Monthly Archives: January 2016

Proverbs 31 – The Intention

She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. – Proverbs 31:20

This last chapter of Proverbs has been a source of discouragement for many women.  The standard listed here as the virtuous wife is pretty high.  Not everyone is a good negotiator or seamstress. No doubt some less-than-honorable men have pointed to this chapter and used it as a weapon.  My goal with this chapter is not to point out something else women must do, but to highlight a character trait that everyone – male and female – can nurture and grow in their personal life; that trait is generosity.

Among all the various descriptions of the high standard of the virtuous wife, right here in the middle of this 11 verse section is this verse about her extending her hand to the poor.  This is an active step.  Intentionally being generous and not walking by those in need.

Generosity is a quality all of us need.  It makes no difference if we are rich or poor, male or female, old or young; a mature believer is a generous believer.

I am reminded of the story in Luke 21 where Jesus uses the example of the widow who contributed those 2 mites, which were small copper coins of very little worth, to the temple treasury.  In His way of thinking, this widow gave more than anyone else.  He taught how she gave not out of her abundance but out of her poverty and how her gift of those two small coins was a gift greater than anyone else’s.   She was generous, even in her time of need.

Like that widow of Luke 21, the virtuous man or woman, is generous.  They are very intentional about extending their hand or reaching out to those around them who are in need.  The lesson for all of us is, how generous are we?  I’m not asking about your financial giving – sometimes we can do this as a rote exercise without even thinking about doing it.  Giving can become something that is relegated to a check box, something we do without any emotion or connection to the person (or organization we are supporting).   But how intentional are we to meeting the need of another individual?

Obviously, giving to the church we attend and supporting various organizations we believe in is necessary and we need to continue to do so, but here in Proverbs 31, I see how important it is for us to extend our hand, to reach out to those around us and intentionally look for ways to help others.  This is true no matter where we fall on the economic scale.

I have a friend that will often say, “You can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.”  It is important that intentional generosity is part of our life.  Everyone can do something.

Proverbs 30 – The Shame

This is the way of an adulterous woman; she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wickedness.” – Proverbs 30:20

Something is missing in our society.

I’m not thinking of money, free time or highways not under construction.  I’m not thinking of honest politicians or day baseball games.  But I am thinking of shame.

I know it sounds a little strange but I think shame can be a positive quality that our modern society has lost.  We may see shame displayed from failure but the shame of sin is not something often seen in the non-Church world.  At one time, even those who would not claim the name of Christ, still understood to one degree or another, the shame of sin.  I don’t see that occurring very often.

The verse here is specifically discounting the sinfulness of sexual sin, but the concept includes all sorts of vices individuals find themselves participating.  Gambling was once a back room activity which required you to know the secret password to enter.  Now, it’s plainly done via the internet or you can just run down to the corner store and pick up all the Power Ball tickets you want.  We can debate the level of sinfulness and problems created in society with tobacco and alcohol but it wasn’t long ago, even those seemingly benign activities were done in private – with a degree of shame.

I don’t want to guilt people.  I don’t want legalism and do not advocate keeping a list of do’s and don’ts.  Believe me, I need God’s grace.  I love His grace and His grace is what I want to proclaim!  But sometimes I wonder if in our attempt to reach people with the saving knowledge of Jesus, we have downplayed the severity of sin?

God does saves us.  He does erase the “sin stain” on my life.  I don’t need to be guilt-ridden of my past.  But am I ashamed of my sin now?  Do I participate in activities and explain it away with saying, “It’s all under God’s grace.”  Am I willing to give myself a pass on sinful behavior because it has become a societal norm?

Sin is a bad thing.  We do no one any favors when we excuse sin.  I understand we want to show grace, but along with that is the necessity of telling truth about sin.  At times our modern evangelical churches are quick to teach grace, but do not wish to mention truth.  Of course, there are times when churches are so quick to speak truth and point out sin without highlighting grace.

