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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Are We Supposed to Forgive and Forget?

forgive2Check out the podcast here.

Last week 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 was the whole truth. This morning, we’ll do some review and dig into the topic of forgiveness.

Pro. 19:6-11 says, “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone. He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish. Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes. A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

This is not a new principle. We saw this briefly last week. “Many will seek the favor or a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him; He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” This just goes to reaffirm the idea that rich people attract others. Rich people can get places with their money. People fawn over rich people. Just look at the entertainment and sports industries. Because of their fame and fortune, society seeks these people out for guidance, wisdom, their ideas, and their opinions. I’ve always thought it strange that celebrities and sports figures frequently are asked their opinion on matters they know nothing about. They’re sought out simply because they are famous. What is this infatuation we have with celebrities? We even have paparazzi follow them around taking pictures like we don’t know they go to the beach, or go shopping, or go out to eat. They tell us what movie or concert they went to, what they ate and if they’ve gained any weight. While rich people are sought after, have you ever thought about the fact that no one is taking pictures of the other side? Nobody follows the poor around. In fact, sometimes they are told to move along. They’re told they can’t be in public places. This is the exact application Solomon is talking about.

We hear a lot that God is no respecter of persons. That’s true, but when we use it in that application it refers to a Jew and Gentile comparison. “For there is no partiality with God.” (Rom. 2:11) Acts 10 records two visions: one that Cornelius had and one that Peter had. Cornelius’ vision included Peter coming to see him. Peter’s vision included a sheet coming down from the sky that had all kinds of four footed animals and creeping things in it. As he was contemplating the vision, the Spirit told him that three men sent by Cornelius were looking for him. Cornelius was of the Italian Cohort and is widely believed to be the first Gentile convert to Christ. In Acts 10:34 after Peter was told to go the home of Cornelius, he said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” But Solomon is talking about the tendency we have. Ja. 2:1-7 speaks about what Solomon is talking about. It says, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” It is wrong to demonstrate favor because a person is rich. This is yet another example of how riches can affect a relationship with Christ. If this happens in the church, rich people can get the idea that God favors them which is very far from the truth.

Let’s do a quick review. “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.” Remember that, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:29) Make an effort to gain wisdom; it will benefit your soul. Verse 9 is a direct restatement of v. 5.

Solomon gets pretty critical in the next verse. He says, “Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes.” Luxury is a state of great comfort. Obviously what one considers luxurious might not be so to another. Our facilities here are quite plain and simple, nothing we would consider fancy. Compare our church to a common church in Southeast Romania, and it is quite luxurious. We have heating and air conditioning, indoor plumbing, running water, and padded seats. All of which are missing from your common village church in Romania. When we mention luxury, it can be attributed to a house, a car, a boat, or really anything that is over the top for the common person. Solomon says it makes no sense for a fool to live in the lap of luxury. The fool is out of place. He doesn’t know how to handle it because he has lived a life of foolishness. Think about the lottery winner. A January article on cleveland.com said about 70% of lottery winners end up bankrupt. “People who were little, ordinary people all of a sudden become extraordinary,” said Steve Lewit, CEO of Wealth Financial Group in Chicago. “They’re euphoric. They lose all sense of reality. They think they’re invincible and powerful. They think they’re Superman.” That certainly describes a fool, doesn’t it?

It is equally out of place for a, “Slave to rule over princes.” The fool we can get, but this part is challenging to understand. The best I can come up with is to compare this to the workplace. Employees are not slaves and supervisors and managers are not royalty, but this seems a good application. If given the chance, most entry level employees lack the breadth of knowledge and experience to effectively manage the company. Although they may say or think they can, they really can’t. They are most likely unqualified to lead so a leadership position is inappropriate. That’s what Solomon is saying. Over the years, they might gain the knowledge necessary to fill that position, but not right now.

