The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and each is tested by the praise accorded him. Proverbs 27:21
One of the wisest things ever said to me was said by a Australian professor at the seminary that I attended in Memphis, Tennessee. He told us that the most difficult test we will ever have in life is to experience praise and success. That will test you in ways you are not ready to handle - unless you have truly embraced the humility of Christ in your life. Today's proverb tell us the same thing - that we will be tested by the praise that is given to us.
The picture that is painted for us is that of a crucible and a furnace. These two things are used to refine silver and gold. The process begins with the base ore being put into the crucible. As the heat increases the valuable metal sinks into the crucible, while the junk rises to the top. The one refining the ore scraps the slag from the top of the crucible. Over time more impurities come to the top - and each time they are scraped off revealing purer and purer silver or gold. So the picture that is painted for us is that of a purifying process brought on by heat and stress on the metal.
In a similar way, we are tested when praise and success comes our way. We are faced with a choice when this happens. We can either believe our own press and think we really are awesome - or - we can be realistic about things and know that any goodness in us is solely due to God's grace and goodness. The opposite of this response is pride. We begin to take pride in ourselves and our accomplishments. We have the audacity to think we are the cause and the wisdom of our own works. Yet any good thing seen in us is the grace of God at work.
I've watched this process in the my own life and in the lives of others. Nothing tests us like praise that comes our way. I watched a very successful church that was praised begin to think they deserved the praise for what they were going. It was a trerrifying thing to watch God first remove His presence from the church - and then begin to discipline the church for their arrogance and pride. The moment we think that anything but God's grace is responsible for our success and praise, in that moment we have miserably failed the test.
A wise man knows that his first response to praise should be one of two things. Either he expresses gratefulness to the one who had praised him - or he immediately deflects the praise offered to God Who is truly responsible for what has happened. Let us therefore be wise and immediately take any praise given to us - and give it to God. May we realize that truly any good seen in us is a result of the grace and mercy of God. That is the way to pass the test of praise offered to us.
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
What needs to be done to make sure our plans succeed? Today's proverb gives us that information. We find that the counsel God gives us on this helps us to grasp that to be a good leader who is able to make and succeed in plans, we do not need to be someone who can do it all themselves. Contrary to that thought - a good leader is one who when making plans is willing to consult with others. A great leader is one who also regularly consults with God.
Counsel is absolutely necessary when making good plans. Our passage today reminds us that plans are broken and frustrated when we do not do this. The word for frustration here is "parar" which means to break, divide, or frustrate. What is interesting is that the Bible speaks several times to the effect that God is the One Who will frustrate our plans if we do not seek Him in the midst of making them. What is even more fascinating is that we read in Isaiah 14:27
, that the Lord's purposes cannot be frustrated. This leads us to the conclusion that the best plans are those made in concert with the will of God. Those are the plans that will stand - and will be established.
The second word that is interesting, especially in light of our plans and purposes needing to be those of God, is the word "consultation." This word is the Hebrew word, "sod" which means counsel or advice. The word has with it the concept of confidentiality and intimacy. Thus this refers to what some would call, "intimate counsel." The idea is that of great intimacy with the one from whom you are receiving counsel. Thus we come to the conclusion that in order to make solid, successful plans we need to have an intimacy with God. This takes planning out of a boring, man-centered process - and puts it into the category of fellowship and intimacy with God. If we lack this intimacy with God in planning - seeking His heart and His purposes to be fullfilled - we can expect some level of frustration and a fracturing of our plans.
When we have many counselors our plans succeed. The reason for this is because many counselors will help us to see our thinking and our personal planning from multiple perspectives. This will help us not fall into the trap of our own personal agenda taking over our plans. Another way of saying this is it keeps us from planning in the flesh. There will be enough feedback and counsel to rescue us from just doing what we want.
Planning is a good thing, but it breaks down when we make it too "me-centric." We are not farsighted enough to see everything that needs to be seen. We are too selfish not to see that we need multimple perspectives on a planned undertaking. The wise man therefore surrounds himself with a group of people who will help him see through another perspective than his own. The wiser man also spends much time in the presence of the Lord as he seeks to know what is the best course of action - and the best way to make his plans. This man will succeed.
