Monday, October 31, 2016

Life or Ruin?...You Choose!

Off the top of your head, how many words can you list that describe negative, hurtful, or sinful speech?
  • Slander,
  • Lies,
  • False Witness,
  • Gossip,
  • Flattery,
  • Deceit,
  • Guile,
  • Loose tongue/lips,
  • False accusation,
  • Babbler.
My list is not exhaustive and some of the words describe attitudes that may or may not come out in speech (i.e. Deceit). But you get the idea. Our language is full of words to describe a person who either cannot or does not control his/her tongue.

Even the last item on my list is bad. My dad had a rather unflattering way to describe the babbler. He said it was a person with ‘diarrhea of the mouth!’

The babbler may not actually be saying bad things or hurting others, but the babbler does not listen; cannot be taught; always has more to say. Babblers are selfish talkers.

Life or Ruin . . . You Choose!

   The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
   The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
   --Proverbs 13:3

The one who guards his mouth gives thought to his words before speaking. He uses his words to encourage, to speak truth, to honor God and men, to express love and appreciation. He uses his tongue for instruction; he uses his tongue for discipline when necessary.

The one who guards his mouth chooses his words wisely. He does not excuse himself, “That’s just the way I am.” He thinks first and is considerate of the feelings of others.

The one who guards his mouth is teachable, knowing that there is a time to talk, but also a time to listen. He knows that he is not all-knowing, not all-wise. Even when he ‘knows,’ he allows another to share an idea; after all, he may still need to be taught.

The one who guards his mouth is often silent. . .
. . .
. .




Monday, October 24, 2016

A Pair to Remember

Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride. Pride.
Humble. Humble. Humble. Humble. Humble. Humble. Humble. Humble.

A person cannot read the Proverbs without learning something about God’s attitude toward pride and humility. The Apostle Peter summed it up succinctly:
   God is opposed to the proud, 
   But gives grace to the humble.
   --1 Peter 5:5

Not only should we see God’s attitude toward pride and humility in the Proverbs, we should learn how to avoid pride and its pitfalls, as well as how to embrace humility and its blessings. Perhaps the real question is whether we believe the words of Solomon and Peter or simply wish to blunder through life indulging our human nature.

Consider the proverb...

   When pride comes, then comes dishonor, 
   But with the humble is wisdom.
   --Proverbs 11:2

Dishonor follows pride. This is a principle of life that God has put into place in his creation. It is like gravity; God made it to be that way.

Some folks look for exceptions, or, at least, occasions that appear to be exceptions. People that challenge God and His word by pressing a supposed exception are scoffers. Their naïve assessment of God's word demonstrates pride in their thinking.

Jesus taught a parable that illustrated the principle found in the proverb. It is worth a quick look. 

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you."

His conclusion in verse 11:
   "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, 
   And he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

Looking back to the proverb...
The second line of the proverb contrasts the first, but with a notable difference. Dishonor 'follows' pride, but wisdom is 'with' the humble.

Dishonor and pride are a pair, but one follows the other. In contrast, wisdom and humility are paired together as close companions. We can safely conclude that a wise person will demonstrate humility, but also, that a humble person pursues and lives according to wisdom.

Are you able to read this proverb and accept it at face value? Or, do you find God to be out of sync with the people of our day? Do you have insight into truth that surpasses God's understanding? Are you a scoffer?

See pride for what it is. Embrace the noble pair, humility and wisdom, and enjoy the results, grace from our Creator.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

There's a lot of babbling going on

Today, a lab experiment.

Many proverbs are simple statements of comparison and contrast. However, the one I have chosen for this blarticle (blog article) is a little different. I think its meaning is straightforward, but it provides a good specimen for dissection. But don't worry, it will not be messy; we will use simple observation. I hope it will be of benefit when reading/pondering proverbs that are similar.

One of the most common types of proverbs consists of two contrasting statements with similar elements. In general, the reader is easily able to align the elements.

   Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,
   But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
   --Proverbs 10:4

The simplicity of the connected elements makes this proverb easy to understand. The elements that match are as follows:
  Object: A hand compared to a hand.
  Description: A negligent hand in contrast to diligent hand.
  Result: Poor in contrast to rich.


Another example:
   He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely,
   But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.
   --Proverbs 10:5

Matching elements:
  Object: A son compared to a son.
  Activity: Gathering in summer in contrast to sleeping in harvest.
  Character: Wise action in contrast to shameful action.
The character (wise/shameful) is descriptive of the inner person that motivates, and also the external result.


Now for today’s proverb. Though not difficult to understand, you will see a departure from the simple comparison/contrast with easily identifiable related elements.

   The wise of heart will receive commands,
   But a babbling fool will be thrown down.
   --Proverbs 10:8

The elements presented differ in kind:
Heart appears to be set parallel to babbler, but they are not alike in 'kind.'
In addition, one receives the other is acted upon; actions but different in 'kind.'