Another review. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” We’ve seen this principle before in Proverbs. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Pro. 14:29) And in Pro. 16:32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” It’s the same thing again, but with a modification I want to spend some time on. Solomon is reminding us of the spiritual gift of self-control. It’s easy to let yourself go and lose control. It’s easy to be angry right up until you realize what a fool you’ve made of yourself. Many of us can quote the Bible passage that tells us, “Be angry, and yet do not sin,” but we rarely quote the rest of the verse that gives us the rationale behind the command. That snippet is found in one of the most comprehensive chapters in Scripture regarding our daily lives. We looked at several verses a couple of weeks ago and it’s found in Ephesians 4. Paul painstakingly walks us through the rationale behind his words. The pinnacle of his reasoning is found in v. 22-24. “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Former manner of life goes with the old self. The old self was being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. The new self is renewed in the mind. The new self is in the likeness of God. The new self is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Listen to the reason we’re not supposed to sin when we get angry: “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph. 4:26b-27) If you get angry and you sin, you give the devil an opportunity. Opportunity is also translated place. Give the devil an inch and he’ll take a mile. Entertain one thought and he’ll flood your mind. The opposite of the discrete man is found in Pro. 14:17: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” It is far wiser to be slow to anger. It’s far wiser to consider your words. It’s far wiser to take a breath before speaking. The guy that is slow to anger, “It is to his glory to overlook a transgression.” Overlook here literally means ignore. Before you jump to conclusions, this does not mean that we should forgive and forget – a principle not found in the Bible. Should we forgive? Absolutely. Even if the person isn’t going to change? Absolutely. Even if the person doesn’t ask for it? Absolutely. Maybe you’re thinking that God forgets our sin. Heb. 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”         That sounds an awful lot like forgive and forget. Let’s think about this for a second. Can God, who knows all things and sees all things, really forget something? The short answer is no, so what are we talking about?

When you put your faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross to atone for sin, you are positionally justified. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, it is just as if you had never sinned. The reason God forgets is because He looks at us and sees the atonement Christ made. Rom. 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We aren’t condemned for sin. Once you enter into an authentic relationship with Christ, it’s not a matter of heaven and hell. You are positionally safe, but you have to align that with other verses that talk about God’s desire that we put off the old self that fulfilled the desires of the flesh and we put on the new self. God doesn’t want us to sin and that should be our desire. So forgive and forget is not a viable reality. Is it hard to move forward? Paul said it like this: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Phil. 3:13) Don’t let Satan hold you hostage to your past. Overlook transgressions doesn’t mean that we throw wisdom out the window. The easiest way to understand this is to illustrate it. If someone has a history of theft, do we forgive him? Absolutely, but we aren’t going to make him the treasurer. If someone demonstrates a lack of discretion on social media, do we forgive them? Of course, but they aren’t going to be an administrator on our Facebook page. I think you get the idea. Forgiving behavior does not mean that appropriate consequences will not be handed down either by the church, the law, or your friends. What I find strange is that people who are suffering as a result of their decisions complain about the consequences from those decisions.

We did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on money hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians. It’s a chapter I encourage you to review from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean no consequences will result. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.

Stretched Too Thin

StretchedYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon talked about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value. This morning, we’ll dig into biblical poverty and biblical friendship.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:23-24 where Solomon says, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly. A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Have we turned the corner on this? Our first verse speaks of something I think we need to get an accurate picture of so before we look at that verse, I’d like to give you some biblical perspective on this topic. In Matt. 26, the famous story is told of the precious ointment in the alabaster box. I encourage you to check out the account of the event in Matt. 26:6-13 because I want to focus on just a couple of key points. It’s never a waste to make financial sacrifice on behalf of Jesus. The disciples were, “indignant.” Indignant means feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. They argued that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ response should serve as a warning to us. “For you will always have the poor with you.” Money is not the answer. It may provide temporary relief, but does not provide a solution. We’ve bought the lie that if we’re not giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked, that we’re somehow failing as believers and as a church.

As I have shared, we get frequent calls from people needing monetary help with everything from their rent to vehicle repairs. Why do people call churches instead of calling a bank, or a convenience store, or a restaurant, or a realty company? Have you ever thought about that? Somewhere along the way, the church became the answer. According to National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million charities in the United States. The largest organization with over 84 billion in assets might surprise you: the Harvard Corporation. Next at over 66 billion is the Kaiser Foundation, a national health care consortium. Third is one you probably have heard of. It’s the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with assets over 54 billion. Those organizations are classified in the same 501(c)(3) category as churches. I wanted to give you this background to help you understand where we are. Over and over again in Scripture we are warned of the dangers of having an unbiblical view of money. Money is not evil. Whether you are rich or poor by some arbitrary, shifting standard is irrelevant to your status with God. Often in Scripture, the rich or greedy are spoken of in a negative light. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” (Eccl. 5:10) “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Lu.6:24-25) The opposite is often true regarding the poor. Maybe you’re familiar with the widow of Luke 21. The reality God shows us over and over again is that money can be a barrier in a person’s relationship with God.

