The Parent Trap

trapLast week, Solomon gave us some clues to identify a wicked man. He told us there is no one with the intelligence or smarts to go against God. Don’t think you can fight against God either – He will always win. Names can evoke a lot of emotion and God says there is power in the name of Jesus. In fact, having a good name in the community is better than riches. Rich or poor, everyone belongs to God in the sense that He is the Creator. Prudent people pay attention: fools do not. It’s good to be humble and recognize that whatever greatness you may have on this earth is because God has given it to you. The reward for humility is riches and they may or may not be material, but the reward is assuredly eternal life in the presence of God. This morning, we’ll look at some restated principles and clear up a verse that many people have used as a parenting mantra.

Take a look at our passage today found in Pro. 22:5-11.

Solomon has painted a picture of wickedness and foolishness throughout this book. He continues by saying, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards himself will be far from them.” Again, he’s speaking in generalities. The way of the wicked is problematic and leads nowhere. Don’t confuse short term gain for long term rewards. The crooked, foolish, and the wicked way are synonymous. It’s filled with problems, with road blocks, with hurdles and it’s never smooth. It is contrary to God’s way. Do you find yourself consistently tripping through life? If you are a follower of Christ, I assure you that while the path of righteousness is straight and narrow, there are bumps and detours along the way. We have no guarantee of an easy life, but if you find yourself frustrated, angry, depressed, discouraged, hopeless, and defeated, you might consider the path you’re on. When you are on the path of righteousness, Satan will do all he can to get you derailed. While we all may experience those moments of wandering, if you are on the path that God had prescribed for you, there will be joy, there will be hope, there will be fulfillment because you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. The brief moments of frustration or doubt will pass because you are maintaining your focus on pursuing Christ and He will give you what you need when you need it. What happens to you in this life does not define who you are. The experiences God allows do help shape you and mold you and give you unique perspectives in life to enable you to rest in God and help you minister to others. Don’t discount your experiences.

Here’s the main point for today and it’s called the parenting trap. Probably every parent at some point has heard this next verse. New parents are given this verse on pictures and plaques to set around the house. Older, well-meaning parents teach it to young parents and sometimes think if the verse is said enough if will come true. Saying verses over and over again with the hope that the verse will come true in your own life is not the intent of God speaking through His Word. Solomon tells us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It would be awesome if every instruction we gave to our kids was understood and followed immediately. I have met parents over the years that actually believe their kids were perfect, or at least more perfect than other kids. This verse is tucked in between unrelated verses and seems awkwardly placed. Having children is one of the most blessed and challenging things that two people can do. I say two people because the conception of a child does require the input from a male and a female. It doesn’t matter if it occurs inside the womb or in a test tube. All life, every single time, is conceived by the power of God.

This verse is traditionally applied to parents, but the instruction also applies to anyone that has influence over any child . . . so that really means everyone. So, let’s break it down. Train means to teach a skill or behavior through regular practice. Athletes train for sporting events. Musicians practice. Coaches teach new skills. As a gymnast and a diver, I was always learning new skills and it generally involved pain of some sort as I learned to do whatever trick it was. The training Solomon is talking about has to do with, “The way he should go.” There are lots of things kids must learn. Reading, writing, arithmetic, biology, dressing themselves, etc. Every kid needs to learn basic life skills to function in society. That’s the responsibility of parents, but Solomon gives parents specific instruction about eternity.

“The way he should go” doesn’t mean finding their own way, but being taught THE way. In Eph. 6:4 Paul said, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I find it really interesting that parents do what they can to get their kids in the best nursery or child care program and groom the kids from a young age to go to the best schools, or get the best coaches or teachers and are determined that the kids follow a particular path, but when it comes to God, they back off and say they want them to find their own way. That is utter nonsense. Parents must take an active role in teaching their kids about God. If you doubt what I’m saying, let’s turn over to Deut. 6. This is what we have to do with our kids. Don’t leave the responsibility and privilege to teach your children about God to other people. I’m glad to do it, but I have limited time with your kids. Solomon concludes his thought by saying, “Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The “it” refers to, “the way he should go.” When the kid grows up, when he is older, he won’t depart from the teaching. There are parents that have diligently instructed their kids in the way only to have their kids choose the path that is not pleasing to God. This is the nature of many of the proverbs we have looked at. They are generalities and are not applicable to each and every situation out there. As a general rule, when parents intentionally include God in all that they do, the child remembers it because it was part of the DNA of the family. God wasn’t compartmentalized to Sundays only. The principles found in Scripture were lived out on a daily basis. Parenting isn’t a do as I say, not as I do endeavor. We must demonstrate by example what we expect out of our children. That is the gift of parenting, but it also represents a challenge to all of us.

This next one is a tried and proven fact. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” The rich and poor have a common bond in that they are all made by God, but as to the things of life, we see this ruling aspect every day. Those that have little will be in subjection to those that have much. There is an entire movement dedicated toward opposing the rich. According to the Occupy Wall Street website, their movement, “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” Right or wrong, good or bad, this is the principle Solomon is presenting.

The second half of the verse has been used a proof text prohibiting borrowing money. There is no such prohibition in Scripture, but the Bible does talk about caution when doing so. When you are indebted to someone, whether it be a bank, a title loan company or the local rent a center, you are their slave. You cannot get around it. You must pay back what you borrow. It is a whole lot easier to secure loans today than it was a couple of decades ago. You can get a loan from the comfort of your couch. People enter into a contract to borrow money and often don’t know what is in store for them. Did you look at the amortization schedule for the mortgage before you signed? You’ll see that the loan company gets its fees up front and that makes sense because they’re the ones taking the risk. There’s been pushes in recent years to forgive debt and it doesn’t matter whether its mortgage debt or student loan debt. For some reason, people secure a loan and then later determine that it’s not fair to have to pay back what they owe. It seems that people do not like being placed in bondage to others. This is the principle that Solomon’s talking about. It’s not good or bad, Solomon is simply stating fact. When you borrow money, you’re a slave to the lender.

