Proverbs 26:12 – “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Ten of the first eleven verses in chapter 26 talk about the danger of dealing with a fool. We are reminded that:

  • that honor is not fitting for a fool (vs. 1)
  • that a fool’s life will be marked by discipline because they won’t respond to common sense (vs. 3)
  • that sometimes it’s wise to answer a fool…and other times it’s not (vs. 4-5)
  • that fools are not reliable (vs. 6)
  • that fools are not teachable (vs. 7 & 9)
  • that giving honor to a fool is counter-productive (vs. 8)
  • that fools will set you back in your tasks/work (vs. 10)
  • that fools don’t learn from their mistakes (vs. 11).

After you get through the first part of this chapter we should be thinking something along the lines of, “sounds like being a fool is the worst thing I can be! I better effort to not be that guy.” And then you read verse 12 and we learn that being a fool is actually NOT the worst thing.

What’s worse than being a fool?

The answer: being wise in our own eyes.

Pride. Being a know it all. Arrogance. Walking into a room, assuming and treating others like you are the smartest person there. Believing that no one can offer you any bit of wisdom because you serve as the fountain of all knowledge and intellect. Looking down on everyone else and refusing to entertain the notion that you might need others.

  • It’s walking into the church service, seeing someone other than your favorite pastor teaching and thinking “oh man…I should have stayed home.”
  • It’s jumping in with your community group and thinking that no one else can give you counsel that you haven’t already heard.
  • It’s being a newlywed and holding on tight to the notion that “no one has ever been in love like we have” so we don’t need to worry about all that conflict resolution stuff.
  • It’s believing that you’re so terminally unique that no one will understand your struggle with _______.
  • It’s refusing to admit you messed up, say your sorry and seek forgiveness.
  • It’s failing to acknowledge that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27)
  • It’s being unwilling to come to terms with the reality that you can do nothing to earn your salvation and that you need a Savior (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9)

This proverb placed strategically on the heels of the previous eleven verses can be, if we let it, a great reminder that we need others to sharpen our thinking, to speak truth into our life and to remember that life experiences are fairly narrow and there are other perspectives that can help keep us from making a mess of ourselves.

Proverbs 26

Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”

Diligence is doing the little things right…consistently over time as measured in months and years. Generally speaking, diligence pays off. Work hard…be faithful…do the little things right & over time things will go well with you. Not always…but often.  On the contrary, the lazy, unmotivated and slack individual will generally discover that their opportunity for influence and growth is frustrated. 

This feels like common sense but I’ve seen folks regularly discouraged (myself included) when this actually plays itself out in life. We look for the quick fix and are bitterly disappointed when our efforts are not immediately rewarded. Diligence is a long term process…and for most things long term is not defined in weeks. And living in world where “instant gratification” is echoed from just about every media outlet it’s helpful to step back and reframe our perspective.

For many of us “ruling” might look like:
> turning our marriage around
> learning to connect with our kid(s)
> being able to recall Bible verses from memory
> freeing ourselves from our addictions (alcohol, pornography, gluttony, etc…)
> taking on additional responsibility at work
> taking back our physical health
> becoming a single digit handicap in golf
> going sub 5 hours in a half Ironman (okay…that one is for me!)

There is no magic formula in life. To move the needle in these areas will take diligence (hard work, consistently, over time), accountability (support, encouragement, exhortation) and grace (taking the long term view, realizing that starts and stops on this journey are normal).
Proverbs 10:19 – “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” 

This is one of those proverbs that doesn’t require much interpretation. I don’t need to know Hebrew to unpack this saying. I don’t need a seminary degree to figure out what the writer is trying to communicate.  It’s laid out nice and clean.  The takeaway – I probably talk too much.

The quickest way to reduce the frequency with which I have to say “I’m sorry” is to reduce the frequency of my words. The greatest source of my relational frustration comes from my tongue. My snarky comments. My sarcastic tones. My mean-spirited words. My inappropriate jokes. My rage-filled rants. And on and on and on.

If you & I are looking for a quick way to take ground in our relationships with friends, family, co-workers, etc… we should try talking less and listening more.  But don’t forget – and this is important to remember that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b) or put another way “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). 
My problem with my tongue is not really a problem with my tongue. It’s a problem with my heart. The tongue is merely the microphone that amplifies what’s in my heart. Angry words come from an angry heart. Sarcastic words come from a sarcastic heart. Perverse words come from a perverse heart.

So, as we’re working on talking less let us also acknowledge that talking less doesn’t change the problem. It merely serves as a way to bridle the wild and unruly horse. We don’t need a new tongue. We need a new heart (see also John 3:1-8). We need to ask God to change/renew/reshape our heart so that when we do decide to speak the source of our words is a clean spring that brings forth that which is acceptable and wisdom-filled.

Proverbs 28:1 – “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
This is one of my favorite verses. I quote this to my kids (and to myself!) to remind them they there is a way to live life confidently…free from fear.

We all probably know that sick fearful feeling when we’ve done something we know we shouldn’t. The fear of feeling like we’re about to get caught…found out…busted for that thing we’ve done. Just like when you pass a police officer going 85 mph on a freeway that has a 70 mph speed limit. The acid rushes to our stomachs and we start constantly checking the rear view mirror.

This proverbs serves as a wonderful reminder that if we will just live life in accordance with the way the Lord wants us to we can be free from that fear. We can be as “bold as a lion” because our conscience is clear. There is no need to constantly cover our tracks…to walk around wondering if other people will find out what we’ve done.

> Will the IRS audit my taxes and discover how I’ve tried to cheat the system?
> Will my wife find out I’ve been looking at porn?
> Will my employer find out that I’ve been wasting hours each day surfing the internet?
> Will my small group find out that I’ve only been sharing half-truths about my life?