So here’s the verse. “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” Poverty can be an incredible problem, but it can have a positive effect on your relationship with God. Supplication is the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly. The poor person seeks help from God.  Rich people rarely learn to rely on God for provision. Unfortunately, many times our prayers of supplication turn into a glorified wish list that we want God to fulfill. It is absolutely okay to go to God for your needs. Ja. 4:2b says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” We often quote Phil. 4:19 where Paul reminds us, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” What we fail to do is recognize the context in which Paul gave us that truth. Let’s take a look at the context. Another passage we need to understand is found in Phil 4:10-19. The Philippians had been long time investors in the Kingdom of God through Paul’s work. We use that ask not verse and neglect the remainder of the thought when James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” (Ja. 4:3a) Prosperity can lead to arrogance as well as a desire to hold onto what one has. Of course, that mentality takes God out of the equation when someone thinks that they have achieved something. Remember from a recent message: everything that occurs in this life is allowed by God. When the rich think they’re someone because of their wealth, they fall into that money trap. That’s what Solomon is saying here. The poor offer entreaties or supplications and in return, “The rich man answers roughly.” Just because you have achieved wealth or some status, does not give you the right to treat others harshly. As is often the case with Solomon, he offers a very distinct contrast between two types of people.

Can friendship lead to ruin? Michael W. Smith sang a song that said friends are friends forever. As with many things, we tend to stick to the good part and leave out the caveat or reason behind something. The rest of that line goes: “If the Lord’s the Lord of them.” The idea is that when the Lord reigns supreme in your life, then any issues or differences can easily be worked out. Solomon says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin.” When I was growing up, I seemed to have multiple sets of friends. I had sports friends, neighborhood friends, school friends, and then I had my real friends. Too many friends can lead to trouble. There are the tag along friends, the fifth wheel friends, the needy friends. But those kind of people aren’t really friends. Friend is defined as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. A couple of months ago we looked at Pro. 17:17 where Solomon said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” So you really can’t have too many friends can you? Solomon says if you do, you will come to ruin. If we understand that ruin literally means broken in pieces, I think we might begin to understand. When we have issues or hurts in life, we expect that our friends will come running and will be there for us. As I said in the message from Pro. 17:17, if you have one, two, or three real friends, consider yourself blessed. If you have too many friends, there won’t be much time to cultivate those relationships, to strengthen them, or to invest in them. Even if you don’t have any so-called real friends, Solomon reminds us, “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is an often quoted verse to remind us of the friendship of Christ. Did you notice the contrast word? Solomon presents the idea that if you have too many friends, they will not be there for you, but there is One that always will be there. There is a friend that sticks closer to you than a blood relationship. Think about that. There is a closeness associated with blood relationships. As members of a family, you might argue or fight and generally not like one another for a time, but if someone goes against a member of your family, all bets are off, right? See, there’s a bond within the family.

Many people think that the friend Solomon is talking about is Jesus. Jesus certainly fits this profile. He became the Son of man in order for us to enter into the closest relationship possible between the Creator and the created. H. D. M. Spence-Jones said it this way, “More tenacious than the mere natural love of kindred, because [it is] founded on the affinity of soul with soul. All the purest types of earthly affection and friendship are but hints of the eternal love of Him who calls the soul into espousal, friendship, and eternal communion with himself.” The bond of Christ is stronger than the bond between family. But good exegesis is more important than eisegesis. The contrast is between a man of many friends and a man of few friends. When you have few friends, you have deeper relationships. It’s better to have a friend that sticks closer to you than any blood relative than it is to have a bunch of shallow acquaintances that call themselves friends. Jesus can be your friend, but He is much more than that.

This morning started with a biblical perspective on poverty. As with so many things in this world, we need to understand God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can 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 actually 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.