Be careful what you sow. When you plant corn, you expect to reap corn. When you plant wheat, you expect to sow wheat. Whatever you sow, that’s what you’re supposed to reap. Solomon says, “He who sows iniquity, will reap vanity.” Vanity means trouble. If you sow iniquity or sin, you will reap trouble. “And the rod of his fury will perish.” This is talking about the man who sows iniquity. Rod is a symbol of power. When men rule with the thought of their own desires rather than the desires of people, the authority they possess will be stripped away.

We’ve seen the generosity of v. 9 before. And we’ve seen what to do with the scoffer from v. 10. And also, the relationship with a king in v. 11.

We started by looking at the way of the wicked. If you are continuously tripping through life, you might want to check the path you’re on. What happens in your life does not have to define who you are. We spent some time on the parenting trap and most parents will tell you that some of life’s biggest challenges result following the birth of their children. Take the time to instruct your kids about the way they should go. While there’s no prohibition against borrowing money, understand that the borrower becomes a slave to the lender. You will reap what you sow so be careful in what you choose to plant. We finished by quickly reviewing several principles already covered. My prayer is that you will really grasp this thing called wisdom as you continue your journey of faith in Christ.

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Dealing with Heavenly and Earthly Relationships

relationshipsCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, we began by asking the rhetorical question, who is without sin? The cleansing we enjoy is not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus did. Youngsters say what comes to mind because they haven’t developed the ability to hide their motives. We looked at a number of principles for daily, principled living for the home, the job, and at church. This morning, we’ll finish up this chapter by looking at some important relationships.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 20:20-30 and I hope you take the time to read it.

We start with a relationship that everyone has. Not everyone may have children, but everyone has parents. “He who curses his father or his mother, his lamp will go out in time of darkness.” Ex. 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Under the Law, cursing your parents was a capital offense; it was punishable by death. That seems pretty harsh by today’s standards. Rebellious kids can be extraordinarily draining on parents. When this occurs, the lamp will go out. We’re not talking literally, we’re talking metaphorically. In Survivor, when you’re voted out, they snuff your torch signifying your death in the game. This is the illusion Solomon is giving us. When it’s dark out, you need a lamp to see. If you’re rebellious to your parents, you are metaphorically put in the dark.

“An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” If your mind is drawn to the prodigal son, you’re on the right track. This verse is connected to the previous verse about parents. Inheritances typically come from the parents and sometimes the worst thing you can do for your kids is give them money or possessions they don’t have to earn. There’s nothing wrong with providing for your children in the future, but the kids shouldn’t expect it. And most certainly, they shouldn’t demand it early. That’s what the prodigal did in Luke 15. In Lu. 15:12, the son says, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.” The son leaves and, “squandered his estate on loose living.” (Lu. 15:13) Easy money does not guarantee financial stability.

Our next relationship involves the Lord. “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” Paul repeated this in Rom. 12:17-19, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Paul quotes Deut. 32:35. The Lord will take care of you and will fight your battles on your behalf, but don’t assume that your enemies will be struck down. We’ve got to keep Paul’s command in the forefront of our mind when dealing with people that provide us with challenges. As much at it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Do what you can to foster peace: do what you can to be kind and loving, patient and compassionate. If people don’t respond the way you think they ought to, so what? It’s not on you. Don’t think you’ve always got to be the one looking out for yourself. Many times, He puts someone in the path that will fight on your behalf, but it’s still God working.

“Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good.” We saw this exact principle in 20:10 and way back in 11:1.Don’t be dishonest in your business dealings.

“Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way?” I’d like to spend a bit of time here to talk about some important principles that many people discount. Keep in mind that Solomon said in 19:21, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.” And back in Pro. 16:9 when Solomon said, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” In everything we do, we have a necessary dependence on God. That is not a bad thing. Our understanding of what goes on around us is severely limited. We can only see so far and we rarely understand or consider the impact our actions have on others. When you talk about God’s sovereignty, there is a tendency to become fatalistic. Whatever happens, happens, and that’s the way God wants it. We become like little puppets controlled by God. I think that’s the wrong way to look at life. Of course, we should have a desire to follow God’s will and I believe He has a purpose for us to fulfill. I don’t think it’s necessarily to have a global impact or somehow accomplish incredible things for Christ. I think for most of us, a simple life of passionate, zealous, and complete obedience will accomplish much for the Kingdom of God.

We often cannot comprehend what God is accomplishing behind the scenes of life and we would be foolish to think that it doesn’t matter. Humanity has free will, but God is the One that connects the ties that bind us together to accomplish His will. While I can assuredly say that not everyone follows God, everyone does play a part in fulfilling God’s will. God knows all the variables; He knows everything that can and or will change; He knows how the weather affects us, how people affect us; He knows all that and He is still the One that controls the universe. The fatalist says that nothing I do will change what will happen. Not true. Follow God and watch Him work in you and through you. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if my parents had not divorced; I wonder if my dad had not changed companies that led us to SC; I wonder what would have been if I went to Carolina instead of Winthrop. I wonder if I had not joined the Navy or only served for six years; I wonder if Kari and I had not married. I could go on and on, but God knew the decisions I would make that affected not just my life, but the lives of all the people in the last 53 years that I affected and those lives that affected me; good or bad, positive or negative. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have through God.

“It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry.” This is a strangely worded verse has been interpreted several different ways. When taken in light of Eccl. 5:4-6 and Pro. 18:7, it seems the best interpretation is don’t make promises you cannot keep. It doesn’t matter if it’s a promise to God, although that one is really bad, or promises to a person that you either cannot keep or do not intend to keep. A common occurrence these days is saying you’re going to do something and in the back of your mind it’s true unless anything else comes up. One of the troubling things to me is how quick people are to let go of commitments they have made. It can be as simple as a child agreeing to clean their room and then doesn’t or being a member of a church committing to participate and support the body and then allowing that commitment to be superseded by other things. There truly are few people that can be relied upon.

