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 27:23-24
This verse in Proverbs kicks off a section that deals with diligence, as well as the fact of change in life. The wisdom offered here is to pay attention to things in your life because the one thing that will never change is that there is going to be change in your life. Time will march on whether you are paying attention to the parade or not. The danger posed to us by this is that life will change, either financially, politically, or spiritually and we will be caught off-guard by it.
One of the most effective ministries anywhere in the world is the ministry of neglect. This is an unintended ministry where we get busy in our lives - and neglect to watch over our finances, our marriage, our children, our business - even our own spiritual growth. Over time the ministry of neglect grows. Most people do not grasp what this ministry is doing until they are jolted as to its presence by a "suddenly-serious" problem. These are things that have been building up (or breaking down in many circumstances) and then make their appearance suddenly to us.
One of the best ways to describe this is to make reference to my very patient, very gracious wife. As a guy, I have a tendency to get over-focused in my life. As a result, I have had a pretty amazing track record of having the ministry of neglect in a number of areas of my life. What usually happens is that my precious bride wakes me out of my responbility slumber and alerts me to a way in which my life is in the process of falling apart. Whether it is in regard to my relationship with her - the rearing of our children - our finances - or any number of other things, I am usually shocked to see that there are problems. This rude awakening is a reminder that I truly do need to pay attention to things - many things - far better. The rude awakening is followed by - regret - conviction - repentance - and a flurry of action to put things right. Oh, and occasionally by being mad. The anger is experienced two ways - first I'm mad that someone is interrupting my stupidity (because at the time I don't see how stupid I'm being). Second, I am mad at myself for being so stupid - and letting things fall into disrepair through my ministry of neglect.
For the next couple of days, I want to look deeper into what is means to avoid having the ministry of neglect in your life. Before we are done, we'll look at several areas where this is important. We will examine the ministry of neglect and its affect on our personal lives, on our family, on our jobs or businesses, on our churches, and finally even on our nation and those who rule over us in the political structures under which we live. The ministry of neglect can be a very dangerous thing - if we continue in it. It is my hope that over the next several days we can strengthen the ministry of diligence - or said in a more eye-opening way - the ministry of true love.
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied. Proverbs 27:20
This is what I would call the iPhone 5 proverb. Now, before you think that I've become a sellout to the Apple Corportation, let me explain myself. This proverb has to do with the fact that since the fall of man there has been a condition called "sin" that radically affects man. One of the conditions from which we suffer is the "lust of the eyes." That is the specific thing this proverb addresses.
Let me start from the back side of this proverb first. We read that the eyes of man are not satisfied - in fact we see that they are NEVER satisfied. Now let me return to the iPhone 5. This was released within weeks of this post - and I believe was greeted with over 2 million people who wanted it as soon as it was released. The vast majority of these people had bought the iPhone 4S, which was an upgrade from the iPhone 4, which was an improvement over the iPhone 3. I hope you can see what is happening here. We are never satisfied with what our cell phones can do. We want something else - and all it takes for us to stand in line for the next upgrade is for Apple to dangle a few "exciting" changes before our eyes. When they do this, we are soon hooked - and just "have to have" this newest phone. Want to know why? It is because the eyes of our lusts are never satisfied. There will always be another "new and improved" that will command our attention - command our lusts - which will command us to lay down another several hundred dollars so that we have the latest. This is the case until the latest becomes outdated by the new latest, which is bound to come within a year of the last "latest" we had to have. Thus I have explained, I hope to your satisfaction (or possibly conviction) the iPhone 5 proverb. Next year, I'll have t rewrite this post to be the iPhone 6 proverb. By the way, the post will be new and improved, and will contain words that you will just have to read in order to be truly satisfied and fulfilled.
How strong is this desire of our eyes? That is where the opening part of our proverb comes into play. We read that Sheol and Abbadon are never satisfied. To the extent that these two are now satisfied - that is the extent to which we won't be either - at least in what we want to see. What are Sheol and Abaddon? They are two Hebrew names for the place of the dead - and the place of ultimate punishment. If we were to truly translate these two words they would be translated, "Death and Hell." One would think that after thousands of years of consuming mankind and all of nature that Death would be satisfied. (Note that these two - Sheol and Abaddon - are personalized. They are not just a state of being - they are almost humanized so that we feel we are dealing with an actual entity.) Death is not satisfied with the billions that he has. He consumes daily those who join his ranks. Wars, disease, violence, and old age swell the ranks of those in his grasp. He consumes kings and paupers and everyone in between. Yesterday he consumed thousands - and yet today his appetite for more is not satiated.
