Beauty is soul deep … Proverbs 31

You have made it! Congratulations! You studied through the entire Book of Proverbs in one month. That is quite a feat. Well done!

Chapter 31 is a climatic conclusion to the Book of Proverbs. It is divided into two sections of Hebrew poetry (kind of hard to see in English, but it’s there nonetheless): Wisdom for a King/Leader and A Wise, Excellent Wife/Mother. As a technical note, the King Lemuel referred to in this chapter is likely a different name for King Solomon.

Today I will present a basic breakdown of the chapter to aid your reading. I will offer a comment or two, but this chapter is so rich with truth and pictures of wisdom I do not want to get in the way.

Wisdom for a King/Leader: verses 2-9

A wise leader lives honorably and is holy (3), lives soberly (4-7), and shows compassion (8,9).

There are a number of temptations and pitfalls common to leaders listed in verses 2-9. A king/leader should steer wide of overindulgence, ruling over others unjustly/unrighteously, and being indifferent to the needs of others.

An Excellent Wife/Mother: verses 10-31

On to the beautiful part of this chapter. The lady portrayed here does exist (verse 10); she is not imaginary. And, ladies, you can be her. She is a lady of spiritual wisdom, practicality, and moral virtue.

What are some things that make her exemplary?

  • Her husband has great trust in her (11). Why? She does “him good.” (Verse 12). She seeks to build him up and not undermine him. She speaks well of him, not harshly to him or about him.
  • She is a diligent worker (13) who seeks the best for her family, and goes to great lengths for their wellbeing (14).
  • She is a person of discipline and determination (15).
  • She is a good steward and wise planner (16)
  • She is a woman of virtuous, God-honoring strength (17). This strength comes from her character, compassion, and faith in God. The strength described here is not self-exalting or harsh toward others.
  • She is wise and kind (26). She is the source of kindness and character for her children. They learn godliness from her example.
  • She is observant and diligent (27). She is not lazy, asking to be pampered, or demanding to be served. Ladies, there is no mention of “self-care” in this chapter, or the entire Book of Proverbs, or in the Bible. I say this to point out that what society promotes to you is often the opposite of what God desires for you. In fact, what God values and prescribes for His children is usually in direct opposition to what our society and culture tout. Our culture recommends focusing on self, being served, and exalting and expressing “self.” I gently ask, do you find any of these things recommend in Proverbs, or this chapter? God offers blessing, honor, peace, joy, and abundant life in following His ways; they are not easy though. Society offers cheap trinkets that feel good for a moment; they are usually appeal to our selfish nature and are readily available. Do not settle for less than God’s best, regardless of who promotes it, how enticing it sounds, or who else is chasing after it.

What is the result of this excellent lady in chapter 31 following God’s ways and living in the wisdom that He provides? Earnest and consistent praise from her family. What greater honor, and blessing, and reward is there? I can’t think of one.

True Beauty: verse 30

Verse 30 closes out this remarkable chapter with a description of true beauty. A godly, wise women is a beautiful one. She is beautiful because of her virtue, wisdom, and character, not because of her charm, wardrobe, face, or form. Soak in that ladies, it will set you free. Also, consider 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:1-6. Along with those verses Proverbs 31 will liberate you from trying to conform to society’s guidelines for attractiveness — which are temporary and often change. They will also aid you in seeking God’s description of beauty, which never changes and is eternal.

Next up …

In closing, thank you so much for your participation in this study and your feedback. If you are interested, we will begin our next study on Saturday, February 2. Together we will study the short New Testament book of Philippians. It is four chapters long. So, we will slow our pace considerably and soak in one chapter per week.

I think that you will enjoy the pace and the format that we will use. Each Saturday I will post an introduction to and outline of the chapter for that week. Each Tuesday I will post some supplemental material and explanation of the chapter. Each Thursday I will post some application points for you to consider and pray about. Sound good? Then join in with us. Also, please join the Bearded Acorn Facebook forum. It is a public forum that anyone can join. The BA Facebook forum will be a place for you to share your insights, thoughts, and post questions for our reading. It’s up and running. Go ahead and join in.

Once again, great job on studying through Proverbs. It’s a great book with a multitude of practical truths in each chapter. Way to go!

Wisdom from a guy with a weird name …

In this chapter there is a shift from the wisdom of Solomon to the sayings of Agur. Most likely, Agur — what mother names her son “Agur?” —  was a student or understudy of Solomon.

