The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

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Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We saw where wickedness starts and that’s in the soul of humanity as we are born into sin through one man’s disobedience. Wicked people do wicked things because they don’t know any other way. Righteous people look at pleasing God rather than any short-term gain from wickedness. Don’t shut your ear to the cry of the poor, but make the Gospel an intentional aspect of any acts of mercy you engage in. We looked briefly at gift giving, exercising justice, and staying on the path of righteousness. Don’t love pleasure so much that you forsake God. We looked at the results of Achan’s sin and finished by looking at the vexing woman and hopefully we now have a better understanding of the depth of wickedness in man. This morning, we’ll look at laziness, righteousness, and happiness.

Take the time to read our passage for today found in Pro. 21:20-28.

We start off with some financial talk. “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” Believe it or not, this is a verse to support budgeting. Wise people are wise across the board while foolish people are foolish across the board. Remember the idle man from 19:15 suffers hunger and the sluggard from 20:4 doesn’t prepare his crops so he has nothing to harvest. Wisdom dictates you don’t spend what you don’t have. Foolishness dictates spend what you have and don’t worry about tomorrow. If you’ve got money in your pocket, spend it. That’s why there’s, “precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise.” Oil was an important commodity in Bible days. It could be used for a number of things. It was used for cooking, as fuel for lamps, it was part of grain offerings, was used for anointing, was used for sanctifying the priests in the temple, and was a symbol of wealth. The fool is foolish in all his activities. His desires are ungodly and unfruitful which leads right into the next verse. There is a misguided notion in America that everyone has the right to be happy. There is no such right afforded by the U.S. Constitution and no guarantee of happiness afforded by the Bible. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right granted by the Creator as recorded in the Declaration of Independence. I submit to you that when you pursue God, you will find what you are looking for.

Solomon tells us, “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.” I love the two verbs in this verse – pursue and find. Pursue means follow after or chase. When you chase righteousness – the character or quality of what is right in God’s eyes – you will find, “life, righteousness and honor.” It’s a trifecta of godly qualities. Life refers to the eternal life in God through Jesus Christ. In Matt. 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” If you want satisfaction, chase Christ. I think happiness is a quality that can be achieved when you have the mind of Christ and see things through the eyes of God. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances, but when you have in your mind that God is in control, it allows you to focus on what is important and that is living a life of total and complete obedience to the King of eternity.

There’s no easy transition to the next verse. Solomon says, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” As we have seen before, wisdom trumps strength every time. When WWII ended and the United States entered the cold war, military strategy had to change to keep pace with the extraordinarily strong USSR. President Eisenhower instituted the 41 for Freedom missile submarine. Then in 1980, Ronald Reagan used the phrase, “Peace through Strength” during the campaign that would see him elected president. Mighty people think their city will protect them. When Joshua led the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Jericho thought their walls would protect them, but when God is on your side, it’s doesn’t matter how strong the walls are. Throughout history, we’ve seen the mighty defeated by the wise. Build walls around the city and wise people developed the catapult. Line up your troops for battle and the wise people used guerrilla warfare. If you can grasp this concept and submit to a wise and good man, the strongest of the strong will be defeated.

And now the power of restraint. This is a principle we’ve seen six times before in Proverbs. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Guard means keep watch over. Think about keeping watch over your kids. You’ve got a protective eye on them to ensure no harm comes to them and to make sure no one takes them. Don’t let your mouth get you into trouble. Don’t let your words take you to places you don’t want to go. No, you don’t have to say anything and once the words leave your mouth, there is no turning back. Lots of damage can be caused by what you say. If your first instinct is to say something, hold off for a second let your mind catch up. When you think about this in a relational sense, more hurt and harm have been done by words than anything else. The next verse says, “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.” This goes hand in hand with the spoken word. Insolent means rude or disrespectful. It’s really hard to demonstrate these qualities without using words. These terms are not used in a favorable light. We could avoid all kinds of trouble if we’d just learn to keep our mouth shut.

Next, Solomon revisits the sluggard. “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.” This is a really stark contrast. We have the poverty of the lazy versus the generosity of the righteous. Think back to 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Righteous people work diligently and give without holding back. The sluggard doesn’t want to work and that leads to death. It’s a theme presented over and over again. Sometimes we have a tendency to think that people who work hard want to keep everything for themselves. Solomon says not true. Sometimes people work hard so they are in a position to give back. Sometimes even when people aren’t in a position to give back, they give back anyway. The sluggard craves all day what he is not willing to work for and his craving will be unfulfilled.