Abaddon is also placed before us. Many Hebrew scholars consider this to be the "second death" which is equivilent to hell. Whereas death consumes mankind in general - hell consumes the wicked of mankind with the same voracious appetite. No matter how evil man is in this generation - there will be more in the next. And just as the previous generation was consumed by the judgment and by hell itself - it seems that the next does not heed the warning, rushing headlong into the same eternal destruction. Does hell ever reach a point of being satisfied with his latest meal of the wicked and the ungodly? Contrary to the thought, hell wants even more men and women - never being satisfied with the last batch of fools who ignore God's call to their eternal damnation.
It is truly fascinating that God chooses to compare our unsanctified and uncontrolled eyes to both death and hell. So many wind up with a liberal harvest of death and hell because they never learn to submit what their eyes see to the will and Word of God. Lives are consumed, marriages destroyed, fortunes lost, and families disintegrated all because the eyes of men run wild.
So what is our response to such a terrifying proverb? It should be to come to God and to cry out for grace to redeem our eyes from their natural course and uncontrolled desires. We need to call out to God for His work of salvation - that we would be saved from the sins of our eyes. We need to also continuously call out to Him for His work of sanctification - that He would purify our eyes and keep us from having them be a starting point for all kinds of wicked thoughts and actions. Here is a promise of God for all of us. Jesus says to come to Him - all of us who are weary and heavy laden and He will give us rest for our souls. We do not have to be lead by our eyes into every sin - and every new iPhone - that comes our way, or is dangled before our eyes. We can take His yoke upon us and learn of Him - of a life satisfied with the only thing that will bring fullness to our souls. We were made for God - and anything but Him will never satisfy us. When we do this - we will no longer be driven by the deathly and hell-bent desire of our eyes, which only want something new to see and to lust after. We will learn, in participating in our Lord's life, that there is rest for our souls. Who knows - if we learn to look at Jesus, realizing that true fullness of life is found in Him - we might even find ourselves manifesting enough self-control and satisfaction to resist the iPhone 6.
Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself. Proverbs 22:24-25
Having angry friends will eventually train you to be an angry man. That is the gist of today's proverb. The statement, "do not associate" speaks of friendship. It speaks of those with whom we have close relationships. We are to avoid thos who are "given to anger" - meaning those who give themselves over to their anger. They do not control their anger - their anger controls them. If we wonder what a man given to anger looks like, we receive a little better description of him immediately afterward. He is referred to as a "hot-tempered man." The Hebrew here is very descriptive - referring to this man as a "hot-headed" man. The picture is of the angry man who becomes red in the face as he blows his top. We've all seen that before and need no further description to know about what the Bible is speaking.
The reason why we are not to have a friend who has serious anger problems is because of the principle of friendship. Here is the old west version of this principle Those we hang with may be the reason we are being hanged. In modern terms this principle is simply this. We will learn the behavior of our friends. The Bible puts it this way, "Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33) Therefore if we become close friends with a red-faced man - we will eventually be like him. We will learn his ways. The end of this is even more problematic. We will, through this situation, find a snare for ourselves.
The snare mentioned here is that we ourselves will become a "red-faced man." The anger that is in our close associate - will begin to manifest itself in our lives. Just a few days ago I was listening to a message by pastor Ken Graves and he made a devastatingly true comment about those who say that they have an "anger problem." Pastor Graves stated, "You don't have an anger problem, you have a self-love problem." That is a crushing thing to grasp when God first reveals it to you. Of course, this is only true because we pamper ourselves and justify our anger. We don't like it when people treat us badly - because we love ourselves so dearly. People should realize that we are worthy of far better treatment. If they just knew how truly awesome we are - like we know ourselves to be awesome - they'd treat us much better. Therefore we are justified in our anger - because a truly awesome person is being wronged! There, dear brothers, is the snare. The snare is not anger itself - but the self-love that perpetuates it.
