people

The Fickle Factor

Showing partiality is not good,

because some people will turn on you even for a piece of bread.

Whoever trusts his own heart is a fool.

Whoever walks in wisdom will survive.

Whoever gives to the poor lacks nothing.

Whoever ignores the poor receives many curses. (Proverbs 28:21, 26-27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 28:17-28 GW)


People are fickle. This includes you and me. Driven by emotion or in reaction to changing situations, we change our minds. We make commitments and decisions but don’t follow through with them. We change because life changes around us.

We set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. When we’re let down—even when we fail to keep our own expectations—we tend to blame others. We’re fickle but there’s often good reason for it. Of course, we can also be capricious and unreliable—just like everyone else.

How can we avoid or overcome this fickle factor in life? Great question but there’s no easy answer—only a difficult one.

A prevailing thought is to focus on what you can control not what is beyond your control. This can be a good starting point but it leaves us with another question—what is really in our control? Our self? Self-control alone is a big challenge.

Every day is full of variables way beyond any person’s control—the weather, world events, the progression of time, people—those involved in our life and billions of others in the world, the universe, and so many other things.

So, the only possible domain of control is our own life. But we are impacted by the people and events surrounding our life every day. If we try to escape all of it, we isolate ourselves and whatever flaws and challenges within us are heightened by our isolation.

Isolation is not a viable option. We need others. None of us are self-sufficient enough to live on our own, independent of others. Self-sufficiency is a fantasy. We are far more dependent on others than we like to admit.

Can you imagine what it would be like if all 7.7 billion people on earth tried to live independent of each other? It would be chaos. No, it would be worse than chaos.

Self-sufficiency is a fantasy

What is in our control?

So, what’s the point of all this? We’re back to the question—what is in our control? The answer is difficult only because we are more prone to being self-absorbed than self-controlled. Delving into our selected verses from Proverbs 28 will give us some insights.

Looking at verse 21 first—Why is showing partiality not so good? It speaks to the inconsistent and unreliable impact of moral relativism—fickleness when determining what’s right or wrong.

Moral relativism is fickleness about what is right or wrong

What happens to other people and how they respond to their life situations is beyond our control. Whatever we hope to gain or avoid when showing favoritism or partiality sets us up for unrealistic expectations of others.

As made clear throughout Proverbs, trusting in anyone other than the Lord is unwise, or as it says here in verse 26—Whoever trusts his own heart is a fool. Wisdom is gained by trusting in the Lord.

When we trust in the Lord and live according to the wisdom He gives us, we can be confident of a more consistent and reliable outcome with others. Why? Because we choose to trust the Lord and His direction rather than the fickle whims of people and the world around us.

When life is more stable than when we trust in our own limited judgments and perceptions, we can be confident of God’s provision for our everyday life. This leads to contentment and frees us to be generous with others.

Generosity and contentment enable us to give freely without expectations. When I give to others without expecting anything of them, I’m less likely to be judgmental of them.

I have no expectations of them—why they’re in need, what they will do with what I give them, or how they will make it further without my help. All of that is beyond my control.

Contentment frees us to be generous with others

My trust in the Lord frees me from the fickle factor of my expectations of others and their expectations of me.

Reflection—

Trusting in the Lord frees us from the fickle factor of our expectations of others and their expectations of us. It also frees us from the fickleness of moral relativism and frees us to be generous with others.

Prayer Focus—

If you struggle with what seems to be fickleness in life with people, the world around you, or within yourself—seek to grow in trusting the Lord in all things and all ways in your life. He alone is not fickle!

©Word-Strong_2019


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People—Simple but Complicated

A motive in the human heart is like deep water,

and a person who has understanding draws it out.

Who can say, “I’ve made my heart pure. I’m cleansed from my sin”?

Even a child makes himself known by his actions,

whether his deeds are pure or right. (Proverbs 20:5, 9, 11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 20:1-13 GW)


People are people

Across cultures and geography, the basic needs and wants of people are the same. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for the most part, are true any place among the peoples of the world.

