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Last time in Proverbs, Solomon said that as Christians in the workplace, we should be known for our work ethic. That work mandate goes all the way back to Genesis, but work didn’t become drudgery until the ground became cursed because of the fall. If you’re able to work, you should work to support yourself and your family. Being a slacker in your work will lead to destruction. When you’re feeling blue, or your down, or your up and excited about life, remember always that the name of the Lord is an incredible reminder about who is really is. Don’t follow what you think God is, follow what the Bible says He is. Safety can only be found in the Lord so put your trust in God, not in riches. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.
I hope you’ll take the time to read our passage today found in Pro. 18:13-17.
We start off with something that is running rampant today. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Contextually, Solomon is still speaking of a fool, but this is something we all can get sucked into. Back in Pro. 17:27 Solomon talked about someone that retrains his words, but here, we move in a different direction. This is very applicable today. Before all the facts are presented, before all the evidence is collected, before the things necessary to make a decision are evaluated and considered, an answer is given. Someone that gives an answer without listening first can come off arrogant and rude. Have you ever heard of the two-minute rule? You won’t find it written anywhere, but it’s a good principle. This rule says you have to listen to a conversation for at least two minutes before butting in and giving your opinion. Without listening first, you really have no idea what’s being said. If you give an answer before listening, it could be perceived that you are unwilling to listen to counter opinions. If you jump in without listening, you might be labeled intolerant or bigoted. You’ve never had a conversation like that with anyone, have you? They always have an answer for what you’re saying? There’s always a ready defense and it typically involves fault or blame resting squarely with someone else. This type of person also represents an unteachable spirit. Solomon’s conclusion is when you are unwilling to listen before giving an answer, then, “it is folly and shame to him.” The folly and shame is assigned to the one giving an answer. This is the general rule because there is no understanding before speaking. When you speak before thinking, it generally leads to nonsense.
Solomon now says that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You hear this next principle a lot about people as they age. “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but as for a broken spirit, who can bear it?” Our body begins breaking down from the moment of birth. We get older and older and no matter the health and beauty products out there, nothing can suspend the aging process. This principle also presents itself when someone is sick and I don’t mean they have a cold or the flu. Sheer will power can counteract sickness. Maybe you’ve heard it said when someone is seriously ill that they’re in good spirits. That’s what Solomon is saying. They’re not letting their physical ailment get them down. They remain focused on the things that are important. I’m not saying health is not important, but on the eternal scale, your health on earth certainly falls to the bottom of the list. Really it’s God’s Spirit working with your spirit to help you stay focused on what’s important. Certainly no one who has ever had to endure watching a loved one be sick or battle a disease would say it’s enjoyable, but there is definitely something different when the Spirit of God is involved. Have you ever had to deal with someone that is defeated because they’re going through some type of illness or even injury? They’re not very fun to be around. A defeatist’s attitude can sink you pretty fast. The doctors are all incompetent, nothing works, the medication is not helping, all hope is lost. That’s the kind of person you want to get away from. That’s someone suffering from a broken spirit and Solomon asks, “Who can bear it?” Of course the answer is no one. It’s difficult enough to go through aging and various ailments with God, I cannot imagine doing life apart from God. No comfort, no strength, no courage, no endurance, no will, no hope.
We’ve heard this next one before. “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Solomon said something similar in 1:5, 4:5, 4:7, 9:9, 10:14, and 15:14. Each of those verses talks about what is common in people that are wise. The wise person is open to learning. He acknowledges he doesn’t know everything and is willing to learn. When you teach someone that is wise, they get wiser. He’s gaining knowledge which leads to understanding. This is quite the opposite of the fool. The fool thinks he knows things, but does not. He’s too foolish to know that he doesn’t know things. As I was writing this, I had a thought. As we progress through history, are we becoming smarter? Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen the advent of color TV, cordless and cellular phones, the smoke detector, the home computer, GPS, MRIs, DNA, LEDs, ATMs, MP3s, the internet, flat screen TVs, cable, satellite, and streaming TV. How about these inventions which fall in the “taking it for way granted category”: cruise control, electronic ignition, front wheel drive, and cordless tools.
