III. Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1–22:16)

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III. Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)

10:1 Solomon’s proverbs begin here. A proverb is a pithy statement about how to make the best possible decision with regard to a particular scenario. Solomon’s proverbs in the Bible offer godly wisdom for making choices about everything: marriage, parenting, work, money, friends, and more.

Because Proverbs is an essential manual that helps parents teach their children wisdom, it’s not surprising that this first proverb speaks to how the presence or absence of wisdom in a child’s heart affects his relationship to his parents. A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother. When children walk in godliness, they bring joy to their moms and dads. Foolish sons and daughters, however, cause their parents grief. You cannot control the decisions your children will make. But you can, from the beginning, teach them a divine perspective of life so they’re equipped to make decisions that glorify God.

10:2-5 These verses address principles of hard work and prosperity. Those who are lazy or who use illicit means to obtain money will not prosper. Ultimately, the Lord denies the wicked what they crave, and the idle become poor (10:3-4). Obtain money illegally, and God will oppose you. Sit around playing video games all day, and you’ll go hungry. But know God takes care of those who embrace righteousness and work with diligence. See 6:6-11; 12:24; 18:9.

10:6-7 To be blessed is to be happy, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to be happy. The problem is that human beings have messed-up ideas about how to become so. In God’s economy, blessings come upon the righteous—that is, on those who seek to live in conformity to God’s character.

10:8-10 Sadly, integrity is hard to come by in today’s culture. But God promises security to the one who lives with integrity (10:9). The one who acts honestly and honorably, even when no one is watching, receives divine protection. No such safety net exists for the one who perverts his ways.

10:11 That the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence is a reminder that growing up in Christ means using our tongues to refresh others. That, however, goes against the natural perversity of the human heart and requires the power of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of how much we shoot off our mouths and say, “But I just can’t help it,” we can control our tongues.

10:12 It’s one thing to quote a passage like, Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses, but it’s another to put it into practice. We must realize that our likes and personal preferences are irrelevant. The Bible doesn’t command us to like one another; it commands us to “love one another” (John 13:34). In the Bible, love is not a giddy feeling or butterflies in the stomach. Love cannot be defined by how we feel, then. Biblical love is measured in sacrificing for the good of others.

10:13-14 It’s amazing how much the Bible says about our speech. If you want to do a study that will challenge and change you, explore what God’s Word says about your words. Observe a wise man, and you’ll find God’s wisdom on his lips and a storeroom of knowledge in his heart. Observe a fool, and you’ll see someone who’s going to take a beating and be destroyed by his own mouth.

10:15-16 Wealth provides protection that poverty can’t (10:15). Throwing money away, then, will only lead to your ruin. But let your bank account—whether large or small—be supplied by honest labor and not wicked gain (10:16).

10:17 If one has a choice between following a path to life and being lost, who would willingly choose the latter? Yet, countless people do this every day when they reject correction instead of following instruction.

10:18 The person whose heart is filled with hatred experiences a catch-22. Either he conceals his hatred and is a liar, or he spreads [his] slander and is a fool.

10:19-21 When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent (10:19). In other words, if you don’t know how to keep your mouth shut, you can expect sin to flow repeatedly from it. But the tongue of the righteous is pure silver, and his lips feed many (10:20-21)—that is, his mouth is valuable to those around him because it builds them up and dispenses God’s viewpoint like a rich meal.

10:22 The Lord’s blessing enriches, and he adds no painful effort to it. A blessing in this instance is a God-given capacity to enjoy his goodness in your life. Money and good health are certainly nice things to have, but they are not necessarily blessings in the biblical sense. Many people have such things but don’t enjoy them and aren’t blessed by them. They have no sense of God’s peace or satisfaction in their hearts; thus, even “good” things can become a source of unhappiness or discontentment. When God pours out his goodness to you, he gives you joy and peace and satisfaction with it, regardless of your particular situation.

10:23-25 What’s a telltale sign of a fool? Shameful conduct is pleasure to him. Evil has stopped being evil for the one who rejects God. It moves under the heading of entertainment. But a person of understanding finds pleasure and enjoyment in a life lived wisely (10:23). And, in the end, both the wicked and the righteous will reap the just consequences of the conflicting pleasures they sought (10:24-25).

10:26 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 18:9; 26:13-16.

