A tranquil heart is life to the body, But passion is rottenness to the bones. Proverbs 14:30
The heart is physically one of the most important organs of our body. If the heart is stopped the body will die. But what we read in today's proverb is not dealing with the physical heart. It speaks of the heart as the innermost region of our lives. The Hebrew mind looked at the heart as the central, spiritual, inward aspect of our souls. So when we look today at the issue of the heart and whether it is tranquil and strong - or whether it is tossed about and weak - means everything to the blessedness of the individual who struggles with issues of the heart.
The tranquil heart is the quiet one. What God is saying here is that this person's heart is strong and quiet. Their inner life is like the clear, mirror-like, state of the water in the early morning on a lake. This person's peace and calm is not disturbed by things that happen around it. The "soul-life" is strong and they can deal with problems and difficulties. There is an ultimate sense of peace here, because this one knows that God is sovereign over all things. They know they are in God's hand no matter what their circumstances look like. The Word of God is their comfort - and they will hold to it no matter what information in life seems to contradict it.
On the other hand there is a person who has "passion" in his life. The proverb tells us that this passion is like a rottenness in his bones. Things like jealousy, anger, over-zealousness, and envy run rampant in this one's heart. As a result there is no stability in him. These things run roughshod over his peace and contentment. There is a constant passion running wild within this man - almost pushing him from one extreme to another. And like a rottenness in his bones - he feels more and more like all stability and peace is gone from him.
One might wonder the source of such a peace. It is the knowledge of the gospel that brings us to peace with God. If there is peace between us and our God, then we are at peace with Him - and know peace in our souls. I've watched as strong believers have gone through the most trying of times, but they do so with tranquility. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ looks like - and even more what it produces. If our sovereign God holds us and holds all the universe - we can trust Him.
now in the streets, now in the squares, And lurks by every corner. Proverbs 7:12
In chapter 7 of Proverbs we are examining the adulterous woman. As we do this we are learning to contrast her actions and lifestyle with what the Scriptures call a godly woman to be. This particular verse may wind up being controversial in what it teaches us. But that is only because we don't teach what the Scriptures say to the women in the church any longer due to the effect of the doctrines of the women's liberation movement. Now that I've opened the proverbial can of worms - let's take a look at today's verse in Proverbs.
One of the descriptions of the adulteress is that she is not at home, but instead is all over town. She's in the streets, the squares - and then we read that she "lurks" by every corner. First let's deal with the fact that she is all over town. The Scriptures teach us that a godly woman is a "worker at home." In Titus 2
we read that the older women should be teaching the younger women to love their hustands, love their children, to be sensible, pure, kind, and workers at home. The church has moved away from such teaching because the women's lib movement has made enough noise to make such teaching uncomfortable in today's society. We are considered "out of touch" if we teach such things. We are told that we should realize that a woman can do anything a man can do - and that she should be liberated from her enslavement to the dungeon of the home.
What I find fascinating is that Paul begins this section of his letter to Titus by saying that he is to "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." This is not a matter of cultural preference - but a matter of sound doctrine. When we do not teach these things in the church - in the way specificed by Paul (i.e. the older woman teaching the younger women) the end will be that the Word of God will be dishonored. The other thing I find fascinating is that for all the so-called liberating that has been done for women - they are still finding that they desire husbands and children. They still find the greatest satisfaction (as well as the greatest challenge) in loving a husband and loving their children. Where this is happening we are also finding that there is the greatest stability provided for children and society to flourish.
The adulteress is not for this lifestyle of staying at home - or at least seeing her life's work there with her husband and her children. The Hebrew here is so descriptive. With short phrases we read that she is now in the streets - then now in the squares - and as she lives this jet-setting life all over town - she tends to lurk by the corners. What is being said is that she is not content being in the home. She wants her own life and her own way. Hopefully we are learning from Scripture that the worst thing for us is to constantly "get our way." This woman does not want the home-based life - the family-based life. She wants to be out and about - doing and being everywhere. She's in the streets and in the squares - and we should note that it seems that nothing of any real use is being accomplished. She's just hanging out - out of the home. This is NOT good for a woman - or - for a man for that matter.
Now before someone begins to protest that I'm suggesting that a woman be a slave to her house - I want to offer a few comments here on the godly woman. Proverbs 31
presents to us the godly woman. When you read that passage you come away with anything BUT a woman enslaved to her home. She is out and about at times - but not without a purpose. She is out and about doing things for her family. She is out and about serving her home. You would probably see her in the streets and squares as well - but not just "lurking" about by every corner. She is accomplishing things - buying and selling - getting things for her husband and her children. She is overseeing servants who work with her to make her house into a home. The problem is not being out of the house - it is being out of the house for no real apparent reason.
We've got far too much "hanging out" going on in our society. Too often our men, women, and children are living their lives to "hang out" rather than to accomplish something. Ever notice that those who are "hanging out" tend to get into far more trouble than those who have a purpose and are "getting out" to accomplish that purpose?
This is the fundamental problem with the adulteress. She is "lurking out" rather than "living out." Let me explain. When we "lurk out," we are wasting our time with no real purpose in view. Actually those who "hang out" and "lurk out" are saying that they are either looking for something to do - or - they don't have anything to do. Because this is their situation, they are going somewhere to "hang out." Believe me that when this is your normal mode of life - you will eventually get into trouble. An idle life is the devil's/flesh's playground. Spend enough time with no purpose and no place to go - and the flesh or the devil will begin making suggestions. Live like this and the world system (which is under the devil's control) will offer a direction - and it is a bad one. For the adulteress woman (as well as the fool she seduces) her time spent "lurking out" looking for something to do - it ends in the sin of adultery.
We need to "live out" our days. What I mean by this is that we learn to live in God's will - fulfilling His purposes for our lives. This is a life spent seeking to know God - and follow what He desires for our lives. When we live like this, we will go out like everyone else. But the time we go out will be spent accomplishing the things God desires for us to do. There will be a purpose to our going out. We will be "living out" the will of God. We will be living to bring glory to God as we take the time He's given us and put it to good use. In the end His purposes will not just keep us out of trouble - they will be lived out to where we have a life filled with purpose and meaning. This is a far better way to live than just "hanging out" or "lurking out" to see what the world, the devil, and our flesh bring us to do.
Wisdom is living a life. Wisdom is a life lived on purpose. Just hanging out will turn to just lurking out - and just lurking out will be a life lived for the wrong purposes. Be wise and live life on purpose - God's purpose.
The leech has two daughters, "Give," "Give." There are three things that will not be satisfied, Four that will not say, "Enough": Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, And fire that never says, "Enough." Proverbs 30:15-16
Among verses in Proverbs this has to be one of the stranger ones. Because this passage has no real pointer within it except the fact that it speaks of a specific kind of leech whose daughters are insatiable, it is one of those verses that has a myriad of explanations by commentators. These explanations range from the two daughters being death and hell, heaven and hell, as well as a myriad of negative character traits all focusing on greed in its various forms. So how do you come to any kind of secure conclusion about a verse like this? Let's take a look and see if we can discern anything from looking at this very strange verse in Proverbs.
First of all, when a passage itself does not immediately release its meaning - it can be very dangerous. That is because too many people will begin allegorizing it quickly. You will have people saying that these two sisters are anything and everything under the sun. But when a verse does not yield immediate clarity - we MUST turn to the context to better understand it.
Let's start with what we do know. The being spoken of here is a leech - and more specifically, a horseleach. This is a blood sucking creature that actually has a two lipped appearance. It is through these two lips that the leech sucks the blood out of its victims. Because the horseleach has these two sucking mechanisms - it is known for having an insatiable appetite for a large amount of blood. That might account for the reason that the passage speaks of the leech having two daughters. But we come again to what all this means?
What is the context of this passage. The previous verses, 12 through 14, are a unit in themselves - and verse 15 does not really fit with them. These verses spoke of the arrogance and pride of various individuals - and how their arrogance make their mouths very dangerous. But when you look at verse 15 in the context of the next set of verses - it fits quite well. These verses deal with things that are unsatiable - that won't ever say, "enough." The next piece of the puzzle is found when we see that verse 15 speaks of two things - then of three, and ends with a comment in verse 16 that says there are even four things that will not be satisified or say enough. Verse 16 then gives us what those four things are.
So what does this context say to us - or help us to see about this horseleach? When I took time to seriously look at what Solomon was saying, I think that the horseleach was being referred to by his physical characteristics - as an example of the first number (2 things) that are insatiable. It is part of the buildup that Solomon is giving to get to the number four. Solomon is using a verbal tactic or a rhetorical device to make his argument more powerful. He is saying that there are two - no three - no four things that will not say enough.
Therefore - the leech spoken of here is not a two-pronged greedy set of things - like death and hell or greed and avarice - or like the most ridiculous commentator suggested - a vampire! The leech is an example of something (here I believe the two-lipped or two-suckered opening that sucks blood - and that according to Solomon is saying always, "Give, Give!" Beyond that example out of nature - Solomon is most likely saying nothing else. He moves on in the very next statement to count to three then four - and makes it clear that he speaks of things that will not say enough. He speaks of these four things before the next verse is over.
What this passage does help us to see is the danger of just haphazardly taking verses or parts of them that don't seem to have any clear meaning - and assigning them things that we just figure they must be. I've even heard some use this verse to speak derrogatorily of daugnters - saying that they are like blood-sucking leeches who are constantly taking money from daddy - and who never say, enough. Again, here is the dagner in all this. What we don't clearly understand - we need to submit to further scrutiny and a searching out of the text and context. This will usually yield a blessing in the end. Here - it yields the use of a rhetorical device - not a secret two-fold code concerning things we are left to guess about in the end.
But what about wisdom? This passage is saying to us that we should see that this life and this world are never satisfied. Whether it is "sheol" (which is the place of the dead -or death itself) or a barren womb (which is never satisfied until there is a baby on the way - even one born to the barren woman) of the earth that is never satisfied with the water rained upon it, or a fire that consumes everything it can get - never being satisfied with what it has burned - we are facing the fact that this present world never gets enough. If we are wise - we will follow Solomon's reasoning - and see that not having satisfaction is kinda normal in this world. The Rolling Stones were quasi-prophetic when they sang, "I Can't Get No, Satisfaction, even though they were terrible grammarians. Wisdom tells us to be careful about our desires and unmet wants. Wisdom tells us that this world is saying something to us about our dissatisfaction. This world is not right - and it cannot satisfy us. In the end - satisfaction will have to be found "outside" this existence. We are not told where we can get this satisfaction here - just that nature and life should tell us not to expect all that much of it from this present life and this present world. What we learn from the rest of the testimony of Scripture is that this IS a problem - and it is only satisfied when we come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Only He can bring us fullness.
I guess the proper way to close this particular post is to say that maybe there is a fifth thing that never says enough. That would be commentators who take passages like this and make them say something that neither the meaning of the words in the verse - nor the verse as a whole in its context actually means.
Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die . . . Proverbs 30:7
I love people who can simplify life for me. It is actually not difficult to make things difficult - people do it all the time. They have a gift for taking something that should be simple - and making it incredibly complicated and hard to understand. Then they charge you money to do what they have made difficult - since now you think there is no way that you can do it yourself. If you are wanting the simple made difficult, this is not a proverb for you. God has this proverb written to help us understand important life principles - and do so in two easy concepts. In future posts I deal with the actual request - but this post I want to deal with the writer and his heart in making the request.
The writer here asks two things from God. He has learned the blessing of economy in his relationship with God. There are times for us to expand things out and look at multiple aspects of a live lived for God's glory. and these two things are two principles we should remember to live a happy life and one that is founded on sound biblical footing. This request is vital because the writer says here that these two things are things he does not want God to refuse him before he dies. That is the last thing we can learn from this man - he is passionate about his request.
"Do not refuse me before I die!" This is the way the writer expresses the intensity of his desire. Lord, there are definitely two things I have to have. I must have them before I die! There is a passion here that often is missing in ordinary Christians. This guy does not want to end his life without knowing and having walked out two things. We later learn that these two things are to walk in the truth always - and to experience contentment. As he seeks the Lord for these things, he does so with a hunger that is inspiring. Too often in our lives we're not really sure what we're really going after and we are thinking about being committed to getting it - at least we're pretty sure that we are. That is not what we see here. We see a man that knows the importance of walking in truth - and walking with a contentment in what God has given him. He knows one thing - that falsehood does not lead to a good end in life - and that running after this world does not either. He is chasing after something much different and much more satisfying. We learn by verse 9 that what he truly desires is to please and honor God. He wants to live a life that acknowledges God and that will be pleasing to Him in the end.
We so desperately need to embrace what this writer is expressing in our lives. Do you know and can you enumerate a few things - no more than three that you absolutely have to have in life? Is there a higher purpose for living in your life than just making it through life? Are you bored - unchallenged by life and the goal for which you are living, or the lack thereof? Make the time to get alone with God and hash out what really matters in your life. Find in Him and in His purposes a reason to live! Than, rather than just having life go by as you watch confused as to its purpose, you can go out every day and agressively give yourself to a purpose that goes far beyond life itself - it goes gloriously into eternity!
A sated man loathes honey, But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet. Proverbs 27:7
This proverb is about much more than just when a person likes and dislikes honey. It is about hunger - first physical hunger as the physical meaning suggests - but it is about much more than just physical hunger. It is about how we walk through life - about worldliness and about knowing and walking with God.
The physical picture painted for us is very clear. When a man is sated he loathes honey. To be sated means that you are stuffed. This is like when you have eaten too much at a meal and you are miserable. It wouldn't matter what someone offered you - you would not want any part of it. This is why the man loathes something as sweet and enjoyable as honey. He is too stuffed with food to enjoy anything. The opposite is also true though. A famished man considers any bitter thing sweet. The famished man is truly hungry. He has not eaten all day long - and as a result he is ready to eat anything. Even something which others might consider bitter is sweet to him. He will take it up and eat it grateful for anything to help him with his hunger.
Beyond the physical picture shown to us are great spiritual truths for us to glean. A man sated with the world will look at the Word of God and loathe it. He is filled up with the daintes of the world and as a result has little or no spiritual hunger. 1 John tells us that everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life comes not from the Father, but from the world. When we fill our hearts and souls with whatever our eyes desire, whatever our flesh demands, and with a heaping helping of boasting in this life - we will not have any desire for the Word, which is sweeter than the honey or the honey comb. The glories of God and what He has in store for us seem like nothing when we are glutted with worldliness and selfish pursuits. This is why it is so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He is so filled with what "this world" has to offer - that often he has no room left for the things of God. We need to see the danger of feasting on the world, the flesh, and the fast food of the devil. When we do - we will despise and loathe the things of our Lord.
Then there is the famished man. The man who knows that the things of this world and this life are temporary. They are fleeting pleasures - what the Bible calls lying desires. They lie to us because they constantly promise fulfillment - but in the end they do not satisfy. They don't provide contentment - they do just the opposite. They eye is never filled with seeing - the flesh is never satisfied with food - and when we set our sights on wealth and riches, they take flight and soar to the heavens, always just a little beyond our ever grasping hands. Knowing these things - he seeks God for his "daily" bread - and asks not for riches. He knows that often the man with them forgets his God. Thus he wants something more. He has heard of this One Whose Spirit within is like a spring that rises up to heaven and salvation itself. He has heard of One Whose bread of life actually fills. He seeks the One Who offers rivers of living water - not a river outside of himself - but one that God puts within that overflows out of him to bless others. He is a famished man when it comes to worldliness and sin. He is a famished man when it comes to the religion of the eyes and flesh. He knows that boasting in this life provides him nothing in the end. Therefore he hungers and thirsts after God. He has heard from One that blessed is he that hungers and thirsts for righteousness, for he will be satisfied.
This hunger makes it to where any bitter thing is sweet to him. Where the worldling is constantly receiving but is never satisfied, this one receives everything from the hand of God - good and bad - and it all works together for good in his heart and life. Whereas the worldling ever complains that it is just not enough - the spiritually hungry one has eaten of contentment itself in the presence of God. Having his spirit filled to overflowing - he knows that all that God allows in his life (whether sweet or bitter) is working on his behalf. He even knows that the light and momentary discomforts, disappointments, disconcerting events - are working toward an eternal weight of glory that cannot be ascertained. God is at work in this famished man's heart - thus any way that God's providence and sovereignty designs his circumstances are going to be satisfying for eternity.
When you look at this proverb - and the truth that it represents - you come away with the paradox of God's work in this world. The filled go away hungry - while the hungry are deeply satisfied. The difference between seeking this world - and the world to come - is the difference between knowing contentment and fulfillment in hunger - or just walking through life empty even though you are sated with the world and all it offers. Truly, blessed are the poor and destitute in spirit - for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, But trouble is in the income of the wicked. Proverbs 15:6 There are those who take verses like this and use them to promise riches and possessions to those who walk with God. They are also used to speak judgment and condemnation on those who are poor and needy. If that were the case, then Jesus should have been the richest man who ever walked on the earth. Yet Jesus Himself said that He had no place to lay His head - and He was ultimately betrayed by a disciple who saw that Jesus' kingdom was not going to be of this world - or at least consisting of this world's goods. There is a prosperity that comes from Godly circumspect religion though. It comes from being wise with money - and from knowing the blessing of God in financial endeavors. There is great wealth in the house of many of those who use right principles in dealing with money. Proverbs itself is filled with excellent financial counsel, which, if followed, would ensure blessing on those who heed it. The true wealth, though, of the righteous is in things that cannot be stored in a bank or lock box. These things consist of forgiveness, joy, peace, and love. They come when we choose to walk consistently in God's ways and adhere to the paths into which His Spirit guides us. To the one who does NOT have them - they are utterly invaluable. Many a rich, ungodly man would give his entire fortune for these things - but usually only later in life. This wealth is even more wonderful than earthly riches because moth and rust cannot corrupt nor thieves break in and steal them. They will last forever - and they are the true currency of heaven. To spend a lifetime building up a treasure of this kind is to be rich indeed. To live without them is to know nothing but poverty of spirit here and now - and damnation throughout eternity. The income of the wicked is often desired by those in this world. Occasionally, as we see in Psalm 73, even the godly at times wish for a life without trouble and hardship. They wish for a life bathed in butter and human delicacies. This longing stops though, when we see that their income is filled with trouble. Their riches come with problems. First there is the trouble of keeping what you've already got when the world desires it too. Men stay up late and rise early to protect their income - they lose sleep trying to keep what they have. There is also trouble in getting such income. Too often riches are gained to the damage of those who get them. They resort to ungodly tactics and ungodly ways to garner more and more wealth for themselves. In the end - the trouble they face is trouble from two sources. First there is those whom they have cheated. Leaders like Sadaam Hussein lived a life of opulent luxury most of their days - but in the end - those whom he cheated and stole from hated him fiercely. He wound up hiding in a hole - and hanging from the end of a rope - as crowds ultimately cheered his execution. Biblically, Haman had it all - but in the end lost it all when his greed and hatred caused him great trouble. The last we see of the great and wealthy Haman is him escorted from the king's presence with a black bag over his head. In the end . . . his wealth was used to construct a gallows from which he himself hung. There is certainly trouble when those whom we have hurt and bilked come for their revenge. But there is a great trouble awaiting the wicked rich. Scripture speaks of a wealthy farmer who thought life consisted of his possessions. Trying to keep a bumper crop as his crowning achievement led to God's final sentence upon him. God considered him a fool. He thought his life consisted only of his wealth and goods. Yet the true riches were knowing God and being prepared to face Him on the day of judgment. "You fool!" was the way God addressed this wicked, rich man on the eve of his death. "Today your soul is required of you - and what is going to become of all your wealth." The only term accurate to his situation was the term, "fool." Live for true riches and you will be wise. Live for the wealth that comes from knowing, loving, and obeying God. Nothing else matters when you leave this world and enter into eternity. The wealth of the righteous will be stored up for them in heaven all their days. It will never pass away. But the troublesome income of the wicked . . . it will burn them like fire all their days. It will be part of the everlasting trouble that will afflict their souls for all eternity.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2Reading this proverb makes me think of a rewrite of the Beatles song "Yesterday." My version goes like this . . .
"Vanity, all I ever do is think of me, I'm the greatest person that I see, Cause I'm so filled with vanity."
Proverbs tells us here to "let another praise you, and not your own mouth." When it comes to compliments and praise - it is always wise to let them flow from other people - than to spend time praising yourself. Self-praise is nothing more than arrogance and self-promotion. When you live this way - you will fall into the trap of believing your own press. Since you are the one who writes your own press - there is no objectivity in what is being said. The real danger over time is that in belieiving and writing your own press, you will become less and less responsive to any constructive criticism offered. Do this long enough and you will have a little tyrant in your heart who, when it comes to those who try to help you identify character flaws and imperfections, rejects everything that is said out of hand.
One of the keys to a healthy psyche is the ability to look at yourself honestly and offer self-critique. The ability to receive correction and teaching from yourself and others is vital to not only good psychological health, but more importantly good spiritual health.
The other thing we learn from this passage is when praise matters. Proverbs tells us that the praise we should consider is when a stranger praises us. What is a stranger? It is someone who surprises you with kind words. Another way of defining this person is that they are a person who you don't realize is watching you and examining your works. When they praise you - you are assured that the way you were living was not an act. You were relaxed and living the way you normally would. Thus when they offer praise - it is true praise. What they see is the closest to when you are living without trying to impress anyone.
A personal story that illustrates this is in order. This happened when I was at Auburn University. Unfortunately, I have a normal amount of vanity in my heart that God wants me to overcome by His grace. Sooo - although its embarassing to admit - there are times when I try harder when people are looking to be a better Christian. My desire is for God to deliver me from such pride - and instead, I would live to please and honor God alone. One day, during a testimony meeting at church, a brother stood up and spoke of how he desired to follow the Lord due to the example he saw of God's grace in my life. Boy was I shocked! I had spoken to him a couple of times - but was not particularly close to him. It not only shocked me, but it also concerned me as well. The thought went through my mind immediately, "I didn't know he was watching and looking for an example from how I lived." Rather than feel proud - I actually felt a little freaked out. Another thought went racing through my head, "I wonder who else is watching?" At that moment the Lord sent a third thought across the bow, "I am!" Suddenly all other praise from men went silent. There was only One before Whom I should walk and live. If I had His praise and approval - that of mere mortals meant nothing. Even better than this - the lack of praise from mere mortals would not affect me negatively - for I wouldn't be seeking it. By the end of this event a lot had changed in my heart. I was thankful for the gracious words of my brother - but there was a more important Person Whose praise I truly desired. This kind stranger had been a blessing in two ways: first, he offered encouragement that I was growing and honoring God in what I was doing, but second, he was used by God to turn my eyes away from any other praise than that which comes from above - and which is true in every way.
Here is wisdom for today . . . live not for praise that originates from your own vanity - or from those before you can perform. Live for the praise of those who watch from the secret places of your life - who cheer from the wings. But most of all - live for the evaluation that will come at the end - when each man will receive the "true praise" which is due him from God.
Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; 2 For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble. Proverbs 24:1-2There are certain things that are repeated in Proverbs - certain aspects of life - certain issues that require reminders. One of those areas is the one addressed in these two verses. We need to beware of envying the wicked. But why would we envy them? One of the best places to grasp why is in Psalm 73 where the Psalmist temporarily lost his footing while envying the wicked.
We envy wicked men because in this world their lives seem to be much easier and better. Often wicked men are successful in this age. Some achieve this because they cheat, steal, and claw their way to the top. Others just set their hearts on this world and what it offers - and don't take no for an answer till they have what they want. The psalmist looked at their lives and wondered why things were like this - how come the wicked seem to be catching all the breaks? The answer he came to only arrived when he went into the sanctuary and remembered God. Remembering God and the end of things brought sanity back to the psalmist. He considered the end of such men. They fell all at once - and their fall was often spectacular. They were consumed in an instant by death - and what awaits them beyone the grave is true, absolute justice. After seeing such horrific sights in God's presence the Psalmist decided it was better to serve God without all the worldly success - than to be evil, successful now - but ultimately impoverished and destroyed.
God forbids jealousy toward evil men. Jealousy is easy when you see the successes here and now of the wicked. Their lives seem to be paved with butter and pastries. They have things we'd like to have - they have pleasures we think we would want. But God forbids this. When we become envious of the wicked - we start to want what they have. We think they have it made. Then we decide to hang around them because we like their stuff - their lifestyle - their buttered steps. Spiritual reality tells a different story though. The things they have that we want - how many of those things are the will of God for us? Men look at the playboy - or more recently the bachelor - and think, "Man, I'd love to have all those women fawning over me!" We look at the rich and famous and think, "If only I could have their wealth, their fame, their stuff - then I'd be happy."
Here's a truth to remember - even they are not happy! They have their emptiness. At the highest point of my life in sin - I would come home from the parties - from the sex - from the pinacle of popularity and turn my face to the wall at night and long for something real. I would call out to God - asking Him to take away the emptiness of my heart. But here is another truth to remember - the more we look at them - and focus our thoughts and desires on what they have - the more we feed our flesh. In time, we will walk away from God, thinking that if we had a little of what they have - we'd be better off - happier. Oh, the devastation that comes from learning otherwise.
I'm sure David thought that a night with the lovely Bathsheba would spice up his life. Samson proabably figured that a new relationship with that fox named Delilah is just what he needed to shake things up a bit. Absalom probably thought that being in charge himself would make his life better. Ahab figured that if he could just get Ahab's great garden spot he'd be content. Finally, Judas probably figured that he had those 30 pieces of silver coming to him after following Jesus 3 years - Jesus didn't seem to be offering a pay raise any time soon! Envying the wicked, their lifestyle and their stuff will get you into a load of trouble - because that's usually where they're headed - for trouble.
Verse 2 here puts it bluntly to us. Their minds are working to devise violence - the word for mind here is the Hebrew "leb" which speaks of the heart. The Jewish concept of the mind is that it flows from the workings of our heart - our innermost desires. What a great picture is painted for us by the words used here.
Devise is "hagah" and it means to growl, sigh, or mutter. It spoke figuratively of the meditation of the mind. In the wicked mind we hear growling. What are they growling about? We learn that their growling has to do with violence. The word here means violence, destruction - and is used to describe violence and havoc as social sins. This makes more sense to us when we put two and two together biblically. The evil man is living out the desires of his heart. His heart is given to himself and to the world and its desires. What he wants - he goes after - and he is absolutely committed to getting. Now take this reality and put it in the context of James chapter 4. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2, NASB)
The evil man growls violence in his meditations because he cannot have what he wants - what he is lusting after - so he is willing to do violence (does not have to just be physical, could be moral as he does unethical things) to get them. This is the modus operadi for the evil man. Also his lips talk of trouble. Here is another interesting word in the Hebrew that describes the inner working of the evil man. Trouble is the word "amal" and it means something troubling. What is meant is that the evil man is constantly speaking of causing trouble. This guy is headed for trouble - and you hear him speak of it a lot. If you hang "with" him - you may "HANG" with him.
Evil men exist. One of the facts of life is that there are those who are looking for trouble - and who cause it in life. What is fascinating is that we cannot relegate this to a socio-economic status or race. There are poor and rich alike - people of every racial background who just seem to breed trouble with their actions and attitudes. Some of these people can also have a life that may look glamourous and exciting on the outside - but beware - to travel with them or envy their outward status will only lead you into the same trouble and disaster. Better to steer clear of having them as close friends - or of desiring what they have. In the end - what they have is a coming disaster. Ask David - question Samson and Absalom - queerie Judas on this one. They'll all have the same answer - guard your heart!
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. 5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. Proverbs 23:4-5God is not against people becoming wealthy. There are people in the history of the Bible who became wealthy because of God's specific blessing upon them. So God is not "anti-wealth" as some people would suppose. But, He is concerned with how people view money and wealth - and to be more specific how they pursue it. That is where the real danger lies.
Don't weary yourself to gain wealth. There is the first principle God puts before us. The word weary means to become weary with work. It indicates that the person is putting forth great effort and exhausting exertion to try to accomplish something. It should probably be noted here that God is for hard work. He wants us to work hard at the things we do. He wants us to offer excellence and effort to our jobs and in the things we do for Him and for others. The Lord is not encouraging laziness here. He is saying that those who put forth exhausting labor with the ultimate goal being to become wealthy are focusing on the wrong goal. I remember working at UPS in Seminary and watching one of my supervisors live this way. His goal in life was to work so hard when he is young, that he could retire when he was 45 as a millionaire. This poor guy was always at work. He had a wife and a couple of kids - but from the way he spoke of them to us - they were just obstacles to him getting where he wanted to go. I've watched men like this who labor so hard to become rich. They reach their goal - but find out that the loss of their marriage and the fact that their kids have no respect for them - costs far more than the millions they have to spend in their old age.
Proverbs tells us next that we are to cease from our consideraton of becoming wealthy. An interesting word is used for "consideration" here. It means to think hard about something. The result of this thinking should be a proper discernment of it. But according to what is being said here God is warning us against making wealth the thing we consider and think hard about in life. There are those who constantly chase the illusive goal of being rich. They read books about it - they listen to tapes that promise them the way to get there - they listen to radio shows that promise them that if they do what this man says - they'll be rich. There is even a "chrisitanized" version of this thinking. The health/wealth/prosperity teaching promises that God Himself is nothing but a divine sugar daddy. If we treat Him right - and confess the right things - we'll be rich! Wonder how that works for persecuted Christians behind the bamboo curtain who are in jail for their faith. If they confess the right words and really have faith, they'll get twice the gruel that their cellmate receives?
God wants us to have our minds fixed on other things than our own financial bottom line. If we truly had discernment we'd know that our bank account will matter only in how we used it for God's glory. Our "consideration" should be of the Lord Himself and what His will is for us in life. To have a constant consideration of wealth is to waste our minds on things that are not eternal.
There is another reason we should not be chasing wealth. That reason is that wealth is often illusive. In the simplest terms - take the example of the guy buying lottery tickets thinking he is going to win and get rich. This proves two things - first, this guy is not very good at Math - and second, he is focused on the wrong things. He thinks that money will solve his problems. If he only took the time to study previous big winners of the lottery he'd learn that it usually causes more problems than it solves. Then there is the person who is chasing the illusive goal of inventing something that will make him rich. Too often the inventions don't pan out and the guy pursuing them for wealth winds up broke - and broken because of his failure to "make it to the big time."
Wealth takes wings like an eagle -flying off into the heavens. What a picture for us to remember! This is true in so many ways. What was just covered is one of the ways that wealth takes wings - but there is another that is even more important for us to remember. Ask a rich man how much money he needs to be content. His answer will be, "Just a little more than I have now." That is the most deceptive part of wealth. When we "get there" to our stated goal - we'll find it is not enough to bring peace and satisfaction to us. So, we figure we'll set our goal a little higher - only to find that when we get there we still don't feel satisfied. Some folks spend their entire lives chasing the eagle as it soars higher and higher into the air. They die richer than they ever dreamed - but learning that the dream becomes a nightmare because of the lack of satisfaction in their wealth.
One last thing needs to be said of a life spent chasing after wealth and riches. The ultimate bummer for the rich man is when he dies. He leaves everything behind. There are no "rich people" in heaven or hell. The basis of success or ultimate failure has to do with being able to stand before God in the judgment. Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer who has a bumper crop. He wonders what to do with his untold wealth. He finally decides that he will tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Then he will store his abundance and say to his soul that he has much wealth and can rest. Jesus' words here are frightening. He says, "You fool! Tonight your soul is required of you - and how will mere wealth help you?" We can be as wealthy as 10 Solomons - and still find ourselves eternally impoverished if we don't have forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. We can chase wealth into the heavens like that eagle - only to find that iin the end the descent into infinite poverty lasts not a human lifetime - it lasts for all eternity. Here true wisdom - be rich toward God - that wealth will last beyond what can be stolen or rust away.
When you sit down to dine with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you, 2 And put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, For it is deceptive food. Proverbs 23:1-3What should one do when invited to dinner by a person of influence and power? This is what the writer of Proverbs addresses in the first three verses of chapter 23. For many this would be the time to indulge themselves - live it up - you're eating with the ruler! But the counsel of Solomon is to consider what is before you. Let's look at reasons why we should be careful when we eat with a ruler or person of great authority.
First, we should never go into any situation without our wits intact. It is very unwise to go anywhere without the wisdom of God. In the moment that you think it is perfectly safe and you do not need to be wise and judicious, you will find that this is the place the devil has set up for a major attack. Always consider what is before you - where you are - what is proper - and what is wise.
Why is this the case when being invited by a ruler to dinner? First we need to consider just "who" is before us. That is the gist of what the writer of Proverbs is saying to us. A ruler is not in the habit of just inviting anyone to eat with him. There may be an ulterior motive in this meeting - a test that is set before you in addition to the food itself. Second, there is the realization that when you eat with a ruler you will probably have the finest of everything. There are those who after such a meal would immediately go out into the world and decide they are going to eat the same way. There are foods and drinks that are ridiculously priced simply because the rich and powerful want to be different from the rest of the world. I've seen restaurants that serve tiny little portions of food and yet charge outrageous prices - simply because poeple who are rich and who frequent that restaurant will pay the prices to do so. What a sad commentary on the pride of man this is - yet it happens. One thing you should consider is that you are NOT a ruler - and that though it will be cool to eat that way that evening - life will return to normal tomorrow. Though you eat with a ruler - and he thinks his food is best, truth does not rest with the ruler - but with God who created all things to enjoy. Finally, consider that often the fare of kings is usually indulgent. This is not the best food for you anyway. There are a multitude of stories where the king or ruler only ate delicacies -but in the end - his super-indulgent food unfortunately was his demise as diseases that come with such eating habits cut his life short.
This is why verse 2 says that we should "put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite." In layman's terms - don't make a pig of yourself. Don't let your appetite take over at this moment. Keep your wits about you as you sit and dine with him. It is unwise to let our appetites run loose in any situation. Remember, we are fallen and sinful. Our entire nature has been affected by sin. Thus to trust your own intense desires is to get yourself into a world of hurt in the long run. Thus . . . put a knife to your throat. Wow, what a strong statement. He doesn't say, "eat in moderation." He says, "Put a knife at your own throat." Remember dear one, that the farmer puts quite the buffet out for his pigs and cattle. They can eat to their heart's content thinking all is innocent. Yet the truth is that they are being fattened for the slaughter. Oh, how we need to consider such things when wanting to give ourselves to our own appetites.
The third verse of this proverb tells us not to desire the delicacies of the king - because it is deceptive food. Here is the line where the rubber hits the road. This food is deceptive. It is not reality! The ruler and the one in authority eats much different than we do. If you don't think this is the case - look at the daily table that Solomon had put before him. That portion was tremendous. That is the reminder to keep before us at feasts. Enjoy them with wisdom guiding your mind and behavior, but do not think this is the norm - nor should you give yourself over to a pursuit of such a lifestyle. It is interesting to note that the following verses after these warn against the pursuit of wealth.
A time of feasting is wonderful when it happens, and if you get the opportunity to dine with a ruler that is even more a blessing. But be careful and allow wisdom to guide your mind and heart as you do. There are dangers here as there are in anything you do. You may be sitting at a table where your actions are being judged. You also may be tempted to give yourself to an appetite that will mislead you. Finally, you may be led by your selfish desires to want a lifesytle exactly like the ruler with whom you dine. To do so would be foolish and would plunge you into a pursuit that is outside the will of God for your life. I know it sounds severe - but put that knife to your own throat as you do so. It will help you enjoy what is before you - and when you leave - you will still have your heart and your wits about you as you return to much more standard fare of those who are everyday people.