Smart people tend to get smarter and people that aren’t smart tend not to get smarter. That’s what Solomon has consistently said throughout this book. The principle applies to secular pursuits, but Solomon is really talking about biblical wisdom. His reasoning is that if you possess biblical wisdom because you are a genuine follower of Christ, that wisdom will spill over into everyday life. That’s the theme throughout Scripture. Being a child of God should mean something.
Be careful reading the next verse. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” The gift Solomon mentions is not a spiritual gift. Some commentators think this verse is talking about the practice of bearing gifts. Gen. 43:11 tells, “Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” The Magi brought gifts to the new born King. There are times that bringing a gift is right and appropriate. Someone moves into a new home; you give them a gift. You go before the President; you bring a gift. You see this very often. The champions of various sports typically go to the White House and they present the President a jersey or football, or some other memento of their accomplishment. It’s a demonstration of gratefulness or in recognition of position and authority. I think in reading this and from the cross references, the gift here is more like a bribe. Your spouse brings you flowers, chocolates, a new car, an appliance, or ammunition in order to gain favor with you. A bribe always has strings attached to it. But it may not be a blatant bribe; it might be an endowment, or a scholarship fund named in honor of the bestowed. A gift given can open doors otherwise shut.
Our last one for today. “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” This verse is why we have the judicial system set up the way it is. There are two sides to every story and you can’t take the word of one party. If you think this is only relevant in the criminal or civil world, think again. I deal with this in counseling all the time. He said this, she said that and the stories rarely match up. What you have to consider, even in a church setting, is that people will lie to protect themselves. If you take action or draw conclusions based on the word of one person, you’ll likely come to an erroneous conclusion. I’ve had people come to me first with the hopes that since they’re the first one to tell me something, that I’ll believe them. Listen again, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” What seems right and what is right may be two different things. Don’t be too quick to judge. Be willing to do some investigative work. If someone comes to you in an effort to resolve some issue, be willing to talk with all the parties involved.
I want to caution you though. Paul told Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19) In some translations, elder is translated leader. If you’re going to bring an accusation against a church leader, you better have your ducks in a row. Unfortunately, this is a verse that is rarely followed. Someone has a beef with the pastor or church leader, and a conviction is handed down without so much as talking to the person. Say it ain’t so! Yes, this happens all the time. People leave the church because of something that was said without bothering to find out what was said. Or people get upset over some perceived wrong or injustice. I can tell you it is quite upsetting. I may have told you this and if I have, pretend you’re hearing it for the first time. At our last church, I had someone come to me and tell me that an individual had left the church because of something I said. I was a little perplexed because I didn’t remember speaking with this individual. When I dug a little deeper, I found out that the man had been eavesdropping on a private conversation I was having with someone and they totally got wrong what I was saying because apparently, they started eavesdropping sometime after the conversation started. If you believe everything you hear, you’re in for a very long, drama filled life. I think this verse goes along with the verse we looked at about gossip in 18:8.
We started off this morning with Solomon giving a principle we can all live by: think before you speak. There is rarely any issue that must be dealt with that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to think before acting. Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of someone that doesn’t do this. Yes, this issue is rampant in social media, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow the crowd. If you’re a child of the King and you get sick or diagnosed with some disease, allow the Spirit of God to minister to you through the illness. When your spirit is broken, no one can bear that. Don’t allow defeat to enter your mind. Be willing to learn, no matter what state of life you’re in; that’s what biblically wise people do. Bring gifts when appropriate, but not with the hope that they’ll get you anywhere. Before drawing conclusions about an issue, make sure you get all the facts from everyone involved. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in the folly of speaking without thought.