 

Here are some things we learn about him in chapter 30:

  • We see that he is humble: verses 1-4
  • We see that he had a keen understanding of God and His creation: 5-6
  • We see that he hates arrogance: 7-9

 

In my mind, the best way for this chapter to be get-a-hold-able is to provide an outline for your reading of it.

 

God’s Word and His People: Verses 5-14

  • The purity and surety of God’s Word: Verse 5
  • The perfection of God’s Word: Verse 6
  • The prayer of the godly — seeking humility and contentment: Verses 7-9
  • Ungodly times are described: Verses 11-14

Verses 11-14 seem to describe our society nowadays. The truth is that it describes all societies throughout time that ignore God and His Word.

 

Learning from God’s Creation: 15-31

  • The wonder of how creation works. Verses 18-19

Wonder precedes worship; there can be no worship where wonder isn’t present. Unless we see majesty or beauty or glory, we will not have wonder in our hearts and minds, without it we will not worship anything except ourselves. Let us be people who in humility look beyond ourselves to God expressing His glory through His Word and creation in Christ. Let us be people entranced in the wonder of God and His glory and grace.

  • The wonder of when things are awry. Verses 21-23
  • The wonder of small, wise creatures. Verses 24-28
  • The wonder of majestic things. Verses 29-31
  • A call to humility and righteousness. Verse 32

It might help to provide a definition here. When Proverbs refers to the “righteous,” it does not mean the hyper-religious or those who are perfect. It refers to those who are saved by God’s grace, pursuing Him in His Word, and growing in wisdom and godliness.

Our only true right-ness and righteousness is provided by and found in Jesus.

Tomorrow is the final day of the Proverbs Challenge. Great job in making it this far. Chapter 31 is a fantastic one, especially for the ladies.

As an aside, please check out the Bearded Acorn forum on Facebook. It is a public group. Please join it. Next month I will lead a study through Philippians. We will do one chapter per week, a much slower pace. The Facebook forum will serve as a place for discussion, questions, and to hear your thoughts as we study Philippians together.

Verses that make you feel like a crash test dummy …

 

The post on this chapter will focus on two things: what/who we listen to and what we say/do not say. Steady yourself. The impact of these five verses might cause the airbags might deploy.

 

Verse 1: When we resist instruction and correction we welcome destruction. A stern warning indeed. Shying away from, or deliberately avoiding, instruction might appear to make things easier for now, but without fail it will make things hard later.

 

Verse 5: Flattery deceives, and can destroy, others. For the weak-minded or weak-willed flattery can first snare, then enslave them to the approval others. This is why we must develop our identity from God’s word and in Christ, not allow it to be shaped by our culture or others around us.

Verse 11: Let’s stop and stare at this one for a while. It’s an excellent memory verse that packs a wallop.

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11

I do not have a clever summary statement for this verse. If I did have one it would take away from its pointed and poignant truth. It says much with few words. This kind of truth is easy to read but hard to live out. Take a moment and think about all the applications from this verse — social media, “venting to others,” speaking without thinking it through, etc. Ouch!

Those who “vent their feelings” often are unwise, by God’s standard, but affirmed and applauded by our culture. To be wise we must exercise discernment and determine what we should and should not say.

 

Verse 18: When God’s teaching is absent, or ignored, people lose restraint, then harm follows.

The New King James Version translates this nicely:

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.

God’s Word being put aside, or rejected, people casting off restraint … does this sound like a country you know? That country’s name rhymes with Erica …

 

Verse 20: Hasty words erupt from foolish hearts. See “fools with leaky mouths” in verse 11.

 

Verse 25: Seeking the approval of and relying upon others en-shackles; seeking God brings safety and surety.

 

In summary, our ears should bend toward the truth and shut around those who flatter; our tongues should be governed by discernment, and our path should be directed by God’s Word. Simple truths. Difficult truths to live out consistently. Thankfully, God comes to us and empowers us by His Holy Spirit to live them out.

Dabbing, Cats Licking, and …

Congratulations! As of today — unless you are trailing behind, which is ok — you have completed 25 chapters of the Book of Proverbs. It is likely that some of you have now read more consecutive days in Proverbs than ever before. That is terrific!

My primary goal for the Proverbs Challenge was to encourage folks to read their Bible each day in a systematic fashion. When you complete the challenge one week from today you can spike the ball in the end zone of Proverbs and do a funky dance. You can give “dabbing” or “flossing” a try. If you attempt to “dab” or “floss” (those are short dance moves performed by young ‘uns nowadays) rest assured that your children, or grandchildren, will video you, show it to their friends at school, and they will all laugh at you to the point of wetting their pants, or ripped jeans, or jeggings, or whatever they wear.