The Work Ethic

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Last week, we saw Solomon use the terms foolish and wicked interchangeably. Someone that says God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant will bring contempt for anything that is holy and pure, and godly. Even though fewer and fewer people are willing to stand in agreement with the unchanging Word of God does not mean you have to. Don’t dismiss the power of God to change your life. He can do it if you’ll allow Him to. A decision to follow Christ will bridge the gap in your understanding of things that are inexplicable, but there will always be things about God that cannot be understood. Biblical and godly wisdom provide an inexhaustible fountain of cool, refreshing living water. Don’t be a gossip. It hurts the one listening and the one that it’s about. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

Pro. 18:9-12 says, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination. Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”

Who would have ever thought we’d be in times such as we are. I’m sure other generations have thought the same things about the times in which they were living. Solomon’s opening verse is really an eye opener. “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” As with many of the words Solomon uses, we need to know what they mean before we can fully understand what he’s saying. Slack means careless, lazy, or negligent. Work means occupation or job. Before we talk about that, it’s understood that the guy Solomon refers to has a job; he has the opportunity to support himself. The problem he has is because of the way he performs, or perhaps a more accurate statement is does not perform his job. There are jobs that once you are hired, it’s really hard to get fired. If you do not do the job for which you were hired, you should be fired. People today talk about the jobless rate in America and normally the first week of the month, you hear the jobless rate for the previous month. It gets reported all over the media and those rates often drive the stock market which can drive interest rates and all the other inner workings of our economy. How would you define your work ethic? Our work ethic was given all the way back in the beginning of humanity. Gen. 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” Adam was given a mandate by God Himself. Work was a joy for Adam and his wife and was part of the very good things that God created. It wasn’t until after the fall that work changed. In Gen. 3:17, God cursed the ground and work became hard and sorrowful.

Now let’s fast forward. As a worker, do you fall into Solomon’s category or the Apostle Paul’s? Paul said several things about work, but I want to highlight two verses. In 2 Thes. 3:10, Paul told the church. “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” He wasn’t being mean. If you’re able to work and do not, then you should not reap the benefits of those that do work. We’re not talking about people not able to work. We’re not talking about retired people that worked all their lives. Solomon and Paul are both talking about actually working to support yourself. Back in the old days, if you didn’t have a job, you kept looking until you found one and you were willing to do whatever you needed to do in order to earn an income. We seem to have taken a step backward in this idea. In Georgia, we have 12 government programs to help no or low income families. If you have a job and can’t make it, get another one. I know it can be difficult to get a job these days, but I always say that there is work for people that are willing to work. If you have a job, praise the Lord! Be the best worker you can be. If you have to be there at 9:00 a.m., be there 15 minutes early, not five minutes late. The other verse I want to share is one I’ve shared a number of times that’s found in Col. 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Here’s what the rest of that passage says that will tie in nicely with what Solomon says, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Solomon says don’t be a slacker. If you’re a slack worker and get fired, don’t blame the employer for that firing. That’s what Paul is saying.

“He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” Brother here doesn’t mean blood relationship, it means companion. Slackness and laziness lead to destruction. Laziness leads to waste. Solomon is saying that doing a poor job is as bad as actual destructiveness. If I were to go talk to your boss, and we all have bosses, and ask about your work ethic, what would they say? Are you the go to person at work? Are you the person that not only does their job, but does it with a great attitude? Remember from last week that we have been set apart for the Gospel and that should make an incredible difference in our lives. Christians are not better or worse than anyone else, but we should have a spirit about us that represents Jesus. Keep in mind that great verse found in Acts 1:8 when Jesus tells us, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.” Our life is supposed to be a living testimony of who Jesus is.

I was thinking about titling this message, “What’s in a Name?” Here’s a great reminder: put it on a yellow sticky and attach it to your mirror, your dashboard, or wherever else that you need to remind yourself about who Jesus is. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.” There have been many songs written with this verse in it. The name of the Lord is so incredibly powerful. What is the Lord’s name? In Gen. 17:1, God told Abraham, “I am God Almighty.” In Ex. 3:14, His name is, “I am.” In Is. 9:6, “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” He is the Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End. He is the Creator, the Redeemer, the holy and anointed One. He is the good Shepherd, the Healer, our Righteousness. He is our Provider, the Ancient of days, our Sanctification. He is our mercy, our grace, our wisdom. His name is so powerful, “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) Can you picture that? What an incredible sight that will be. When Paul says every knee will bow, he means it. The Name of the Lord gives us His attributes, His character, His qualities – everything about who God is. “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3) Ps. 18:2 says, “For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.” That strong tower can withstand any attack.

There are two things going on here I don’t want you to miss. Solomon is not saying God is a strong tower although I just read some verses from Samuel and David that say He is. Here Solomon is saying just His name provides protection. His name provides the safety and security necessary to protect you. Why? Because in His name are all the attributes that tell us who He is. “The righteous runs into it and is safe.” Safe here means protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed. There is safety in Christ. Hold on you might say. There are people suffering all over the place under persecution. Matt. 10:28 reminds us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The name of Christ is a safe place, it’s a holy place, a righteous place, an eternal place. Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” It’s not that you’ll never get hurt or suffer, but you rest on the knowledge of who God is and you look and think eternally.