Let’s shift over to royalty. Back when kings ruled the land, part of their responsibility was to mete out justice. This is handled by judges today and this is the angle I’m coming from. “A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them.” Winnows means scatter. Wisdom dictates that you separate criminals so they cannot devise evil schemes against people. It’s a great idea, but we put criminals together. One of the best places to learn how to commit crime is in jail or prison. We don’t do a great job of rehabilitating criminals that are incarcerated. Here’s a good question: is that what prisons are for? I submit to you that jail and prison are a place to go to pay the debt owed to society for the crime that has been committed. “Driving the threshing wheel” over someone gives further evidence to support a separation. The threshing wheel was used to separate grain from the chaff. A common form of the threshing wheel consisted of a couple of wooden planks that had several rollers attached underneath that were fitted with iron teeth. The thresher sat on the planks that were pulled by a team of oxen. As the threshing wheel rolled, the iron teeth would separate the grain. If you picture the threshing wheel rolling over a man, you can imagine the damage that might occur – even death. Our constitution protects people from cruel or unusual punishment so this method of punishment would obviously not be used here. Solomon is telling us that it takes a wise judge to mete out the proper punishment. I’ve got to remind you that biblical wisdom comes from God. The wise ruler must distinguish between the godless and the good and also has to use discernment in determining the punishment required.

The next verse is a really beautiful depiction of Christ’s love. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being.” When you look at God’s design for humanity, this makes perfect sense. Each of us has life breathed into our soul by God. Every human conceived, whether that life was actually born or not, was created by the power of God. Rom. 1:20 tells us that God put in us a desire to know Him. Humans are the only segment of God’s creation created in the image of God. We are created in God’s image with the ability to think and understand. In 1 Cor. 2:11, Paul said, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The spirit of man is an illusion to our conscience which has been designed in us by our Creator.

Solomon mentions two virtues of a good king. “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.” Loyalty and righteousness come from the same Hebrew word which means covenant loyalty. Loyalty means a strong feeling of support or allegiance. In context, Solomon is talking about a mutual loyalty between the king and his kingdom. By application, you can see the far reaching implications of loyalty. I’ll ask the question, what are you loyal to? Certainly, family comes to mind. There are people loyal to their jobs, sometimes at the expense of loyalty to their families. Given that we’ve just finished the college football season, we saw a lot of people very loyal to their teams. When it comes to your loyalty to God, how is that demonstrated? If we keep the meaning of loyalty in mind, can you demonstrate a strong feeling of support or allegiance to God if you don’t pray, read or study your Bible? What about not participating in the things of the church? I often wonder how someone can say they pray and read their Bible faithfully yet don’t participate in church. Coming to church every week is included in that, but I’m talking about a daily loyalty to God because He is worthy of our loyalty.

“The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.” Young men tend to rely on strength while older men tend to rely on wisdom. I’m not as strong as I used to be, but I’m a whole lot wiser than I used to be, and that’s not to say that I have my wisdom tank filled.

Finally, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.” This is still talking about kings and punishment. Stripes refer to actual punishment inflicted as a result of a wrongdoing. “Strokes reach the innermost being” refers back to verse 27.

I know we’ve covered a lot of ground today. We started by looking at the parental relationship and the implications of being a bad child. Solomon spoke of being a virtuous king and the responsibility that comes with punishment. We saw some important aspects of our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to conduct a critical self-evaluation of your faith. Ask someone you love and trust to provide you with some feedback.

Rapid Fire Principles

rapid-fireYou can check out the podcast here.

The last time we were in Proverbs, we learned the wise man stays away from strife, but the fool argues about things that don’t matter. Don’t allow yourself to be baited into an argument. There are fights to fight, but this isn’t what Solomon is talking about. He’s talking about nonsensical arguments where you’re wasting breath. Be mindful of the plans others have or present to you. They may not be what they appear to be so take the time to ask the right questions. Loyalty and trustworthiness are qualities that are diminishing as we move through time. Become the person that God wants you to be. We saw the value of a godly king and the Queen of Sheba recognized that quality in Solomon. This morning, we’ll see some rapid fire principles; some that we’ve already looked at and we’ll also dive into the issue of trustworthiness.

Take a look at our passage found in Proverbs 20:9-19.

Let’s start with one of my favorite topics. Solomon says, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin?’” It’s a rhetorical question, but we can quickly answer it. The standard for holiness is not being good. The standard for a relationship with God is not made on our terms.  No matter who you might think God is, you have to approach Him in the manner He has determined. The only way to approach God is in perfection and folks, we fall short. That’s why Solomon asks the simple question, “Who can say I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?” The answer is no one. Rom. 3:10 reminds us, “There is none righteous, not even one.” But it didn’t stop there. The conclusion to that thought is found in Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” New life can come only after death. I know it may not make sense, but it’s true. When there is new life, the old is passed away. Your life is like the changing of the seasons. The dead, cold winter gives way to new life in the spring time. This verse is a realization that we are sinners and we cannot do anything to cleanse ourselves. 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In Rom. 3:9, Paul made sure everyone was on the same page when he asked the rhetorical question, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” We are all born into sin. We can choose to stay in our sin or acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Savior and turn from our wicked ways. Read Rom. 5:18-21 to learn that the purification comes from what Christ has done.

The shady business practices in v. 10 are the same things Solomon addressed in 11:1 when he said, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”

Look at the lad in v. 11. Notice it’s not what someone says although that’s important. “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right.” The lad Solomon mentions is a young man. The idea is that young people generally are free from the pretenses grown-ups have. They have not yet learned the finer points of discretion. You’ve heard the phrase, “Out of the mouths of babes?” Kids are generally are a what you see is what you get kind of people. Kids don’t hide their motives. When they want something, they ask or demand it. The point is that it is the actions of the child indicate who he really is. Of course, the conduct of people can be evaluated as well. Solomon says so in the next verse: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them.” This points to the fact that the Lord has given us ears to hear and eyes to see. You are able to judge the character of someone by what you see and hear.