 

Today we will bite off this chapter in two big chunks: dealing with fools and minding your own business.

 

Dealing with Fools:

Verse 4: Arguing with a fool reduces you to his level, and he will beat you with his vast experience in idiocy. Although it is tempting to correct a fool, it won’t work. Proverbs has shown us that fools hate wisdom and correction. You cannot cure them because they love their ailment. So, don’t try. That is hard to accept, but it will save you frustration and trouble.

 

Verse 10: A hot tip for hiring employees: If you hire a fool you will harm your co-workers and yourself. And, your co-workers will eye-roll and sigh when you turn your back. They will do this for weeks, and it’s probably justified.

 

Verse 11: Fools, out of ignorance and on instinct, repeat their mistakes over and over. This verse uses a gross image to sear this truth into our minds. It works. For you feline-inclined folks, it’s too bad there are no images of cats in Proverbs. But, let’s try to remedy that with a few home spun cat-based comparions of our own:

  • A fool among the wise is like a hair ball on your hardwood floor.
  • A fool’s words sound like paws raking in a litter box.
  • A fool’s ramblings resemble Mr. Whiskers hacking up a hair ball.
  • A fool repeats his folly just as a cat continually licks his ….
  • Seriously, from this verse I often tell our daughters that wise people make mistakes, but, only fools repeat them!

 

Verse 12: Fools have more hope than the arrogant. Yikes! Why is that? A fool can recognize his/her limits, while an arrogant person believes he/she has none. A fool is often lazy, thus will affect a limited few; an arrogant person often wreaks havoc on many. From your experience you can likely come up with other reasons for this as well.

 

 

Minding your own Business:

Verse 17: When you meddle in the affairs of others, you often walk away with bite marks. To get involved in the goings-on of others is enticing, but it will not end well. There are many applications for this verse regarding social media usage. I encourage you to take a moment and come up with some for yourself.

 

Verse 20: In the absence of gossip there is an abundance of peace.

 

Verse 21: Strife is sparked, and continually fueled, by the contentious.

 

There you have it: two important topics for life and work, and some proverbs about cats. Truth flavored with wry wit … Bearded Acorn style!

Now, go “dab” or “floss,” you have earned it. I can’t wait to see the videos of it online.

A Laundry List of Life Lessons …

This chapter contains many solid, practical lessons. They are tricky to tie together. So, let’s take them as they are:

 

Verses 6-7: Pride humiliates, but humility exalts. This lesson appears throughout the Bible. It is both implied and explained from cover to cover.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6

That portion of James 4:6 is repeated in two other places in the Bible. Rarely does a verse, or a portion of one, appear in three separate books of the Bible. This uncommon occurrence is a lesson in itself.

 

Verse 9: Face-to-face resolution that is respectful and confidential is most always best, and usually brings resolution.

 

Verse 10: Sharing your side of the story often brings shame. Sometimes it is best to just say nothing at all.

 

Verse 12: When wise correction/instruction finds an open and obedient ear, it is a thing of beauty and rarity.

 

Verse 14: Words without action are empty clouds and wind. Each of us knows a person who has a surplus of words and poverty of action.

 

Verse 15: Be patient, and be kind in order to make your point. Knowing when to move and when to wait is a great lesson for work.

 

Verse 17: Less is better; or, do not out stay your neighbor’s affection or attention. You want your neighbor to say, “why are you leaving so soon,” instead of ….

 

Verse 18: Lying about others is harmful in many ways, all bad. When one lies about another it hurts in different kinds of ways, all deep. Often unrepairable.

 

Verse 21-22: Be kind to the unkind. This one is tough to do, but God will honor your Christ-likeness and judge their ungodliness. We are not qualified to judge, only to serve. God doesn’t want us to serve as a Supreme Court, he wants us to be a community of servants.

 

Verse 28: Those who lack internal discipline live unprotected, and harm will arrive.

No fancy narrative today. Just good solid, uncooked truths, loaded with spiritual fiber and nutrients.

Blueprints for a blessed life …

This chapter renders the architecture of a reliable life. As you read this chapter the blueprint unrolls and reveals that:

  • Verses 3-4: Wisdom plans, then builds; discernment maintains; and knowledge adorns the inner life of the soul. While the word portrait implies the building of a home, it also provides instruction and direction for building a life.