10:27-30 Our graveyards are filled with young people whose lives were cut short as a result of foolish choices. If you don’t want to die before your time, fear the Lord—take God seriously (10:27). Verses 28-30 repeat this theme. The righteous have hope in the midst of trouble because God is a mighty fortress that can’t be shaken. The wicked, however, avail themselves of no protection and can expect nothing but destruction (10:28-29).

10:31-32 You can tell the difference between the righteous and the wicked simply by listening to them talk (see 10:11, 13-14, 18-21). Jesus said, “The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matt 12:34).

11:1 The Lord hates dishonesty in the marketplace. His delight and blessing are on those who do business with integrity—regardless of how others operate.

11:2 God stands ready to grant us wisdom in abundance, but we have to admit our need. When arrogance comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom. We’ve got to humble ourselves and admit that we don’t know everything. We need to stop flying blind and start communicating with the one in the control tower who can see everything and lead us to our destination.

11:3 Walk in the integrity that comes from being in alignment with God’s priorities, and it will guide you.

11:4-10 Whatever success and profit the wicked have in this life will eventually come to ruin: When the wicked person dies, his expectation comes to nothing (11:7). At a wicked man’s death, people don’t even grieve; they celebrate (11:10). After death, he is consigned to a joyless eternity separated from God. There is no fulfillment in hell, no dreams, only bitter regrets. It’s important to remember that wealth can’t protect the wicked from judgment (11:4, 7); you can’t buy off God. The righteous, though, will be rescued (11:4, 6, 8-9).

11:11 A city is built up by the blessing of the upright; thus, God’s kingdom agenda is to be lived out by Christians as they interact with their world. We must align our lives with his game plan as we love God, love our neighbors, and influence our society. When Christians live with righteousness and justice, unbelievers will see God’s truth in action and be blessed by it.

11:12-13 Wisdom is demonstrated by what does and does not come out of a person’s mouth. Here, Solomon emphasizes what should not come out. A person with understanding keeps silent and does not show contempt for his neighbor by spewing out hatred (11:12).

How do you identify a trustworthy person? See if they can keep a secret. If they prefer spilling the beans in gossip, they don’t deserve your confidence (11:13). See 17:9; 26:20-22.

11:14 Don’t be a Lone Ranger Christian. Don’t think you can succeed apart from the help of a community of believers in a local church. Instead, seek guidance from many counselors who will speak the divine viewpoint into your life.

11:15 See 6:1-5.

11:16-21 These verses are examples that describe the practical outcomes of two opposing mindsets, righteousness and wickedness. An evil person may gain riches temporarily (11:16). But, in the end, he brings disaster, punishment, and death upon himself (11:17, 19, 21) and is detestable to the Lord (11:20). In contrast, the righteous person gains honor, benefit, and reward (11:16-18); such a person is God’s delight (11:20).

11:22 Nothing is more attractive than a wise woman who makes God’s agenda her own (see 31:10-31). But, if a physically beautiful woman rejects good sense, at heart she’s no more attractive than a pig’s snout adorned with a gold ring. In other words, it doesn’t matter how you try to dress up foolishness. Put lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig.

11:23 See 11:4-9.

11:24-26 These verses emphasize the importance of generosity. Giving is an act of worship to God. It reveals who comes first in our lives (see 3:9). When we use our money and resources to promote God’s agenda—building up the saints, spreading the gospel, helping those in need—he promises blessing, which is the capacity to enjoy and extend his goodness (see 10:22).

11:27 “The one who seeks finds,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:8. Thus, whoever searches for what is good won’t be disappointed (see 8:17). But this same principle applies to those who go hunting for evil. Look for trouble, and it will come find you.

11:28 God may provide riches or not. Regardless, anyone trusting in his riches will fall. As Solomon has said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (3:5). Nothing else can support you. See 30:7-9.

11:29-30 If you prefer to be a fool, be prepared to spend your life doing what other people tell you (11:29). Righteous living, on the other hand, is like a tree of life. A wise person captivates people (11:30).

11:31 Sometimes it seems the wicked have it made in life, but that’s an illusion. If the righteous will be repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and sinful. God may choose to demonstrate his righteous judgment on sin while a sinner is still living. But even if an evildoer escapes condemnation in this life, all his glittering gold means nothing in the end.

12:1 See 3:11-12; 9:7-9.