God commands us to be angry - but not sin - and not to let the sun go down on our anger. There are truly righteous reasons to be angry (and none of them involve a love of self). Jesus was angry when He cleansed the temple courts. His anger was a righteous indignation that His Father's glory was being denigrated by making the place of worship and prayer a den of thieves. But other times Jesus was insulted, called terrible names, and even beaten and crucified - and did not react angrily. Maybe we should associate with Him and learn His ways? The Word tells us that if we take His yoke upon us and learn of His ways - we will find peace for our souls. God's promise is that as we behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord - we will be changed into that same image from glory to glory. Our character will truly reflect the glory of Jesus temperment. We will be changed from "red-faced" men to being "glory-faced' men.
There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
The wise man takes what God has given him and uses it wisely. He spends some and uses it for himself, his family, and his friends. He also saves some and puts it away for future use as well as for lean times. Today let's take a look at the acts of the wise man who saves for his future and the foolish man who simply swallows everything God grants to him.
We are told that precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise man. Whether he received these things from the practices of industry and frugality - or whether he received them as an inheritance from godly, thoughtful parents - the wise man knows how to save. Precious treasure is an interesting word as it has two connotations. The first is from how the word is used to refer to things like gold, silver, and other commodities. He saves money, food, and other valuable things so that he will have access to them in the future. Why does he do this? Because a wise man knows that since the world in which we live is fallen and affected by sin - there will be times of shortage and leanness. Throughout all human history there have been both abundance and famine in our world. Joseph knew such things from God Himself when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He did not waste time in the purcuit of gluttony and over-indulgence. Joseph was a wise man and saved and stored much so that when the famine came he would be ready. His foresight and obedience to God saved all of Egypt, saved his own family, and made Egypt rich beyond their imaginations.
There is a second way this word "treasure" is used. The word can also mean "temple treasures." These spoke of treasures that were given so as to build up and maintain the worship of God in the temple. In the dwelling of the wise there is provision stored up not only for physical welfare - but for the spiritual welfare of the home as well. There is little more foolish among mankind than to think this world is all that there is. They live ignorant of God and ignorant of their responsiblity to Him. The wise man stores up for both the physical and the spiritual. There is in his house a physical inheritance - but also a spiritual one as well. He lives godly and rears his children to love and honor God. He makes sure that the Word dwells richly within their hearts - desiring for them to walk with God and know Him intimately.
Not only is there treasure within this house of the wise, there is also oil. When speaking of oil - this could speak of the olive oil that was used in almost every aspect of a Jewish family. They needed this for food preparation - for spiritual worship for annointing oil - and for medical reasons like softening wounds and helping them heal. There was also the idea of savings - because some oils were very expensive. Mary offered a container of very expensive oil as she annointed Jesus with it in preparation for His crucifixion and burial. This alabaster vial was worth a whole year's wages. When one of the prpohetic students of Elisha died, his widow was in debt and in danger of haring her chidlren sold into debt slavery. Elisha answered this by having her collect numerous vials which later were supernaturally filled with oil. This she sold, paid her debt, and even had plenty to kep her and her children alive and well. This kind of oil would signify that a family was preparint for their future - for the needs of their children and grandchildren. On a spiritual note - oil was a picture of the Holy Spirit - so one could even consider this the way that a family cherished the work of the Spirit in their lives and encouraged it in themselves and in their children.
The foolish ones don't save any of these things - either physical or spiritual. Theirs is a consumer mentality. They swallow up whatever they receive with no thought of the future. They live by their lusts and desires - and therefore do not even consider anyone except themselves. The end of such a life is that they are broke, both physically and spiritually. The saddest example of this is the prodigal son. He took a large inheritance and wasted it on the party life. In the end he was broke. His so-called friends abandoned him and left him to fend for himself. This was only after he abandoned any kind of spiritual preparation for the future by rejecting his father and his father's God. He was left with nothing - except the grace his faher would give him in the end.
If we are wise we will realize we live in a fallen world. This will necessitate preparation for our future - both physically and spiritually. We will face famines physically that will require that lay up wise stores for that day in order for us and for our families to survive. But there is also a need to prepare spiritually - for there will also be a day when we will face being ready for the judgment of God. Oh to be wise and understanding so that our preparations will have our homes and lives filled with treasures both temporal and eternal so that we will be well provided for when the day comes that we need them. May God, in His grace, work in and deliver us from a life lived for self and for the moment. May we be ready for anything - famine in life - and fatal spiritual thinking in eternity.