Here’s a series of verses regarding work. There’s a lot here, but it’s pretty straightforward. Solomon says, “Do not love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.” Before social media, if you were tired, few people knew about it and it really didn’t matter because you had to live life. Today, being tired is a viable excuse not to fulfill any commitments you may have. You’re too tired so you call out of work. I’ve heard of people that are too tired to do housework and yard work; they’re too tired to go to Bible study, or Community Group and sometimes people can even be too tired to go to church. What’s funny is that people are rarely too tired to go to a party, baby shower, the movies, a concert, or the beach. I bring this up in light of the previous verse Solomon just said about the seeing eye and the hearing ear. You can talk a good game, but your actions scream out true intentions. Don’t be sleeping when there is work to be done.

“Bad, bad,” says the buyer, but when he goes his way, then he boasts.” This is for you people that love to shop in places where you can negotiate for the best price. You’re looking to get the best price so you tell the merchant what a piece of junk it is he’s trying to sell. You talk him down to a lower price then you go about bragging about how slick a negotiator you are.

“There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.” This is a common theme throughout Proverbs. It’s way better to have knowledge than gold.

“Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; and for foreigners, hold him in pledge.” Back in Bible days, it was common practice to use a garment, a coat or cloak, as security for a debt. Today, we could think of this a title loan. There are a number of warnings in Proverbs about acting as security for other’s debt. We’ve seen it in 6:1, 11:15, 17:18, and we’ll see it again in 22:26. This isn’t a verse promoting harsh treatment. The point here is that if a person ignores this sound financial advice and makes a pledge for a stranger, then hold that stranger accountable. Take his garments or hold him in pledge as a servant so you don’t suffer loss. There is a difference between Christian charity and a lack of accountability. In today’s society, we think if someone is held accountable for their actions, whether it’s debt or holding to their faith or challenging someone on their ungodly beliefs that we are judgmental, unloving, and intolerant. Remember the housing crash where people were foreclosed on their homes? They couldn’t make their payments and the bank took back the house and somehow, the banks turned out to be the bad guys. Now, it’s awful that people lost their homes, but if you say you’re going to pay back a debt, shouldn’t you be held accountable?

“Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” This is about honesty. As I have mentioned many times, we often get requests from people that need help with a variety of financial issues. From the electric or water bill to repairs for their vehicle. Many times they have just gotten a job, but won’t get a paycheck for another week or two. Some of these people are telling the truth and some are not. How do you tell the difference? You don’t. If the Lord leads you to help someone and they misuse your generosity, that’s not on you, it’s on them. The advantage gained by someone being dishonest will be short lived. The gravel is not literal gravel, but the discomfort, pain, and suffering that come as a result of being dishonest.

“Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance.” This is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to point out something I have experienced a number of times. As a shepherd or pastor, I am rarely brought into a discussion early in a decision making process. Too often, the person that has willingly submitted to membership and has voluntarily placed themselves under the authority of the church and her leadership, refuses to seek my guidance or input. There are a few exceptions, but my experience is that people will typically do what they want to do. Is it the day in which we live. The church has become really no different than any other organization. “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” A secret is just that.

It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or sinful about it, but the person may not want it revealed at this point in time. People do have a right to privacy and no one wants that privacy violated. Maybe you reveal a secret under the guise of, they wouldn’t mind if I tell so and so. There are people I will never tell anything private. Solomon says don’t even associate with someone that has loose lips.

We began by asking the rhetorical question, who is without sin? The cleansing we enjoy is not because of anything we have done, by because of what Jesus did. Youngsters say what comes to mind because they haven’t developed the ability to hide their motives. We looked at a number of principles for daily, principled living whether it’s at home, the job, or in church. Next week, we’ll hopefully finish up this chapter by continuing to look at principles for daily living.

Thank You Father, May I Have Another?

KidYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some tried and true principles that I called MVPs. The Bible is filled with them. Make sure your speech is edifying. Use your words to provide what people need to live victoriously for Jesus. Satan is the biggest pervertor of things that are godly and holy and righteous.  Don’t be fooled by his twistilations. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth.

Our passage comes from Pro. 15:5-7 that says, A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible. Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, but trouble is in the income of the wicked. The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.

Solomon gets right to it. Having a child that is foolish might be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. If you think your kids are not foolish, think again. Remember a biblical fool is one that has the right answer or the right thing to do presented to them and chooses not to do it. Biblical fools can’t recognize wisdom even when it slaps them in the face because they are unregenerate sinners. Each of us can be foolish at times, but that’s not how we should be characterized. In 13:24 Solomon talked about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. In 13:1 Solomon said, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline.” Here he says, “A fool rejects his father’s discipline.” Reject is better translated despise. This shows you how deep in the heart foolishness resides. Discipline is also translated correction. This can be applied in a wide variety of ways. There is a typically a period of time in most kid’s lives where nobody knows as much as they do. It generally starts about middle school and continues into the teenage years. In many cases it lasts well into high school and college. Part of this is a desire to be independent and out from under the blanket of authority and safety provided by parents. The foolish kid rejects correction from his father. It is despised for any number of reasons. Perhaps because of the dreaded “h” word – hypocrisy. Dad says don’t smoke while puffing away. Dad says finish school and get a good job while he sits at home not working and not looking. Dad says do your chores and does nothing around the house.

“But he who regards reproof is sensible.” Solomon’s assumption is that the correction comes from a godly, loving father. I know this isn’t always the case, but since we’re using the Bible as our guide and we’re in church, this is the direction that I am coming from. Kids ought to listen to their fathers. They have experienced more than you. They have had failures and made poor decisions. Learn from them so that you do not repeat their mistakes. These are things the sensible kid does. There most likely will come a time when a kid realizes that dad was right. For some, the realization comes too late. You might remember lessons your dad taught you while you were a child and now that you’re all grown up, you’ve come to understand the wisdom that he had.

