This is part twenty nine in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that confession is a critical aspect of having a deep, intimate relationship with God. Failing to confess sin to Him will build barriers in our fellowship. I also saw the value of trusting God to guide me through life rather than depending on myself.
Chapter twenty nine is the final chapter containing Solomon’s proverbs, for chapter thirty was written by Agur and the final chapter by Lemuel. Today’s passage repeats many of the themes we have seen in previous days, so I will try to focus on a couple of other key messages.
Verse nine reads “If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.” It is generally not wise to have a dispute with a foolish man, for he is incapable of allowing himself to be chastened. He will react either with rage or with scorn, but never with humility. As one seeking wisdom, I need to choose carefully when I will take a stand. If I perceive foolishness in someone who has wronged me or in someone exhibiting foolish behavior, it may be better simply to let the matter pass than to make that person my enemy.
The eleventh verse tells us “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” The principle exhibited here is that those who are wise will know the value of maintaining control of their emotions. To speak whatever comes to my mind at an emotional moment violates much of the wisdom I have learned through the first twenty eight days of this study. For example, I have learned time and again that often the best display of wisdom is silence, for in some situations anything I say or do will be foolish. I have learned the importance of keeping my emotions in check, whether it be refraining from fighting with fools or from saying something jovial at a moment of sadness.
Similar wisdom is found in verse twenty. “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” In this case we see that not only do I need to keep my emotions in check, but my words as well. If I speak hastily without first applying wisdom to my words, I have less hope in life than a fool. I need to control both my emotions and words.
Verse 24 speaks of the predicament I may find myself in if I am an accomplice in a crime. “Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.” If I help someone commit an evil deed and am found out, I will be forced to testify, but anything I say against him will serve to implicate myself as well. The lesson is clear: avoid putting myself in such situations. I need to live a life of moral purity, adhering to God’s laws.
I will close today with the twelfth verse. It says “If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked.” Societal corruption tends to begin at the top. When the rulers forsake wisdom it seems that it will not be long before their evil begins to pervade society. Certainly there are many examples of this in the Old Testament, for often a king would turn his back on God and begin to honor false gods. Very soon the whole nation would have turned their backs on God. As a modern-day application I thought of Bill Clinton and the way his evil, adulterous deeds came to light. Suddenly the whole nation was using words and phrases that before had been considered taboo. Society immediately began to change its view on what acts and deeds actually constitute sexual relations. Truly corruption at the highest levels affects everyone.
To take this proverb further, we can apply the lessons to any authority structure. Just as God has determined that society demands rulers, so He has placed authority structures into the family and the church. If there is corruption in the leadership of the family or the church, we can expect similar corruption throughout. As a father I need to maintain moral purity so that I may pass purity to my children rather than evil. If my children exhibit folly I need to examine myself to see if I have been corrupted and allowed my corruption to affect them. In a church setting, a pastor must maintain doctrinal purity, for if he turns to false teachings, his church will surely follow.