It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman. Proverbs 21:19
Here we have a proverb about making a wise choice of our mate - or more specifically the wise choice of the right kind of wife. We see two words used to describe the wrong kind of woman, as well as one phrase used to describe what we will want to do if we choose one like this.
The first word used to describe a woman to avoid is the word contentious. This is the Hebrew word "madon" and it means one who is filled with strife and contention. This is a person always ready for a quarrel or dispute. These things come from a heart that is not right with God and a temper that is not under control. The man who marries such a woman will find that this contention, quarrelling, and strife will fill his home. There will always seem to be a problem - and that problem will lead to arguments and strong contentions. The home itself will not be a refuge - but a fight club.
The second word used here is the word vexing. This is the Hebrew word "kaas" which means vexation. This is a word we seldom use any longer - but it means to provoke someone to anger. The wrong kind of wife is one who herself is angry - and who seems to have as a goal provoking everyone else to anger as well. She is ready for a fight, which we get from the previous word - and she delights in being angry. What a difficult life this would lead to for the man who marries such a woman.
God then warns us what will happen if we marry such a woman. We will not enjoy living in our home. In fact we would choose to live in the wilderness than stay there. The stated New Testament purpose for a godly woman is to create a good home in which her husband and children can live. But when a woman is angry, bitter, and itching for a fight, such a home will not be possible. Her husband and family will prefer living in an inhospitible wilderness than that house - because the wilderness would seem far more hospitable than being with that woman in that house.
What a warning to us to choose our mates wisely. It is also a warning to go beyond how a woman looks to how well kept her heart is. Beauty will pass - and the vanity of looks will one day give way to the attractiveness of one's heart. In that day a man will know that it was a wise thing that he sought first a woman who feared God than a woman who was a physical beauty alone. Beauty is skin deep - but the ugliness of a wicked heart will torture for a lifetime.
He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live. Proverbs 15:27
Ours is a society that is quickly becoming corrupt at multiple levels. It has been sad to watch our country turn from one that valued integrity and honesty, to one that is moving toward the kind of values that exist in a banana republic. The frequency of elected officials being charged and convicted with fraud is alarming. The fact that we watch them use their positions of power to enrich themselves with laws they impose on us, while exempting themselves from their own statutes is terrifying. That is because, as we will learn from today's proverb, those who do such things bring trouble to their own home. This is true on a personal level, but also on a corporate and even national level too.
We read that those who profit illicitly trouble their own house. This simply means that when we choose to leave our integrity at the altar of greed and the pursuit of wealth at any cost, we are going to create serious problems for our family. This is for several reasons. First and most importantly is the trouble that is caused for our children and our grandchildren - even to the third and fourth generations of our family. They watch as we abandon God and embrace the pursuit of riches. Paul wrote young Timothy and warned that the love of riches is a root of all kinds of evil. He warns him in the book of 1 Timothy that some who have done this bring harm to themselves and pierce themselves with many a harmful desire. This will infect our families to several generations.
We see this in our current immoral business climate in the United States banking and financial sectors. Hardly a day goes by now without learning about another failure to preserve any moral foundation - as the generation that watched their parents make money and financial security their only goal now take those lessons to new lows. They are now grabbing all the money they can - in any way that they can - regardless of who is hurt and what businesses are destroyed in the process. The courts are now filled with men who set up ponzy schemes and who criminally mismanaged funds. We are learning that raw greed motivated them to steal money that was not theirs. Oh, and before we get too far away from our proverb, has brought great shame and trouble to their wives, children, and posterity even into the future.
We are given a protective against this in the second part of this proverb. The one who hates bribes will live. He will be protected against the devastating effects of greed. Bribes blind those who receive them. They are unable to see the truth because they are focused on easy money that is put in front of them. The bribe can be anything from the cash handed to a politician to look the other way of pass legislation that gives unfair advantages to certain businesses or groups - to the more subtle bribe that encourages someone to cut corners and cook books to cover their own greed for money. No matter how the bribe presents itself it is lying to us. It promises easy money, quick wealth, a way to get whatever we want without hard work and sacrifice. But the bribe lies to us - not telling us of the pitfalls and dangers that are inherent in living for the world and the flesh. These two foes of our spiritual growth and maturity are truly deadly - and can not just polute our spirits - but those of many future generations of our family. That is why we need to protect ourselves from "every kind of greed," as our Lord warns. For the truth is that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Life comes as we learn to submit every area of our lives to the Lord for Him to use for His glory. So the next time you are offered a bribe to lay aside biblical principles and values - see it for the dangerous thing it is. Reject it and turn to the Lord for strength to be content with what you have. That is the path to life!
