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Last week Solomon talked about life in the home. Is God the center of your home and there’s peace or is there weeping and gnashing of teeth? It’s much better to be at peace and be hungry than to have all you want with stress. There’s no shame in serving others, in fact one of Jesus’ purposes during His earthly life was to give us examples of serving others. A wise servant has more worth than a shameful son, but that doesn’t mean the son is worthless. How do you fare in God’s heart tests? Are you looking forward to getting a participation trophy? Are you hoping to be graded on the curve or are you allowing the trials of life to refine and purify you trusting in God’s glorious plans for you? This morning, Solomon talks about the destructiveness of the tongue.
In our passage today Solomon says, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker; he who rejoices in calamity will not go unpunished.” (Pro. 17:4-5)
There are people that live a life of lies. Some people believe their kids never do anything wrong. Some people believe everything they read online. Is this what Solomon is talking about? Have you ever met that guy? He’s the one that has done everything you’ve done, only better. Back in March 1985, there was a young, unknown comedian that appeared on the Johnny Carson Show. He began his routine by stating he was a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous. He said that he didn’t always tell lies, but one day he told a lie and he got away with it. That man would later go on to marry Morgan Fairchild. This guy’s lies were outrageously unbelievable. This is a guy whose life is characterized by falsehood and deceit. Author Daniel Wallace said, “A storyteller makes up things to help other people; a liar makes up things to help himself.” (Daniel Wallace, The Kings and Queens of Roam) This is the type of guy Solomon is talking about. Click on the link: https://youtu.be/BAdroH89CsM
“An evildoer listens to wicked lips.” The worthless man from Pro. 16:27 dug up evil. The perverse man in Pro. 16:28 spread strife. The slanderer separated intimate friends in Pro. 16:29. A man of violence enticed his neighbor in Pro. 16:30. Now Solomon talks about an evildoer. It’s really a double slam because evildoer and liar are one in the same person. The evildoer listens to lies and then goes on to tell them. Liars tell lies, but they also believe them which is kind of odd. A traveler comes to a fork in the road which leads to two villages. In one village the people always tell lies, and in the other village the people always tell the truth. The traveler needs to conduct business in the village where everyone tells the truth. A man from one of the villages is standing in the middle of the fork, but there is no indication of which village he is from. The traveler approaches the man and asks him one question. From the villager’s answer, he knows which road to follow. What did the traveler ask? The answer is, “Which road goes to your village?” If the person is from the truth telling village, he’s pointing to the truth village because he always tells the truth. If the person if from the lying village, he’d point to the truth village because he’s a liar. I know it’s a silly example, but there are people out there who really do not tell the truth.
Aside from breaking the Ten Commandments and numerous biblical principles, lying is very difficult. It’s hard to be a good liar because you have to remember the lies you told and who you told them to. That’s why it’s pretty easy to identify a liar. Solomon is talking about someone that is a habitual liar. They tell lies and they listen to lies. I’m not sure of anything that will ruin a relationship faster than being untruthful. Lying leads to a breach of trust, a loss of confidence, an unwillingness to listen. Once trust is broken, it’s extraordinarily difficult to build back up.
In another somewhat strange transition, Solomon changes subjects. “He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker.” Who would do this? It’s hard for us to really grasp what being poor is. For the past 20 years, the Census Bureau reported that there are about 30 million Americans living in poverty. There are roughly 328 million people in the U.S. which equates to about 9% of the population living in poverty. According to a Poverty Pulse poll conducted by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the vast majority of the general public defines poverty as being homeless and not being able to meet basic needs. According to the Heritage Foundation, “While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. The average poor person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines.” For comparison sake, to be considered impoverished in Romania as an individual, you make about $133 a month. In the U.S. it’s about $990 a month. Poor families in the U.S. do struggle, but according to reports, the struggle is not just for food and housing, but to pay for air conditioning, cable or satellite, internet, and cell phones. According to this same report, “In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.”
