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Last week we learned that when you follow your own heart, you’ll end up in a world of hurt. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others. Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore the good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success. This morning, we’ll see the interrelationship of hunger, shovels, fire, and speech and how they work in our faith.
In Pro. 16:26-28 Solomon says, “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on. A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire. A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”
From honey last week to hunger this week. Hunger drives a lot of what we do in this day and age. We have Hungry-Man dinners and Hungry Howie’s pizza. We have Hungry, Hungry Hippo and The Hunger Games. We have Food for the Hungry and Freedom from Hunger. We have government programs to ensure no child is hungry. Bruce Springsteen had a Hungry Heart and if we don’t eat, we get hangry. Hunger is one of those driving forces of man. Look at the correlation between hunger and work. Solomon says, “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on.” What a great verse! This goes hand in hand with what the Apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica when he said, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (2 Thes. 3:10) Perhaps you’ve heard of the protestant work ethic. The idea was first brought up by sociologist Max Weber in his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism published in 1904. “Weber studied the phenomenal economic growth, social mobility, and cultural change that accompanied the Reformation and went so far as to credit the Reformation for the rise of capitalism.” The start of the Reformation is generally attributed to when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Church in 1517. As Weber studied the Reformation, he discovered what Luther referred to as the doctrine of vocation. Luther stressed that our vocation, or calling in life is not about what we do, but about what God does through us. He believed that salvation should change how we do life. The gospel infuses our everyday lives with spiritual significance. This is summed up by Paul when he said, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Col. 3:23)
Getting back to Solomon, this work ethic means that you need to be willing to work for what you get. It matters little what vocation you’re engaged in as long as it’s legal, ethical, and moral. As a follower of Christ, that vocation must be performed with a level of excellence that points people to Christ. “A worker’s appetite works for him.” Notice the assumption – there’s a worker. What motivates him to work? “His hunger urges him on.” If you’re not willing to work at any job, you’re not hungry enough. Our culture has shifted drastically in the last 20 years or so. We have people that are in their 20s that have never worked a day in their life. The gospel is a transformative experience. Followers should be different. We must be different.
Look at the quick shift. From the worker whose appetite drives him on to, “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.” Back in Chapter 6, Solomon equated worthlessness to wickedness, perversity, evil, and strife. This verse means exactly what you think it means. Is there anyone here that has not said things, thought things, or done things that they wish they could change? In the old days, when you did something stupid, it generally didn’t last long because we’d forget. Now, our words and dumb deeds are held in the digital cloud to be remembered forever. Today if something goes down, people whip out their cell phones to record the events. Just so we’re on the same page with Solomon, worthless means having no real value or use. Someone who has no value will look for something in you to gain an advantage. If nothing is apparent, they’ll go as far back as necessary. This is really apparent during the political season. During the presidential campaign in 2012, Mitt Romney was accused of bullying a classmate 47 years earlier when he was in high school and some thought that incident should disqualify him for the presidency. If you remember the snowball incident of 1992 that I shared a while ago, you might consider that I don’t have the personal temperament to pastor a church. The point is that all of us have done things we’re ashamed of or embarrassed about. The worthless person finds those events and brings them to light. “His words are like scorching fire.” Lots of crises have started because of words. Fights have started because of words even if the words are untrue. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase putting out fires. Unless you get to the root of the issue, the fire will likely reflash. Ja. 3:5, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” You have to ask yourself, what is the endgame for digging up dirt? I think it’s a good question to ask so let’s answer it.
What is the endgame? Let’s take a step back and look at the fundamental purpose for life. We were created to have fellowship with the Creator. God created us with a free will and the intention was for us to willingly engage in a vibrant, loving relationship with Him. Free will led to pride which led to ignoring God’s instruction and succumbing to the temptation of the serpent. Sin changed God’s design. Of course God knew this yet He still created us according to His perfect design. Sin entered and caused physical and spiritual death, but God already had a plan in place before He created all that we know. Gen. 3:15 points to the Messiah that would redeem mankind. Our fundamental purpose is to point people to this Redeemer we know as Jesus Christ and live our lives totally devoted to Him. The endgame of Satan is to deceive people into thinking there is a different way, another way, or simply that it doesn’t matter at all. “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” Perverse means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave unacceptably. Strife means anger, bitter disagreement, or conflict. Satan doesn’t always come out and do the dirty work himself. He gets others to do it for him. He wants to tear us apart. He attacks the weak, the newborn, and the sickly and tries to separate us from others that can help. He wants us to think we can do it ourselves. He wants us to make mountains out of mole hills. He wants us focusing on the minor. We need to recognize this perversity for what it is – a plot of Satan. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by people like this. Yes, it can happen in the church by people who claim they just really care. That’s why they’re all up in your business. Don’t fall for it, but don’t play into the devil’s hands either. Don’t get all bent out and go to attack mode. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t believe the worst about people.
We are here on this planet to live our lives to their fullest for Christ. We are driven to work to exemplify the transformation that is not only possible, but should exist in us because of the work accomplished by Christ. Only people that are worthless seek to harm others or damage their reputation. Don’t allow yourself to get burned by the words of people that are valueless – and that’s hard to understand for us. Recognize the schemes of the devil. He wants us to live our lives apart from Christ and other Christ followers. He wants to destroy us and make us ineffective for Christ. Don’t be fooled by that. Don’t think the worst of others. You like it when you get the benefit of the doubt and you should be willing to do the same for others. This is all very serious stuff that Solomon wants us to understand and put into practice.