Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. Proverbs 27:23-24As we look at this passage in Proverbs 27, we are examining the Ministry of neglect. This proverb is encouraging us to know the condition of things in our lives well! The example used is for our flocks - and yet many of us do not have any livestock. The wisdom that is offered is that we know well the things that are important in our lives. Over the next week we'll be looking at six different areas of our lives in which it is wise for us to avoid the "Ministry of Neglect" that just seems to come to naturally to us all.The first area we will look at is our personal lives. In this area we need to know well the condition of our heart. This speaks to our spiritual condition before God. How are you doing spiritually? Are you being more Christlike in your actions and attitudes? Are you showing spiritual growth so that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in how you live? On a different level, are you reading the Word of God daily? What about prayer - are you praying? Are you sharing your faith with others - and being an instrument of God's grace and love in your local fellowship? A good thing to do, if you want to keep up with such things, is to occasionally have a brother or sister in Christ lovingly, yet honestly, answer these questions. Want a real challenge? Ask your wife and your children. Another area of our personal lives is our health. This is one that if often overlooked - and yet according to 1 Corinthians 6:19 - our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So the question is applicable - how is your health? Are you eating well - or is the sin of gluttony resulting in health issues for you? Are you exercising regularly? Are you getting enough sleep and resting on a regular basis (God suggests 1 out of every 7 days for this). If you do not take care of yourself - you should not be surprised if your body - and even your mental state begins to fall apart. I am not saying that we should turn into health and fitness fanatics - just that we should do a basic job of caring for ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you practicing good mental health? Do you live in reality - or is most of your time spent in a fantasy land - either on television or in an online game. Are you living for online relationships more than those around you in your home? Too many find themselves locked into the online world rather than the real one. Then there are mental habits. How are you doing with your mind? Are you reading and learning anything? This is something people don't grasp in our society. We are becoming a society of morons - because we don't do anything to benefit our minds. There is so much out there besides television (and especially besides reality TV) that can help you become a smarter person. Are your reasoning skills advancing - or are you letting the TV, radio, and others think for you? Oh, how much we lose when we don't practice good mental habits. The potential here is massive - and few if any of us tap into it. One last area that I'll meddle in is our personal finances. How are they going? Are we exercising wisdom in how we are handling the money God gives to us? Do we look like a wise or a foolish steward of what God places into our hands? It is actually wise to occasionally take a step back and see if we are being wise - and are practicing self-control over our spending habits. If not - we can suddenly find that our bank account will not sustain us at a level we are currently living. I can only imagine how much many have been offended by this particular post. We are not exactly an honest people when it comes to stepping back and taking a real look at ourselves. If it helps any - I was pretty convicted in several areas of my own life just writing this. Doing this can help us so much though. Remember - this post is about the Ministry of Neglect. It is too easy for us to forget areas of our lives - until they come back to bite us in the rear. That is why I would encourage you to schedule a quarterly check-up . . . for yourself. You might be shocked at how it helps keep you on track. I know that writing this has made me consider a few ways that the ministry of neglect has been active - and - I can see how if I continue to neglect things - I'll end up paying a lot more than I want to in my future.
The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. Proverbs 20:29
Today's proverb gives us some valued information about both young men and old men. This is not a proverb that compares them against each other. It gives us the best view of what is wonderful about them - and what they should strive for in their youthful zeal - as well as their older, wiser days.
There are some great words used here to describe the younger man and his pursuit in the things of God - and in life in general. Note that God's wisdom tells us there is a "glory of young men." When you are younger in years you seek after the glory of something. This is not meant to be a negative statement - as if the younger man is usurping the glory of God. They just have an appetite for glory. The best way to describe this is that they yearn for rewards in life. If you place a goal with a reward that grants glory for something - young men will pursue it with great passion. These are the years when trophies, plaques, awards, and bonuses mean the most. Put a goal in front of these young men - and they will be greatly motivated to reach it. This is why the movement to make everyone equal at a young age is not good for our children. The whole, "we don't keep score" and "everyone is a winner" is not a realistic view of life. Granted we don't want competition to become an all-consuming desire to where morals and character don't seem to matter any longer - but the fact of life is that there is going to be competition. There are going to be winners and losers chosen in almost every area of life. Solomon warns that this can become vanity - when competition becomes the only thing that matters - but at the same time God's Word exhorts us to run the race "so as to win." Only one person gets the prize (or one team) but a wise parent encourages his children to excell at what they do - even if all they have to measure their success is their own previous performance.