Why do I go into all this? There’s been a move in the church that we must be the hands and feet of Jesus and there are some that define that as feeding the poor and that’s it. They don’t preach a transformative power of Christ. They teach that you must demonstrate your faith by doing works that affect a small percentage of people. There is little to no discipleship, a lack of strong biblical teaching, and a lack of accountability. Spiritual growth and maturity are reduced to a faith that is manifested by works. Please understand, works are important in our faith. We demonstrate our faith by our works. Take the time and read Ja. 2:14-26. Yes, works are important, but without faith, works are dead. You can’t just assume that since people are involved in working or serving their community that there is a credible relationship with Christ. At the same time, you can’t profess a credible relationship with Christ and never lift a finger in service to Christ. Please don’t forget the fundamental purpose of the church found in the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That’s the primary mission of the church. Contrary to popular belief, our primary mission is not to conduct acts of mercy in the community. What’s really curious is that when you Google acts of mercy, the first 14 links are to Catholic organizations. What I cannot find supported in Scripture is the principle of the church conducting acts of mercy, but there are examples in which individuals should demonstrate these merciful acts. At the judgment recorded in Matt. 25:31-46, Jesus speaks of feeding, clothing, and visiting people, as well as a number of other things that we call acts of mercy. The sheep represent believers and they ask Jesus, “When did we see You hungry and feed You?” Jesus has separated the sheep from the goats placing the sheep on his right hand and the goats on His left. One of the key phrases of this passage often ignored, is the phrase, “These brothers of Mine,” in v. 40. Other translations say, “My brethren.” Jesus was relating serving needy believers with serving Him. Over the years, this has come to mean needy in general. I say all this to say you must have an understanding of what we are to do in the context of Scripture. James was incredibly accurate by saying you cannot separate works and faith. You cannot have spiritual maturity and transformation without resultant works of faith. At the same time, acts of work without spiritual transformation are simply works. Before anyone freaks out, there are biblical principles that support helping people. Gal. 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” 1 Tim. 6:18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” Titus 3:8 says, “be careful to engage in good deeds.” Based on these and other Scriptures, you cannot conclude the mark of righteousness of a church is to be engaged in doing good works in the community. Now, I want to be clear, I am not against doing any event or outreach that does good works for people that are in need. However, there must be an intentional process in mind to demonstrate the love of Christ that culminates in a Gospel message of some kind. I do not know of any example in Scripture, where someone saw the good works of another and concluded that Jesus is the Christ. We use that demonstration of the love of Christ as a springboard to share our faith. I don’t want to lead a church that is active in the community and dead in our hearts. I don’t want us to have the false idea that giving 500 meals a month or giving 100 winter coats out, or reroofing someone’s house means something.
Listen to the severity of what Solomon says, “He who mocks the poor taints his maker; he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.” In Pro. 14:31 Solomon warned against oppressing the poor and now he adds mocking. Jesus told the disciples, “For you always have the poor with you.” (Matt. 26:11) Solomon is talking about making light of someone’s misfortune. There is some connection with that misfortune and a resultant calamity. If you get excited or are happy about someone’s misfortune, there’s a problem with that. To put in a context we might understand more easily, have you ever thought something along the lines of, “They got what they deserved.” It’s easy to make that conclusion and ignore the grace that has been extended to you. This is a very difficult concept to apply because we are so blind to what is occurring in our own life, but we can so clearly see in the lives of others. In Matt. 7:3-5 Jesus talks about removing the log from your own eye. People have wrongly concluded this means you can’t point out other’s shortcomings or sins. It doesn’t mean that at all.
Lying is one of those character traits that you do not want to be known for. I think sometimes we confuse our truth with real truth. As believers, we must uphold the truth in our speech and in our actions. We have an obligation to help the needy, but our primary mission is to live our lives authentically for Christ which means sharing the truth of who Christ is. Never glory in the misfortune of others. We love when mercy and grace are extended to us and we must endeavor to exercise mercy and grace to others and balance that with accountability for our actions. Sometimes that can be a tough balancing act, but I assure you, if you follow the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture, you won’t go wrong.