Following God provides freedom. Freedom to live confidently, in the light and securely knowing that there aren’t going to be any “revelations” that will challenge my marriage…my parenting…my employment…my leadership opportunities.

See also Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Proverbs 26: 27 – “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.”

The law of sowing and reaping is as real as the law of gravity. The writer is not making any moral statements about digging pits or rolling stones. He is simply reminding his readers that there is this thing that exists and is applicable to all mankind in all times in all places. Put simply, you will reap what you sow.

Honestly, this should be intuitive; but unfortunately for many of us, the “reaping” part often comes as a complete surprise. We act bewildered when the fruit of our choices causes us pain. We find ourselves perplexed when the consequences of our decisions lead to hurt and isolation.

  • We watch porn and then feel disconnected from our spouse and complain about how our marriage isn’t what we’d like it to be.
  • We eat way too much of the wrong kind of food and then blame our genes on high blood pressure, sore joints and skyrocketing medical costs.
  • We overspend on our children to compensate for our lack of presence and then become frustrated when their character is more self-centered and entitled than others-focused and grateful.
  • We refuse to live within a budget and then develop ulcers about our ever-growing consumer debt.
  • We podcast & read the “health and wealth preachers” who falsely proclaim that God wants us healthy, wealthy and wise and then become disillusioned and blame God and our “lack of faith” when the reality of life in a fallen world punches us in the nose.

And on and on and on. Sowing and reaping.

See also, Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life

Proverbs 23:19-21 – (19) Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. (20) Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, (21) for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

We get to overhear some advice from a father to his son. This father encourages his boy to listen and make the choice to direct his heart. Implied is that his son can choose to ignore and not take to heart the wisdom of his father. So, as we eavesdrop in on this fatherly exhortation we ought to remember that all of us have an opportunity to respond to things we hear – we can consider and ignore if we find the content irrelevant, unwise or not applicable. Or we can consider, take to heart and apply if we find value in the message or if we have a high degree of trust in the messenger.

On this day the father’s advice centers on the company his boy keeps. Be not among drunks or gluttons. You might know them. You might interact with them. You might cross paths with them. You might know their names. You might play sports with them. You might be around them a lot…but being around someone is not the same thing as being among them.

> Be friends with them? Sure.
> Engage them in meaningful conversation? Absolutely.
> Be kind toward them? Without doubt.
> Be ready to step in to help them in a pinch? Yes, of course.

But these guys should not be your closest friends. These are not the folks you invite into your inner circle. These aren’t the men to stand by your side on your wedding day.

Why? Because of the principle (really, the law) of sowing and reaping. The trajectory of the drunkard and the glutton is down and to the right. The outlook isn’t bright. Follow the path of the drunkard and the glutton long enough and it ends in ruin. Yoke yourself to those folks and you may find yourself at the bottom with them. Because the reality is that, more often than not “bad company ruins good morals” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33).

Who you count as your close friends matters. And this father wants to see his boy prosper and not suffer. And this father knows that our inner circle has great influence in our behavior; so it’s best to ensure your inner circle is walking the same path that you are or that you want to be on.

See also, Proverbs 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Proverbs 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'”

Dear Lion Fearing Sluggard,
First, let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat – there is NO lion in the street. Lions don’t tend to wander around Israeli towns and villages. It’s just not their native environment. So, let’s be honest – you are not going to be eaten by a large African mammal if you leave your front door this morning.

The reality is that you are just lazy. You are looking for an excuse…ANY excuse to get out of having to exert any effort. And so you reached into your bag of lame excuses and came up with “I’m afraid I’ll get attacked by a lion” option.

But I want you to know that I get it. And while I’m calling you out I’m also fully aware that I have a bag of lame excuses too. And though I think I reach for it less and less as I get older I know it’s still there tucked away in the corner of my closet. Ready in the event I want to employ it to help me avoid doing something I don’t want to do.

And while I “get it” I want you to know that the better path is paved with diligence. It’s the day in and day out “work by the sweat of your brow” that produces something great…something meaningful…something lasting.

There are no shortcuts.

Do you want to be good at golf? You’ve got to swing the club. Again and again and again. You’ve got to putt and putt and putt and putt. You’ve got to get the right kind of clubs for your swing and make sure they fit you. And you’ve got to be prepared to get blisters.

Do you want to run a marathon? Then you’ve got to start walking and then work up to jogging and then running. And then you’ve got to keep running…day in and day out. When it’s cold & rainy and when it’s hot and humid. You’ve got to invest in some good shoes and research proper nutrition. And you’ve got to be prepared to sweat and be sore.

Do you want to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)? Then you’ve got to be in God’s word – studying it…mediating on it…taking it in to your heart and your mind. You’ve got to read and read and read. And you’ve got to be prepared to engage your mind and heart in the hard work of focused reading and studying.

Do you want to have a marriage that is the stuff of legends? Then you’ve got to study your spouse to know what makes them tick. You’ve got to know the areas you are weak in and vulnerable and you’ve got to shore them up. You’ve got to eliminate your plan B and commit yourself to the one you swore till death due you part. You’ve got to begin to consider her needs as more important than you own. And you’ve got to be prepared to for change to take place slowly – over months and years.

The bottom line, my fellow sluggard, is that we can keep talking about the hypothetical lion that is going to eat us or we can get busy building something great. The former will lead us to a life of mediocrity, dull living and regret. The latter, though requiring much more effort, will lead us to a life that is worth living and worth holding up as an example to others.

A Recovering Sluggard

See also, Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”


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