We read here that the young man's glory is his strength. Young men want to be strong in some way. Some choose physical strength - others mental prowess. Whatever way they choose, they love being seen as strong in something. There is a wisdom that takes this desire and channels it in ways that are very constructive. Encourage your young men to find something they enjoy - or an area in which they can excell. Put goals and lofty aspirations before them in this - and then encourage the daylights out of them as they strive toward it. Let me give you a small example of this. Too often we do not challenge our young men - and this is a detriment that cripples them later in life. We are so given to the fear that they will have their self-image damaged - that we do not see that it already is because as young men they are not being challenged to do great things. One summer I took the high school guys I work with and challenged them to read the New Testament once a month - and memorize 8-10 verses a week. They were to do this in June, July, and August. Some might be concerned that I was "setting them up to fail" and that their poor little self worth would be damaged as a result. But that was not the case. They rose to the task with youthful vigor and strength! They loved it - and as a result were blown away at what God did in their hearts as they strove for something challenging. They each felt their strength as they were challenged to do something that was a huge challenge. They would come in week by week having met the challenge - or needing to step up and do what needed to be done to meet it. These young men gloried in the strength to do something hard for God.
What about old men? What is it that motivates and moves them. Note first that the word glory is removed and the word honor is inserted. Older men desire honor - but once again let me state that they do not desire God's honor in an ungodly way. Their desire is for others to realize that they have lived a godly, honorable life - and due to this should be respected and honored for their years of labor and wisdom. The proverb says that older men are honored due to their grey hair. Grey hair is achieved by . . . getting older It means that you've lived for a while. We joke that grey hair comes because of walking through the difficulties and challenges of life. That may not be as much of a joke as we think. Grey hair means you are no longer a young man plowing through life's difficulties. It means you've walked through them - and honestly - know ways that are wiser and better. Grey hair comes with battle scars and with proven character in the difficult trials that life throws your way. Grey hair means you've been around for a while - you've been knocked down a lot - but it also means that you've gotten back up and continued in the way a little better and a little wiser. There is a phrase older men know - you learn to work smarter, not just harder. This comes from wisdom - and it is a reason to be honored. Honor comes when people listen to you. They listen, not because you love to talk and because you have a thousand stories you repeat again and again. They listen because you are wise and becasue you truly have something to say. They listen because you not only know the road - but you know the good short-cuts. You know the the short-cuts that work - and those that will result in disasters. You also know that some things are only learned over time - and that there are no short-cuts to them. They also listen because you've walked with God for years - have survived the pitfalls and ambushes of life - and have come out a godly man.
There is a lack of wisdom that unwisely pits younger men against older men. It devalues one or the other while trying to make the case that one is more important than the other. The truth - and wisdom tells us that both are needed. The military needs strong young men who can fight - yet it also relies on older, seasoned men to strategize the best ways to fight and defend the land. Business needs young, strong men who can work hard and cover a lot of things - yet it also relies on older, wiser men to navigate the dangerous paths that can often destroy a business. Both are needed - if they understand their roles and don't succumb to jealousy. Blessed is the business, organization, and nation who grasps this - who values the strength of young men and the grey hair of older ones. They will receive the best of both ends of the age spectrum - and will prepare the next generation of older men to do the same. The fact is this - the younger men of today are becoming the older men of tomorrow. Oh that we will learn to value the contributions of both - and will find ourselves continuously training the next group of older men who will lead and appreciate the younger.
A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31
Hooray for the "hoary-headed!" Sorry, a brief return to KJV language. This means the grey-haired man is the wise man. But before we equate wisdom to everyone with grey hair - and wicked motives to everyone who uses "Just for Men" to get grey out of their hair and beard - maybe we should examine everything in this proverb.
What is the second half of this verse referring to . . . an older person - or a crown of glory? It refers a little to both - but mostly to the crown of glory. There is only one other key passage where this admonition is given in connection with being older. It is found in 1 Peter 5:1-4 - and the admonition here refers to "elders" in the church. Oh, but there is much we can learn from it.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:1-4
Note that this passage speaks of older me who do the following. First, they are active in the local church - serving at the highest levels of leadership - which means that they also exhibit the highest levels of servanthood to others.
Second, they voluntarily lead a life of giving and serving others - certainly a wise thing to do - and a godly thing to pursue. What do you VOLUNTEER for in working at the church? Where do you serve God and others there? Do they have to beg you to serve - or do you joyfully volunteer - even to clean toilets if that is necessary. This is wisdom on display!