To see the complete picture, the reader has to ‘fill in some of the blanks.’

Object: A person compared to a person.

Description: The wise of heart is descriptive of the inner 'being' of a person. The inner being of the fool is not described, but his heart is obvious. So...The wise of heart stands in contrast to the ________ of heart.

Action: The fool expresses himself outwardly by babbling. This stands in contrast to the wise who:_______.

Result: The resulting actions come to each from an outside source. However, the action words show contrasting pictures: receiving contrasted with being thrown down. So, let’s put it all together with implied elements in brackets.

Object: One who is wise of heart contrasted with one who is [foolish of heart].
Action: [Silence or listening] contrasted with babbling.
Result: [Willingly] receiving commands contrasting with [unwillingly] being thrown down (i.e. cast out).
Extended result: [Accepted for service and life] contrasting with rejection [and destruction].

Now, even without any 'lab work' the meaning is clear, so let's not miss the point:
The one who is wise of heart will stop and listen before blabbering his mind. He will be able to receive commands (a form of instruction). He ‘receives’ instruction and carries it out and as a result is accepted and reaps the benefits.

In contrast is the fool spills his foolish heart with babbling words, unable to 'receive' instruction because he is always talking. There is only one choice; he must be removed. He is worthless.

There sure is a lot of babbling going on these days.
Receive instruction.
You'll make yourself useful.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Someone's Missing

Wisdom calls out!

She calls, “to you, O men” and “to the sons of men.” (Ch. 8:4) The references to 'men' and 'sons of men' might be understood as 'mankind.' So, wisdom calls out to everyone. She wants everyone to listen and learn and gain understanding.

Yet...two are singled out.

   O naïve ones, discern prudence; 
   And, O fools, discern wisdom.
   --Proverbs 8:5

Who are the naïve and the fool?

The Hebrew term for ‘naïve’ is rooted in the idea of ‘being spacious or wide open.’ The naïve person is ‘open-minded.’ However, being open-minded works in two ways. Not only is the naïve likely to believe a lie, he is just as likely to believe what is true. He is just as likely to make choices that lead down a path of evil as he is to choose the path of good. The trouble is that he is too open-minded to tell the difference. He needs wisdom and discretion.

The Hebrew term used in this verse for ‘fool’ carries the idea of ‘heaviness’ or being ‘fat.’ Used in a good sense, heaviness is related to strength; in a bad sense, laziness and inactivity of the mind, so stupidity and folly.

The fool needs wisdom and discretion to activate his mind and motivate him toward things that are good and beneficial.

So, Wisdom called to two, but did you notice that she called to only two?
Wisdom called the naïve and the fool, but one is left out.
Someone is missing.

In the first chapter of Proverbs Wisdom reflects on a trio: The naïve, fools, and scoffers.

   How long, O naïve ones, will you love simplicity?
   And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing,
   And fools hate knowledge? (1:22)

Yet, when Wisdom calls out in chapter 8, why does she not call out to the scoffer?

Perhaps it is because the nature of the scoffer. You have probably been around a scoffer. Another word we use for scoffing is mocking. The scoffer rejects wisdom and laughs at instruction.
  • The scoffer already knows! 
  • The scoffer will not listen! 
  • The scoffer does not take advice! 
  • The scoffer is confident (though it is really only pride)!

(Read ahead in Proverbs 9 to see how to deal with the scoffer.)

Wisdom is wise. She calls to those who can listen, who can be taught.
It is not a pleasant question, but one that must be asked:
Is wisdom calling you, or...are you...


Monday, October 10, 2016

“It’ll Be Alright...”

Solomon told a story that unfolded before him as he watched from the window of his house. He described a young man who was naïve and who lacked sense. (Read the entire chapter of Proverbs 7 for a complete picture.)

Of course, Solomon did not know the young man’s character by merely looking at him. He watched. He observed. The actions of the young man told his own story so that when Solomon wrote, he described the young fool accurately:

   And I saw among the naïve, 
   I discerned among the youths, 
   A young man lacking sense.
   --Proverbs 7:7

What was it about the young man that identified him?

Solomon was writing to his own son to warn him to stay away from the adulteress. She seduces with flattery, food, fun, and frivolity.

It is clear that the young man did not turn down the street of the adulteress to go directly to her house; she had to woo him, seduce him... and she did just that.

'Adulteress' is more of a technical term; seductress is more descriptive.

The story climaxes in verse 22: “Suddenly he followers her...” and he was destroyed.

How did he end up in such catastrophic circumstances so that his strength of will was ‘suddenly’ broken and he gave in to the adulteress?

You can imagine his cries ‘after’ the fact, after he had been seduced and his life ruined:
   "I never intended to..."
   "I didn’t know..."

However, Solomon warned his son, “Do not stray into her paths.” (v. 25) The simple truth is that he should have known; he did not have to stray.