 

  • Verses 5-6: True strength is internal, it is powered by wisdom and honed on godly guidance. 

 

Memory verse alert: “for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.: Proverbs 24:6 

The last half of that verse is one to hold on to, especially if you are in the process of making life-effecting decisions.

 

  • Verse 10 – When we walk by faith in Christ we can stand firm, and grow stronger. When we walk by what we see, or trusting in ourselves, we shiver and shudder. Rightly so! When we move forward by faith our feet and nerves steady and stabilize.

 

  • Verse 27: Plan, work, save, and build. This is great financial and economic advice. Our culture teaches us to want, get, want more, and get more. That approach comes at more than a financial cost.

 

A  Wise Warning: Do not become slack in your stewardship!

Verses 30-34: The lazy lack and procrastinators are poor due to not planning, working, or caring. The are bad stewards of the gifts — abilities, opportunities, resources — that God has given them. When we become stagnant, ruin sneaks up on us.

 

We have seen four principles to apply and one warning to heed. They help us to build wisely, and eternally.

Principles gettin’ up in your personal space …

 

This chapter gets personal, quickly. It features topics that stride up to you and stand too close for comfort. We will look at three topics stated as warnings and one presented as an endeavor.

Three Warnings:

  • Warning against greed: verses 4-5

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Proverbs 23:4-5

The word for “toil” in verse four can also be translated “over-work.” It has the idea of exhausting oneself in effort. Solomon, a remarkably wealthy king, advises against working too hard or too many hours for the sake of piling up money or gaining wealth. That’s a slap to the forehead. Even though he didn’t know it then, he is warning against the American dream of  “work hard to get more.”

Verse five tells us why we should not toil for money or riches: it all goes away eventually. Yep, there you have it in clear and vivid pictures. You long for it, you see it, it is within your reach, then it sprouts wings, and flies away. Unlike quail which fly a few feet, then land, and offer you a chance to chase them again. Wealth flies away fast, up high, and never returns. This is a stern truth to save us from hardship. Let’s add a few more verses to bolster this point.

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 5:10

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:10

Notice that Paul does not say that money is the root of all kinds of evils. He says that the “love of money” is.

Not much left to say after reading those verses; on with the other two warnings.

 

  • Warning against envying the success of others: verse 17

We are instructed to not envy the ungodly, their success, riches, position, or possessions. Why? See the first warning. And, envy is a trait of the selfish (aka fools).

  • Warning about over-indulgence: verses 29-35

Big drinkers can become big complainers who harm themselves, and others, in big ways. Be wise. Be careful.

 

A endeavor worth pursuing:

  • What to chase after: verse 23

If we are to pursue something, we are to work toward wisdom and truth. The greatest treasure is one that lasts, and grows, and helps others as well. That treasure is the wisdom of God in Christ.

Peeking around the corner and looking to the past …

We begin this chapter with a memory verse:

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. – Proverbs 22:3

This verse is stuffed full of truth, and has solid handles to hoist it up and take it along with you each day. It teaches us that through godly wisdom we can anticipate what is coming, and practice a discerning discipline to avoid trouble. Combining this with other elements we have learned along the way, if flatterers, gossips, and trouble-generators are involved, stop, turn around, and head in a different direction. Quickly.

Speed round, go …

  • Verse 4 – The world loathes things that God loves, and vice versa. 1 John 2:15-17 illustrates this further:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

  • Verse 6 – God’s principles are always true, God’s promises always arrive; we must not confuse a principle with a promise.  This verse is not a promise though many latch onto it as one; it is a principle. We must not hang our hope on a non-promise, but we obey it as a principle knowing that it leads to good, not a guarantee.
  • Verse 10 – Separate yourself from scoffers and your life will develop a newfound peace and quiet.
  • Verse 13 – The lazy create imaginative excuses to not head out the door to work.

Note: In verses 17-21 the tone shifts from short snippets of instruction to dialogue. Note that the commands, “incline your ear, hear the words, apply your heart,” etc.

  • Verses 24-25 – Your friends’ character will shape yours, choose your friends wisely.
  • Verse 28 – New ways rarely generate spiritual good. Don’t drastically Change something that has stood the test of time.

“Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.” – Jeremiah 6:16

Now that verse is one that deserves to be read, re-read, memorized, and mediated on. How many “ancient paths” and “good ways” have been forsaken for that which is modern or fashionable. And we wonder why our society is like it is …

Nags, Nit-pickers, and Next Month …

For the sake of all involved, I will tread lightly in this chapter. Why? Because there are two verses that paint vivid word pictures about fussy wives. Ladies, breathe deeply and relax, while this chapter points out a pattern for you to avoid, I will point out some for the men as well. I would be stupid not too.

Yesterday’s post was long. I promised a concise one today. So, let’s get to it.

 

Here are some main points from Proverbs 21:

  • Verse 5 – Wise plans carefully crafted and followed lead to plenty; sudden designs and endeavors rarely work out. As described in Proverbs, planning is more than developing a blueprint for your future, it requires prayerful planning that will walk in step with God’s Word. A well thought out brothel might make you some money, but it doesn’t met the criteria for what God desires for your vocation.
  • Verses 9 and 19 – It’s better to sleep in the attack or hide in the woods than to live with a nag or nit-picker. Settle down ladies, settle down. The only reason for offense here is if you actually are one who nags or nit-picks. Feel free to ask your husband if he thinks that you nag or nit-pick. After your “discussion,” please post comments here on the blog to let us all know how it went. Seriously, there is a principle here to embrace, not to clench your fists at. In Proverbs God often warns women about their words and attitude. This is not to be tough on you ladies. It is His way of promoting inner beauty and quietude; this will be displayed in a lovely fashion in Proverbs 31. Now, to be fair, in Proverbs God warns young men against chasing earthly pleasures, and all men about the ugliness of arrogance. The warnings that God gives in general, as well as those specific to men or women, are meant for us to gain wisdom and to grow more Christ-like in character. In short, wisdom should winsome in its ways, for men and women.
  • Verse 17 – Pleasures often bloom into vices; vices bear bushels of ruin. We can honor God with simple things in life, or cheapen them by overusing them. Verse 20 points out that fools squander simple things by indulging in them.
  • Verse 19 – The reason men like to go deer hunting or camping.
  • Verse 26b – Being generous honors God and helps others. 

 

Full stop, here is an amazing memory verse:

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23

That one hits me right in the snout, every time. Ladies, notice that it says, “his mouth,” and “his tongue.” Just pointing that out … the Bearded Acorn strives for equity in all things.

 

As an aside, several of you have asked what will happen once we finish Proverbs in January. For February, the ole Bearded Acorn is considering walking through a short book of the New Testament. Perhaps, James, Philippians, or Colossians. We could only cover a chapter per week. I could post three times each week to outline, unpack, and make application points from that chapter. What are you thoughts? Any requests (requests subject to approval, offer void where prohibited, Virginia residents must pay sales tax). Please share your thoughts or requests by using the “Comment” button below.

Congratulations! You have now read and studied two-thirds of the way through Proverbs. Good job …

Ladies, the guys have it coming in later chapters. Be patient …

Holy Hood Ornaments …

In this post we will whack a religious bee hive with our bare hands. The stings might hurt, but they will help.

Most life topics have been covered in the previous 19 chapters of Proverbs: gaining wisdom, honoring God, relationships, taming the tongue, work, etc. One topic that hasn’t come up thus far is that of drinking alcohol. For some reason I find that intriguing. But, I am not going to rattle a saber, or even a butter knife, on this topic.

But, I do want to point out a way of thinking, or believing, that flows out of this topic. It will involve us being willing to clear two hurdles to get to the conclusion. It won’t be comforable. In fact, if you harrumph at the thought of someone challenging your approach to the Bible, and how you arrive at what you “believe,” then you should click on the “X” at the top of this post and return for for Chapter 21 tomorrow. No kidding.

 

The Starting Line:

For those of you who didn’t dash for the nearest exit, and that is a good sign for you, here we go. Out of 525 verses thus far in the Book of Proverbs alcohol has been mentioned in one verse. So, 0.018% of the verses have dealt with drinking. There have been dozens of verses about seeking wisdom above all things, taming the tongue, working hard, treating others with mercy, and so on. Careful, we are approaching the starting point. From the entirety of what we have seen in Proverbs we can deduce this: Until we get the inside aligned with the Word — Scripture soaked-mind, upright heart, and wise soul — then we shouldn’t bang the drum about external things.

 

The First Hurdle: our ease creates a focus on the external.

I can sense your religious cheeks reddening.

God, in the Book of Proverbs, and throughout Scripture makes a big deal about things we ignore, but we often create a circus out of things that He says little about. Gossip, complaining, fibbing, and backbiting are things that Proverbs, and the rest of the Bible, shout about. Have you seen any “stop gossip” or “end complaining” campaigns by churches lately. I haven’t either. Perhaps we should focus on what God emphasizes and be discerningly cautionious on things He doesn’t stress as much.

Here is a point that might cause your back teeth to grind, or ache: Christians who live in luxury (think USA, not Indonesia) often stumble over issues of style rather than substance. It’s true. Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, and/or imprisoned for it, do not debate styles of church music, tattoos, or drinking. Think about it …

The reason that I jumped into this is to make a broad point (it follows this) and a deeper one (coming in the next paragraph): It is easy for Christians who live in comfort to skip past the basics of the faith and entertain ourselves with the non-essentials. We are exceptional at taking a minor Biblical topic, rendering judgement on it, and fashioning it into a religious emblem for full display. For example, if we spend more time protesting a certain movie than reading our Bibles, praying, and serving others then we have the whole thing upside down. This is due to pride — Proverbs has much to say on this — a pride craves creations of checklists used for grading others, or condemning things that we do not like.

 

The Second Hurdle: An old problem that is new to each generation.

The Gospels describe a group of people who lived comfortable lives, were schooled in Scripture, and ached to debate minor spiritual issues. This group missed the essentials of knowing and following God, and frustrated Jesus (and, ahem, they also crucified Him). Yes, you guessed it: they were the Pharisees — religious pugilists and moral legislators of the highest order. Jesus had nothing positive to say about them. He mocked them openly, publicly, repeatedly. The danger for us as believers who live in relative ease — compared to other Christians around the world – is us slipping into Pharisee-ism, aka legalism. If you invest more time in doctrinal and moral hair-splitting than loving and serving others, then you are on your way to being a Pharisee of the highest rank. BE CAREFUL!

But, don’t bank on my thoughts about legalism. Here are some of Jesus’ words about the issue of religious high-mindedness:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:23-28

OUCH! If you read that with a mind and heart wanting to hear God, then it felt like the sting of a dozen wasps. If you felt nothing reading those words of Jesus, or worse thought of someone else to apply them to, then congratulations, you are the person that Jesus was referring to.

It is worth noting here the use of so many exclamation points in those few verses. That is very rare in the Gospels, and in the Bible in general. You know what that means … Jesus was making a strong point, very sternly.

I know that this post is long. But, it is a reminder of what Proverbs is really about. Proverbs teaches us to pursue God’s wisdom and discernment, not more religious knowledge, morality superiority, or self justification. It is about becoming like Christ, and relating to Him, not religious rule-making or keeping. You have likely picked up that wisdom has a loving side, not a judgmental one; an open hand, not a checklist; a kind word, not a whip-like tongue.

Take a few moments and consider the previous points. It was not about wine or beer — or, for us Arkansans, moonshine — at all, they were the topic that got us to the root of it: focusing on what God emphasizes and minoring on what He minors on. Please, go back through this. Ponder. Pray. Ask yourself hard questions. Then, have a glass of wine. Just kidding.

 

Now, let’s sum up the rest of the chapter with a wide array of principles:

  • Verse 3 – Any fool can start a quarrel, but the wise seek to end them. (even if they slipped up and started it).
  • Verse 4 – The lazy wait for the perfect day to do their work. The perfect day never arrives. You just have to work anyway.
  • Verse 9 – We all need a Savior who can cleanse our conscience, remove our guilt, and forgive our sins. His name is Jesus!
  • Verses 10, 14, 17, and 23 – Cheating for gain — at work or personally — dishonors God and harms others. Do not do it. You can cheat with your motives as much as with your money. Yikes!
  • Verse 12 – Our natural eyes and ears cannot receive from God, we must have spiritual eyes that see and ears that hear. God creates this by His Holy Spirit.
  • Verse 13 – You will never read a book called, “Snoozing to Success.” Work and rest must be balanced, but much rest without much work has a name … you know it.
  • Verse 19 – Gossips cannot wait to find your secrets, so they pry them out of you with flattery.
  • Verse 22 – Trust God to right your wrongs and deal with others. We do not see the whole picture, have the right motives, or possess the authority to decide punishment.

 

Whew, I am tired from writing and are tired of reading. Thank you for hanging on through this post. Here’s the summary: Do not take a moral trinket and turn it into your spiritual hood ornament. Legalists do that. Do take time to grow in wisdom and grace, and share them with others. Christ-followers do that.

So, let’s both get some rest. Tomorrow’s post will be shorter. Maybe …