Third, they serve according to God's will - not their own ego. Older men who learn to do this will be a blessing for hundreds of years in God's church - because younger men see powerful men who subdue their ego in preference to God's will. Too many churches have been destroyed because unwise men tried to serve God in the power of their own ego - thus serving the church became all about them and their desires for what THEY wanted the church to become. These men turn more into church "bosses" than churchmen who are servants of God's will first and foremost.
Fourth, they serve the church and others without thought of money. They are selfless men who do not desire salary and benefits - just blessing to God's people.
Fifth, This do this with eagerness - they LOVE serving God and His people. This goes back to serving God joyfully - even chomping at the bit to help in some way . . . or . . . being dragged griping and moaning because you have to sacrifice in some way your own wants to serve others - who honestly - ought to be serving you! Yeah, this way of living is the fool's way. A wise man knows a little serving in this life - means blessing in the next.
Sixth, older, wiser men serve God as examples to the rest of the flock. They don't lord it over those they lead - they lead in such a way that others follow - because they see the example of servanthood in their leaders.
So . . . this is most likely the way this old dude got his horey-headedness - or grey hair. He got it learning to serve God - not himself. He also knows that the one who does this will be rewarded by the "Chief Shepherd" - read Jesus - Who will give him the "crown of glory" when He comes. Not a bad way to be rewarded - but then again - not a bad way to live our lives either!
The fear of the Lord prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. Proverbs 10:27
Among the things that help people have a long life, my guess is that fearing God is not listed very often, yet that is what we learn today from our proverb of the day. The fear of the Lord prolongs life is what we are told by Solomon. This means that we have great respect and honor for God Himself and for His Word. Therefore this man chooses to obey God and do what His Word says. If we only looked at this from a medical perspective, it is true. The Old Testament dietary and cleanliness commands present the healthiest way to live possible. These laws protected the people of Israel from disease and from a host of illnesses that are related to how people eat. They also protected them by keeping them from a myriad of bacterial, viral, and commuicable diseases. They were not just advanced for their day, they were advanced even for our day. We continue to learn of the wisdom of God through these dietary and public health guidelines. If one were simply to follow these commands, they would be blessed with a long life. They would also not have the usual diseases that shorten life for many in today's world.
The opposite is also stated here - that the wicked will have their years shortened. Again, as was said earlier, there are a number of diseases that an ungodly way of life brings. Abuses in how one eats, drinks, and lives sexually - will greatly shorten someone's life. There are also studies that have looked at how a peaceful heart also will lengthen a person's life. When stress levels are high - all kinds of problems develop both physically and mentally. Some, who otherwise would have lived long lives, did not because of what excessive stress did to them. Of all the areas where these truths apply, our choices in sexuality are the clearest ones of all. When a wicked person ignores God's call to abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage, there are multiple problems that develop. First there are sexually transmitted diseases. These abound in a sexually promiscuous society. They shorten lives of millions - and also greatly reduce the quality of a person's life as well. When we factor in the diseases that are rampant in the homosexual community we see that ignoring God and not fearing and respecting His Word shortens the lives of too many.
Let me close by dispelling a bad attitude some have toward the whole idea of fearing God. The reason so many do not like this idea is because they treasure their own independence from God. They do not want to have an all powerful, all wise God who knows the truth and tells us what it is. But the reason we should fear God is BECAUSE He knows the truth. When He tells us something and warns us of adverse consequences - He is right. These things WILL HAPPEN to us - and will cause untold grief and, in the case of today's proverb, sometimes even early death.
Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:16
Wisdom has many benefits for the one who chooses to walk in it. That is what we are told today in Proverbs 3:16. We are told that God promises by long life and riches and honor to the ones who walk in wisdom.
First let us look at the promise of long life. When a man walks in God's wisdom he will walk in peace. Wisdom counsels us to be made right with God and to cooperate with Him throughout life. This will calm a man and grant him a longer life. Reports come back regularly explaining to us that a peaceful, tranquil heart is great for our health. Stress will kill a man in the end - because stress will release toxins in the body and cause the heart to have to work much harder than it usually does. Wisdom will also offer us long life because wisdom calls us away from the excesses of the wicked. Having embraced a life of moderation and temperance, we will be spared much of the difficulty that comes from the varied gluttonies of life.
