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Last week Solomon told us that it’s tough to avoid issues when there’s a lot of talking. The tongue of the righteous is worth a lot, it’s like silver. If you use restraint in your speech, you’re classified as wise. Our speech really is an incredible indicator of what’s in our hearts. He also told us what’s it’s like to deal with lazy people. It’s nauseating, it’s irritating, and aggravating. This morning, Solomon hits on a topic he’s mentioned before, but gives us some additional insight into what qualities make up a person. Over the next couple of weeks as we look at these series of verses, we’ll see Solomon use the familiar pattern of contrasts that he love so much.
Proverbs 11:1-4 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
What is character and why does it matter? Character can be defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Character is who a person is and it’s normally shaped by a person’s upbringing. Honesty and integrity are part of that make up. A lack of honesty and integrity also form that make up. Have you ever asked your kids to lie for you? You probably didn’t call it that when you told them if my boss calls, tell him I’m sick. If so and so calls, tell them I’m not here. Have you ever kept the extra change the clerk gave you? Are you habitually late? Are you generally unreliable? We might conclude these are minor things, but it reveals who we really are and that matters.
So Solomon brings out a business practice, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.” Back in the day, balances were used for nearly all commercial transactions. An item was placed on a balance and a stone or stones would be placed on the opposite side and balanced out to give a weight to whatever item was being sold. There was often corruption with merchants that used a false balance. In other words, the balance would not give an accurate weight of the item. This verse can be applied to any fraudulent or unscrupulous business practices. We see this evident today as well. From the guy selling meat and seafood off the back of his truck to the guy selling homemade DVDs of first run movies. From Jay Bans and Foakley sunglasses to the “authentic” Coach purses and Rolex watches found in the straw market in the Bahamas. Locals will remember the Cisco Travel Center at I-95 exit 1 in our little town that gave you 19 gallons of gas for the price of 20. God takes a dim view on crooked businessmen and calls these deceitful tactics an abomination.
Not only do businesses need to practice honesty in their dealings, but so does the customer. It has become quite commonplace for customers to try and swindle businesses. From the fake slip and fall in a store to the stealing of an item with an attempt to then return it, or the girl that buys the prom dress then returns it after prom. God expects honesty in all business dealings regardless of which side you’re on. As is his custom, Solomon offers the contrast that, “A just weight is His delight.” Does it seem strange that time is taken to mention this? It does because honesty is an integral part of godliness. You cannot be dishonest and be godly at the same time, it’s that simple. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying the customer is always right. That’s utter nonsense. Sometimes the customer is right and business owners need to acknowledge that. One thing is for sure, God takes pleasure in seeing people engage in honest business.
Here is it again. Solomon talks about pride once again. This time it’s not in a list of things God hates, but instead refers to who a person is. “When pride comes, then comes dishonor.” The end result of pride, whatever form it may take, always leads to dishonor. Dishonor is a state of shame or disgrace. 1 Cor. 10:12 reminds us, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Those that are filled with pride will fall at some point. This verse is consistent with a familiar verse found in Pro. 16:18 tells us that pride goes before the fall. When you’re proud, you take your eyes off of what’s important. The focus turns inward, it’s a self serving characteristic. When you read the biblical account of Lucifer’s fall in Isaiah 14, you will see that Lucifer was driven by pride. That passage has several occurrences of the phrase I will. That’s a good tip off to what the root is. This was the same appeal the serpent made to Adam and Eve in the garden. “You will be like God” the serpent told Eve. She wanted to be something she was not and could not be. Pride is a sin. Hold on a minute, you say; I’m proud of my kids, am I wrong? There is a difference in the pride you feel in your children and that which is self centered. No one would criticize a parent for saying I take great delight in my child. When Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” (Lu. 3:22) It’s the same thing as saying, this is my son, I’m proud of him. Of course, that can lead to a sinful pride where your child does no wrong and is way better than that other kid. The contrast to the proud is the humility of the wise. That’s how we know the pride Solomon is talking about is sinful. The idea is proud people are not generally wise or else they wouldn’t be prideful. Wise people know they haven’t arrived, they know they don’t have everything together, and they don’t pretend to either.
When no one is watching, authentic believers maintain their character. “The integrity of the upright will guide them.” Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. I lean strongly to the idea that integrity cannot be learned: you either have it or you don’t. I do believe it can be supernaturally given. I do believe that God can do an incredible work in someone’s heart that transforms the DNA of an individual into something supernatural. When that transformation takes place, that integrity will guide them. The opposite is true, “But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” In this context crookedness means exactly what you’re thinking it means. It’s their dishonesty, their underhanded tactics, they’re deceit, their overall opposite way of life. Wickedness and treacherous are used synonymously. It is this way of life that will destroy them. It’s a repeat of Pro. 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” It’s because it’s who he is. No matter how rich or wealthy you think you are, in the end it just doesn’t matter. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath.” At death, everyone becomes equal. Royalty is removed, status is removed, position is removed and everyone is the same. On that day, presidents are the same as paupers. Kings are the same as commoners. Death is the great equalizer. Ez. 7:19 says, “They will fling their silver into the streets and their gold will become an abhorrent thing; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling.” The understanding is the day of wrath refers to what will happen to the wicked because there is no relationship with Christ. If there was, there wouldn’t be wickedness or treachery.
“But righteousness delivers from death.” Yes, righteous people die all the time. That’s not what Solomon’s talking about. The death we experience is a separation of body and soul. The physical body dies, but the soul lives on. Some theologians believe Solomon is referring to the second death mentioned four times in Revelation. That’s the death commonly associated with the lake of fire. A person dies first physically and temporarily, but this second death is eternal. Righteousness can only be gained through a relationship with Jesus Christ and that is what Solomon says will deliver us. We will likely still experience a physical death, but not a spiritual death. Our souls will live on in eternity with God the Father, His one and only Son, and the Holy Spirit of God.
In this short passage, Solomon links arrogance and pride to fraudulent or corrupt business practices and links humility to wisdom. Money gained by corrupt business practices will do no good on the Day of Judgment. That corruption is part of the DNA of the wicked, but humility and integrity are character traits that are the best to display in our day to day lives and reflect the power of God in our lives.