Ah, Proverbs 21. So many things to cover in this chapter. It’s like an all you can eat meat buffet with a full gravy bar next to it. I’m just going to pick a few of the morsels and throw them on the plate for us to share.
1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
You what I love best from verse 2? “the Lord weighs the heart.” Everything you do is under God’s microscope. Nothing that you do is done without some kind of motivation to it. The question is what is the true motivation that God knows even if no human being on the Earth knows it?
Remember that…you may be able to fool every human being but you CANNOT fool God.
That includes fooling yourself.
3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Stop and think about this for a second. We always think about having to sacrifice and give up all these things if we want to be a Christian. We have to give money. We have to give time. We have to do things that fall under the definition of “sacrifice” in the world’s eyes, right? If we do that then God will be pleased, right?
Not if we’re putting righteousness and justice secondary to the sacrifice. God would rather we live the way we’re supposed to live, doing what’s right and holy; if we do that and place a high value on righteousness and justice the sacrifice will fall in accordingly as part of our daily walk.
4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
At first, you may not think these verses really connect…and separately they both have punch…but I see a real connection in the two. In many cases, the way to get “hasty abundance” is through lying. Just look at the Bernie Madoff scheme and all the other huge financial scams of the last few decades. What was the foundation to all of them?
When you work diligently at something to build it in a manner that lasts, you must have a very solid foundation of truth to it. If people can’t trust your word then you’re worthless.
7 The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just.
8 The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is upright.
9 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
OK, obviously I could make some humorous comment related to this verse and pretend that my wife going to make me sleep on the couch but I think this verse can go deeper for all of us…even if you’re not married!
The key to this verse is the relationship between the two people. If you’re working with someone on any level…of which a marriage is work…then if you’re dealing with someone who strives to cause conflict and drama you’re inviting trouble. You’re inviting stress. You’re inviting a situation here you will lose your grip on God because you will be pulled away time and time again.
If you’re not married, you need to be looking at a potential spouse and see whether or not they like to create drama, cause arguments and instigate situations. If they do…you might be better off moving on to someone else.
10 The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
11 When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
12 The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin.
Another reminder like verse 2 that God is watching everything all the time. The wicked are always under His gaze even when it looks like they’re prospering and growing. They will all be thrown down to ruin.
The thing to remember is that it may not be when we want and in the way we want it to be. The wicked’s comeuppance might come when they stand face to face with a Holy God and he sends them away for eternity.
And their Earthly gains from their wickedness won’t mean a thing then.
13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
This is a verse I’ve heard misused in many churches and by many organizations that try to help the poor in the country and around the world. If you read this verse closely, it doesn’t say those who don’t give to help the poor will call out and not be answered. It’s those who close their ears to the cry of the poor. There’s a difference.
If you’re in a situation where you want to help but you really can’t financially do it then you’re not closing your ear to the poor. Not giving $35 a month to any charity group is NOT the definition of closing your ear to the cry of the poor. Don’t allow someone to use this verse to bully you into perhaps spending money you can’t afford to spend.
At the same time…if you CAN help the poor then you should help the poor. You can’t go anywhere in this economy and not find someone who’s poor and in need. You don’t have to look far to find someone. And it doesn’t have to be the homeless man on the corner. It could be the neighbor who lost his job and is struggling to feed their family. A bag of groceries can go a long way.
14 A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
I have to admit that I struggle with this one. The reason is the more I look around me the less I see “evildoers” actually being terrified by justice arriving. Perhaps they’re better at covering it up but I didn’t see terrorists around the world giving up because the USA finally took out Osama. People today are more and more defiant in the face of justice.
Just watch an episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter sometime and see how people really aren’t swayed most times by the idea of going to jail.
Maybe they’re terrified inside. And now and then I’ll see someone truly scared. But it’s becoming very rare.
16 One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead.
17 Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
This verse brought to you by Dave Ramsey.
18 The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright.
19 It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
Again, I will not comment here because I don’t like sleeping on the couch. (Love ya, honey!)
20 Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.
There’s a guy I know named Moe Vivas. He’s smart, he loves the Lord and he has a knack for saying things that stick with you. A few days ago he wrote this on his blog:
“I think if we didn’t have to work for a living, Christians would change the world dramatically.”
It’s the same thought I had when I read this verse. If I could completely focus on pursuing righteousness and kindness, I would be all over doing it. Unfortunately with bills to pay and obligations, I can’t do it all the time. I can be righteous and kind in my dealing with others while working or doing projects but that’s not the same and pursuing righteousness.
It is all about finding life. When you’re doing something God’s designed you to do that allows you to pursue righteousness in the purest form, there’s no feeling like it. You lose track of time and effort. Things flow quickly and easily. It’s because you’re all in for the pursuit of righteousness.
But we need to keep pursuing it to get as much of that righteousness as possible.
22 A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
24 “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.
When I’ve talked about these verses with Christians in the past, almost every one of them has tried to apply the first to Christians and the second to people who are not followers of Christ. It’s always the people who are mocking believers or trying to “hamper the cause of Christ” that get called “scoffer” and if a Christian doesn’t control his tongue then he just faces trouble.
Here’s the thing…the man of verse 24 could be the same man who doesn’t control his tongue in verse 23.
It’s trendy to talk about how Christians have a bad reputation in the world because of guys like Fred Phelps (who quite frankly I’m not sure if he really is a Christian…I see none of Christ’s love within the man and he’s certainly not showing any fruit of the spirit.) There’s no question that there are Christians who don’t control their tongue…but those same Christians usually act within arrogant pride.
We need to avoid being 23 in an attempt to stay away from being 24!
25 The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.
26 All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
27 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
28 A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure.
29 A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.
30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.
But that never seems to stop us from trying, eh?
At the end of the day this verse just reminds us that He is Lord, His will prevails and no matter what we plan for our lives we always have to accept that He may change things at any time. There’s no use trying to struggle against Him.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.
Honestly, I could have written something about every verse in this chapter. Then again, any of the folks writing this month could do the same thing for every chapter.
Thanks, Chris, for this opportunity and the great idea to do the Proverbs this month!
Jason Wert live in Nashville with his wife and kids. He is the author & speaker of the Mustard Seed Year project. Jason is spending a year seeking God’s direction in what he feels God is calling him to do. You can follow Jason on Twitter @JCWert or check out his blog Mustard Seed Year – http://www.mustardseedyear.com