This is the eleventh of thirty-one articles covering the book of Proverbs. Chapter eleven of Proverbs continues the theme of contrasting the righteous and the wicked. Though not every proverb uses these words, most of them adhere to this theme.
“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.” (verse 1)
God is the source of all that is good, just and wise. Because he perfectly embodies all of these traits, it stands to reason that he would find delight when we seek to honor him through attempting to follow his goodness, justice and wisdom. Conversely we would expect Him to hate anything that contradicts these traits.
“When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.” (verse 2)
It seems ironic, but one of the fruits of wisdom is the realization of our own foolishness. As we come to learn more about ourselves through the pursuit of godly wisdom, we will understand more fully how far short we fall of God’s perfect standards. We will realize that wisdom is a gift of God and not something that is inherent within us. Our reaction, then, should not be pride but humility before God and before men.
“The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death. The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.”
Verses 3 through 6 all contrast the fruit of a life of righteousness and a life of wickedness. The righteous, those who are upright before God, will allow ethics and morality to guide them throughout their lives. The unfaithful, though, allow their crookedness and perversity to guide them away from God, down the path that leads to destruction. In the final judgment before God, riches will have no value for only righteousness before God will be able to save anyone from eternal destruction. This righteousness will guide the wise man throughout his life, but the wicked, having no guide, will fall by their own wickedness. Their hatred of wisdom and their love of folly will bring them to destruction.
“A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” (verse 13) Anyone who is part of a church knows what gossip can do within the body of Christ. Gossip can, and so often does, tear churches apart, polarizing groups within the body and causing untold dissension. Every person has the responsibility to think about what they are going to say and to ensure they do not spread gossip. As we learned yesterday, sometimes the best expression of wisdom is to say nothing.
“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” (verse 22)
I simply could not ignore this proverb, for it is such a wonderful metaphor. The illustration of a ring of gold through the snout of an animal regarded as unclean by the author is the perfect illustration for a person who lacks discretion. In this case Solomon speaks of a woman who is beautiful to behold, yet her lack of discretion is vile. The contrast between the beauty of the gold and his disgust with pigs shows just how vile we should find someone who willfully lacks discretion.
“He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, But trouble will come to him who seeks evil. (verse 27)
Throughout this book we have seen wisdom personified as a woman, crying out for us to heed her call. We have also seen folly competing with her for our attention and affection. This verse shows that the choice to seek and find wisdom is my choice. I need to make the conscious decision to pursue wisdom. The only alternative to seeking wisdom is to seek evil. Either way, I will find whatever it is I choose to pursue.
“If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, How much more the ungodly and the sinner.” (verse 31)
The chapter closes with a warning. The righteous are not immune to judgment and may receive discipline for their wrong-doings in this life. There are always consequences to sin, even when one is pursuing wisdom. So if even the righteous and those who walk in the way of wisdom are punished for the sins they commit, how much more will the ungodly and those who seek out wickedness receive judgment in this life. The point is clear: every person has to accept the responsibility for his or her folly. The pursuit of wisdom does not leave anyone immune to judgment.