Poverty and shame will come
to him who neglects discipline, But he who regards reproof will be honored. Proverbs 13:18
Everyone would like to see their hopes and dreams realized. One of these dreams is that of earning a fortune. The conventional wisdom of this world says that if you work hard and apply yourself these things can be yours. But the Word of God counsels us a little differently. There is more to success than just making a lot of money because you work hard. Far too many men who stepped on the road to their riches - wound up unable to achieve them because they would not listen to counsel and accept discipline. They would not take wise advice - and as a result were not honored in the end.
The Word of God ties the whole idea of wealth and blessing to something more than hard work. The Bible teaches us to work hard and apply ourselves in what we do. That is why we hear about the "protestant work ethic." But there is so much more to "true success" than just having a lot of money. Real success biblically is tied most of all to knowing and walking in God's favor. Beyond that God also speaks of things like character and virtue. These things are developed by not only working hard - but also in submitting to the counsel of wise and godly people. What many people do not understand is that submission to such wise counsel also means being willing to accept criticism. Let me put before you two Old Testament examples from which we can learn.
We first come to a King in the Old Testament named Rehoboam. He was the son of Solomon who received the kingdom when his father died. The people came to him asking for him to lighten the load that his father put on them. Rehoboam asked his father's counselors what to do. They advised him to take a position of servant to the poeple, lighten their load, and they would serve him. He rejected such counsel and chose instead to listen to his own friends who said to be harsh and tell the people who was king and who was in charge. He rejected wise counsel from godly men. The end was that he was NOT honored. He wound up losing 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel. He also was humbled further when he would not listen to God's life-giving rebuke and turn from his idolatrous ways. In the end, his kingdom was severely weakened and eventually overrun by Egypt.
The second king we seek to learn from is David. David was confronted and rebuked by Nathan the prophet for his sexual sin with Bathsheba. Instead of neglecting this correction and discipline, he received it - and was restored. He had some pretty severe discipline for what he did - but never rebelled against it. He knew he deserved far worse - and therefore submitted himself to God in all of it. David was honored for being a man after God's own heart. Such praise was given because of his repentance and willingness to undergo and learn from discipline. It turned him from a disastrous course and back into the arms of God.
It is so important that we be wise and learn that it takes hard work and discipline to truly succeed in life. Those who do such things will be blessed in the end. Their lives may not be profiled among the rich and the famous - but they will be honored in the one place where it matters. They will be honored before the throne of God in the day of judgment. It is there where we find out whether we are blessed and wealthy - or whether we are going to know eternal poverty and shame. Be wise - choose the former - submit to God - and listen to life-giving rebuke.
The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit. Proverbs 12:12
Two ways of living and two ways of getting gain are presented to us in this verse. One chooses to profit from the misery of others - from catching and snaring them. The other profits because the very root of how he lives his life is productive and bears fruit. Let's take a look at these two "ways of living" and see that by embracing one we will gain much wisdom.
First we are introducted to the wicked man. He seeks to profit from his evil devices. He always has a con going - always has a plan or a scheme whereby he will get the money he wants. It is interesting the word that is used here for "booty" or "spoil." it is the Hebrew word "matsod" and it refers to a hunting implement - most often a net or a snare. Thus, the wicked man is said to desire the net or snare of evil men. He delights in and takes pleasure in what an evil man gains from an ensnared person. The wicked man sets the snare - he baits the net and waits for the unwitting fool to step into it. Once caught - that person becomes the gain for the wicked. He has nothing profitable himself to offer - just a life filled with another wicked plan or another snare laid out for the unsuspecting one who steps into it.
The righteous to the contrary, leads a life that is profitable in itself. He has a root that bears fruit of its own. He sees no need of setting traps for others - wanting to take what is not his own for his profit. He is engaged in some godly trade that meets the needs of others - rather than wicked pursuits where he is only seeking to exploit the weaknesses of others for the purpose of fleecing them. His desire is to bless and build up - and from such endeavors to produce fruit.
