Wisdom

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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The Infection of Overreaction

Drive out a mocker, and conflict will leave.

Quarreling and abuse will stop.

Do not be a friend of one who has a bad temper, and never keep company with a hothead,

or you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself. (Proverbs 22:10, 24-25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 22:1-29 GW)


We live in a world of overreaction. Overreacting is not a new phenomenon. It’s ancient. But social media and the internet provide an environment that superheats overreaction.

The volatility and vitriol spewed out in public view is shocking. Well, it used to be but now it seems to be the norm. I find myself wanting to say, “Ok, everybody…take a deep breath and let’s calm down.” But there would be reactions and overreactions to that too.

Unfortunately, social media provides a platform for expressing opinions and overreaction. It encourages it. It is an outlet for people who might be too timid to say things in other settings. This isn’t an indictment of social media, just an observation.

At first glance, these two verses seem to be admonitions to take action to exclude those who mock and have anger issues. The immediate solution is to eliminate the problem and that is one way to resolve things. But I see something deeper to consider.

What drives the mocker to mock and causes the anger to boil in a person? Why is the influence of the mocker and the person with anger issues so infectious?

These are two different concerns.

First, the influence of those who mock and those with anger issues is infectious. It either pulls us along with its force of emotion or stirs us to react.

The longer we’re exposed to such influences, the more likely we are to be infected by them. This is the warning given—…you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself.

Sometimes, the only solution is to exclude the one who stirs up strife, arguments, and abuse. When one person influences a group in a destructive way and refuses to change their ways—the good of the whole becomes more important.

This is true for a sports team, a work environment, and within a church community or small group. It can be a drastic step to take but a necessity.

When it’s us

But what if you and I are the mocker or the one who has habitual anger issues? What can we do about it? Especially when we see our influence corrupting others and we are excluded because of it.

This goes back to the question of what drives the mocker or what stirs up the boiling cauldron of rage? The possible reasons are myriad but the means to resolve it are pretty basic.

It requires some honest soul searching. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions like—Why am I so angry about this? Why do I feel compelled to blurt things out?

Honest questions such as these should lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. This requires honest prayer, reflection, and a willingness to change.

As we begin to understand the core issue—we need to commit to pursuing change.

When I realize what needs to change, I know I need help to do so. My go-to’s are honest prayer, positive and corrective truth to build on, and God’s help.

At the heart of it all—at least my heart—is the need for self-control. I’m intrigued and thankful that self-control is a fruit of God’s Spirit living in me (Gal 5:23). I’m also glad both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding (praying) on my behalf (Rom 8:27, 34).

This is how I can avoid the infection of overreaction—self-control with the help of God.

Reflection—

Honest questions can lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. Honest prayer and reflection can lead to a willingness to change. When we begin to understand what needs to change and consciously move towards making it, we need to rely on the Lords help.

Prayer Focus—

When you pursue significant change in your life, be honest with God in prayer and be open to God’s Spirit working in your life—He’s already praying for you.

©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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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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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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