And so, at a basic level, people are simple to understand. If we lack basic physiological needs, we’ll be motivated to fill those needs. Of course, this is in a general sense and there are always exceptions to the rule. But, as a general rule—people are people.

Beyond basic needs people get a bit complicated. The motives of a person’s heart aren’t always easy to discern, especially when the mind and heart of a person is in conflict.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are examples of people whose values and judgment are in conflict or turned upside down. Somewhere along the line, the development of their moral conscience was short-circuited..

What’s all of this got to do with these verses in Proverbs? Plenty!

Discernment and wisdom needed

Discernment and wisdom are required to know and understand a person’s motives. Psychology can help us with clinical observations but to discern at a deeper level we need help.

This is where the wisdom of God and God’s Spirit are valuable.

God—our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer—knows everyone inside and out—our deepest thoughts, motives, and feelings. We need His help and guidance to understand others, as well as ourselves.

As a leader and in counseling others, I learned how valuable it was to listen well.

I learned how valuable it is to listen well

Listening well includes hearing what is spoken, what is not said, and what is held back. Not just reading between the lines but listening at a deeper, spiritual level.

Self-deception

On the subject of motives, we often don’t discern our own motives. We fool ourselves into thinking our heart is pure and without sin.

For some of us, self-deception becomes our shield from reality. Self-deception can even become somewhat of an art form but not in a good way.

While counseling people and even while teaching or preaching, I often sensed the Lord asking me, “Are you hearing what you’re saying to them?” More often than I’d liked to admit, I needed to hear and heed my own counsel for others.

Sooner or later, who we are and what our motives are is revealed through our actions and attitudes. Others tend to know things about us before we’re aware of them—especially our parents, spouses, close friends, and children.

Even sociopaths and psychopaths are seen for who they are at some point though they don’t realize it themselves.

People are people. We’re all the same for the most part. Only God knows us and others at the deepest level of our being.

It takes patience and help to draw water from a deep well, as it does to discern motives and values in the heart of a person including ourselves.

Want to know your own or someone else’s motives?

Be patient. Be a good listener. Be humble.

And ask God for discernment and wisdom.

Reflection—

God alone knows us in the deepest sense. If we want to understand our own motives or the motives of others, we need His help. We also need to be patient, humble, and learn to listen well—to God and others.

Prayer Focus—

As you go through your day, ask God to give you discernment and wisdom in your dealings with others and for how you live and interact with others.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Combatting Compassion Fatigue

Whoever has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,

and he will repay him for his good deed. (Proverbs 19:17 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 19:15-29 GW)


“Bad news travels fast” is an old saying and the internet enables bad news to travel faster than the speed of thought. The converse of this is good news is under-reported or ignored. A simple example is how quick gossip and rumors spread that subdue or suppress the truth.

Hearing bad or disturbing news over and over can wear a person out and numb us to the needs of others. The effect of hearing of relief efforts and needs following disasters can bring what’s called compassion fatigue.

Here’s a hard reality—poverty and neediness is a human condition not just an economic problem. That’s not to say those living in poverty brought it upon themselves. That’s just not true. But it’s not possible to solve the problem of poverty and need with money. It’s deeper than that.

Photo by  Fancycrave  on  Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

As Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you….” (Mark 14:7 GW) Jesus wasn’t being cold-hearted about the issue of poverty but realistic.

As Mother Teresa once said about the overwhelming needs of the poor—If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

Thousands and thousands of missionaries and relief workers understand this. They know the task is to do what needs to be done the best you can—one day at a time.

It’s not about solving a global problem but caring for and engaging with people.

I have a few personal heroes—everyday heroes who are living testimonies of doing the best they can with the needs in front of them every day. They do what they do because of compassion fueled by the love of God in their hearts.

A good friend of mine goes into parts of the world the US State Department says are too dangerous for travel. He and his organization go into war-torn and disaster devastated regions after the big non-profit agencies have come and gone.

They focus on education and community development. It’s difficult and time-consuming work. It’s the long view of relief work and is restorative and preventative.