These two men have very different pursuits, concerns, and ends from what they seek in life. The wicked man is pursuing profiting from other's misfortunes - while the righteous man wants to bless them. The wicked man is concerned that he may be caught and exposed as he sets traps and snares. He has to use camouflage to hide the true intentions of his plans from those who see him. He is also cautious because the majority of the time his path is contrary to the laws of men. If caught he will be punished - something he definitely seeks to avoid. The righteous man does not have to worry about what he is doing. His concern is to bless others in the end. He therefore is concerned about the needs of others - what it is they truly need or want. He then gives himself to meeting those needs - and profiting from it thereby. If, in the end, they want something harmful to themselves, he will not exploit their flesh. That would not be producing fruit, but pain, suffering, and in the end, ungodliness (which will never truly bless anyone). His concern therefore is matching the will of God with the way that he plants and cultivates things in his life. This will always produce fruit that will last more than just a moment - it is the kind of fruit that lasts for eternity. The end of these two men is much different too. The wicked man is cursed by those he has trapped and netted. They hate him for what he has done. There is also no long term blessing for this man because the things he does are conrary to God's will. In the end, God will curse him and bring punishment upon him. The righteous man, though, is blessed now and for eternity. Though his work may be harder and not as instantly productive - it will last. Men will bless him and love him for what he does, and when it comes to eternity - he will receive blessing not just from men, but most importantly - from God.
Two men, two very different paths, and two eternally different ends. That is what we see in this passage. God will bless the root of the righteous by having it bear the good fruit that is seeks. But the wicked man whose life is snares and traps - will be watching behind him all throughout life - and will be paying for his wickedness because his root is dried up and dead. Just as his root - so will be his fruit.
He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8
How does the Bible teach us to love ourselves? Here is an interesting question because there are some who think that before we can ever love someone else, we have to love ourselves. Personally, I find that kind of teaching to be contrary to sound wisdom. The reason I feel this way is because those who are taught such things spend all their time going deeper inward to determine if they love themselves enough. The problem with this kind of psycho-babble is that happiness comes when we are no longer consumed with ourselves and learn to give our lives for others and for the glory of God. A person who constantly goes inward to determine if they love themselves properly will have precious little time to love others. It is usually a downward spiral that can lead to a person being consumed by a desire for their own happiness. Jesus said that if we love our lives we will lose them - but if we lose our lives for Him and for His kingdom's sake, we will gain them for all eternity. But this passage in Proverbs genuinely speaks of loving our own soul. So what exactly is God teaching us here?
The translation here reads, "He who gets wisdom . . . " yet the actual word translated wisdom is the Hebrew word, "leb" which refers to the heart. What Solomon was seeking to say is that the one who gets a heart - the right kind of heart - loves his own soul. Here is where we need to grasp what the Bible says about our hearts. We learn from the whole counsel of Scripture some very interesting things about the human heart.
First, we learn that our hearts are messed up due to the fall of man into sin. Jeremiah tells us that the heart is wicked and desperately evil, and is impossible to understand with our own wisdom. (Jeremiah 17:9
) To plumb the depths of our hearts - without grasping the wickedness of sinful man - will get you no where. That is why secular psychology will yield very little in dealing with the true human condition. None of the major psychological constructs admits that man is a sinner - and that the real problem with humanity is a sin problem - a rebellion against God. The next thing we learn is that God Almighty can understand the heart - and has done what is necessary to change it and transform it. The change for the heart is available by faith in Jesus Christ. God takes out of us our heart of stone, that does not respond to God's Word or commandments. In its place God miraculously puts a heart of flesh that has the very commandments of God written upon it. Thus we are regenerated in Christ with a new heart and a desire to do what He commands. The other lesson that God teaches us in His Word is that once we are saved, our hearts and minds need to be renewed by the Word and the work of His Spirit. While we are here on earth, we will face temptation and a constant battle with the three enemies of our soul, the world-system, the flesh, and the devil. Because of the way that these three things want to influence our minds toward sin, it is imperative that we renew our minds with the truth - which is God's Word. Actually, this is the way we "get heart."