12:2-3 No one can be made secure by wickedness, but the root of the righteous is immovable (12:3). In other words, no schemes or plans of the wicked will succeed, nor will they give them safety or security (12:2). The righteous, on the other hand, need not worry about securing themselves or establishing a support system. Their roots go down deep; they will never be moved because the Lord secures them (12:3).

12:4 That a wife of noble character is her husband’s crown foreshadows the book’s closing praise of a capable wife (31:10-31). Her husband is proud of her and lets her know it. On the other hand, a wife who causes shame is like rottenness in her husband’s bones. Even if a man is healthy and fit, a shameful wife makes him miserable on the inside.

12:5 At conversion, the Christian receives a new mind: “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). But too many believers slump into their old ways of thinking. Instead, we must be in tune with the Spirit of God so that our thoughts are just. Righteous living can only proceed from righteous thinking.

12:6 See 10:11, 18-21, 31-32.

12:7 This proverb calls to mind Jesus’s parable of the two builders in Matthew 7:24-27. The house of the righteous will stand because everything they do is built on a foundation of trusting in God’s view of things as revealed in his Word. By contrast, the wicked are overthrown because their lives are built on a foundation of shifting sand. Their choices and decisions have nothing of substance to back them up.

12:8 One either has a mind operating from the divine viewpoint or a twisted mind. The former produces insight that will earn praise. But the twisted mind produces corruption that will only be despised.

12:9 Better to be a nobody and have some measure of prosperity than to act impor-tant but have no food. So don’t be something special in your own eyes. God’s opinion is what matters.

12:10 When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them dominion over the world, including the animals. A Christian who is committed to God’s rule knows that animals are part of God’s creation and deserve our compassionate care.

12:11 See 10:4-5.

12:12 Not only is the root of the righteous immovable (12:7), it’s also productive (12:12). Those who align themselves under God, then, are both secure from danger and able to accomplish good works that bring blessings to others.

12:13-14 Jesus told his listeners that they would be judged by their own words (see Matt 12:37). Be careful what you say, then; don’t be hasty to speak. You will either be trapped by your words (12:13) or satisfied by them (12:14).

12:15 We need a divine perspective. We need the opinion of the one who can see things for what they really are. A fool’s way is right in his own eyes. The fool’s underlying problem is he can’t see that his spiritual eyesight is blurred. As a result, he never listens to counsel. He just listens to himself tell himself that he’s okay.

12:16-22 Remember what James says about the tongue: it’s “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas 3:8). This is the principle at work behind the fool’s displeasure (12:16) when he speaks rashly (12:18). It’s a reminder that when we are quick to speak—often out of anger—good results rarely follow. We must engage our minds before we speak.

Of all the sins involving our speech, lying is one of the most disastrous. The wicked have deceit in their hearts (12:20). And, inevitably, deceit escapes the heart through a mouth that tells lies (12:17, 19, 22). But lying lips are detestable to the Lord (12:22). When he prayed to the Father, Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17), and he told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Lying, then, is contrary to God’s own character and behavior. Therefore, let faithfulness fill your heart, and truth will come out of your mouth—because truthful lips endure forever (12:19).

12:23 That a foolish heart publicizes stupidity is a reminder that what we are on the inside will ultimately be on display for everyone to see. If you reject wisdom, the thoughts of your foolish heart will eventually go public. Stupidity isn’t smart enough to stay hidden.

12:24 Kingdom men and women will rule with diligence over the realm God grants them. Lazy men and women only work when someone forces them. See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 18:9; 26:13-16.

12:25 Throughout Scripture, we’re called by God to practice the “one anothers” (see Rom 12:10; Gal 6:2; Eph 4:32; Col 3:9; 1 Thess 4:18; Heb 10:24; 1 Pet 1:22; 1 John 3:11). All Christians are susceptible to anxiety because of the trials of life. A practical way to love and bless one another is to offer a good word that cheers the heart of a struggling believer. See 17:22.

12:26 It doesn’t matter which of the ways of the wicked a person chooses to follow. All will take him off course.

12:27 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 18:9; 26:13-16.

12:28 This is a good summary of much of what Solomon is teaching his sons—and what parents need to impress on their children. There are two paths in life: the path of life and the path of death. You only get one go-around in history to make your choice.

13:1 Discipline should be both instructive and corrective—that is, it should include both teaching and rebuke. A wise son responds to his father’s discipline. Parents have significantly more experience than their kids, and wise kids know it. Teenagers who want to grow in wisdom will humbly receive instruction and admonishment from their moms and dads. But a mocker doesn’t listen to rebuke. His ears are closed. Convinced that he knows all he needs to know, he has preempted his own learning.