Both grace and truth are needed.

I am not questioning an individual’s salvation, but I am speaking about their walk.  Are you ashamed when you fall into sin?  When temptation does have minor victory in your life, what is your response?  Are you ashamed or do you explain it away like this adulterous woman listed here in Proverbs 30?

Come quickly to God.  Let that shame drive you to Him because His grace is right there for you!

Sin is a bad thing.  Our own sin is something that should bring us shame.

Proverbs 29 – The Fear

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. – Proverbs 29:25

What brings fear into your life?  What do you fear?

Fear is such a strong emotion.  While we tend to think of fear being a negative emotion, fear can be a motivator.  It can also keep us out of danger.  But, from my experience and observation, fear can nearly paralyze us.  It often keeps us from trying something new or meeting new challenges.  Or fear of how others may react to us can push us into things that we know aren’t right.

While it may not be true in every instance, the times when I am fearful are the times I’m struggling to have faith in and trust in the LORD.

Here in verse 25, King Solomon is telling us how fear can be very harmful to us.  Fear of what others may think, say or do to me, brings a snare to us, a trap which will stop us in our tracks.  In fact, because of fear, we don’t move forward in trust and confidence.  We’re afraid of how other may respond and therefore we are caught, unable to move forward.  We’re not trusting God.

I think of the army of ancient Israel in 1 Samuel 17:11 when because of the fear of Goliath, they were huddled together, paralyzed with fear and unable to fight the battle before them.  I’m sure you remember the story of the boy David going out to meet his brother who were in the army.  Israel was in conflict with the Philistines and their “champion,” Goliath from the other mountain top, calls out Israel and taunts them.  His mere size alone was fearful.  He was large, his weapons were massive and his language mocked Israel.  The entire army was fearful and afraid to act.  They were afraid to be the men God called them to be.  They were an well trained and equipped army and they had the Creator of the Universe on their side.  Yet they were paralyzed with fear, unable to move.

Like ancient Israel, we can succumb to fear in the same way.

This often occurs when we can’t see how obedience to God resolves our situation.  We see the circumstances before us, we hear what those around us are saying and we cannot resolve in our minds how this situation will work out.  We may not panic exactly, but we do operate in fear.  Sometimes we cower in the corner like the army of ancient Israel or sometimes we blunder forward doing what we think others want us to do.  Either way, we fall into a trap, a snare.

The contrast however, is trusting in God.  That trust brings safety. I realize this is easier said than done.  Sometimes you are facing a giant of a problem and your situation looks bleak.  Sometimes the odds against you are overwhelming.  Trusting God is not easy all the time, but it is always right.

You may be on your own (you’re really not alone, but you may think so).  You may not see how it will work out and you may be strongly encouraged to violate His plan, but trusting in Him is always the best course of action.

Don’t be afraid of what others say or do.  But trust in the LORD. Only by following Him are you truly secure.

Proverbs 28 – The Proud

He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.- Proverbs 28:25-26

Suppose you took your car into the repair shop and after explaining the problem you were experiencing with your vehicle, you were told by the mechanic, “These newer cars can be kinda tricky.  I don’t know if I can fix that problem, but I’ll drop your engine, rip open your transmission and have a look see!”  My guess is you would find another mechanic.

Same with a surgeon.  “I don’t know if I’m up to doing that operation.  This takes someone who really knows what their doing.  But hey I’ll give it a try!” Those are not the words you want to hear when you go under the knife.

Self-confidence and pride (or arrogance) are different.  In both of the previous situations, I want someone who has the self-confidence to handle a difficult task.   But arrogance is another story.

You’ve probably been around arrogant people.  People who think they know it all or worse, they love to let everyone know they know it all.  Always complaining or criticizing and at the same time, rarely offering to help accomplish something unless it was done their way.  Nobody wants to be around that kind of strife. The next verse says how an individual who trusts in his own heart is a fool.  This is a strong warning about being so self-reliant where one can’t see any way but their way in a situation.