I am certain you have encountered this next principle time and time again. You can’t fool God. People approach God the way they want to instead of how God has prescribed. You’ve likely heard people say that as long as they’re sincere, God will accept them. You’ve heard that a relationship with God is a personal issue. Solomon puts that to rest when he says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent!” Let’s break this down. In Jewish culture, sacrifices were an important part of their lives. When they were offered by faith in repentance, God was greatly honored and pleased. When they were offered with impure motives, God detests that. Is. 1:11-17 says,

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

Did you catch the severity in there? God has had enough. He takes no pleasure in their sacrifices and calls them worthless and an abomination. The God of eternal patience cannot, “Endure iniquity.” When they pray, God will hide His eyes even though they repeat their prayers over and over. Stop doing evil, start doing good. Don’t tell me you have an understanding with God, don’t tell me you and Him are good, don’t tell me the work you have done for Him. You will be evaluated just like the Chaldean king Belshazzar in Dan. 5 when Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall and concluded, “you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.” No matter how holy you think your sacrifice is, God will not accept it and He really won’t accept it when brought with evil intent.

One last one for today. A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.” We’ve seen this before in 6:19, 19:5, and 19:9. Don’t lie.

We began this morning talking about budgeting – don’t spend what you don’t have. The foolish man doesn’t think about tomorrow and what might be needed, he spends all he has. Righteous people pursue God and find life. Wisdom is the conqueror over strength. Be careful what you say and sometimes not saying anything is the best. Don’t be foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter how you approach a holy and perfect God. He will not accept the sacrifices offered with evil intent.

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A Positive Light

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Last week Solomon told us there is no instance where a life of crime is an option for authentic followers. If you profit illicitly, your household is in danger, and I would encourage you to seek the Lord to turn from your wicked ways. Think carefully and cautiously before engaging in any form of communication. Ponder answers before speaking your mind. Remember that bitter and sweet water cannot come out of the same well. If you have a real relationship with Christ, be sure that He hears your prayers. This morning, we’ll finish up chapter 15 as Solomon gives us some very timely and uplifting advice.

Solomon closes the chapter in Pro. 15:30-33 by saying, “Bright eyes gladden the heart; good news puts fat on the bones. He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

Things are always easier to see in the daylight. Solomon starts off by saying, “Bright eyes gladden the heart.” If you’re a movie buff, you’ll remember the character Bright Eyes in the Planet of the Apes movies. Bright Eyes was the nickname given to astronaut George Taylor played by Charlton Heston. The nickname was given because of his blue eyes. The bright eyes Solomon is talking about is because of the sun. There is something regenerative about the sun. Eccl. 11:7 says, “The light is pleasant, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.” You can always tell when our submariners come home from patrol, particularly when they return in the summer. They are pasty white and look pretty sickly. The sun is a vital source of vitamin D and provides a whole list of benefits. There is an entire science behind the sun called heliotherapy. This is what Solomon is talking about. By seeing the sun and all its benefits, it points to God’s wonderful creation. Without the sun, it wouldn’t take long for life on earth to die out. I checked out Popular Science’s website and discovered people have actually spent some time researching what to do in the event the sun died. I don’t believe that’s going to happen since God is the One that sustains it. The sun is great to be in and reflects the incredibleness of God.

In what looks like a different principle, Solomon then says, “Good news puts fat on the bones.” I know that there are people still working to take off those holiday pounds and you might be thinking, “Don’t tell me any good news!” This is a metaphor as Solomon is so prone to giving us. Hearing good news is satisfying. Good news is like a wonderful meal eaten with family and friends. It’s refreshing. It’s fulfilling. It’s enjoyable. Think about that time when you were told you got the job, or your vacation was approved, or you got the house, or that you’re expecting a child. Think about the times when you heard your kids were doing awesome in school or when someone told you what a joy it is to have them around. Think about when your friends tell you how the words you gave them helped. I don’t think there’s a person alive in their right mind that doesn’t enjoy hearing good news.

Have you ever seen those, “Look up and live” signs? The idea of that safety campaign is that there is danger from things that are overhead like power lines. If you look up before putting up that ladder, you minimize the chance of being electrocuted. Solomon says, “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” Listen up and live. You need to listen carefully to what is being said to you or to those around you. Just because you hear things on the TV from famous people doesn’t make it so. Just because you hear something from me, don’t blindly trust me. Check out what I say to make sure I’m telling you the truth. I’m not going to purposefully mislead you, but I’m just a guy.  You will not offend me by checking out what I say against the Bible. Now if you want to challenge me on something, please make sure you’ve done your research. Don’t quote a childhood pastor or Sunday School teacher, don’t quote your parents, don’t quote a book you read, quote the Bible and not what someone else says the Bible says.

