in a time of need we expect God to attend to us. We need to be careful what we shut out—what we don’t hear or see.

The mouth

We’ve all said things we wished we hadn’t. Even when we know it would be best kept unsaid, we say it anyway. We say something in the heat of the moment then regret it. If we’re willing to humble ourselves, apologize, and make amends as needed, we might rectify the situation.

But with social media—what’s out there stays out there. Once the internet captures it, it gains a life of its own. Many people have found this out the hard way.

It’s far better to guard our mouth from saying regrettable things. But this is easier said than done. As it says in Scripture, no one can tame the tongue… (James 3:8 GW).

Why can’t the tongue be tamed? Because the words of our mouth go deeper that’s what is spoken and heard—they reveal what’s in our hearts. Jesus clarifies this for us—

Your mouth says what comes from inside you. (Matt 12:34c GW)

I’m reminded of a simple child’s song using repetition and rhyming to make the point of these three verses—O be careful little eyes…ears…mouth…. It’s important for all of us to remember we’re responsible for what goes in and out of these gateways of the heart and mind!

Reflection—

It’s beneficial to us as a whole to guard our hearts from arrogance and callousness, and to use discretion when we speak. We are all accountable for these three gateways of the heart and mind—the eyes, ears, and mouth.

Prayer Focus—

Which of these three gateways give you the most difficulty in life? Even if it’s all three—ask God daily, even throughout the day, to give you discretion in your interactions with others along with humility and tenderness of heart.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Do the Right Thing

A person thinks everything he does is right,

but the Lord weighs hearts.

Doing what is right and fair

is more acceptable to the Lord than offering a sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:2-3 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 21:1-8 GW)


The time is always right to do what’s right. Martin Luther King Jr

Every year, as our nation observes the birthday of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a flurry of his quotes fill social media posts, news media, and speeches. As with many statements these days, these quotes are expressed outside of their original context.

Oberlin College Archives

Oberlin College Archives

The quote above is a statement Dr King made at Oberlin College in October of 1964. The thought of this statement permeates much of what he spoke and wrote about integration and civil rights.

The context of these words are the life and calling of Dr King—a Baptist preacher and the son of a Baptist preacher. The 50’s and 60’s were a tumultuous time in America. It was not empty rhetoric but truth grounded in the reality of his time.

Doing the right thing is a common theme throughout the Proverbs. It’s a common tenet of good business ethics and basic morality. However, what the right thing is depends on a person’s belief system, values, and cultural influences.

Each of us can be convinced of our own rightness but our words and actions in life need to be consistent within our daily lives. Otherwise, it’s a matter of saying one thing but living out something different. Then, what we claim as rightness is out of context with who we are.

A sense of our own rightness soon becomes self-righteousness—our own narrow view of right and wrong. This extends beyond religious self-righteousness and permeates every aspect of our life. It becomes an attitude of the heart.

Self-righteousness sets us up to be judgmental and prejudiced toward others

This narrow view of rightness produces a judgmental view of others and a sense of superiority towards those who don’t measure up to our sense of righteousness—our view of what’s true, right, and fair.

When self-righteousness goes unchecked it isolates a person from those deemed inferior in their religion, thinking politics, behavior, associations with others, and so on.

The only counter to self-rightness is humility—a sense of who we are in comparison to God rather than others.

God knows our heart. He knows our motives. He alone is able to judge in a true and just way and He is by nature merciful (Exo 34:6; Luke 6:36).

When we see our own sense of rightness in light of God’s mercy, we can be freed from a judgmental and prejudiced heart.

True humility can set us free from a self-righteous heart

Instead of the narrow view of self-righteousness—that no one can measure up to including us—humility sets us free to do what is right and fair. This is what is acceptable to God rather than any self-righteous attitude or effort on our part.

How we see and treat others is a good indicator of what standard of rightness we hold. Is it our own or God’s? Do we measure our own sense of rightness in comparison to others or God?

Reflection—

No one can measure up to the narrow and judgmental perspective of self-righteousness. This include our self no matter how right we think we are. How we see and treat others is a good indicator of what standard of rightness we hold—our own or God’s—and He alone is just and merciful.

Prayer Focus—

If you find yourself looking down at others as inferior and wrong, ask God to give you His perspective on others—how He sees them and us. When you find a self-righteous attitude welling up in your mind and heart, humble yourself and ask God to forgive you.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Good Sense

A person who gains sense loves himself.

One who guards understanding finds something good.

A person with good sense is patient,

and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense.

Home and wealth are inherited from fathers,

but a sensible wife comes from the Lord. (Proverbs 19:8, 11, 14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 19:1-14 GW)


Do we even know what good sense is? It used to be typical for parents to tell children to use good sense. Perhaps the expression is out of touch with our relativistic culture.