Don’t misinterpret this next one. “Great wealth is in the house of the righteous.” If you’re thinking, we don’t have great wealth at our house you have to follow that up with the question, “Are we righteous?” If you immediately think of money, think again. We have Americanized this verse and equate it with material wealth. That interpretation only works in first world countries. We typically assume that first world country means countries like us. We’ve heard of third world countries, but have you ever wondered about second world countries? Those terms come from a model developed after World War II and generally refer to geopolitical positions. Countries that allied themselves with the United States were termed first world. These countries are generally capitalistic, developed, and industrialized. These are countries in western Europe like Belgium, France, Spain and also the land down under – Australia. It also includes other countries like Israel, Japan, and South Korea. Second world countries were typically communist or socialist that allied themselves with the mighty USSR that today include countries in northern and eastern Europe like Russia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and my beloved Romania. A third world country doesn’t fit into either category and include capitalist countries like Venezuela and communist countries like North Korea. We often use this term to describe developing and undeveloped nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Included in this third world are very rich countries like Saudi Arabia and very poor countries like Mali.

Of the roughly 7 billion people living on planet earth, only about 15% live in first world countries. It hardly makes sense that the wealth Solomon refers to would mean dollars. This is yet another example of why we need to study the Scriptures for ourselves. There is a whole segment of the church that wants to equate material wealth with God’s blessing. The wealth – or better translated treasure – that Solomon refers to is something far better than silver or gold. What price do you put on grace? Or forgiveness? Or mercy? Or hope? Or patience? Those gifts of God are priceless and are a result of righteousness. That doesn’t mean there won’t be material wealth, but even when there isn’t money in the account, the treasures of God are in the storehouses of the righteous.

“But trouble is in the income of the wicked.” You can read that as actual income or what comes into the home. There is guilt and shame; pride and passion. There is envy and strife. Maybe you know someone or a family that could be classified as wicked and maybe they seem to be prospering by every definition of the word. Remember 14:32: “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” God will mete out perfect justice at some point that will bring greatest glory to Himself. You focus on doing what you ought to do and let God handle what He ought to do.

Here’s another variation of an MVP. “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.” We just heard this in verse 2. This demonstrates just how much a blessing that wise person is and how burdensome a fool is. This verse also alludes to the idea that we need to be teaching others. Spread means to open out as to increase in surface area. Your knowledge, which leads to wisdom, should be scattered for all to pick up. Keep in mind what Solomon said about wisdom resting in the heart. There is a balance between telling everyone everything you know and using your knowledge and wisdom in appropriate settings. I believe that God will provide opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge and wisdom. I think all too often we’re looking for those life changing, global moments that for most of us will never come. What we fail to see is that God provides huge, eternity impacting opportunities each and every day. For most of us, living a life of authenticity is the best opportunity for others watching us to know that something is different. Knowledge is spread when you open your mouth and share the truth of God. Your knowledge of God is transformed into wisdom because the Holy Spirit gives you exactly what you need when you need it.

So there are ministry opportunities God provides, but another area is personal teaching. It presents itself in the area of discipleship. Who are you investing in? The people you hang out with, are you seeking to disciple them? As a church, our primary mission is to, 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.” (Matt. 28:19-20) The emphasis is on make disciples. Jesus said we do this in two ways. If you’re hanging out with people and Jesus is not part of those interactions, then something is dreadfully wrong. “But the hearts of fools are not so.” The fool has no desire to spread the truth of God because he doesn’t know it. Fool and knowledge don’t belong in the same sentence. If you have the knowledge of God and do not use it to further the Kingdom of God, don’t use it to share the good news of salvation, don’t use it to strengthen other’s walk with Christ, then you are a fool.

Nobody likes to get spanked, and nobody likes to do the spanking. Discipline helps us get back on the correct path. Fools reject that correction. When you’re being corrected, regardless of your age, look for God in that correction. The treasures of God don’t always equate to money so don’t be fooled into thinking wealth equals righteousness. Finally, use the opportunities God provides to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. Take the time to disciple those in your sphere of influence. That will be the greatest legacy we can leave.

Looks can be Deceiving

LooksYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs we learned that we should use God’s Word as a compass for our lives. We should allow the perfect Word of God to guide us on the path of righteousness. We’re to work hard and not be lazy, something you’ll hear over and over again from Solomon. If you are anxious, your heart is weighed down. We combat these feelings of heaviness with the truths and comforts found in God’s Word. This morning, we have three very pointed topics Solomon wants us to understand.

Take the time to read Pro. 13:1-11 for yourself to understand the context.

Solomon’s first principle is that good listening leads to good parenting. For most of us, if our children listened to what we told them and followed that guidance, they would be far better off. As parents, if we followed the guidance of Scripture, we’d be better off too. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a good or bad person, if the kids would learn from our mistakes, missteps, and miscues, they’d at least know better. You can talk to career criminals and they will typically tell you they don’t want their kids to grow up to be like them. Solomon hits this on the head when he says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Parents who truly love their children discipline them. The word here means correction and we must assume that there was instruction at some point that the child did not adhere to and as a result, there must be consequences. There are children that are wonderfully compliant; there are children that are terribly rebellious. There are parents that are wonderfully godly and there are parents that are awful. I think it’s very likely that each of us fits into all the categories at various times and there are an almost infinite number of combinations too. Even kids can exercise the wisdom Solomon talks about if they would just listen to their parents. Early in their little lives, kids learn by being told no. The kid reaches for the glass on the table. The little one gets close to the stairs. As they get older and are able to understand more, actual instruction takes place, expectations are laid out, goals are established. Scoffers don’t listen, they want to do things on their own, they don’t want correction, they don’t want input. Remember way back in Pro. 1:22, “How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” This is not a good characteristic. There are some wonderful, godly parents that have children that rebel, that choose the wrong path, that stray from a life of faith. There are also horribly uninvolved parents that have children grow up to be wonderful, godly people. The grace of God is the great cycle breaker. Lay aside all those things the world says are marks of achievement and be the person God wants you to be. No matter your upbringing or where you came from, you can be the person God designed you to be. That is success in God’s eyes.