We are also told that wisdom will give us riches and honor. Throughout the book of Proverbs we read tremendous amounts of wisdom in regard to our finances and how we should operate in business. Having talked with several of the successful businessmen in my own congregation, they have assured me that reading the proverb of the day - and learning to follow the counsel of Scritpure on financial matters will yield wealth. I'm not talking about the kind of wealth that the health, wealth, and prosperity people tout. This is the wealth that acrues due to wise management of our money and our lives.
Wisdom also holds in her hands honor for us. The word for honor here is "kabod" - which speaks of a weightiness in life. This speaks of honor given by others as they see how we live. Wisdom will help us to live an honorable life in the sight of God, which in turn will move the Lord to grant us honor in the sight of others - and most importantly, in His sight.
Rather than health, riches, and honor due to a "name it, claim it" type of mentality, this passage is truly teaching us something amazing. Just for the fun of it - I would call this the "learn it, spurn it" mentality. As God teaches us wisdom - we learn from Him of His ways and paths. He instructs us in the way that we should go - and that has reference to everything we do and everything we are. We learn it - in His presence - by His Spirit - as He endeavors to educate us teaching us His Word. As we embrace His ways - we also learn to "spurn it." This simply means that the more we learn of wisdom and of God's Word, the more we will spurn the ways of this world, and the ways of our own flesh. This will help us to truly be blessed in all that we do.
Before I finish with this proverb, I would like to show a couple of New Testament verses that reiterate this same principle for us - just using slightly different language. First is what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Here in very simple language is the pursuit of wisdom. We learn to seek as the first order of business in our daily lives, His kingdom and His righteousness. Said another way, we seek for His rule and reign over every thought and action, and we have Him determine what is right in every situation. Truly this is wisdom - and the promise we receive? He will add all the other things (here refering to food and clothing) to us.
The second verse is 1 Timothy 4:8, ". . . for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." Here we see that wisdom will always lead us to live a godly life. This godliness is profitable here and now, as well as throughout all eternity. Seeing this, it is my hope for both you and me that we will embrace her - embrace wisdom - and find that in both hands there awaits us great blessing from God.
For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you. Proverbs 9:11
I receive health food, supplement, and exercise information on a regular basis. I do this because I realize that there are benefits to eating and doing the right things for my physical body. But there are those in the health-conscious world who think that this alone is how to have a long, healthy, happy life. They are sadly mistaken.
Here in Proverbs 9 we have wisdom personified telling us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom - and that the knowledge of the Holy One is the way to live with understanding in this world. Immediately after that statement wisdom then tells us that He is the One who can add to our days and give us a long, happy life. It is wisdom that mattters - and God is the One who can give it to us.
While I do agree that certain health-conscious choices will lengthen our days - none of the sage advice of the health guru's has anything on the revelation of God in the Scripture. When you look at the Old Testament laws concerning food and cleanliness, you realize that within that system that is nearly 4000 years old is the best way to stay healthy and free from disease. It is really shocking to some when they realize this. I mean, these folks didn't even have hand sanitizer!
God's Word goes far beyond just physical well-being though. It moves into the area of spiritual well-being. That involves far more than just sitting on a floor chanting and centering yourself in . . . yourself. It involves being in a right relationship with God. It is moving all your temporary, momentary physical health toward what God intended for you in the first place - to know, serve, and love Him. If we are not doing this - it really doesn't matter how many "pain-free" and "vital" years we live on this earth. Things WILL go badly for us the moment we die. So, may God give us wisdom to follow Him . . . in what is best for us physically, and what is best for us spiritually. That is the way to a long, healthy, wonderful life here on earth - and a life after your days here are ended - that will last throughout all eternity.
By the transgression of a land many are its princes, But by a man of understanding and knowledge, so it endures. Proverbs 28:2
Those of us who live in the United States have never experienced a coup in our lifetimes. The most disturbing event of our republic has been the Civil War in the 1860's. There has been a remarkable stability that God has allowed in this nation when it comes to how we deal with our rulers and the peaceful transition of power down through the years. That is what this particular proverb comments upon - what brings about the stabilty and enduring character of a nation.
