1 Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them;
2 For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble.
3 By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established;
4 And by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.
5 A wise man is strong, And a man of knowledge increases power.
6 For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in abundance of counselors there is victory.
7 Wisdom is too exalted for a fool, He does not open his mouth in the gate.
8 One who plans to do evil, Men will call a schemer.
9 The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men.
10 If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited.
11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?
13 My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste;
14 Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; If you find it, then there will be a future, And your hope will not be cut off.
15 Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not destroy his resting place;
16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Or the LORD will see it and be displeased, And turn His anger away from him.
19 Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked;
20 For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
21 My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change,
22 For their calamity will rise suddenly, And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?
23 These also are sayings of the wise. To show partiality in judgment is not good.
24 He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” Peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him;
25 But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, And a good blessing will come upon them.
26 He kisses the lips Who gives]a right answer.
27 Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house.
28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, And do not deceive with your lips.
29 Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.”
30 I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
31 And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down.
32 When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.
33 “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,”
34 Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man.
As with the whole book of Proverbs, it’d be easier to pound out a 500 word blog post about any single verse in chapter 24 than to unify the whole chapter under one dominant theme. That’s fine–that’s not what this book of wise sayings is all about.
It’s about lovingly pelting us with nuggets of actionable truths that penetrate our motivations and refine our character.
In light of that, this is how I approach the book: I pray, then read a chapter, and get appropriately pelted by whichever actionable truth I happen to need at the time. The Holy Spirit never disappoints, always revealing some part of myself that needs work.
The metaphor is a little weird but think of it as being pelted by paint balls: it might sting a little bit, but it’s surely not going to put you 6 feet under.
I read the chapter, and two ideas hit me in the chest: Focus & Work.
Focus (vv. 1&2, 19&20)
The writer admonishes the seeker for wisdom not to be envious of evil men (v. 1 & 19). I know the verses specifically mention evil men, but it’s the envy part that stuck out to me.
The only two ways I know to become envious of another man is to focus on that other man, then focus on myself, and then compare whether I measure up or not. If I’m envious, then I must feel I don’t measure up.
If I’m going through that exercise, then I must not be keeping my eyes on Jesus. That lack of focus on God creates a discontentment. In my world, that discontentment is always centered on what I haven’t accomplished.
Comparing myself emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually to people around me wastes time and messes with my head and heart. It prevents me from enjoying the incredible gifts that I have and from pouring my whole self into each new opportunity, whether I excel or not.
Focusing on God allows me to shed the weight of comparison and enjoy who He created me to be.
Work (vv. 27, 30-34)
Sometimes Christians stress way too much over what God’s will is for their lives. I’ve had those issues ever since the idea of ‘finding God’s will’ occurred to me as a teenager.
Verses 33 and 34 fly in the face of this tendency to sit and wait: ‘“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,” Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man.’
My job is to honor my family and God by letting no thistles and nettles cover any part of my vineyard (v.32). There’s no place for that in a Christian’s life.
We are called to work, to produce. God won’t miraculously drop toilet paper and food and cash for light bills into our laps while we sit around and wait for Him to write something on the wall. Nope. We need to get jobs.
Focusing on God and His gifts and working hard: those are Proverbs 24’s messages for me. Hopefully you can get hit by a good paint ball of wisdom somewhere in there too.
Brett Cohrs is a husband to Tina and a dad to Maggie, Jake, and Sam down in Atlanta, GA.Although he sells insurance to nonprofit organizations now, he used to be a youth pastor. He’s still a youth pastor, but now it’s to a 4 yr old girl and a couple 2 1/2 yr old twin boys. He experiments with blogging at brettcohrs.com. You can follow Brett on Twitter @BrettCohrs