We understand that...
  • No one strays into financial success;
  • No one strays into a successful career;
  • No one strays into physical fitness.
Success and excellence require thinking, intention, watchfulness, and planning. We should not think that spiritual maturity is any different.

The young man that Solomon observed was described as naïve and lacking sense because he was spiritually thoughtless.

When we hear our kids (or kids, when you hear yourself) shrug off parental warnings with:
   "I don’t see anything wrong with it."
   "Oh mom, you worry too much."
   "You just don’t understand."
   "Oh dad, it'll be alright."

When we hear these kinds of unthinking responses in the context of questionable entertainment choices, questionable friends, or questionable activities, we should recognize spiritual immaturity. Yet, we must see it for what it really is: Moral thoughtlessness (i.e. naïve and lacking sense).

Along life's journey a person often encounters a 'Y' in the road. It is a time to pause...and think..."What will be the likely outcome?" Some paths are to be avoided.

As for the young man that Solomon observed, nothing really happened suddenly, except perhaps, that he came to his senses! But it was far too late for thinking at that point. The young man lacked sense when he first turned the corner without giving it even one moment’s thought . . . and he was not alright!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

No Stupid Children

I would not advise it, but you could try it. The next time your child pushes aside your instruction or rejects your discipline, you could say that they are ‘stupid.’ Again, I would not advise it, but you could, because Solomon wrote,

   Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
   But he who hates reproof is stupid.
   --Proverbs 12:1

We often think of ‘hate’ as a reference to a seething and despicable attitude against something. We should understand that the term ‘rejection,' though seemingly mild, also fits as a synonym. Anyone who ‘rejects’ reproof (verbal correction) is stupid.

The Hebrew word behind the term ‘discipline’ includes all aspects of instruction, including: verbal instruction, demonstration, correction, re-teaching and rebuke. This same Hebrew word also includes all forms of discipline including corporal punishment. Generally, when administered, discipline is not pleasant, but it is for the good of the child. Parents, instruction and discipline are expressions of love for your child.

Instruction and discipline have the goal of instilling godly principles, proper attitudes and good behavior. Parents must instruct and discipline in such a way that their child can recognize the benefit of following instruction and accepting discipline. Harsh words do not make for good instruction. Impulsive discipline will not teach beneficial lessons. Homespun ideas that have little relevance or no basis in reality will teach a child to stop listening.

Instruction and discipline are imperative, yet children need to be trained that instruction and discipline are good for them. They need to be taught the value of loving and desiring instruction and discipline.

To do this parents must ‘tell’ their children the benefits of instruction and discipline in relation to identifiable, real-life, practical examples. In other words, after having given instruction and/or discipline, a parent should be on the lookout for a teachable moment that will illuminate the benefit of previous instruction/discipline. That moment may not be immediate; perhaps days will pass. But watch for that teachable moment.

Do not make the teachable moment an ‘I told you so’ moment. Rather, when the teachable moment arrives point back to the instruction/discipline and explain the connection. Help them to appreciate the benefit that resulted. (You can sometimes see teachable moments in the behavior of other children.)

Over time you will find there to be less need for discipline and more times when simple instruction is all that is needed...

And your child will not be stupid.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Seventh

   There are six things which the LORD hates, 
   Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him....
   --Proverbs 6:16

This verse introduces a list of seven things that the Lord hates. We should perk up and give attention to this list. If God ‘hates’ a specific action, we should avoid it at all cost. If God ‘hates’ a specific kind of person, we should do everything within our power to keep from becoming that kind of person.

'Abomination' is stronger than 'hate.'
Question: Is the use of the word hate followed by abomination simply a poetic device or is there something more?

If the ‘number’ had not changed, that would be an easy explanation. But the number did change, from six to seven: Six things hated, seven an abomination.

   There are six things which the LORD hates, 
   Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
      Haughty eyes,
      A lying tongue,
      And hands that shed innocent blood,
      A heart that devises wicked plans,
      Feet that run rapidly to evil,
      A false witness who utters lies,
      And one who spreads strife among brothers.
                                                               --Proverbs 6:16-19

Recent Hebrew scholarship suggests that the change in number, from six to seven, along with the more intense wording (abomination) in the second half of verse sixteen is a way of emphasizing the last item in the list. Accepting this idea, the overall sense of the verse would be:

   There are six things which the Lord hates, 
   but a seventh is an abomination to Him.

So, the seventh item in the list stands out as something that is hated by God above all the other things that He hates. We might say that it is at the top of His list of 'Things Hated.'

Read the entire list.
Think about the things that God hates.
Look carefully at the seventh!

Of all the things that God hates; among pride, lying, murder, and an evil heart; more than anything else, a person “who spreads strife among brothers” is an abomination to God.

Do your actions and your speech promote peace and unity among your fellow Christians, or are you promoting something else?