The transgression of a land brings it many princes. Transgression here means a breach of trust or rebellion. Understanding that we are reading Scripture - we need to grasp that the rebellion spoken of here is that which is against God. When a nation begins rebelling against God - trouble is brewing for it. Contrary to our current psuedo-constitutional view of separation of church and state - (which is interpreted more like separation of state and the God of the Bible) - our nation is under God. That fact exists regardless of whether that phrase is printed on our money or recited in our public school classrooms. All nations are under God Who is Sovereign over the universe. Thus God holds all nations to His moral law. When a nation rejects Him and His moral law - a measure of chaos results which grows over time. If a nation continues on its path of rejecting God and His ways - soon there will be rumblings of the coming moral and political earthquake that will hit society.
In our nation we began to reject God's ways in the early part of the 20th century. That continued through the teen's and 30's - where we faced the first world war and the beginnings of the great depression. God was trying to get our attention, but we ignored Him for the most part. The 40's brought another world war - even more horrific than the first. Europe, who rejected the Lord in greater measure than the U.S. was doing, faced devastation from this war. Unfortunately, we really didn't learn much from their example either. There was relative prosperity in the 50's but the moral rumblings were gathering to become an earthquake. Parents who chased the American dream - soon found in their children of the 60's the American nightmare. Those children rejected the idol of money their parents served and toked up, tuned out, and rebelled against everything their parents stood for in life. They also embraced publically what their parents had done privately. The 50's and 60's saw the rise of private indiscretion and adultery - the practice of keeping mistresses (though secretly for the most part) and the beginning of the divorce culture in our nation. The children of these parents rejected marriage altogether and embraced what they called, "free love" which was just the bondage of fornication. This culture of sexual immorality then gave rise to easily accessible abortion as a convenient way to deal with problem pregnancies in the early 70's. Just as Scripture tells us in Romans chapter 1 the heterosexual immorality of the 50's, 60's, and 70's gave way to the homosexual immorality of the 80's and 90's. But during this time we saw another thing begin to happen. The political dialogue, which has always had a tendency to be contentious, began to be toxic. There also began was a great rise in the number of politicians who no longer cared about any kind of long term benefit or damage to our country, as long as they could be re-elected and consolidate their power. Decisions were made and money was spent without thought to the problem their debt was causing for our future. This kind of careless and selfish rule has given rise to our current political climate. Our current situation is that our country is badly divided over political and moral issues. The rift is about 50/50 - and the radicalism of those opposing each other is rising - as is the rhetoric used to describe one another. Could it be that a coup or a revolution could be in our future. I certainly hope not - but our proverb today tells us to the contrary.
The "many princes" spoken of at the first part of our proverb do not refer to our current type of government with many leaders serving within it. It refers to the problem of coups and overthrows. It speaks of those usurping power. When a land or country begins having a total disregard for the Lord and His Laws - that country is headed for trouble.
The proverb also tells us how to have a nation endure. It endures by having a man of understanding and knowledge around. The two words used here are vital to us grasping what God is saying here. Understanding is the Hebrew word "bin" and it means to be discerning, to be able to perceive, to pay attention to things - having the ability to apply God's wisdom to a situation in life. The second word, knowledge, is the Hebrew word "yada" and it means to know - and here it refers to the ability to discriminate between what is right or wrong, good or bad. It also has the idea along with it of knowing what to do - which in this case refers to what God desires that the nation do. Consider these two words - their overt reference to God's wisdom - and the current way God is viewed by our elected leaders. Do you see much of a chance outside of God's intervention in revival for us to have leaders like this?
A wise and discerning counsellor or leader is able to help a nation endure. Think for a moment about our founding fathers and the documents they gave to us in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These were for the most part godly men - or at least God fearing men. Their wisdom and desire to honor God in this nation resulted in a document that has guided our nation for over 200 years! Considering the history of democracies and constitutional republics, this is nothing short of astounding.
There have also been wise counsellors that were able to help out even godless dictatorships to prosper for a season. Men like Daniel and Joseph offered wise, godly counsel that allowed the nation in which they lived to prosper greatly for a season. Such nations would have imploded were it not for the direction given by these wise sages who gave wisdom according to God's direction. Oh, that such a man would rise up in our day and give much needed direction to our leaders in the midst of their political and legislative quagmire.
God blesses nations - and He also humbles nations. Scripture tells us that the nation is blessed whose God is the Lord. I know that this goes against the grain of the constitutionally ignorant in our nation, who believe the lies of the separation of church and state crowd. Our nation prospered and was blessed not due to liberals and the godless. It prospered and endured because of the godly men of understanding and knowledge - our discerning forefathers and those who followed the design they laid out for our nation. May God have mercy upon the United States of America and give us more men like them in the very near future!