13:2-3 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

13:4 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 18:9; 26:13-16.

13:5 See 12:16-22.

13:6 Righteousness and wickedness: only one of them delivers what it promises.

13:7 See 12:9.

13:8 Wealth is not a blessing in and of itself. It has its own temptations, sorrows, and limitations (see 11:4, 7, 28). Wealth makes the rich a target for thieves, yet no one holds a poor person for ransom.

13:9 The Lord expects his people to live under his rule and let his glory shine through their good works (see Matt 5:14-16; Eph 5:8; Phil 2:15). But the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

13:10 Arrogance is another word for pride. It’s Satan’s sin of choice (see Isa 14:13-14) and is number one on God’s hate list (6:16-17).

13:11 See 10:2.

13:12 See 13:19.

13:13 See 1:22-33.

13:14 See 10:11.

13:15-16 Either we will learn to make decisions with good sense, winning favor with God and man, or we will follow a treacherous course (13:15). There are two agendas at work all around us: the way of the world and the way of God. Our decisions will be based on whichever agenda we’re following. The truth is revealed by the decisions we make and the lifestyles we live, because every sensible person acts knowledgeably, but a fool displays his stupidity (13:16).

13:17 The wicked person bears troublesome news. The trustworthy person bears healing news. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald . . . who brings news of good things . . . who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isa 52:7).

13:18 See 1:22-33; 3:11-12; 9:7-9; 10:17; 25:11-12; 29:1.

13:19 Everyone has desires; everyone wants something. Unfulfilled desires lead to sorrow (13:12), but having your desires met is sweet and life-giving. In Proverbs, Solomon urges us to desire wisdom above all else because it can actually deliver on the sweet promises it makes.

13:20-21 Here’s the principle of 1 Corinthians 15:33 again: you become like your companions. Spend time with wise people, and you will learn from them. Hang out with fools, and their corrupt moral values will rub off on you so that you suffer harm (13:20). You see, fools don’t offer correction. So if your thinking is self-centered and your decisions lack good judgment, a fool will simply make you feel good about the path you’re already on. Disaster or rewards: which do you prefer (13:21)?

13:22 This verse states a key principle for the development of a kingdom-minded economic agenda: the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. Although wicked people may accumulate much, God has a way of transferring the resources of the wicked to be used and developed for kingdom purposes. For example, after God judged Egypt with plagues, he told the Israelites to ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold (see Exod 11:1-2). The Egyptians were only too glad to give God’s people anything they asked (see Exod 12:35-36). God then had the Israelites take that wealth and build a tabernacle where they could worship him. Later, he told Israel to take the land of Canaan, then inhabited by unrighteous people, and do his kingdom business within it (see Ps 105:43-45). God knows how to make theological transactions in favor of the righteous to accomplish his purposes.

13:23 God hates injustice. He opposes those who take advantage of the poor—and his people should too. When he saw his rich countrymen exploiting their neighbors, Nehemiah raised his voice and called out for justice (see Neh 5:1-13). See 17:5.

13:24 If we love our children, we will be diligent to discipline them. This verse is not a license for abuse. A rod refers to any reasonable discipline inflicting sufficient pain that discourages the bad and encourages the good. When our children become teenagers, for instance, appropriate discipline may be the loss of a privilege—that can certainly be painful.

We must realize that lack of loving discipline can lead to a rebellious lifestyle that could cost our children their reputations or their lives. God’s kingdom works through the family. Many of our society’s problems, in fact, can be traced to a failure of parents to discipline their kids. See 19:18; 22:15.

13:25 Alhough poverty can result from injustice (13:23), it can also result from laziness (19:15). Refuse to work, and you’ll end up with an empty stomach (see 2 Thess 3:10).

14:1-3 The actions of the wise bring success and protection; the actions of fools bring ruin and punishment. So what’s the difference between the two kinds of people? The one fears the Lord; the other despises him (14:2). Your attitude toward God dictates how you live.

14:4 Use your resources wisely. Invest your money in that from which you can expect an abundant harvest.

14:5-7 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

14:8-10 See 14:13-15.

14:11 See 12:7.