From a safe tower to a strong city. While the righteous are running into a mighty fortress that is our God, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination.” Let me be clear; there is nothing unbiblical about having wealth or being rich. No matter what the media says, just because you have wealth doesn’t mean you’re an evil, nasty, selfish person. I encourage you to go to globalrichlist.com. There you can plug in how much you make a year and the site puts your income on a global scale relative to others in the world. For example, with what I make in one month as your pastor, you could be paying the monthly salary of 209 doctors in Azerbaijan. This is the same wealth trap that Jesus warned about in Matt. 19:24 when he talked about a rich man and a camel and is the same trap for many people that have wealth. The media has done all they can to divide us by race, ethnicity, wealth, political affiliation, and faith. Solomon is not saying anything negative, per se, about wealth here. He’s reinforcing the idea that wealth can be a barrier to seeing the truth of who God is. When a person is affluent, there is the perception that all is well, that everything is great in their lives. But the same desire to seek and find the Creator is placed in each and every person according to Rom. 1:19. Instead of finding safety in the name of the Lord, the rich man finds a counterfeit safety in his own strong city. His safety is in his high wall, but the safety is in his imagination. It’s not actual safety because those walls will come down. He’s prideful, he thinks nothing can touch him. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” This is the typical pattern for many of us right before we do something dumb. We take our eyes of off Christ and think we can do it ourselves and sometimes we even have an illusion that things are okay without God, but it’s just an illusion. It’s only when our total reliance is on Christ that we will begin to see His incredible handiwork in our lives. There’s no shame in recognizing our reliance on God.

Remember back in Pro. 10:4 Solomon said, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” As Christians in the workplace, we should be known for our work ethic. That mandate to work goes all the way back to Genesis, but work didn’t become drudgery until after the fall when the ground became cursed. 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. There is safety in the Lord so put your trust in God, not in riches.

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.

Community Disorganizers

You can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon laid out some principles that will help us sail smoothly through life. Righteous people are delivered from death where the wicked take their place. A very important principle Solomon introduced is the value and wisdom of godly counsel. Smooth sailing does not mean there won’t be issues or trouble in this life, but the righteousness of the godly provide the tools necessary to glorify God and remain steadfast in His will. This morning, Solomon provides us some principles that apply as we engage in activities typically associated with the community.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 11:15-21.

The first principle we’ll look at today  has been said before and the question remains, who would do this? Back in 6:1 Solomon used the conditional clause, “If you have become surety for your neighbor.” That verse was generally directed at debt and it was conditional. The principle comes full circle when Solomon says, “He who is a guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it.” The answer does not have to do with sin, but with wisdom. There is no prohibition against cosigning a loan for someone. Insert the word someone for stranger and you get the application for us. Since we’re talking about wisdom and not sin, you need to evaluate the circumstances. Solomon is saying when you act as surety for someone, as a guarantor for someone, you “will surely suffer for it.” Not everyone that has served in that capacity has suffered for it. He’s speaking in general terms. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? The word used here for suffering means to be affected by something. Even if that person you act as a guarantor for pays back the loan, you still had that responsibility hanging over your head. You take on the responsibility for the loan because you know the person, you know his circumstances, you know their habits, and their values. You believe it’s safe. When you get involved in the financial affairs of others, it’s generally painful. That’s what Solomon is saying. “But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” If you don’t cosign this loan, I won’t be able to buy that car, house, boat, etc. There is no scriptural mandate to take on the responsibility of someone else’s debt. When you have a general aversion to this, Solomon says you are secure. There’s nothing in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it, nothing hanging over your head. You free up brain cells because it’s one less thing to think about.

Our second principle tells us, “A gracious woman attains honor.” I love that word gracious. I think of the ladies of Downton Abby with their proper manners, their decorum, their sophistication, their elegance. Of course, it’s easy to do all that when you have someone else that gets you dressed and feeds you and takes care of all the chores. Gracious here means courteous, kind, and pleasant. You do not have to be wealthy to be gracious. He’s talking about the beautiful character of a gracious woman. Families and communities honor such women. I think of women like Barbara and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Of course those are all famous women. I also think of my wife whom I absolutely adore. It’s not just because she’s gorgeous, she is a true woman of God. In the context of Proverbs, I think graciousness and godliness go hand in hand. We’re not talking about perfection, but a passionate pursuit of Christ.