I wonder however, if this is easier to see in others than ourselves.  Is it possible that complaining about “how things need to be done ‘round here” comes off to others as arrogance as opposed to helpful critic?

In contrast to the person with a prideful heart, is a person who trusts in the LORD.  That person is said to be prospered followed by the idea of the person who walks wisely being delivered.  What exactly does this mean in context?

In my way of thinking, the person who trusts in the LORD is the person who knows they do not have all the answers.  They understand they don’t know all the “why’s” but they are still trusting God for the result.  This same person walks in the wisdom of the LORD which implies submission and surrender to His direction.  The wise person knows it’s God’s will that one must follow, not our own feelings.

The prideful demands their rights, their way and they demand recognition.  The person trusting God submits his daily walk, his regular tasks to God’s direction and will.  It’s not about me, it’s all about Him.

Like many of these Proverbs, this isn’t always easy to follow. However, over the long term, if one operates this way and makes submission to God their number one goal, they will find God’s prosperity and deliverance.

Proverbs 27 – The Distraction

Like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place. – Proverbs 27:8

 When I was just a small boy, I remember getting lost in a department store.  My mother took my brother and I to large city to shop in one of their big department stores.  I cannot remember what diverted my attention but I suppose it was some sort of toy truck, car or tractor.  There was not a toy truck, car or tractor made that I didn’t want.  After what I thought was only a brief few seconds admiring a shiny new item I wanted to add to my toy box, I realized I couldn’t see my mom.

In just a few moments, I went from a state of total security, to complete panic.  I was alone, in a large store, in a large town – completely unfamiliar with my surroundings.  I remember running down the isle, looking left and right desperately looking for my mom.  I couldn’t see her.  I checked other isles with no positive results until finally I remember calling out for her.  When I heard her call my name, I quickly left the toy department and went back to her side.  I stayed pretty close to her the rest of the trip.

Being out-of-place can take on a few different meanings.  You may feel physically out-of-place or away from home or distant from comfortable surroundings; or you may feel this way when you’re being ignored or forgotten.   Either way, feeling out-of-place is a difficult experience.  I think however, here Solomon is not speaking so much of being physically away from home.  I think he is speaking about an emotional or spiritual struggle.

It is interesting to me that Solomon uses the phrase “wander from his place” or some versions use the words “stray from his home.”  This seems to indicate the person was distracted and experienced an incremental distancing or we might say, “drift” from what was comfortable or familiar to the sudden realization they were far away.

Wandering or drifting out-of-place slowly occurs over time.  It’s the little decisions that seem benign at the time but set us on a slow course away from our “place” or “home.”  Whether it’s small points of compromise around biblical principles or neglecting normal spiritual disciplines, this drift is hardly noticeable – at first.  But, at some point, suddenly there is the realization that home is a long distance away.

The writer of Hebrews states, “Therefore we must give earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).   Clearly, this is a warning to us.  The drift or wandering can be subtle but it is real and quite dangerous.  We are to expend effort in keeping ourselves close to Him, to not drift away.

Therefore, spiritual disciplines are important to the life of a believer.  Bible study, prayer, church attendance are all necessary disciplines and you could probably add fellowship and personal accountability to the list.  The point is drifting or straying away is easy and it is only with a concerted effort on our part, do we remain close to God.

Don’t let those shiny new toys distract you.  You might find yourself from your nest.

Proverbs 26 – The Quarrel

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.- Proverbs 26:17

 This chapter of Proverbs might be my most favorite as the wisdom about life just flows from every verse.  The first 12 verses give us warnings about a foolish person.  Verse 13-16 cover a lazy person and from verse 17 to the end of the chapter is rich with warnings about gossip along with a few other things.

Many years ago, this was one of the first bible verses I ever memorized on my own without being forced to for a Sunday School class when I was a child.  As I was just beginning to read and study the bible as a young adult, I remember finding this verse.  It struck me as so applicable that I was able to quickly commit it to memory.