Not every kid in Scripture listened to his parents. Not every kid in Scripture had good parents. Some well intentioned people will tell you that when a kid messes up, it’s always the parent’s fault. There must be something in the family’s closets that led to the crime, the pregnancy, the rebellion, the bad grades, the drugs, etc. The truth is, sometimes kids make bad choices that lead to bad consequences. No matter how much love is demonstrated, no matter how much prayer and fasting is done, no matter how involved the parents are, sometimes kids exercise that free will in ways that are contrary to God’s principles. The wise son listens to the parents and the scoffer does not. Good things come out the mouths of the righteous Solomon says in v. 2, “but the desire of the treacherous is violence.” In keeping with the speaking theme from the last chapter, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Remember, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to remain silent. How many lives are hurt because we don’t control our tongue? We cannot excuse hurtful words by declaring it’s the truth. Truth can be used as a weapon and we must guard against that. I am in no way saying do not tell the truth, but check your heart first and then be loving and kind as the truth is told.

Verse 4 seems out of place in this passage, but it really goes hand in hand with v. 2. The fruit of a man’s mouth in v. 2 are his words and because of that, “The soul of the diligent is made fat.” We saw the importance of diligence in chapter 12 as it relates to a work ethic and now as it relates to the soul. When you exercise diligence in your spiritual walk, your soul gets fat. This is a good thing. Your soul is fed and properly nourished. On the other hand, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing” is a parallel to, “The desire of the treacherous is violence.” Even the longing of the sluggard is unfulfilled.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when people lie to me. People lie for many reasons: to protect themselves or others, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, etc. “A righteous man hates falsehood.” And “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless.” These are two principles to live by. Two principles that will keep the wise person from trouble. Part of following God is hating what God hates and loving what God loves. And you’ve heard that sometimes Christians are better known for what we are against than what we are for. Sometimes the love of God in our lives is not as evident when we focus on what we hate. The truth is that God hates all sin not just the ones that are in the news. It’s okay to take a stand and I encourage you to stand when it’s appropriate to stand and fight when it’s appropriate to fight. The righteousness of Christ is what we need to use to filter our thoughts and actions. Falsehood isn’t just lying. It’s deception, it’s cover up, it’s bad business practice, it’s everything that is contrary to what is good, and right, and pure. It should be a common thing for righteous people to hate lying, but anyone is susceptible to falsehood. Pastors have been fired for plagiarizing sermons, ministry leaders have embezzled funds from their organizations, church leaders have done unspeakable things.

The, “wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.” And “wickedness subverts the sinner.” Now these are some pretty harsh descriptions. We know what wicked is. Solomon has gone to great lengths to describe and characterize wickedness. “Acts disgustingly” literally means cause a stench or stir up a foul odor. Solomon continues to go to new depths to describe the overall awfulness of the wicked. Wicked people prefer falsehood, it is who they are. The best way to understand, “Wickedness subverts the sinner” is that the wicked will bring shame to other people and to themselves. They will cause disgrace to come to people that were foolish enough to trust or associate with them. If you hang out with thieves, you’ll probably be considered a thief. If you hang out with druggies, you’ll likely be considered a druggie. If you hang out with people who are wicked, others will conclude you are wicked. There in lies the great dilemma for Christians.

To help us understand what Solomon is saying, let me remind you of what Jude says. Jude 23 says, “And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” These folks are in the most danger of eternal punishment. Jude says have mercy on them even though they are engaged in sin. No matter what, we demonstrate the mercies of God that are renewed each and every day in our lives. We exercise mercy to those that are deeply entrenched in sin, but we do it with fear knowing that there by the grace of God go I. We tread carefully, “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Some think this is an illusion to Zech. 3:3 referring to Joshua, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” The word “filthy” here refers to excrement. Joshua was not actually wearing dirty clothes. Jude is referring to the ceremonial cleanliness requirements of the high priest. The idea is that if you are ceremonially clean and you touch something unclean, you then become unclean. You cannot transfer cleanliness. Jude is saying when you show mercy to that person in sin, be careful that they do not contaminate you. The flesh Jude mentions refers to sin. Be careful that the mercy you demonstrate is not twisted into acceptance of sin. You can see how easily it is to be drawn to compromise, especially if you don’t know the standard of truth.

Solomon talks about the illusion of wealth next. Take a look at vs. 7-11. This passage is broken into three points. In vs. 7-8, we are told don’t judge a book by its cover. People do a lot to appear to be something they are not. What motivates them, I can only imagine. Perhaps pride, perhaps something else. Earthly riches do not equate to God’s riches and vice versa. There was the rich man in Luke 12:21 that was not rich toward God. We’re also reminded of the one in 2 Cor. 6:10 that had nothing yet possessed all things. Wealth is relative. In 9-10 we are reminded that the light of Christ should shine brightly in our lives regardless of the circumstances. Insolence means disrespectful. This verse is also translated, pride only breeds quarrels. You know this is true. This is the person that refuses to listen to the insight, wisdom, or counsel of another. Wise people know they don’t know everything and are not afraid to get some outside assistance. Verse 11 presents us with an idea we have seen before. If you work hard, you can get stuff and keep it. If you get stuff by deceitful, unethical, or illegal means, it will be taken from you. This also conveys the idea of easy wealth – wealth that was obtained without working. Think inheritance or the lottery. Wealth not earned is often quickly lost.

When you consider all that Solomon has said in these 11 verses, it can seem pretty overwhelming. If you have parents, listen to them. Learn from them so you don’t make the same mistakes they did. Even if you have made terrible decisions in the past, there is no where you can go where the grace of God cannot reach you. Allow Jesus Christ to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you new. When that grace covers you, it changes your life, your attitudes, your desires and your outlook on life. That’s just four things that demonstrate you are new in Christ.