There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. Proverbs 11:24
What does God think about those who are stingy with their time, their talents, and their finances? Here we see two people. The first is constantly scattering what he has. He does not hold it tightly to his chest and consider it his own. He scatters his time to those who need to be encouraged, loved, counselled, built up, and at times rebuked and corrected. He scatters his talents to the church - to the business he owns or works at - to the community when they need him. He scatters his finances as he invests in the kingdom of God and into the needs of others around him. This man is constantly scattering - not just money - but godly influence and the love of God. He is like a man walking through a barren-looking field - tilled - but without anything on it. As he walks he does not see the barrenness, but rather what that field can be if someone sows it properly. His scattering is not just giving away what God has given him. It is planting. It may not look like much as he scatters seed everywhere. But as that seed dies and comes to life first as a seedling, then as a plant, then as a full grown crop, then as a field that is white unto harvest - the man is seen for the wisdom that he had. He has scattered - yet he increases all the more. He will increase in influence - in favor with those whom he selflessly loves - in financial strength as God blesses him for his giving - in favor with God as he gives himself to obey the Lord and follow Him fully. This man will not be poor for scattering what was given to him. On the contrary - according as he has sown - he will reap thrity, sixty, and a hundred fold. He will take his talent and not bury it in the ground. He will invest it - return it to his master - and be put in charge of many things.
The stingy man's end is much different. We read that he withholds what is justly due. There is a pregnant statement if ever there was one. What is justly due? For those of us who know the Word of God - we are to give God a tithe of all that we have and produce. That does not come from the Old Testament Law - although it does teach tithing. It comes from Abraham's example before the Law was given. He gave a tenth of all he gained to Melchizedek. He did so as our example of giving - as well as he is the example of our faith as well. What is due though is everything! We are not just to surrender to God 10% and think we are done. We are to give all that we are and all that we have for God's glory. But the unwise man withholds what is due. He is not just a stingy man, he is a selfish man. Like the unwise farmer he thinks everything is his - to be used as he sees fit - for his own glory and his own selfish ends. When blessed with a bumper crop he does not consider giving some away. He chooses to tear down his old barns and build new ones that can keep all his stuff for himself. He is selfish to his own harm. The wisdom of God tell us that this man only winds up in want. The rich fool planned to keep everything for himself and died that very night. What he gained was nothingness for all eternity. The rich man who disdained to feed Lazarus with the scraps of his table did not die rich. He died selfish and self-centered. He died poorer than Lazarus - for he died and went to eternal punishment in hell. He had everything he could think of in life - but in death he wound up destitute for eternity.
Dear saints of God - learn to be one who scatters rather than one who only gathers and holds tighly. The tight-fisted man will have his hand broken - and his grip crushed in the end. Everything he thinks he holds tightly to will be gone in an instant. He will ultimately lose everything. The generous man who scatters will not lose anything. In fact his sowing guarantees that a crop will come and a harvest 50 times greater than he had before will come. Truly the wise man is the generous man - the giving man - the scattering man. Be that man.
Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death. Proverbs 19:18
At first glance this particular proverb seems kind of intense. But when you consider what happens when a child is not taught to bring his selfish tendencies under some kind of discipline and control - you are leaving them in a very precarious position in life.
We are to discipline our children early. That is what is being said by saying to discipline a child while there is hope. The hope is that by helping a child to recognize selfishness - and to fight its destructive ways - you are giving that child hope for better things. Consider if you will the start of life on this planet. We are taught that Adam and Eve had two sons. Jealousy led one son to kill his brother. The early chapters of Genesis inform us of a remarkable downward spiral that took place in the human race. By the time God decided to destroy all but Noah's family, the imagination of man was set continuously on evil. It did not take long for the Fall of mankind to manifest itself in every kind of sin and rebellion imaginable. This is why we MUST discipline our sons. Because of the Fall mankind is basically and terminally selfish and self-centered. Left to himself man would destroy himself with this selfish bent. Discipline at an early age helps to combat this natural selfish tendency. We bring this discipline to our children in hope that they will have their basic, natural selfish tendencies held in check until a time when they are convicted of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not that we think we can overcome the flesh by child-training, but we do see a need to put limitations and boundaries in their lives so that the flesh is not completely unchecked.
