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Last week we learned that God relentlessly pursues sinners. We saw that labels can sometimes be viewed as divisive. This pervasive division in America is nothing new as we were reminded of Paul’s warning to Timothy when he said there will come a time when people wouldn’t put up with sound doctrine. There is judgment for wrong doing, but there is also hope, forgiveness, and power to be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The parent that disciplines his kids is really demonstrating his love. This morning, we’ll see Solomon use his rapid fire tactic for issuing principles that are generally applicable.
Pro. 14:1-4 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will protect them. Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”
Solomon tells us the value of a woman. He’s mentioned women a bunch of times to this point and it is mostly unflattering. There was the honey lipped harlot in 5:3. There was the exhilarating adulteress in 5:20. There was the beautiful yet evil adulterous woman in 6:24. There was the cunning, rebellious woman of harlotry in 7:10. There was the boisterous, naïve woman of folly in 9:13. There was the morally ugly woman of 11:22. There was the excellent wife in 12:4. Up to this point, except for the excellent wife, the women portrayed by Solomon are not morally good. Now we come to the construction wife. “The wise woman builds her house.” This is not a proof text that women should work outside the home. This is not justification to have your wife do all the hard, labor intensive work at the homestead. Build here does not mean construct in a manufacturing way. It means establish, it means put in order, it means make the house into a home. You can build a house and have all the proper things in it, but it takes a woman’s touch to transform it into a home.
The wise woman makes a house a home, “But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” All the structure and organization can be undone by foolishness. As easy as wisdom builds the house, it can come crashing down by the destructiveness of folly when there is no order, no discipline, no structure, and no rules. Don’t misunderstand this verse. In order of authority, the man still comes first. All the good intentions of the husband can be destroyed by the foolish wife. The husband can do an awful lot to turn the home upside down too. Both husband and wife must be all in.
Next Solomon tells us that it really does matters how you walk. Much has been said in Scripture of walking. Solomon says, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.” I want to make sure you understand that many times walking in the Bible is not associated with transportation. Paul in particular, more than any other writer of Scripture talks a lot about walking. He used the word or a form of the word at least 27 times and all but two refer to a manner or pattern of life. In Rom. 6:4, he talks about walking in newness of life. In 2 Cor. 5:7, he says we walk by faith and not by sight. In Gal. 5:16 he tells us to walk by the Spirit so we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh. In Eph. 4:1 he tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. It is this same type of walking Solomon is talking about. Being an authentic child of the King requires more than simply declaring it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) Solomon says the same thing. If you fear the Lord, your life will reflect it. What happens on the outside of your body is a reflection of what is on the inside. The principle of how you act in life occurs throughout Scripture because God knew this would be an issue. Don’t fall into the traps of Satan we talked about a couple of weeks ago. You cannot have an authentic, viable relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and there be no evidence in your life to support it. So who are the devious Solomon mentions in the second part of the verse? Back in chapter 2, Solomon told us who these people are. Look at 2:10-15. These people despise God. How can that be? Isn’t it ironic how the people that talk about how loving God is hate the standards first given in Scripture?
Not only does it matter how you walk, it matters how you talk. “In the mouth of the fool is a rod for his back.” This is not the same word Solomon used for rod in 13:24. This verse is a metaphor. The things the foolish say will come back to hurt them. Rod here means a branch or a shoot and the idea is that pride grows out of the heart. Matt. 12:34 gives us the sobering thought, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” If you are prideful of speech, prideful in attitude, prideful in thought, or prideful in action, it’s going to come back on you. When the heart is full of pride and there is no wisdom in your brain to suppress it, the words of David ring loud and clear. “So they will make him stumble; their own tongue is against them; all who see them will shake the head.” (Ps. 64:8) “The lips of the wise will protect them,” Solomon says. Wisdom dictates when to speak and when to stay silent. Wisdom knows when a word of encouragement or a word of correction is needed. Words matter and they’re a great indication of who you belong to. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:4) Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said if you want to be smart, hang with smart people? If you want to walk more like Christ, hang with people that walk with Christ? If you hang with people that do not control what they say, that say things that they shouldn’t say, that use horrible or profane language, you will tend to do the same. That’s the natural thing to do, but wait . . . you have something supernatural living inside of you so you don’t fulfill those ungodly things. A huge detractor to people of the world looking at us as professing believers is the way we act. Be different for Christ.
We’ve talked about walking and talking, but what about our work? Hard work matters. Here again Solomon gives us an example that makes such good sense, but has become very uncommon. “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.” This verse might not make sense to us who do not live in an agricultural community or don’t have any farming background. The ox is known as a beast of burden able to carry heavy loads and perform other hard work. If you don’t have an ox, you don’t have to worry about keeping the barn clean. No worries about feeding him, or taking care of him. So for the lazy person, having an ox just isn’t worth the trouble. Let’s put this into a modern context. Having a car isn’t worth the trouble because they break down and gas has gotten expensive. Having a house isn’t worth the trouble because you have to do repairs, clean it, have insurance, cut the grass, pay taxes on it, and pay for electricity. It just isn’t worth it. The ox was the early form of the tractor trailer and is still used in many cultures to work the land. In fact, the ox is making a comeback on small farms in America. You can pick up one cheap, they’re easy to train, they don’t need spare parts, they’re cheap to feed, and when they break down you can eat them. The fool looks at the mess the ox makes and ignores the benefits that come because of the ox.
The same thing happens today, but it’s not about farming. This attitude is prevalent among all facets of life. We do a lot of foolish things and we have lots of foolish thoughts. There are things that are hard and take time, but in the end, the payoff is huge. In our house, we maintain all of our finances in Quicken. It takes time to enter all our expenses and categorize them. It takes only minutes at the end of the month to balance the accounts. At the end of the year, it takes me about an hour to categorize all income and expenses for tax purposes. We know where the money goes and are able to catch fraudulent purchases – something that is becoming more and more prevalent. I change the oil and transmission fluid in all our vehicles. That takes time and effort. Many of you do these same things. Over the years in Bible study, we’ve seen people come to the first session and never come back because it’s too hard or takes too much time and they fail to see the eternal benefit. The fool thinks he can get everything needed to walk a life of authenticity without doing the hard work of studying, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word.
Living a life for Christ is hard work, but the benefits are huge. Confident and courageous living. Having a hope that is fixed on Christ. Having a contagious and engaging spirit that points people to the answer all men are seeking. These things make the hard work worth it. Even if you don’t see any profit or payoff, living a life that is pleasing to God is still the greatest testimony of a life that belongs to Him.