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Last week, Solomon gave us a biblical perspective on poverty. Instead of looking at things through the world’s eyes, we need to understand things from God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can actually be a barrier to an authentic relationship with Christ. It can affect the poor, but it can also affect the prosperous. In our self-satisfying world, we learned that having too many friends can really cause problems in our lives. Blood bonds are important, but there is no bond stronger than the bond between the created and the Creator. That bond is made possible because Jesus became the Son of man and experienced the full force of God’s wrath as He became sin for us enabling that relationship with God. This morning, we’ll evaluate honesty.
Pro. 19:1-5 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool. Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs. The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord. Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.”
What is your word worth? If you grew up in my generation or before, you’ve heard the phrase, “A man’s word is his bond.” Deals were made with a handshake. When someone said, “I’ll do it,” it got done. Solomon starts off Chapter 19 talking about something that is extremely valuable these days, but seems to be lacking in many people. He says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” The word poor used here means destitute or hungry. The form of the word used here is not a bad word as Solomon has used before. The poverty experienced is not because of laziness or an unwillingness to work. He’s setting up the contrast. “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity.” I think we have a pretty good handle on walking. It means manner of life. It’s who you are, it’s not an act, it’s not something you put on and take off: it is really who you are when you’re alone, when you’re in a strange city, when your boss isn’t looking, when your spouse isn’t home, and when your parents are out for the evening.
So what about integrity? This can be a difficult concept to define. Some will say it’s being honest. I like this definition from vocabulary.com: “Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn’t waver. It literally means having ‘wholeness’ of character, just as an integer is a ‘whole number’ with no fractions.” Solomon is talking about having strong moral principles. The obvious follow on question is, “Where do I get moral principles?” The source of morality must be from an unchanging standard. The standard of morality must come from a source that knows the beginning from the end, that was engaged and continues to be engaged in humanity. The standard of morality must come from a source that is impervious to the changing values of society and cultural norms. The standard of morality must transcend human thought. In light of these musts, where can we find that incredible standard of morality that is accessible to us that we can follow and live by?
- Paul reminded Timothy that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
- 2 Pet. 1:21 says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
- Heb. 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
There is plenty of other scriptural support to conclude that the Bible is the only source of absolute truth that we can live by. It was given to us for training and correction, it’s alive, it’s applicable for our times, and it does not change. It’s better to be hungry and have integrity, “Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” Perverse here means twisted or false and fool means thick or dull headed. It’s better to be poor and walk in integrity than it is to use twisted or dishonest words to escape poverty. He goes on to say, “Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.” This is a really good one. We have seen a number of times where Solomon has talked about knowledge leading to understanding leading to wisdom. The Hebrew form of the word “person” here is normally translated as soul, but here it means inner drive and vitality. With that in mind, he says that you can have all the ambition and drive and zeal, but if you operate without knowledge, it’s going to cause errors. You’ve heard the term, “Go off half-cocked”? You operate without all the facts or knowledge needed to accomplish the task. As a result, errors are made.
Kari and I sometimes watch those home renovation shows like, “Renovation Realities.” It always horrifies me to watch what they do. I remember a recent episode where a homeowner wanted to take a wall out, and the question was raised about it being a load bearing wall. The response was, “I guess we’ll find out.” It’s not good to proceed in something without the requisite knowledge for success. Hold on, you might be thinking. Don’t you tell us to trust God and go forward even when He doesn’t fill us in on the details? That is entirely different. Keep it in context, if you’re trying to get out of poverty by going off on some half-baked scheme, it will lead to errors. I knew someone that decided one day that he would begin investing in real estate by building houses and doing the work himself. He didn’t really know which end of the hammer to use and it turned out very poorly. That’s not to say that every single time we act without knowledge will lead to problems. Even that blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while.
Here’s some more foolishness. Verse 3 says, “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.” How often do we experience consequences from our own misguided notions? How many unbiblical things have we done that led to disaster and then asked God where He has gone? This is the point Solomon is making. When you take God out of the equation, things will generally not work out the way you expect. You enter a relationship with someone that the Bible says not to. You enter or change career paths without seeking guidance from the Lord. You go to college or don’t go without consulting God. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Many times we inform God of what we intend to do and then expect Him to bless it. When He doesn’t, we tend to blame God or say He doesn’t answer our prayers or offer up whatever type of blame shifting we can do instead of saying, you know, I blew it. Don’t you try and get your kids to admit when they’ve done something wrong? If you have gone down a path God doesn’t want you to go down, isn’t that sin? Shouldn’t sin always be confessed? Isn’t confessed sin forgiven? I want to look at Ps. 51:1-17 and I really encourage to read this great passage. That’s what genuine repentance looks like. Your sin doesn’t have to be out in the public. You don’t have to have been caught in some sinful act to pray this prayer. It’s never too late to turn your life to Him and follow Him.
Verse 4 says, “Wealth add many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” We’ve seen that principle before. People that have money will attract new friends and forgotten friends. This verse can be summed up by quoting Bruce Wayne: “There’s a thing about being a Wayne that . . . you’re never short of a few freeloaders, like yourselves, to fill up your mansion with, so, here’s to you people. Thank you.” (From the movie Batman Begins)
Just in case you missed it. Back in Pro. 6:19 Solomon said, “A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” These are numbers six and seven on the list of things God hates. A lying tongue is number two. We know God hates that and Solomon now gives us the result of dishonesty. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” Notice this is a guarantee. You may get away with lying for a short while, but the truth will come out. Maybe not in a natural context, but definitely in a supernatural context. Just because you don’t see consequences does not mean there won’t be any. There are two aspects Solomon is talking about here. One is an official type of capacity like a court of law while the other is normal conversation. In a courtroom, you take an oath to tell the truth. Even though you take that oath to tell the truth, if you’re a liar, do you think that the oath will somehow guarantee that the whole truth and nothing but the truth will be told? My experience has shown that people that lack integrity will lie even when there is no advantage to be gained. I’ve seen people lie even when the lie is so easily proven false. I do believe dishonesty is a character flaw. It is nearly impossible to learn integrity – you either have it or you do not. That being said, do not underestimate or discount the power of God to transform your life. Remember all of the things you used to be. Those character traits have been crucified with Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:12-14) You do not have to lie, you’re not forced to lie, you do not ever have to sin.
We started by asking the question, what is your word worth? Do you keep your promises? It’s better to be poor with integrity than get out of poverty by dishonesty. We saw the standard for morality is found in the living Word of God. Don’t do foolish things and then blame god when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We finished by talking about lying. It’s never good, right, or acceptable and that’s the whole truth.