We "get heart" when we begin to understand God's wisdom and God's ways. We no longer try in our own strength to deal with the myriad of temptations and trials that come to our hearts. We know that such an endeavor is doomed to be fruitless. Instead, we embrace what God has done in Jesus Christ. We embrace godly wisdom and understanding. As we do this we are actively loving our own soul! Remember that Jesus said that if we want to save our "fleshly" lives in this world - we will lose them. But the one who chooses to lose his soul - who dies to self - and who embraces a regenerated heart - that man loves himself in the end. He embraces an understanding of life that has conversion and regeneration at its core. As he does this - he finds good! He learns to die to himself - and die to the desires of the flesh. He learns that when his heart is drawn by temptation to a worldly point of view that he needs to reject it. He chooses instead to "not love the world or the things of the world." He goes to the Word of God to renew his mind so that he proves that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. He faces the lies and deceit of the devil and learns to expose them for what they are. He chooses instead a life instructed by the Scriptures. He spends time in the Word so that he is walking with "understanding" at all times.
The two words "keeps understanding" are very beneficial to know here. He "keeps" understanding points to the fact that he watches over it - guards it - and is constantly on the lookout for anything that would detract from God's ways and will in his life. He keeps "understanding" points to the fact that he desires a discernment from God on all things. The word "understanding" is the Hebrew "tebunah" which means to discern or understand how things differ. He looks at every choice wanting to discern the difference between his flesh and the Spirit of God. He wants to discern the difference between the kingdoms of this world vs. the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. He longs to discern the difference between his own desires and those given by the Lord. He yearns to grasp the difference between sin and righteousness - between glorifying self and glorifying God.
This is the way to love yourself. You love your own soul by protecting and guarding it from the tyranny of self. You choose instead to embrace God's wisdom in the heart. You decide that you will guard and protect yourself from anything that turns you even slightly from a life lived for the glory of God - from a life lived for the kingdom of God - and a life lived by the Spirit of God as He teaches and leads you by the Word of God. Want to love yourself? That is the way to do it!
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than he who is crooked though he be rich. Proverbs 28:6
Integrity and honor are character traits that are of high value in the kingdom of God. They make a person very wealthy even though at the time they may not have a fantastic financial bottom line. When someone is varying between two stances - which is what this passage called being "crooked," they can have all the money in the world and still be seen as far less successful than the poor man who lives a godly life. God's way of valuing things and people is far different than that of the world.
The word "crooked" is very interesting. The literal Hebrew means, "perverse in two ways." What this describes is someone who is going back and forth between two opinions and two views. According to the Theological Wordbook of the OT
this term refers to the twisted and perverting nature of sin. The word was also used to describe how a woman twists her hair for the purpose of putting it in braids. Thus the word came to mean the way that people twist their ways and choices contrary to what God commands and desires. The word is used to describe the way rulers "twist everything that is straight" (Micah 3:9). In a similar Proverb about the need for integrity, this same word is used to describe how fools are perverse in their speech.
Too often the rich think they are beyond the law - or above it because of the influence their money buys in this world. I have several friends who are police officers who have told me again and again that they have far more trouble out of rich people they pull over for speeding than from any other group. They are told that they should give the rich person a warning or nothing at all because of all the people they know in City Hall. They try to throw their influence around to intimidate my friends in law enforcement into ignoring the law - or might we say perverting it. They want my friends to act crookedly. These guys write them tickets seeking to enforce the law - only to have them ignored by those in power when they come to court. Too many of the rich make the mistake of placing their hope in riches and what they provide in this world - rather than in God and the hope of His reward in eternity. I say this not to absolve the poor of integrity issues - because the problem is not money - it is the love of money. I've seen the love of money in every financial category there is. The warning here is to run after integrity and honor - and not allow money to make us think that these things don't matter as long as you are well off financially.
Just an aside here for our mutual benefit. I've heard a saying again and again that grieves my heart. Here is the saying, "Money may not be able to make you happy, but it makes your misery much more bearable." Those who say that are truly deceived. They think that a few years of less miserable riches are worth trading for all of eternity. God does not countenance such foolishness. They are truly deceived because they do not understand that their momentary happiness in their wealth and stuff will actually make their judgment more severe. The Scriptures tell us, "To whom much is given, much is required." Whatever brief comfort they find in their things and their wealth will be infinitely offset by the searing judgment that awaits them for loving the world and therefore not having the love of the Father in them. Again - that was for free - because I'm tired of fools sounding wise to this world when they are only multiplying their foolishness for a judgment that awaits them at the throne of God. True wisdom is seeing the end, in this case eternity, and making sound decisions with God's ways in view.