What’s very curious is the contrast Solomon uses next. “A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches.” It’s good to be ruthless in business, right? We have shows like the Shark Tank and the Apprentice that demonstrate the ruthlessness needed to get ahead in business. Being ruthless is how you get rich in business. It means showing no compassion. Cut throat, eliminate the competition, work harder and smarter than the other guy. We even have corporate espionage. This is the only place in Proverbs where Solomon makes a comparison of this type between a man and a woman. He compares a kindhearted or gracious woman and a ruthless man. That ruthless man wants to get ahead and he’ll get ahead by any means necessary. They seek respect and honor by what they do, but the gracious woman gains honor by being nice. It seems that grace is better than strength and honor is better than wealth. If you let that verse stand alone, it can easily be misunderstood. When you take v. 16 with v. 17, the whole picture becomes clearer. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Look at the pattern of the people in these two verses: kind woman; ruthless man; merciful man; cruel man. It seems mercy has a medicinal quality to it – someone that practices mercy makes himself good. When you are cruel, you end up hurting yourself so don’t be cruel.

Here’s a familiar principle. Vs. 19-20 says, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” We see a pattern here as in the previous two verses. Solomon talks about wickedness, righteousness, righteousness, and wickedness. Those exact words may not be used, but they convey the same idea. Solomon is driving home the point of the results of wicked behavior. “The wicked earn deceptive wages.” Those wages are deceptive because they are fleeting. Those riches are left behind and all are made equal at death. The wealth of a person is not taken into consideration at judgment. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If you’re thinking that’s not the same thing, Solomon goes on to say, “But he who sows righteousness will attain to life.” That life will be long, healthy, and prosperous. The opposite is true, when you pursue evil, you will die. You can’t blame God when your evil ways, your evil behavior, and your evil manner of life leads to your death. Paul’s next thought was, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Goodness and evil are incompatible. Those qualities may have been part of your character, but God changes you through Christ. That’s where true freedom lies. The wicked earn deceptive wages, but the righteous are paid in wages that are eternal. That’s what verse 19 is saying. When you are consistent and persistent in righteousness, you attain life. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. If you are truly a child of the King, this quality is supernaturally infused into your DNA. That’s why I get so weary with people profess to be Christians and the only evidence to support that is occasional church attendance and some don’t even do that. Pursuers of evil bring about their own death. To close out this section, Solomon gives us another contrast and it has to do with judgment.

Verse 20 says, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord.” Perverse means an obstinate desire to behave unacceptably and in context, it’s from God’s perspective. Perverse is translated “froward” in other versions which means hypocrisy and double dealings. Justice is pretended, but wrongdoing is what’s in store. Notice that it’s the heart – the seat of the soul. What’s in the heart comes out. You can pretend with other people, you might even fool yourself, but you can’t hide it from God. “. . . .but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” I’m sure you know why this is. It’s a no brainer really. Walk refers to manner of life. It refers to who a person is . . . . really. I think people spend a lot of effort pretending to be something they are not. People pretend they have a relationship with God, but without a corresponding lifestyle of godliness. Its often veiled in false spirituality where the words lead, led, feel, moving, etc. are used to put people into an incontestable position to do what they want to do. I always find it amusing that this leading rarely is to a place of deeper commitment, devotion, or duty, but rather to places of limited accountability and lower expectations. God takes great pleasure in His children that are willing to follow Him in directions they were not expecting.

Just to be sure you know exactly where Solomon is coming from, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendents of the righteous will be delivered.” I think we all know that evil will be dealt with, but the second part is not so clear. Do not read that to say if you are a child of God, your children have a place reserved for them because of who you are. Don’t equate deliverance with eternity. Deliverance does not mean salvation.  The idea is that your behavior affects not just you, but your children and your grandchildren too. Sometimes God sees fit to deliver because of their godly ancestors. The Old Testament is filled with examples of this.

In these verses, Solomon speaks of the affect of our lifestyle on our community. That lifestyle, whether godly or wicked impacts people. As the behavior and thinking of the people move away from godliness, the morality of the society declines. I think we would agree that we can see this happening all around us. The answer is not for us to shrink away from godliness, but to boldly live our lives as an example of Christ’s transforming power in our lives.