The word picture Solomon presents us is quite vivid.  Imagine a dog passing by your residence and you decide to go out and grab it by the ears!  There is a strong likelihood you come away from that encounter with some wounds.  Solomon says this is what it is like to inject yourself into a quarrel that does not concern you.

The key term here is “meddle.”  There are times when we do need to intervene in a stressful or even hostile situation in an attempt to resolve the conflict.  Here however, the intent of the person entering the situation isn’t positive.  They meddle, possibly encouraging the conflict between the two (or more) parties.  Instead of working to help solve the point of disagreement, they make the conflict worse.  It may be possible they are looking to validate a separate issue in their life or they could just wish to be perceived as the great solver of relationships.

I find it interesting that this verse is found in this chapter talking about foolish and lazy people, followed by gossipers, called “talebearers” in verse 22, along with those who give false praise from verse 23 to 26.  Yet right here in the middle of all these various warnings, this verse appears about not getting yourself into a quarrel that isn’t any of your business.  Could it be the “meddling” is not unlike being foolish, lazy and insincere?  Do we really understand the damage that can be done by sharing our opinion about someone else’s conflict?

We’d all agree gossip has no place in the life of a believer.  But I wonder if we understand how meddling in a conflict can be just as dangerous?

It is only under rare circumstances should one enter into a conflict in which you are not a participant.  If you do, you might find yourself in a dogfight.

Proverbs 25 – The Faithful

Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot out of joint – Proverbs 25:19

 I’ve not had the experience very often, but years ago I did have a bad tooth ache.  Bad enough that I decided I needed to get some medical help.  Of course, it was on a weekend and my dentist wasn’t going to be available for another 36 hours or more.   It was a long and painful weekend.

I also broke my leg once.  For almost three months I couldn’t put any weight on it and for another three months I could not put my full weight on it.  Walking was difficult.  Stairs were complicated and the fear of falling down (again) nearly petrified me.

The images used here by King Solomon are simple and profound.  In a time of trouble, stress and/or uncertainty, seeking help from an unfaithful man (or woman) is painful, complicated and unreliable.  He makes the case of having confidence in an unfaithful person is a fruitless endeavor.

The message is clear; be careful who you seek for counsel and help.  If that person has demonstrated less than stellar behavior in times past, there is a good chance the behavior will continue.  If they’ve betrayed a confidence of yours before, it doesn’t make sense to share more confidential information with them.

Like a tooth ache or a broken ankle, the pain is only part of the issue.  You can’t eat your normal diet with a serious tooth ache and getting around is substantial problem on a gimpy leg.  So too is an “unfaithful” person in a time of trial.  Not only is their counsel suspect but you may end up with more problems than you originally faced!

There is another side of this proverb in that it reminds me of a passage of Scripture from Matthew where Jesus teaches on faithfulness.  In Matthew 25:14 He begins a teaching with a man who is going to be traveling far away and leaves his three servants in charge of his affairs.  To one he leaves five “talents” to another two and a third he left just one.  When he returns, the one whom he leaves five talents, made five more and gave his master ten.  The servant whom was left two, he also made two additional talents.  Both of those servants were commended and told how faithful they were and in fact demonstrated they could be trusted with even more.

But there was the third servant who was given one talent did nothing with it and was rebuked and called “unprofitable.”  We could say, “unfaithful.”  He wasn’t trustworthy.  You do not want to be that guy, the person who is untrustworthy, unfaithful, someone that cannot be relied upon in touch situations.  Who wants to be compared to a tooth ache or a broken ankle?

So, we must ask ourselves two questions:  One, who do we turn to in times of need?  Are we trusting in the right people whom have demonstrated their true character?  And secondly, what kind of person are we?  Can we be considered by others as faithful, trustworthy, someone that can be relied upon?