The poor man walks differently here because he walks in his integrity. The word "walk" is the Hebrew word "halak" which means to come and go, or to walk about. It was a word that was used to describe a flowing river, the blowing of the wind, and the movement of animals of all kinds. It was therefore used to metaphorically speak of the pathways of one's life - and came to mean the lifestyle that one chooses. This poor, wise man has chosen to walk out his life using God's wisdom as his guide. The best way to describe this integrity that the poor, wise man chooses is to walk with all of our heart in the things of the Lord. The word here for integrity was used to describe the way that men like David and Job spoke of walking with a perfect heart. This did not mean these men were sinless - just that they did not want to waver between two opinions and two ways of living. They wanted to live for the Lord with all their heart - all the time.
There is something that God values greatly in this world. But what God values and what men value are two entirely different things. This world does not value living for God and His ways with a whole heart. They might give an honorable mention to the occasional religious person who they admire for a few moments because of their devotion to God, but they do not see this as a way of living for all men. They live for the things of the world - and chase after them with all their heart. But what is highly valued by men of this world is despised by the Lord. He is looking for men whose heart is completely given to Him. How much better it is to be one of these men - regardless of their financial bottom line. It is far better to be that kind of a man and poor - than to be the richest man on earth and only enjoy it for the mere length of a breath - which is how God describes this life in comparison with eternity.
There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; Another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth. Proverbs 13:7Here is one of the stranger verses in all of Proverbs. Here we see two different people - one pretending to be rich, yet having nothing, and another pretending poverty, yet rich. Are we dealing with hypocrisy in these two individuals, or are we dealing rather with something else?
The word "pretend" here is very important to understand. The actual statement made here is that one is "making himself rich" and it refers to someone who spends all their time pursuing and running after being wealthy. The opposite saying here makes it clear that another pursues poverty - or pursues being poor. The idea is not of hypocrisy, but rather what they are pursuing in life. One pursues riches and the other poverty. Therefore what we have here is a commentary on the true state of these two individuals.
First we have the man who is pursuing riches. What seems to be said here is that he not only pursues wealth, but he is achieiving it as well. He is making himself rich. The problem here is that God's commentary on this man is that this man has nothing. His bank account would militate against this statement, but a man's earthly bank account does not measure true wealth in the sight of God. There are other far more important measurements that truly let us know of a man's worth and value. The New Testament warns against wealth, telling us that when we fix our hearts upon wealth, that it sprouts wings and flies away. We read that those who pursue wealth and love it - will have problems, being pierced through with many a desire. Jesus speaks of the rich farmer as a fool because he focuses only on his wealth and not on the fact that his soul is going to be required of him the very night he thinks he has "made it" in this world. Biblically, a rich man who is centered on his riches has nothing. So, what we learn from this proverb is that it is the fool who is so focused on his riches.
The rest of the proverb is equally as instructive to us. We learn that another man pursues poverty, yet he has great riches. How does a man "pursue poverty"? The answer to that statement is found in the beattitudes of Jesus. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We pursue poverty by pursuing the truth of our own spiritual condition before God. The truth about our condition is that we are bankrupt spiritually. We have nothing of any real value - because we are in our sins and under the wrath of God. When we make ourselves poor - and embrace our spiritual poverty - coming to Jesus Christ for the only true riches - then we do have great riches. We receive that wonderful acrostic of GRACE - God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
A truly wise man does not pursue the riches of this world. He knows that they are only temporary. They are like the grass of the field that is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow. He knows that the grass fades and the flower of this world falls off - but that the Word of our Lord abides forever. The wise man knows that a man's soul is costly, and that the price for it cannot be paid in the currency of this present world. The only currency acceptable in the sight of God is the blood of Christ shed for our sins. Thus the truly wise man seeks after Christ - receives His grace - and lives to be poor in this world's estimation, while pursuing the true riches that last for eternity.
Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, But trouble is in the income of the wicked. Proverbs 15:6 There are those who take verses like this and use them to promise riches and possessions to those who walk with God. They are also used to speak judgment and condemnation on those who are poor and needy. If that were the case, then Jesus should have been the richest man who ever walked on the earth. Yet Jesus Himself said that He had no place to lay His head - and He was ultimately betrayed by a disciple who saw that Jesus' kingdom was not going to be of this world - or at least consisting of this world's goods. There is a prosperity that comes from Godly circumspect religion though. It comes from being wise with money - and from knowing the blessing of God in financial endeavors. There is great wealth in the house of many of those who use right principles in dealing with money. Proverbs itself is filled with excellent financial counsel, which, if followed, would ensure blessing on those who heed it. The true wealth, though, of the righteous is in things that cannot be stored in a bank or lock box. These things consist of forgiveness, joy, peace, and love. They come when we choose to walk consistently in God's ways and adhere to the paths into which His Spirit guides us. To the one who does NOT have them - they are utterly invaluable. Many a rich, ungodly man would give his entire fortune for these things - but usually only later in life. This wealth is even more wonderful than earthly riches because moth and rust cannot corrupt nor thieves break in and steal them. They will last forever - and they are the true currency of heaven. To spend a lifetime building up a treasure of this kind is to be rich indeed. To live without them is to know nothing but poverty of spirit here and now - and damnation throughout eternity. The income of the wicked is often desired by those in this world. Occasionally, as we see in Psalm 73, even the godly at times wish for a life without trouble and hardship. They wish for a life bathed in butter and human delicacies. This longing stops though, when we see that their income is filled with trouble. Their riches come with problems. First there is the trouble of keeping what you've already got when the world desires it too. Men stay up late and rise early to protect their income - they lose sleep trying to keep what they have. There is also trouble in getting such income. Too often riches are gained to the damage of those who get them. They resort to ungodly tactics and ungodly ways to garner more and more wealth for themselves. In the end - the trouble they face is trouble from two sources. First there is those whom they have cheated. Leaders like Sadaam Hussein lived a life of opulent luxury most of their days - but in the end - those whom he cheated and stole from hated him fiercely. He wound up hiding in a hole - and hanging from the end of a rope - as crowds ultimately cheered his execution. Biblically, Haman had it all - but in the end lost it all when his greed and hatred caused him great trouble. The last we see of the great and wealthy Haman is him escorted from the king's presence with a black bag over his head. In the end . . . his wealth was used to construct a gallows from which he himself hung. There is certainly trouble when those whom we have hurt and bilked come for their revenge. But there is a great trouble awaiting the wicked rich. Scripture speaks of a wealthy farmer who thought life consisted of his possessions. Trying to keep a bumper crop as his crowning achievement led to God's final sentence upon him. God considered him a fool. He thought his life consisted only of his wealth and goods. Yet the true riches were knowing God and being prepared to face Him on the day of judgment. "You fool!" was the way God addressed this wicked, rich man on the eve of his death. "Today your soul is required of you - and what is going to become of all your wealth." The only term accurate to his situation was the term, "fool." Live for true riches and you will be wise. Live for the wealth that comes from knowing, loving, and obeying God. Nothing else matters when you leave this world and enter into eternity. The wealth of the righteous will be stored up for them in heaven all their days. It will never pass away. But the troublesome income of the wicked . . . it will burn them like fire all their days. It will be part of the everlasting trouble that will afflict their souls for all eternity.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat. Proverbs 13:4 The sluggard is always wanting and never getting. His life is a series of desires and cravings for everything under the sun. He craves and speaks of all the things he wants - but does nothing to actually obtain them. If someone gives them to him he is happy for a moment or two. That happiness is soon replaced with another craving, though, and he returns to his world of constantly wanting something else. In all his wanting though, he never lifts himself up to the level of work and labor. These things would open his life up to actually seeing things happen. He is lazy and undisciplined and therefore he never attains to things. The proverb tells us that he gets nothing. His hands are always empty - first they are empty of work and labor - and in the end they are empty of any real productivity and products. He is a sad soul - doubly empty. The soul of the diligent man is fat. He works hard and labors diligently at the things he wants. He allows desire to prod him to work and labor. Thus his desires and wants become more than just a craving that taunts him. He uses those desires to spur him to action - first action of the mind - and then action of life. He works hard - and at the end of the day has something to show for it. If not his actual goals - he has the satisfaction that he is one day closer to seeing them realized. Along the way his soul gets fatter. His mind is filled with thought of how to do things better, quicker, with greater quality and skill. Along the way his will is set to do what is before him. Along the way his emotions are kept in check - not dominating his life with unmet cravings and the whirlwhind of emotions they bring - but with excitment about what is coming as his work yields true rewards. Even before he gets what he is working for - his soul remains fat with the good things that come from hard work and industry. One craves and is wracked by the unmet cries of his cravings. He is starving to death physically, emotionally, and mentally as he has nothing to show for doing nothing. The other is working toward something good - and all along the way good comes to him. It is far better to be working toward something than to be only craving what you will never get.