To withhold discipline from a child is to "desire his death." There are some who translate this as meaning that a father is not to discipline so severely that he winds up killing a child, but the evidence behind this translation is very weak. The King James version translates it as a call to discipline a child and not be swayed by their crying. When you discipline a child properly, most will cry. Some will cry because they were spanked - others will cry because they are responding to the guilt of being caught - while still others will cry to try to get you to stop the discipline process. Whatever the case, this passage, if translated this way is trying to steel the heart of a parent who may decide against discipline because their heart just can't handle having their child cry or be in any kind of pain. This is actually selfishness on the parent's part because they should be looking at the long term effects of the punishment and discipline, not the short-term reaction of the child.
The other main way this is translated is to warn the parents of the long term effects of not disciplining a child. The natural selfishness of a child will lead them to reject the Lord and embrace their full sinfulness. This, if left to fester and grow to its fullness will bring a child to a point where they will embrace a lifestyle without God. In the end, their willfulness will kill them - if not with actions that are harmful to their lives - then with a rejection of God and His discipline. Hebrews 12
:5-9 reminds us that God disciplines us as a godly parent would. If a child is only used to getting their own way, they will reject such a God - and will ultimately reject Christ.
Disciplining a child is serious business. We are to do so with a godly set of standards and choices. These guide a father as he disciplines with a view to godliness - and also as he reigns in his own anger and refrains from having discpline turn into abuse. But the real end in disciplining a child is to turn them away from their own selfish, fleshly tendencies. The process of making a child face correction and conviction for doing wrong is preparation for God's future rebuke of their conduct. This one will come by God's grace as they are convicted of their sin - and brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the answer for their sinfulness and need of salvation. In light of THAT day, discipline your child and make them face their selfishness and sinfulness - for your preparatory work will TRULY prevent them from death - ultimate death due to sin.
"Bad, bad," says the buyer, But when he goes his way, then he boasts. Proverbs 20:14
There are proverbs which present the heart of man to us - so that we can know how to deal with men in a fallen world. This is one of those proverbs. The truth of this proverb needs to be grasped especially by those who are in the business world - and those who go forth to buy and sell in the marketplace. If we know this truth, we will be better armed to know the hearts of men - and to know how to bargain with them, as well as why they can be so stubborn and insistent on getting a price as low as possible.
We have here what seems to be a contradiction in the one who is the buyer. At one point he is saying, "Bad, bad," about the merchandise that he is seeking to buy. Yet in the next moment, after making the purchase, he boasts about what he has received. This is deceit on the part of the buyer - yet he is engaging in the deceit to make sure that he can get the lowest price possible. Not that this is ethical at all - but it is far too often how men think they need to negotiate.
A story is told by St. Augustine of a certain banker in his time who told an entire theater of men that he would show every man what was in his heart the next time they met. When the time came, the theater was full and all awaited with a breathless silence for his words. He stood up, and in a single sentence said, "You all wich to buy cheap, and sell dear." The crowd waited for an instant - then broke into applause for his statement, but everyone one of themt agreed that the same was in every one of their hearts. This reveals to us the very same thing that this proverb says today. We all wish to buy as cheap as possible, and then sell the same at the highest price we can get.
Some might say that this is why the captialist system needs to be destroyed and replaced with another system that is based on equality. Yet there is a fundamental problem with any other system - especially socialism or communism. Who is going to guarantee this so-called equality? Is there one among us who is NOT tainted by sin? Is there anyone who can say that selfishness does not enter the equation? And can anyone deny that when systems are put into place where the government is supposed to provide true equity, that the very government that promises this fairness, eventually turns to be the greatest oppressor of the people in the end?