Household Troubles

TroubleYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were together, Solomon provided some vivid word pictures about beauty. It is far more important to have the inner beauty of God than external beauty. We learned that the desire of godly people is only good. Godly people rejoice in the good fortune of others. We also saw the comparison of the greedy to the giving. This morning, we’ll continue down the road of generosity and riches to see where it takes us.

Pro. 11:28-31 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”

This is a beautiful segue from our last message. Solomon compared greedy to generous and he reminds us, “He who trusts in riches will fall.” (Pro. 11:28) Rich is a relative term that we typically associate with the ultra-wealthy. According to the Social Security Administration, the average income of an American is about $44,000 a year. That seemed a bit high, so I lowered the income to $25,000 a year and checked globalrichlist.com to determine what rich is on a global scale. If you make $25,000 a year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The point is that riches are fleeting; they can disappear in an instant. People that brag about how much money they have are in a dangerous place. In 1 Tim. 6:17 Paul said, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies  us with all things to enjoy.” If you’re hope is in your job, your investments, your 401k, or any other financial type account, at some point, you’ll find yourself lacking. Of course it’s nice to have money, but that’s not where our hope lies. In this congregation, I doubt anyone is putting their hope of eternity in their finances. For the most part, I know you, I know your families, I know where you live, and what you do for a living. While this idea may not apply to anyone here, you probably cross paths with people that have this type of thinking. It’s always about the money. It seems like every conversation you have with them is about money. They tell you how much everything costs or what things are worth. They track the rise and fall of the stock market, they want their kids to have the best education so they have the best job. Maybe they talk about retiring at 40 or 50. Life is more than money.

Think of the hope you can offer someone that is hung up on money, but that doesn’t mean the conversation will be an easy one. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) All the financial and material blessings you have on this earth will be left behind. The idea is the rich may not see a need for Jesus because they have what this world offers. When you stand before the Lord, riches will fail you. “But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Maybe you’ve heard this type of analogy before. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ps. 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Righteousness causes us to flourish. Flourish means to develop in a healthy or vigorous manner. When riches fail, righteousness remains. No one can take that away because we are grafted into Christ and the more we grow, the more we look like Jesus.

What looks like a shift in topics is not. Solomon speaks of the household. “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.” These represent extremes in the home. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this verse. When you take the whole passage as one, which is the most accurate way to do it, you get the idea that there is a person that causes trouble in the house. You might quickly conclude that person is a child. I don’t really think Solomon is talking about children because there are other parts of Proverbs that we have seen already that deal with kids and there are others that we will see later that talk about kids. It seems that Solomon is talking about mismanagement in the home. Solomon is talking about the head of the household that does not take care of those under his authority – particularly servants. They don’t have adequate food, shelter, or any of the others things you would expect in a home. So who’s in charge of the home? The man, the husband, the father. If the leader of the home is consumed with riches and getting ahead in this world, that will lead to other less than desirable traits. Have you ever encountered someone that is like this? He totally neglects his family for the pursuit of riches. He’s not involved at all in leading the family. He can’t tell you what grade the kids are in, doesn’t know their activities, he really doesn’t know anything that is happening in the home. It seems that most scholars lean to this interpretation.

The troubler of his own house inherits the wind. At least he gets something right? Think about this for a second in the time in which this was written. Wind was useless, it was noisy, it kicked up dirt and sand, and was overall unpleasant. Now you get the idea. If it’s your responsibility to take care of the household and if you don’t, your inheritance is worthless. In fact not just that, but the fool becomes servant to the wise. Wisdom always wins out. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” This is more than just a nice verse. Think of the metaphor. The seed of one fruit can generate a tree that will produce fruit over the life of that tree. Remember, Solomon is still comparing wise to foolish, godliness to wickedness, good to evil. In light of those comparisons, the benefits of a righteous person cannot be underestimated. The overall good that person infuses into life are immeasurable. Where I live, we have a lot of citrus trees. When you consider the fruit produced by a healthy tree, you typically have more fruit than one family can consume. The righteousness produced by that godly individual not only benefits that person’s family, but provides spiritual nourishment to those around him.

The second part of that verse has been the subject of some controversy among Hebrew Bible scholars. Since I am not an expert in the Hebrew language, I am limited in how far I can understand this. The phrase, “wins souls” is translated to kill where it’s used in other places in Scripture. In fact, the Revised Standard Version read, “But lawlessness takes away lives.” The New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard reads, “But violence takes lives away.” The Message reads, “A violent life destroys souls.” When we consider the comparisons in these verses and read the verse to say, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away,” it seems to make more sense. We’ve seen patterns in Solomon’s writings to this point so it makes sense to interpret it this way. What’s the point? According to 2 Tim. 2:15, we are to rightly divide the word of truth. Solomon has been making a great case to support the principle that leading a life of wickedness, evil, deception, and ungodliness leads to death while leading a life of godliness and wisdom leads to life. So if you want to read there is wisdom in saving souls – that’s a good principle to live by. I would even suggest it’s a principle we’re commanded to follow in Matt. 28:19-20 as the primary mission of the church. If you think that’s too much info, change your thinking. Don’t fall into the trap that you just don’t need to know all that. Remember what Ravi Zacharias said, we have people that “know[s] less and less of why they believe what they believe.”

Finally, Solomon says, “If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how more the wicked and the sinner!” Since we’re still in comparison mode, it’s fair to say that there are often times God gives us what we deserve. Heb. 12:6 reminds us that God disciplines us not just to correct unacceptable behavior, but also because He loves us. It’s the same reason you discipline your children. Many times, He chooses not to give what us we deserve and that’s called mercy. Solomon is saying that if God chooses to hold us accountable and we have examples of this in Adam, Moses, and David among a whole host of other regular people we see in Scripture, He will also hold the wicked accountable. Peter says it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)

The wicked will not get a free pass. Solomon has gone to great lengths to teach us about wisdom. He’s taken the time to compare godliness and wickedness: greed and generosity. We are challenged over and over again to live a life that glorifies God. Are we going to accept the challenge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or are we going to believe the lie that God doesn’t care how we live as long as we’re sincere.