14:12 Make no mistake: God means every word he says. This, then, is one of the most sobering verses of Scripture: There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death. In the book of Judges, Israel was in a dark and disastrous period because “everyone did whatever seemed right to him” (Judg 21:25). This highlights the problem with worldly, human wisdom: it seems right! And without comparison to the divine perspective, it looks pretty good. Human strategies and philosophies about life, in fact, have a bunch of people convinced because they appeal to our own self-centered notions of what’s best. But those who won’t seek God’s opinion regarding the right path will pay a high price in the end. Rely solely on human logic to chart the course of your life, and it will lead you on a path to hell. See 12:15.

14:13-15 If we’re not careful, we can be easily taken in, easily deceived by what we see or don’t see. This is what 14:12 emphasizes. A fool is deceived by his own stupidity (14:8), mocks what he doesn’t understand (14:9), and ultimately gets what his conduct deserves (14:14). In other words, a fool is easily duped. By contrast, we must beware external appearances. Things are not always what they seem. A person may look outwardly happy yet be inwardly sad and bitter (14:10, 13). Don’t accept everything based on how it appears (14:15).

14:16-17 See 29:11.

14:18-24 These verses highlight the truth that the wise will ultimately be crowned for their godly deeds (14:18). Not so with fools: don’t those who plan evil go astray (14:22)? Joseph is a prime biblical example of this principle. His jealous brothers sold him as a slave. He was unjustly accused of adultery and thrown in prison. Yet, through it all, he maintained his integrity and “the Lord was with Joseph” (see Gen 37:26-28; 39:6-21). In the end, he was elevated to prominence, and his wicked brothers bowed before him (see Gen 42:6)—just as he had dreamed they would (see Gen 37:5-11). Indeed, those who follow God are crowned (14:18), and the evil bow before those who are good (14:19).

14:25 See 12:22.

14:26-27 The man or woman who takes God seriously—whose life is characterized by the fear of the Lord—is a source of refuge (14:26). Why? Because that person is able to see things from God’s point of view. Wearing divine glasses in a sense, he or she can turn people away from the snares of death (14:27). That individual can see Satan’s traps and warn the inexperienced, “Don’t step there!”

14:28-35 God’s Word forms the standard not only for personal righteousness but also for national obedience: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people (14:34). There are principles God has established that will benefit a society if they are followed—even if the leaders themselves don’t know God. As Paul later urged Timothy to pray for governmental leaders “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim 2:2), so we should pray for leaders to be sensitive to God’s way of doing things.

Pray that your leaders will be patient (14:29), content and not power-hungry (14:30), kind to the poor (14:31), righteous (14:32), wise (14:33), and will surround themselves with wise administrators (14:35). When biblical principles infiltrate society, their restraining influence is felt as an expression of God’s grace that he makes available to all. See 16:10-15; 19:12.

15:1-2 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

15:3 God is omnipresent and omniscient. That’s the theological way of saying God is everywhere, sees all, and knows all. And God’s comprehensive knowledge includes a moral element: The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good. No sin is overlooked—and neither is any righteous deed. That’s comprehensive knowledge. And the amazing thing is that God invites us to tap into his wisdom for daily living.

15:4 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

15:5 See 1:8-9; 4:10-13; 13:1.

15:6 See 10:2-4.

15:7 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

15:8-9 The Lord detests both the way of the wicked (15:9) and their sacrifice (15:8). Neither an evil person’s life nor religion, then, has value.

15:10 See 1:22-33; 3:11-12; 9:7-9; 10:17; 25:11-12; 29:1.

15:11 See 15:3.

15:12 See 1:22-33; 3:11-12; 9:7-9; 10:17; 25:11-12; 29:1.

15:13 See 12:25; 17:22.

15:14 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

15:15 See 12:25; 17:22.

15:16-17 See 19:1; 22:1-5.

15:18 See 29:11.

15:19 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 18:9; 26:13-16.

15:20 See 10:1.

15:21 Don’t find joy in that which should bring shame. See 10:23-25.

15:22 See 11:14; 20:18.

15:23 See 12:25.

15:24 There are two ways to live, two paths to take. Each has a very different destination. See 2:20-22; 11:4-10, 16-21; 12:28; 14:12; 15:24.

15:25 “God resists the proud” (Jas 4:6), but Scripture declares that he looks with compassion on the orphan and widow in their humble circumstances (Deut 10:18; Ps 68:5). He expects his people to do the same (Jas 1:27).