A young woman I know, through a long-time friend, goes into war-torn areas like the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Brazil and Ukraine to work with women who’ve endured loss, rape, and violence. With the help of her church, she established a ministry of empowerment and restoration.

She teaches them basic self-defense combined with the hope of the Gospel. I’m amazed with her heart and boldness and life-giving vision.

Another long-time friend and pastor developed an international ministry for those impacted by HIV–AIDS. It’s a ministry that extends mercy and grace in tangible and sustainable ways with the hope of the Gospel. It grew out of a response to needs of people in his church in the US.

Each one of my personal heroes aren’t just showing compassion to the poor, they are in a partnership with the Lord. They are confident in the Lord and His call on their lives. Confident in God’s faithfulness and grace, as He honors their hearts and ministry.

And if you want to help any of them and their ministries, just click on the links above. I can personally and highly recommend each of them and their ministries!

Reflection—

Do you see giving to the poor as “lending to the Lord,” as a partnership with Him by caring for others? When we have a heart to see people as the Lord sees them, we’ll be moved to care for them as He would.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for God to open your eyes to the needs of people in your life and sphere of influence. Ask God to help you see beyond yourself to enter into partnership with Him in reaching out to others with His mercy and grace.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Caution: Swallowing Hazard

The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters.

The fountain of wisdom is an overflowing stream.

The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily,

and they go down into a person’s innermost being. (Proverbs 18:4, 8 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 18:1-8 GW)


Wise people tend to be more careful with their words than many of us. They use less words but say more when they do speak.

Wisdom and intelligence aren’t the same. A person can be quite intelligent but lack wisdom. Their understanding is limited by their lack of discretion, which is often tied to their character.

Wise people are also careful about the words they take in and accept. They don’t swallow everything they hear because they have discernment.

Even a foolish person—someone who lacks discretion and discernment—can seem wise when they keep their mouth shut (Prov 17:28). But alas, they still aren’t wise because of their character.

These verses have great picture words. The wise person is associated with grand images—deep waters, a fountain and an overflowing stream. These are noble images.

When you see a beautiful mountain stream or a fountain—whether manmade or natural—it commands respect and a sense of fulfillment, even awe. These are the images given of a wise person with their wise words.

What a stark contrast the wise person is to those who spread gossip! Not only the one who speaks gossip but those who listen to it.

Think about how prevalent gossip is in some form or another in our American culture. It permeates social media like a global epidemic and feeds off half-truths, lies, misinterpretations, and opinions spawned by various media sources including the internet.

Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What amazes me is how easily these tidbits of supposed news are accepted without reservation—especially when it fits our personal perceptions and opinions.

The saddest predicament is how rampant gossip is within churches. This should not be so and there’s no excuse for its existence or for tolerance of it within a church.

As a pastor of a local church in a fairly small town, I can attest to the prevalent and destructive nature of gossip.

It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland who drinks a bottle labeled “Drink Me” and eats a cake marked “Eat Me.” The consequences of her drinking and eating these were beyond her control.

This illustrates the tragic ripple effect of spreading and listening to gossip. Even when the truth is made known that dispels the focus and topic of who and what’s gossiped about—the gossip lingers on.

Gossip is swallowed greedily and goes deep into a person’s innermost being.

What can you or I do to prevent being a gossip or a receiver of gossip? Here’s some simple advice I saw recently—

If you’re talking negatively about someone, or if you’re listening to negative talk about someone, and the words aren’t helping solve the problem… you’re gossiping. (https://goo.gl/epx1fb)

When we are with people who value wisdom, we’re more likely to become like them. When we hang around with those who cultivate and trade gossip—well, we’ll become more like them.

The choice is ours—everyday and throughout each day—be careful what you listen to and swallow!

Reflection—

What do you want to be known for—wisdom or gossip? They have opposite origins and outcomes. This requires daily discernment and discretion, if we don’t want to swallow everything we hear!

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for discernment when hearing or considering something passed on to you. Ask the Lord to develop a sense of godly discretion and a love of wisdom in your heart and mind, and the discipline and willingness to pursue these daily.

©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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