Good Kid, Bad Kid

Good KidYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we heard from two women. They both provided banquets for us to feast upon. Wisdom in particular was inviting people to join her, especially the foolish and the naive. Even though the invitations have been sent, there is no guarantee that people will come. Even though you set the table, you can’t make people eat. Wisdom offers instruction, knowledge, and understanding. Folly offers death. It seems like an easy choice. This morning, we’re going to check out some more common sense teaching that is now uncommon. 

Pro. 10:1-5 says, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother. Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked. Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.”Bad Kid

Solomon begins speaking in rapid fire sentences. Hang on! “The proverbs of Solomon” set off this new section of Scripture where the principles and instructions seem to come very quickly and for the most part, they look like they’re not closely related with one another. In the first few verses, Solomon contrasts the differences between a good kid and a bad kid based on the familiar wisdom versus folly comparisons. “A wise son makes his father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” Don’t assume that a dad doesn’t care if his son is foolish or a mom doesn’t care if her son is wise. That’s not the point. The idea here is that the mood or tone of the household can be established based on the actions of the kids. Kids can stress parents to the max and perhaps you have experienced this firsthand. Our kids can sometimes upset the entire family with their behavior. That’s what Solomon is saying here. The wisdom Solomon is talking about is the same wisdom he’s been talking about. The process of gaining wisdom for adults is the same for kids. It stems from biblical and godly instruction which leads to knowledge, which leads to understanding, which leads to wisdom. The process takes times for your kids just like it took time for you. One caveat here, don’t expect your kids to live a life of godliness and wisdom if you don’t. The walk of faith is not a do as I say and not as I do arrangement. All your teaching will be thrown out the window if your life does not reflect your teaching because kids pick up on the hypocrisy of our lives. If the teaching of Scripture is awesome and great enough for your kids to follow, isn’t it awesome and great enough for us adults to follow? The foolishness of children grieves mother and father. Just be sure to understand that some foolishness is simply because they’re kids. Let them be kids. I don’t think the time span here though is little kids, but rather older kids.

And now for something obvious. Perhaps you’ve heard the running joke that if the government would  just made something illegal, we wouldn’t have problems anymore. It what seems to be an obvious principle, Solomon says, “Ill gotten gains do not profit.” Crime doesn’t pay you’ve also heard. Crime does pay: you steal something and it becomes yours; not legally, but for as long as you can get away with it. You steal money and you get richer. You steal a car and you have a ride. You steal someone’s identity and you can become that person. Crime pays; getting caught does not. Solomon is thinking eternally here because the last part of the verse says, “But righteousness delivers from death.” Crime may pay in the short run, but it never pays out farther than that. Our jails and prisons are filled with people that have been convicted of crimes. The United States has about 5% of the world’s population, but almost 25% of the world’s prison population. The reasons for this include harsher sentencing and the public’s demand that crime should be punished. U.S. prisons hold lots of non-violent criminals which other countries do not punish, or do not punish as severely. Any gain received from crime will be short lived because you cannot take it with you. When you face justice from a holy and pure God, consequences will be meted out. What you thought you got away with will be brought to light in perfect, exacting detail.

Not only does righteousness deliver you from death but, “The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger.” Remember what Solomon just said. He was talking about ill gotten gains. He is saying you literally will not starve to death so you don’t have to steal to get food. Even if famine comes, God will provide. If you have your Bible, take the time to find and read Matthew 6:25-33. That passage is another illustration about how God will provide for His children. It takes faith! You’ve probably noticed the contrasts Solomon has used in these first couple of verses. Here Solomon contrasts that lack of hunger with, “But He will reject the craving of the wicked.” If you’re righteous and hungry, God will take care of you. If you’re wicked and hungry, you will remain hungry. Even though it may appear the wicked have all they desire, they will never be satisfied.

The next verses seem out of place, but they tie into the work ethic of wisdom. Everyone has a work ethic. It might be a good one, it might be poor. It doesn’t take long for a supervisor to determine which one you are. Solomon says, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand.” Negligent can also be translated lazy. That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Works with a lazy hand. It seems odd that supervisors have to tell employees to show up for work and to be on time, but that is the world that we find ourselves in. While at work, you should work. It seems obvious, but remember that we are living in an age of uncommon sense. Col. 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” If you’re a Christian and are lackadaisical in your work, you likely will find yourself unemployed and it’s not because you’re being persecuted. Here’s the other side of it, “But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Diligent means careful and conscientious. If you work quickly, but sloppily, or your work has to be redone, you slide over into the same category as the wicked. Work hard, work efficiently, work correctly. This goes back to Col. 3:23. If you work to please the Lord, He’s going to see to it that everyone else is pleased. What if they’re not pleased? Who cares! The wise and diligent worker is also a planner. “He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely.” While the Lord will provide in time of need, that doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to do your part. Relying on God’s provision is great, but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and do nothing. The wise person plants his crops in the spring, prays that God will provide water, pulls the weeds and keeps the bugs off, and harvests in the fall in order to prepare for winter.

With the final contrast Solomon says, “But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.” Even if you do all the work to prepare for harvest but don’t follow through, that is shameful. He’s been giving agricultural examples because that was easily understood at the time. To draw a modern parallel, how many people have unfinished projects around the house? You have great plans, but they don’t seem to come to fruition. How about projects you want to get to, but consistently decide to start them tomorrow? Laziness and procrastination are an epidemic in America today. Thankfully, I have a cure. Read, learn, study, memorize, and live out God’s Word.

Solomon has compared and contrasted two types of people. One makes a father glad, the other makes a mother sad. One is hungry, one is not. One is a planner, one is not. One is righteous, one is not. Which one are you?