A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully, And will share in the inheritance among brothers. Proverbs 17:2When I read this proverb, I think of biblical situations of sons and servants. Sons in the Scriptures have acted shamefully. Consider Absalom who rebelled against his father and acted very shamefully. Absalom led a revolt against his father David - took over the kingdom - and subsequently had sex with 10 of David's concubines on the roof of the palace in the sight of all Israel. His shameful acts eventually led to his death on the battlefield among the trees of the forest. The books of Kings and Chronicles show again and again sons of the kings who acted with great shame and disgrace. Their kingdoms amounted to little as God had to become Israel and Judah's enemy due to their sin and rebellion against Him. Eli's sons in 1 Samuel acted disgustingly and shamefully by sleeping with women at the tent of meeting - and disdaining the sacrifices of God. These actions led to their death - and the devastation of Eli's house forever before God.
Just as there are these sons who acted shamefully - there have also been servants who acted with great honor before God. Consider Abraham's servant, Eliezer, who took his son and made sure that he had a wife. This servant trusted in the Lord to provide the right bride for Issac. Elisha was a faithful servant to Elijah, washing his hands and learning from his master until the day that God allowed Elijah's mantle to fall on Elisha. God even gave to the faithful servant of Elijah a double portion of his spirit. There are a multitude of examples of faithful servants - and shameful sons.
The servant who acts wisely and respectfully will eventually rule over the shameful son. A truly wise father will not give all to his son if his son is a fool. It is better to transfer wealth and influence to a godly and wise servant - than to a son who will only waste that wealth and destroy any future for a family business. That faithful servant often will share in the inheritance among all the other brothers - not because of a blood relationship - but due to a lifetime of service to the master.
This proverb is primarily meant to describe the master/servant/son relationship that was prevalent in middle eastern society at that time, but there is also an important principle here for us today. In this situation the son took advantage of his relationship with the father and dishonored him. He acted shamefully and brought disgrace on his father's name and house. The servant acted wisely and respectfully and was honored for it - even to the point of sharing in the wealth of the father - and the inheritance. Thus we can learn two important lessons.
Lesson #1 - Workplace wisdom! We need to learn that when we manifest a servant's heart to our employer - showing both wisdom and respect in the workplace - honor will come our way. How often have you heard of a situation where nepotism placed a son in a position of authority - only to have that son act shamefully and disgracefully on the job. In the end - a wise father will overlook this brat and place a faithful servant in charge in the end. This won't always be the case - especially when the father is negligent and overindulgent of the child. But know this . . . there are men who see the demise of their company when put into the hands of a disgraceful son - and will choose a faithful servant/worker instead. Therefore cultivate a servant's heart toward your master/employer. Honor him and respect him - giving him hard work and wise choices concerning what you do and how you do it. Work hard to make the company and your boss a success. In time you will become invaluable to the company - and possibly may be advanced over a disgraceful son in the end.
Lesson #2 - Life! Cultivate a servant's heart in all that you do. In this proverb the man with the true servant's heart is honored. You will never regret developing and manifesting a servant's heart toward others. Even if you are not honored on earth or at your job, God Himself will honor you for living this way. Embrace the role of servant whenever you can. Oh, one last thing to remember as well . . . when God Himself came to this earth to accomplish His greatest work . . . He did not come as boss or as a spoiled brat who got His own way, He came as a servant. In the end - God highly exalted Him for His sacrifice, obedience, and servant's heart! That pretty much lets me know that we can expect the same from God if we embrace that same role all our days for His glory and honor.