Even the expression common sense seems outdated and irrelevant today. But the need for good sense or common sense is greater than ever.

First of all, let’s consider what the phrase good sense means in these verses. In general, it speaks of sound judgment, discernment, or wisdom.

Within the context of Proverbs, the basis of good sense and wisdom is God—the One true and living God of Israel.

His revealed wisdom is found within the Scriptures. During Solomon’s life it included the first five books of the Old Testament, the history of Israel and many of the Psalms up to the time of his father King David.

These three verses give us insight into the benefits of good sense—why it’s valuable—personally, in all our relationships, and at home.

Personally

When we gain good sense and wisdom, we love ourself in the best way. Not in the popular self-indulgent or selfish way. The sense of verse 8 from the original language is to love one’s own soul. Another way of saying it is—the person who gains wisdom is his own best friend.

Relationships with others

An important benefit of wisdom and good sense is to help a person cope with difficult people and situations. The idea of patience here is to be slow to anger and to overlook an offense means to be not easily offended.

An old expression goes, “to take offense is to give it.” Wisdom and good sense enable us not to be hypersensitive and reactive when others say or do things that are offensive or irritate us. This is a valuable benefit in our times!

Home

Lasting wealth and security depends more on who rather than what. This verse is the positive contrast to the verse that precedes it (verse 13). A sensible wife is a gift from God. I know this firsthand! Don’t have a spouse? No problem! This could be a applied to wise parents and children, as well (see download below).

Here’s how I see these verses applied in my life—

The Lord gave me the gift of a sensible and wise wife. She helps me see others in a better light than I tend to do at first. I’ve personally gained from her wisdom and good sense.

Being thankful for her and loving her is like loving my own soul. After all, as it says in the Bible, we are “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), and when I love her as myself (Eph 5:28), I’m not so easily offended when she points out my lesser qualities, if you get what I mean.

Reflection—

How would you apply the insight from these verses in your life? When you gain good sense and wisdom, it’s much easier to live with ourselves, others, and those in our family.

Prayer Focus—

Start each day being thankful and ask the Lord for good sense and wisdom. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask Him for it (James 1:5). Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance on how to benefit from it in all your relationships.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Pleasant Words

A wise person’s heart controls his speech,

and what he says helps others learn.

Pleasant words are ⌊like⌋ honey from a honeycomb—

sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.

 (Proverbs 16:23-24 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 16:16-24 GW)


An old children’s refrain goes, “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words can never hurt me.” The truth is—words can and do hurt. It’s not just about insults and taunts—those are certainly not pleasant words—but many other words can hurt us.

It can be as simple as words unspoken. Many a child, even spouses, never or rarely hear the words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” or any apology or admission of wrong.

How about unfair or false accusations? This happens a lot in homes and in workplaces, even classrooms, let alone in politics and social media.

One tactic interrogators and lawyers use is to sow doubt. This was commonly used in prison camps to break the spirit of POW’s. They would say things like, “Your family and country have forgotten you, “ and “No one is going to rescue you.”

Years ago, an assistant pastor told me I didn’t have a “shepherd’s heart.” It stunned me when I heard this and the wound went deep. It wasn’t true for me but it ended up being true of him. Through prayer and encouragement from others—especially my wife and close friends—the Lord gave me an accurate perspective.

The words we echo to ourselves—self-talk—can also be hurtful and damaging. So, yes, words from various sources and in different forms can and do hurt.

The surprising antidote is to hear and utter pleasant and truthful words—”sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.” It may sound too simplistic but it’s true.

Certainly, the truth can be spoken harshly and be destructive when spoken with the intent to hurt. This is why understanding needs to be applied when speaking the truth.

As said in another place in the Bible, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It’s not enough to just use nice words, as pleasant as they might be. The pleasant words spoken of here in Proverbs come from a wise person and are helpful not harmful (verse 23).

The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God. The primary source of His truth for us is found in the Scriptures and is revealed to us by His Spirit to our mind and heart.

Whoever gives attention to the Lord’s word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the Lord. (Prov 16:20 GW)

This leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial—not only for those who hear pleasant words wisely spoken—but this divinely based understanding becomes a fountain of life for those who speak them (vss 21-22).

Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely. When we choose to speak pleasant words in a wise way, it will bless and help others and bless us, as well.

Reflection—

The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God, which leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial. Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely— so we may bless and help others and be a blessing.

Prayer Focus—

In your prayer times, ask the Lord to help you be mindful throughout the day in all your interactions with others, that you would speak wise and pleasant words.

©Word-Strong_2018


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