Solomon is talking about, “life-giving reproof.” Reproof means correction. One of the characteristics of wise people is that they are willing to be corrected. They’re willing to learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. They’re surrounded by people whose actions and words demonstrate a life devoted to Christ and His Word. There is a willingness to be accountable, a desire to grow, an intentional path to be like Christ. If that describes you, then Solomon says you’ll dwell among the wise. As is typically the case, Solomon offers the contrast by saying, “He who neglects discipline despises himself.” These can be people in or out of the church and they’re from all walks of life. They’re people that will not listen to sound biblical principles. They’re people that don’t want to hear it. There can be a whole list of reasons why. Not applicable to them. God doesn’t care what they do, He’s irrelevant, etc., etc. It’s a whole lot easier for me to let those type of comments slide when those people do not profess to be followers of Christ. It’s a whole different thing when someone professes a relationship with Christ that doesn’t want to hear biblical truth, that doesn’t want correction, doesn’t want accountability, doesn’t want knowledge of Christ, doesn’t want to have anything to do with the church or Christ followers. I have a problem with people that profess they are Christians and really are not. Maybe you’re thinking, wow, that’s really judgmental. I’ll let you in on a little secret. We have changed the definition of Christian. In the old days, being a Christian meant you were a follower of Christ. Follower is defined as an adherent or devotee of a particular person, cause, or activity. So if you profess to be a follower of Christ – a Christian, that means you would be devoted to Him. That means you would follow His teachings, His principles, His example. I know this is a simple and probably dumb example, but if you say you love Georgia football (or insert any favorite sports team), but hate going to or watching the games, don’t know anything about the coaching staff or players, don’t know where the university is, and don’t know what the mascot is, anybody with half a brain would conclude that Georgia is not your team. Making a decision to become a follower of Christ is voluntary. No one made you decide. If you have decided to follow Jesus and there is no marginalization of being a follower – you either are or you’re not – there are no fair weather Christians. What’s stopping you from being who God wants to be in Christ? Is it because you despise instruction? Don’t you see how contrary that is to a life devoted to Christ? Matthew Henry says, “The fundamental error of sinners is undervaluing their souls, therefore they neglect to provide for them, expose them, prefer the body before the soul, and wrong the soul to please the body.”

Of the authentic follower of Christ Solomon says, “But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.” Notice he uses the word listen which means to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing. You’re not just hearing what’s being said. It gets in your brain and you evaluate the words, the tone, the vocal inflection, the eye contact, and the body language. It’s called communication people! When that process is used, there’s understanding. Understanding means to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of something. It means to know the meaning of something, such as the words that someone is saying. I’m hammering this because we say we understand Scripture, but then don’t do what it says so we either don’t get it or we don’t care. One is significantly worse than the other.

We’ve heard this before. Solomon closes out the chapter by saying, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes wisdom.” This is the idea that God knows best, His ways are way above our ways, His ways are best and He doesn’t need our advice on how best to handle things. Taking it all the way back to the beginning of the book, remember Pro. 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” When we follow biblical principles and acknowledge who God is, we continue to walk on the path of sanctification – day by day growing more and more like Jesus. Knowing and acknowledging that Jesus is the reason for all the change. Jesus is the reason for our ability to love, to forgive, to be patient and empathetic, to be courageous. Jesus is the reason for who we are becoming. “And before honor comes humility.” Honor is a difficult term to define. The word is used in many mottos and vision statements. Members of the Navy serves with honor, courage and commitment. Officers of the St. Marys Police Department serve with honor, integrity, respect, and courage. Cadets at West Point have duty, honor, and country in the front of their minds. It even crosses to sports. The Chicago Fire soccer club plays with tradition, honor, and passion. It means great respect or esteem. Solomon is saying that you’ll never achieve honor without acknowledging how you came to be who you are.

Acknowledge the Creator and grow fat on the good news that is available because of Jesus Christ. All of us need to listen up and learn. Listen to those wonderful, godly, authentic people God has put in you path. Acknowledge who God is and what He has done in your life and watch what He will do in you and through you. That’s how we become a positive light in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities.