An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked. Proverbs 29:27
The godly and the ungodly take very divergent paths. This is fairly elementary to anyone to see. But what we often do not see is that not only are these paths different - they are also disgusting to each other. The word that is used in today's proverb to describe the view that they have of each other is "abominable." The word used here is the Hebrew word "ebah" which means anything that is offensive or what is an abomination to someone else. In Scripture God uses this word to describe those who depart from His Law. Often the word is used for more grevious sins - like idolatry, child sacrifice, and homosexual behavior. What God is saying to us is that there is a radical and serious difference between those who desire to live godly and those who do not. Let's look at little further into this as we seek to understand God's wisdom for us today.
The "unjust" man ("awel" in the Hebrew) is one who deviates from God's way. This kind of behavior and choice is usually set in contrast to words like righteous, upright, and justice. There is a basic injustice in the one who deviates from God's way - and God, being just, will have to bring judgment and punishment to the one who does so. This is why the unjust man is abominable to the righteous. The godly man sees that the unjust man is unjust first and foremost to God Himself - then from that infinite injustice flows all other lesser injustices to others. Since we know that the righteous man is not so because of his own works but due to God's grace, the righteous man knows the cost of this ungodly behavior. That cost is God's Son, crucified on the cross (to the Old Testament saint it was the promise of this in the sacrifices of the Law). To embrace such behavior is to treat God's gift - the sacrifice made to forgive us and remove us from under God's wrath - as worthless and empty. This is an abomination to the righteous man.
The same is true of the ungodly man toward the upright. What the ungodly see is a man who is "upright in the way." This phrase communicates the path of the godly man. What the ungodly sees is a guy who is seeking to walk according to a set of rules that are different than his. He is seeking to be upright - which means to do what is good and what is right. That alone is offensive to the ungodly man. His worldview involves him deciding what is right and good. It even involves him changing his views to match his lifestyle if he desires. To have what he considers an arbitrary set of morals set by God - which is then viewed as ultimate truth is untenable to him. That would mean his own views of right and wrong are in error if they are different than those God has given. His value system cannot tolerate this - becasue his value system is that of the book of Judges. He does whatever is "right in his own eyes." He is a law unto himself. He does not judge anyone else (unless they judge him or get in the way of him doing what he wants to do) and he expects the same from everyone else (of course always giving way to what he wants if there is any contradiction). Thus the "way" or lifestyle of this guy who is so arrogant as to call his way "right" is an abomination to him. It offends him to the core of his being!
Paul told young Timothy the following in his second letter to him, "Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:11-13) Often we focus only on the last of these three verses - that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This was only a conclusion for what Paul had already said in verses 11-12. In those verses he spoke of his teaching, conduct, purpose, and faith. Paul was persecuted becasue he chose to live in "the upright way." That way consisted of two things - both of which are vital to understanding Christianity.
First is the 'way of salvation.' The upright way will never be lived out by effort and striving. Righteousness and upright living is attained by grace, not by our works. God MAKES us upright by an act of His mercy and grace. That comes through the gospel - and only through the gospel. The world finds this incredibly offensive and very narrow minded. But that is the truth. That is how God has addressed sin - and that is, according to Jesus Hismelf, the only way, truth, and life - the only way to the Father. The second truth of the upright way is that we live and walk it out in a paradox - we work as God works within us. We are called to obedience - and we seek God's power by which we can then walk in that obeience. We are to make choices - strong and bold choices - even as it is God who works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Living a godly life involves a glorious tension in our lives. We are to do it - and He is to do it within us. We cannot think we do it on our own - and we cannot think that He will do it for us without our cooperation.
The wicked find this whole scenario ridiculous and an abomination. To them it is ridiculous because there is no God - or if there is, their god agrees with them. They have a god of their own making - who looks and acts just like they do. Any other God is unacceptable. The word "wicked" here is telling. The word is "rasa" and it means to be guilty - a wrong-doer, criminal, or a transgressor. It means someone who is wrong! The reason the wicked hate the upright, and find their way abominable is because as they watch them - they know they are wrong. They do not want anyone telling them they are wrong. Their reaction to this is to fume within and rage about how judgmental the Christian is - even if the Christian is not saying anything to them. Their very lifestyle is a rebuke to them. If the Christian speaks out - then they explode - because their guilt rages within them.
There will always be a radical distinction between the righteous and the wicked. There will also be a hostility to the way each other chooses to live. That is the wisdom that God is seeking to impart to us through today's proverb. Therefore the constant effort among Christians to make the gospel unoffensive is silliness. We can be gracious and kind in how we communicate the gospel - but to make it unoffensive to the wicked is impossible. There will always be the offense of the cross of Christ. There will always be the offense of God asserting that He is God and He is absolutely right on moral matters (and all others he touches upon as well). Thus the constant effort to make Christianity unoffensive in its essence is a fool's pursuit. It would be wise for us to abandon it and return to living it simply before the lost, loving them from the heart, and doing all that we can to share the message of the gospel with them. We do so not becasue we think we are superior. Perish that thought. We do it because we've received grace and desire for them to receive it as well. We want them to be saved - made rightoeus by grace - and abandon their abominable way to embrace a life lived by the grace of God unto the glory of God.
Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, "Was I not joking?" Proverbs 26:18-19
I like to call this the, "Practical Jokes" proverb. That is because it describes what can happen when practical joking gets out of hand. Unfortunately, I've watched a few of these in my day and they can get ugly in a hurry.
The proverb speaks to us of a certain madman. This guy is out of control. He is throwing three things in his insanity. The first is firebrands - which are akin to something like a flaming arrow. This crazy guy is also shooting regular arrows. The third thing he is dealing in is death. The first two are easy to understand, but this last one is a little more cryptic. I see the final thing in light of what happens due to the deception. He is throwing around these things that hurt physically - but he is also throwing something that hurts emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. He is throwing "death" - he is killing relationships and injuring people so that they are dead to him emotionally. His actions are hurting things and killing someone's ability to be around him - interact with him - and receive anything from him. So we see three pretty rough things going on here. All three are destructive and can cause great harm. The interesting thing is that since he is a madman - his aim may not be the best. From how this is stated, it seems as if a rather random pattern is being followed in how these things are being shot and thrown. Thus he will not hit everyone, but when he does, it is going to hurt badly. It might even kill someone. What could this be describing? Let's look, because the answer is given in verse 19.
Verse 19 tells us that the comparison is to a man who deceives his neighbor - then tells him he was only joking. First of all we need to see that this man does these things to his neighbor. The term here implies more than just a casual relationship. Some passages imply a relationship as close as a close friend or even a lover. What he is doing to his neighbor is that he is "deceiving" him. The word here is "ramah" and it means to intentionally deal craftily with someone. Other ways it is used is to indicate lies, betrayal, crass jokes, and even pulling a trick on someone. That is definitely the case here in Proverbs 26:18-19. What is going on is that a trick or a crass joke is being played on a person by his neighbor, which is pretty much the definition of a practical joke.
If we did not know the nature of this proverb through the word "ramah" - things become much clearer as we see that after this man deceives his neighbor - he eventually lets him know about it by saying, "Was I not joking?" There it is - a practical joke, pure and simple. But why is this such a strong statement? Is God adamantly opposed to all practical jokes? From what I read here I cannot say one way or the other. This is just a warning about consequences.
A day is coming when the practical joker is going to play a joke on someone and it is going to blow up in his face. He is like that madman randomly shooting arrows. Most will fall relatively harmless to the ground. They won't hit any real target. But every once in a while he will strike something - actually someone. When that happens - problems are coming. In some cases real harm comes to someone in a practical joke. Somebody gets physically hurt - and at times it is a bad injury. In other situations the pain is much worse - because it is emotional and relational. I've actually watched relationships broken forever or for a long time because of a practical joke gone bad. These are very sad things to watch because the joke was meant to be funny (at least to the one doing it - and to everyone watching the person humiliated). But at times the humiliation breeds anger. That is why God warns us about it.
In all honesty - when I consider that most practical jokes are done to humiliate someone - or at least to laugh at their expense - I think that a wise man should probably avoid them. He knows that such an action may result in an offended brother. And from other proverbs he knows that if this happens that brother will be very hard to win back. That is why the wise man decides against such actions. But before you think I am a 'stick in the mud' on this issue - you should know that I have been the mark of many practical jokes. How do I respond them? I laugh with those who did them . . . sometimes threaten retaliation . . . and usually end up forgetting them and thinking, "You got me good!" It is good to have a sense of humor - and an ability to laugh at yourself. Just remember that some won't - and when that happens - it's going to be bad - very bad.
It is better to live in a corner of the roof Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. Proverbs 25:24
I find it interesting that a man who had hundreds of wives - felt the need to comment identically on the contentious and quarrelsome ones. This is almost an exact repeat of a previous proverb in chapter 21, verse 9. What Solomon has to say about this is pretty severe.
To live on a corner of a roof would be very uncomfortable in Israel. The houses of that time had flat roofs - and Scripture required them to build a wall around the top so that people would not fall off of them. Often they would have a set of stairs on the side of the home that led to the top of the house. But to live there would be very uncomfortable. In the summer months the roof would be unbearably hot with the sun beating down upon the poor man's brow. In the winter, or the rainy season, it would be wet and cold there. Yet Solomon states that this would be better than to be in even a palace with a contentious woman.
It might be good for us to see what a "contentious" woman looks like - or better acts like. The word used here is "madon" and its basic meaning is strife or dissension. It refers to a quarrel or dispute that is so filled with anger and bitterness that it cannot be stopped once it starts. That is why Proverbs 17:14 counsels us to abandon such a disupute before it breaks out. But the contetious woman knows no such self-restraint. Her pride and unwillingness to submit to God results in her not only entering into disputes - but even engineering and starting them. This same word is used in Proverbs 18:19 to speak of how strife creates strong barriers between people. The contentious woman doesn't care about this because her heart is already bitter and filled with resentment. Rather than avoid conflicts that result in relational barriers - she fights from hers and builds it higher. A few other verses that use this word indicate to us the following: 1) This kind of contention spreads to other people (Proverbs 6:14, 19), 2) it comes from someone who is hot-tempered and given to fits of anger (Proverbs 15:18), and 3) it is stirred by hatred which is lodged in this woman's heart - which is why she rejects loving, selfless responses and chooses her rage instead (PRoverbs 10:12). What an terrible picture is painted of this contentious woman who loves and embraces anger, bitterness, and loveless rage.
Now you might understand why this guy wants to live on the edge of his roof. He chooses this rather than to be in a house with this lady. Life is miserable for him - and he would choose misery among the elements than even a few moments with this train-wreck of a woman. But, honestly for Solomon, such a situation wasn't exactly prevented by having so many wives and so many concubines. Living among that many women vying for the affection of one very selfish, sexually out of control man, could not have been a picnic. This is why the second reference to this circumstance should be used for wisdom in two ways for us. First - be careful not to marry a bitter woman who overflows with resentment and anger. Second - don't create one either by being a man who is unwise in how he approaches the marriage covenant. Be faithful to one woman in your lifetime. And love her in such a way that she will not ever have the problem of being a contentious wife.
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23
All of us can identify with a situation where we said something that got us in trouble. We let a comment slip or we say something before seriously thinking about what we were about to say. Regardless of what was said - it ended in trouble - in someone's feelings being hurt. Extreme situations can land us in a doghouse that is very difficult to get out of . . . all because we were not cautious enough about the things that we said.
Today's proverb tells us to guard our mouth and our tongue. The word used for guard is a strong word meaning to set a watch guard or a military sentry over our mouth and our tongue. We are not just casually watching what we say - we are placing well-armed guards over our mouths to make sure that they do not run off on their own. Considering that Scripture tells us that the power of death and life are in our words - that James tells us that our words are like a fire and that they can be set our very lives on fire - it is a wise thing to put some guards there. After re-reading this last sentence I'd set some ninjas aided by a few Navy Seals there. I remember an old Last Days Newsletter written by Keith Green that had a picture of machine gun toting commandos peering over the molars in a person's mouth. That is the kind of watchfulness we need to have when it comes to our mouths and our tongues.
The one who does not guard his tongue and mouth will face troubles. Think about the last time your mouth got you in trouble. Imagine again the kind of difficulty it caused you emotionally. Try to remember how your soul ached as you realized you had once again inserted your foot in your mouth and swallowed it up to your kneecap. The wisdom of God warns that our soul will have troubles. That is our mind, will, and emotions - and most likely all three will face difficulties when we speak apart from God's wisdom. I've known of situations that lasted only a few hours - but others that are still going years and even decades later. A wise man learns from such things and holds his tongue. He is wise and shuts his mouth - contemplating the things he is about to say. To do otherwise is to court problems that can range from a few awkward moments to a life altering relational disaster.
"They struck me, but
I did not become ill; They beat me, but
I did not know it.
When shall I awake? I will seek another drink." Proverbs 23:35
The life and times of the drunken fool comes to an end with this last verse. Yet this last verse as much as any of the others describes perfectly what alcohol can do to someone. It makes them a fool. The problem is that they do not know it - nor do they really care. Their life is spent going from one drunken episode to another - or as we see in today's world - they live from one party to the next. They are unaware of the real damage that is being done to their lives - and even when it is evident it is worn more as a badge of honor than as what it is - the marks left on a fool in the midst of his pursuit of more and more sensuality. When this drunken episode and party is over - his thought when he awakens is the next party, the next time he can drink, the next time he can act the fool.
This last verse is the drunken fool speaking to himself. He is remembering some of his most recent party experiences. He remembers that someone hit him - but the inebriated deadening of his senses did not remember it. His thought is that he was not badly injured - or at least not injured enough to be incapacitated. That is the idea behind the word "ill" here. It speaks of being ill enough to be weak or incapcitated. It speaks only of a severe wounding. Since this drunken fool was not so badly injured that he was laid up for days - he doesn't even consider the fact that he was struck.
Even worse he repeats this again when he says, "They beat me, but I did not know it." The first statement was a single blow received from someone. This second statement speaks of being beaten with multiple blows. His answer to this is that he did not even know he was being beaten. I've actually met people who were beaten badly - but did not realize it until someone else told them the next day when they were questioned as to why they had bruises on their body. What is truly sad is that they laughed about the situation, finding it funny that they were in a serious fight and didn't even know it. At this point I must also mention another sin of the drunken fool - and that is that some of them beat others. What I refer to is those drunken fools who beat their wives and their children. Some of them do not even remember the pain their inflicted on their loved ones while in the midst of their drunken stupor. The point here is that these fools are so drunk that they do not know what is happening during their beatings.
The last statement here is the worst of all. "When shall I awake? I will seek another drink." As the drunken fool falls asleep after his binge - he knows that he will wake up eventually. Does he awaken to seriously consider what he as done - the damage that is in the wake of his indulgent lifestyle? He does not. In fact, most alcoholics will blame everyone else for their choices and the havoc that follows in their wake. Their thought when they awaken is getting another drink. The literal statement here is this, "I will yet again drink." His thoughts are dominated by the next party, the next binge, the next over-indulgence, his next drunk. His life has become his drunkenness - and his desire to drown his miserable life in another bout of partying.
I know that some of you who read this may be thinking that I am too hard on the drunken fool. In fact you are pretty offended that I use that term to describe this man or woman. You prefer calling them an alcoholic - referring to their situation as a social disease rather than a series of foolish choices. You almost cringe at the strong statements that have been made in this post. God desires to deliver the drunken fool - and He loves him as He does any other sinner. But God makes it clear here and elsewhere that drunkenness is not funny, neither is it something we should treat lightly. God would not spend seven verses in a book that promotes wisdom unless this lifestyle was a breeding ground for fools. Having been a drunken fool in my past also gives me a pretty clear perspective on this sin. I know first hand the damage that comes from living this way. I also know that since I was in high school and college things have gotten progressively worse. Living in a college town and ministering to college students has made me aware that drunkenness on our campuses is running rampant. We don't even blink any longer - nor do we weep and pray for those who are caught in these lifestyles. We just say that they're kids and that is the way that kids act these days. We shrug our shoulders and walk away. Yet the damage increases every weekend. I know because I often deal with the young men and women who ache from it. Maybe instead of just winking at this - we should begin to fall to our knees and pray that God would so revive His church and restore us. Maybe we should not just complain and vote for dry counties - but also wade into the world of these young men and women who desperately need Jesus Christ in their lives. Maybe we should fight drunkenness with the greatest weapons we have in our arsenal - the gospel of Jesus Christ - and the truth of God's Word. Maybe then we could begin to see a harvest - not of drunken fools - but of redeemed ones who have turned to Jesus Christ and, as a result, have become wise!
Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, Or he who hears it will reproach you, And the evil report about you will not pass away. Proverbs 25:9-10Here is another of those Proverbs that seems to directly contradict what has been said in the previous verse. Here it has to do with arguing your case with your neighbor. But the thing that truly helps us to understand this proverb is that it deals with arguing your case with your neighbor "alone." The ESV and the KJV bring this out.
When a person has a conflict with another person, the best way for it to be resolved is for the two of them to get together and to work it out between them.
This is what the writer of Proverbs is saying here. This proverb has to do with gossip more than anything else. When there is a conflict, take the conflict to the person with whom you have the conflict - and no one else. That is what the writer is saying when he says not to reveal the secret of another. When there is a conflict, we don't need to reveal that we have had one with everyone else. That is usually what happens when there is a fight. We decide to talk with everyone else - telling them about everything that has happened and every way that this other person has hurt us - or has wronged us. That is revealing the secret of another.
Here is a concept that I know is foreign to the church today. When we have a fight or disagreement with someone - that situation is to be treated as if it is a secret between us and the person with whom we've had the disagreement. It is to remain that way - until we've worked it out with that person. The reason we should do this is because God will give us grace - and give the person with whom we have the disagreement grace. But anyone we bring into the situation - will not have grace to deal with it. They will tend to take one side or the other - and soon factions will begin to develop.
When the person with whom we have the disagreement begins to hear that we've told others - new problems will develop. The passage here says that when the person with whom we've had the argument hears that we're talking to others about it - they will reproach us for doing it. There is an additional offense when this happens. There are already problems with this person - but now they feel that they are being slandered with gossip.
Now the next step in all this is that the argument begins to develop into a full-sized war. They begin to send out an evil report about you. They are so offended that you've begun to gossip, that they begin to gossip as well. Just as you decided to share the worst of your disagreement with others - they do the same. You feel greater offense but what they are doing is only what you've already done to them. The sad reality with this entire situation is that it will continue toward greater and greater bitterness until one or the other involved with be Christlike enough to humble themselves and begin working toward true healing. This involves actually talking about the problem to the person with whom you have the problem. What is so sad is that the vast majority of the time all that happens is that the two people eventually move to an uncomfortable silence between them. Their relationship becomes superficial - awaiting the next blow up that will come in the future.
Argue your case with your neighbor alone. That is wisdom. It will bless you - and honestly - it will bless your church as well. This would be such a cause for maturity in the church. We would have to confront lovingly when we have a problem with a brother - but from what I've experienced - we would also have stronger relationships in the church or wherever we are having problems. May God bless us so that we begin to take this very wise advice and have stronger relationships in every aspect of life.