right

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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Keep the Floodgate Closed

Whoever forgives an offense seeks love,

but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends.

Starting a quarrel is ⌊like⌋ opening a floodgate,

so stop before the argument gets out of control.

Whoever loves sin loves a quarrel. (Proverbs 17:9, 14, 19a GW)

(Context—Proverbs 17:7-20 GW)


Ever notice how much easier it is to start an argument than to end one? Most arguments are based on a difference of opinion with both parties insisting on their own rightness. The assumption is made that one side is right while the other is wrong, which isn’t necessarily true.

This can be seen in the typical news or sports talk shows where one or more people state their case against the view of another. The back and forth goes on and on till a moderator steps in as a referee.

Most of these arguments amount to straw man arguments based on opinion rather than facts. Oftentimes, knowledge about the topic is limited or unknown but this doesn’t stop people from arguing their point. They state conjectures and opinions as if they were facts.

A classic example—one that hits home, literally—is what I call the domestic discussion. Arguments between husbands and wives are typically the opinions and feelings of one spouse versus the other. The “facts” are various reasons for claiming rightness about an issue, often at the expense of the other.

I’ll joke with people that, “If my wife would just realize I’m right, we wouldn’t argue!” Of course, that’s the point. I assume I’m right and she’s wrong.

Some of our arguments have gone on and on to the point we forget what started it. We’ve even found ourselves laughing at how silly it is to be arguing, if we’re not too emotionally invested in our own rightness.

This is exactly the point of these verses—

Photo by  Felix Koutchinski  on  Unsplash

Starting a quarrel is ⌊like⌋ opening a floodgate, so stop before the argument gets out of control.

The purpose of a floodgate is to hold back a flood of water. When torrential rains threaten to break a dam, a floodgate or spillway may be temporarily opened to relieve some pressure. But this is a drastic and temporary measure that could lead to a greater flood.

When someone—a spouse, a sibling, a friend, or whoever—continues to bring up an issue already discussed, a full-fledged argument is inevitable.

This doesn’t resolve issues or offenses, it produces a separation between people. Forgiveness—an act of mercy rather than judgment—is the way to resolve and repair relational separation.

Forgiveness is an act of love.

On the other hand, a person—such as you or me—who continues to quarrel and bring up old offenses indicates selfishness rather than willingness to forgive and love to restore a relationship.

Better to stop than start an argument. But how?

When we pursue forgiveness and let go of our need to be right, we’ll stop arguments that lead to broken relationships.

When our motivation is love rather than a selfish pursuit of being right, even those domestic discussions won’t get out of control so easy and there’ll be a lot less crying and yelling.

So, it’s up to us what we pursue. If we choose to quarrel, we’ll open a floodgate we can’t easily close. But when we pursue forgiveness and love, we’ll keep the floodgate closed.

Reflection—

It’s better to stop arguments than start them. When we pursue forgiveness and let go of our need to be right and our motivation is love rather than a selfish pursuit at being right, we’ll stop a lot of arguments that lead to broken relationships.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself stirred up enough to argue a point or insist on your own rightness, take a step back in your mind and heart and pray for God to help you pursue forgiveness and love rather than your own rightness.

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Way That Seems Right

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

There is a way that seems right to a person,

but eventually it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:1-13 GW)


How often have you heard this quote, "To thine own self be true?" It's a famous quote from William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. In those times it had a certain meaning but it's been reinterpreted in a different way in our present culture.

What comes to mind when you hear this saying? What does this expression mean to you?

Looking back on my own spiritual journey, it seemed I was always looking for a way to live that fit me—that seemed right to me. I was looking for something that was true for me.

But that kept changing as I went through various life experiences and sampled different approaches to life and spirituality. I found that being true to myself was an unreliable guide.

Using one's own self as a plumb line isn't such a great idea. It's unreliable because we tend to internalize values and beliefs based on our acceptance or resistance to what we encounter in life. Sometimes it's a combination of acceptance and resistance that results in a hodgepodge of beliefs and values.

I came to a turning point in my life where I challenged God to reveal Himself to me in some obvious way. After a morning of fasting, hiking through the woods, and waiting, I returned home disappointed. I saw no vision or sign, nor heard any voice of direction.

Later, after grumbling about this failure, I opened up a Bible someone gave me and began to read. I came to where Jesus said the wide gate and easy road leads to destruction and the narrow gate and hard road leads to life (Matt 7:13-14).

I realized I'd been looking for a wide gate with an easy road. I was heading in the wrong direction and I knew it.

Jesus also said, only a few found this narrow gate and hard road that leads to life. The day started with me challenging God but ended with God challenging me. I accepted that challenge and my way in life became clearer day by day from that point on.

I've never turned back since that day but life since then has not always been easy. But, my life from that point has been fulfilling and God has blessed me in countless ways.

This verse in Proverbs may be hard to hear but the larger context helps clarify its truth (especially verses 2, 10, 13).

We all need a reliable guide for our lives. God's written Word and God's Spirit are always reliable. They've been a trustworthy plumb line for many centuries for millions of people.

Reflection—

Are you wondering if you've chosen the right way for your life? Read through these verses, even listen to them read to you (Proverbs 14 audio). Allow the truth of God and His Spirit to give you insight on all of this.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for discernment and confirmation of the way of life—a true and fulfilling life—that He intends for you. Ask God to guide you with the peace of His Holy Spirit and the clarity of His truth.

©Word-Strong_2018


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An Internal Plumb Line

People have pursued wisdom since the beginning of time. Philosophers have filled the air and books with millions of words and thoughts with a variety of viewpoints. But philosophy is typically abstract, hypothetical, and theoretical, not practical wisdom.

The wisdom in Proverbs is far more practical than philosophy. It's grounded in truth from God and intended for daily life. This wisdom is to be taken into the deepest part of a person—their spirit and soul—to help them navigate relationships and live a life of integrity.

Take My Words to Heart

We take some things to heart in ways that aren't helpful. Criticism—especially when mean-spirited—can crush our heart and break our spirit. Whether accurate or not, criticisms tend to play like a never-ending tape in our mind.

Flattery taken to heart is a trap. It's self-deluding and sets us up to fall when we crash into reality. Like someone who can't carry a tune trying out on the American Idol stage because family or friends tell them they sing well.