Though this proverb may cause some to chafe at the thought of its inherent selfishness, we need to see that in a fallen world, no one is able to truly do business without an inherent self-interest. But when a system is put into place that allows the greatest freedom of choice by the people, then this inherent self-interest actually acts as a guard against any one person taking control of everything and acting in their own self-interest to the detriment of all.
The wise man knows the heart of God - and in this case, he also knows the heart of men. John 3
says that Jesus knew what was in the heart of a man. That is why He did not gauge His success or failure on the momentary accolades of the crowds that surrounded Him. They cheered Him when He multiplied bread and fish, but then left Him in John 6
when He spoke hard truth to them. A wise man knows the hearts of men - and that is why in the arena of men governing men, he sets up safeguards. Our forefathers were wise in setting up a system of government where all three branches had checks and balances to ensure that none would become dominant over all. In the same way, it is wise for man to function under an economic system where his own selfishness is a check and balance on him in the marketplace.
There is a way which seems
right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12
Why is it that we cannot just trust our natural instincts concerning God and issues of morality and truth? If this proverb is true (and it is), then we face a very real danger when we trust what we think is right in our lives. When we live a self-directed life and a life that is self-oriented - we are going to have very serious problems. Why is this the case?
First of all, we need to see that for a time in this life - this proverb may seem like it is wrong. There are those who do what they think is right - and it seems to go well for them. I would agree with this assessment for the here and now - for life on this earth. But that is not what this proverb is saying to us. It is saying that the end of a self-directed life is death. The word end here is our old friend, "acharith," the Hebrew word meaning the latter end of things.
Things seemed to be going marvelous for the rich farmer who did not use his riches for the glory of God. Things seemed to be going well for the rich man who lavished abundance on himself, but did not even notice the starving Lazarus at his gate. Things seemed to be going well for Belshazzar the king as he feasted with his nobles and friends and drank wine out of the temple goblets and toasted the gods of silver and gold. Things seemed to be going well for many people who lived a life of luxury and self-indulgence here on earth. The problem is going to come at the latter end of their lives.
The rich farmer, after building bigger barns and saying he was set for life - experienced the end of his life - and had done nothing to prepare for eternity. The rich man realized as James said, the humiliation of his exalted position on earth, as he envied the destitute Lazarus' one in the afterlife. He begged for Lazarus to only dip the tip of his finger in water and touch the end of his tongue - for he was in agony in the fires of hell. Belshazzar soon grasped the infinite foolishness of serving the false gods of silver and gold - when the true and living God sent a hand to write on his wall. He learned that his self-directed life had been weighed in the balances - and he was found wanting. One can only hope he enjoyed that banquet that evening - for by the next evening he was dead and in hell - forever wanting in the sight of God.
These three are examples for us of the stupidity of the self-directed life. There are many others in Scripture and in life who follow their footsteps into hell. There is Dathan and Abiram who opposed God and received a non-stop trip to hell via the ground opening up and swallowing them and their families whole. There were the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah who undoubtedly held the same concept of God keeping His morality off of their bodies. They wound up fried along with their cities as God's judgment revealed their latter end. And, lest we think that this ignoble end is only for those guilty of heinous sin - there are those who die every day as good ole boys - as "good" "moral" people. Their ultimate end was sealed when they decided that they were decent enough and did not need Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross to pay for their sins.
When you listen to the news, the entertainment industry, the religious elite, and the gurus of public opinion - you would think that the cross of Christ is foolishness (Gee that sounds like Paul in 1 Corinthians doesn't it). You would think that mankind does not need a religious crutch to lean on - mankind can solve their own problems without religion or some savior. But reality is this - mankind does not need a crutch. We would only need a crutch if we were injured. The fact is that we are dead! We need a whole new life. We might need a religious system if we only needed modification. The fact is that we are ruined. We need to be completely regenerated and made new. But the world for the most part rejects these truths revealed to us in Scripture. They have a way that seems right to them - that makes more sense. That is because "the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." It is because, "the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks (read thinkers here) search for wisdom; but we preach Christ curcified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
There is that way that seems to right to men - but in the end "THAT WAY" is actually the foolish and the stupid one. If they continue following it and reject the gospel . . . it will end in death - eternal death in hell. I know that is not popular in today's culture - either religious or secular - but nevertheless - it is the truth. If we are wise we will reject what the world calls wisdom - and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ - for that is truly wisdom that will last through all the ages and until the end of time.