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Last week Solomon told us to be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play. This morning, Solomon issues some solemn warnings as well as some encouragement.
Pro. 15:27-29 says, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live. The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”
You’ve heard this saying before: crime doesn’t pay. Crime actually does pay, but getting caught doesn’t. There is an illusion that if you don’t get caught, then you got away with it. In the eternal scheme of things, there is no such things as getting away with it. God’s justice is always perfect. Solomon says, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” See, even Solomon knows there can be short term gains in illicit practices. The illicit practices cover a wide range of illegal or unethical means used to get money. Charging too much, taking advantage of certain classes of people like the elderly, not doing all that you’ve been paid to do, stealing time from your employer, cheating on your taxes, stealing: you get the idea. This would also include scams of all sorts. Though Solomon is talking about profiting from those things, you can safely conclude that even if you don’t get a profit, it’s bad to engage in those type of activities. When you ignore this teaching, you bring, “troubles to your own house.” What kind of trouble you might ask? How about financial loss? How about ruining your reputation? How about being charged and subsequently convicted of a crime? How about incarceration? How about God’s wrath on you? These consequences don’t just affect the guilty, they can also affect your family. Poor decisions made by parents affect the kids. Ungodly decisions made by adults affect those around them.
One of the reasons behind what Solomon is saying is that the drive for money and material possessions can cause us to do things that are contrary to biblical principle. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10) God knows we need cash to live. It’s what goes beyond basic need that gets us in trouble. There are people that are driven by money. One of the top local stories in our area from 2015 was about the man that plead guilty to embezzling $1.2 million from his employer over a seven-year period. Kari and I used to go to church with him. A couple years after he changed churches, he sought me ought to serve as their pastor. Here is a guy that is serving as a leader in a church. That should be an easy thing to avoid. “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” A bribe is persuading someone to act in one’s favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement. Bribery is illegal on state and federal levels. It’s also biblically wrong. Ex. 23:8 says, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.”
Here’s some more guidance on speech. Solomon says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Here is another example of where things start. Remember Mary pondered why the angel would greet her as, “Favored one.” (Lu. 1:29) Ponder means to think carefully especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. If we could just control our mouths, we’d avoid many problems. Ja. 3:2, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” I believe that verse applies to emails, texts, or messaging of any kind. How many of you see or actually post something on social media and then close by saying, “Rant over”? Solomon is saying think before you speak. Take a moment before speaking, that’s what righteous people do, that’s what people do who are controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The contrast to the one who ponders is, “The mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” I can understand getting upset over certain things, or getting mad, but there is no excuse for losing it. James sums it up nicely. Look at Ja. 3:8-12. See, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t praise Jesus on Sunday and profane His name on Monday. It has nothing to do with those that are around you. Just because others use profanity doesn’t mean you have to. People are essentially leading double lives and no one is calling them out. If and when you do, you get the whole intolerant, judgmental, I’m not perfect nonsense. If you’re a follower of Christ, greater is He that’s in you, then he that is in the world. If the only thing people had to go on was how you talked, what conclusions would they make? That is something to think about.
One final concluding principle. “The Lord is far from the wicked.” If you are still unsure of where God stands with wicked people, here’s one for you. This is really interesting given the omni-presence of God. Obviously Solomon is not talking about geographic distance, but spiritual distance. Wicked in this verse conveys the idea of a wicked mind, a perverse mind, an unregenerate mind. It’s a mind controlled by sin, it’s the natural state of the mind and it’s the natural state of man. Take the time to read an incredible passage found in Job 21:1-16. God has no fellowship with the wicked: no relationship. Jo. 9:31 says, “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” There is a line of separation called sin, but the blood of Jesus erases that line. No matter how often you pray or read God’s word, if you haven’t received the gift of God that is Jesus, He is not obligated to listen to you. Can He hear those prayers? Can He answer the prayers of the wicked? Of course, but He doesn’t have to. “But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” By contrast, God is always available to the righteous who are righteous through Jesus. For certain, God has plans for everyone and He does all He can to get people to understand the salvation that is found in Christ, but He knows not everyone will receive that gift. But for those that are followers of Christ, Ps. 145:18 reminds us, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
There is no instance where a life of crime is an option for authentic followers. If you profit illicitly, your household is in danger, and I would encourage you to seek the Lord. Think carefully and cautiously before engaging in any form of communication. Ponder answers before you give them. Remember that bitter and sweet water cannot come out of the same well. If you have a real relationship with Christ, you can be sure that He hears your prayers and will answer them. Live your life as a reflection of God’s renewing power of transformation.