15:26-27 To hate is not necessarily a sin. It depends on the object of your hatred. The Lord detests the plans of the one who is evil (15:26). So God’s people ought to hate evil too—such as bribes that cause the wicked to profit dishonestly (15:27).

15:28 See 12:16, 18.

15:29 Prayer is like a key, and the secret to having the key work is Jesus Christ. The Lord hears the prayer of the righteous. But the wicked have no such access.

15:30 See 13:17.

15:31-33 See 1:22-33; 3:11-12; 9:7-9; 10:17; 25:11-12; 29:1.

16:1 Humans are responsible for the reflections and plans of their hearts, but they do nothing that falls outside of the sovereignty of God (16:1, 9). He is in control; his purposes will be accomplished; his kingdom will come. Align your agenda with his. See 16:4.

16:2 See 21:2.

16:3 If you truly commit your activities to the Lord, it means your will is in submission to his. When that happens, your plans will be achieved, because you’re inviting his will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10-11).

16:4 This is a wonderful declaration of God’s sovereignty: The Lord has prepared everything for his purpose—even the wicked for the day of disaster. God exercises his prerogative to do whatever he pleases with his creation. Why? Because “the earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord” (Ps 24:1).

Suppose you came into my home and told me you didn’t like how I had arranged and decorated everything. I would have one response for you: “When you start buying the furniture and paying the bills, we can entertain your viewpoint. But as long as I’m spending the money, your viewpoint carries no clout in my house.”

When we start creating planets and giving life, perhaps then we can start dictating how God ought to run the universe. But unless we get that divine clout, we cannot exercise that divine prerogative. It always belongs to God, and he does whatever he chooses. This teaching does not just appear as a fleeting thought in the Bible, but as an overwhelming doctrine (see Job 42:2; Ps 115:3; Eph 1:11). Not even evil and unrighteousness can escape the all-controlling hand of the God who has even made wicked people for his own purposes.

16:5 See 6:16-17.

16:6 One turns from evil by ceasing to take God casually—that is, through exercising the fear of the Lord. Electricity is a good thing. But it’s not something to take lightly. It’s not something to play around with. God is your Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Take him seriously.

16:7 When you align yourself under God’s program, it leads to blessing. Most of those blessings are reserved for eternity. But, God can cause the most extraordinary things to happen in history when our ways please him.

16:8 See 19:1; 22:1-5.

16:9 See 16:1, 4.

16:10-15 God is the Creator and, therefore, the sovereign King over all. “He removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan 2:21). Rightly administered, government “is God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4), so followers of God ought to “submit to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1). As servants of the true King, human kings should render righteous judgments and hate wickedness. When human government is unrighteous, it is the responsibility of God’s people to interpose themselves to defend innocent victims and to stand up in obedience to God (e.g., Exod 1:16-20; Esth 4; Dan 3; Acts 4:18-20). See 14:28-35; 24:10-12.

16:16 See 3:13-15.

16:17 See 2:11; 12:28.

16:18-19 See 6:16-17.

16:20 See 3:13, 18; 10:6-7; 29:18.

16:21-24 The one with a wise heart (16:21) thinks carefully about his words, so he may teach others with speech that increases learning (16:21, 23), gives life (16:22), and is pleasant to hear (16:21, 24).

16:25 See 14:12.

16:26 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 18:9; 26:13-16.

16:27-30 Whether by deceiving (16:30), spreading conflict (16:28), or performing violence (16:29), wicked men cause harm to others. If you don’t want to become like them, keep your distance! The righteous dig up wisdom “like hidden treasure” (2:4), but a worthless person digs up evil (16:27).

16:31 Young people who embrace foolishness typically despise the elderly as being out of touch and easily dismiss them. But they do so to their own peril. God’s viewpoint is clear: you are to “honor the old” out of the fear of the Lord (Lev 19:32). He grants gray hair as a glorious crown.

16:32 See 29:11.

16:33 See 16:1, 4.

17:1 See 19:1; 22:1-5.

17:2-3 If you embrace wisdom, God can miraculously reverse your circumstances. Servants become rulers (17:2) because the Lord is the tester of hearts (17:3). He sees what is internal and unseen (see 1 Sam 16:7).

17:4 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

17:5 God cares for the poor (see Lev 19:10; Ps 35:10) and expects the same from his people (see Ps 41:1; Jas 2:1-7). Therefore, the one who mocks the poor insults his Maker. See 13:23.

17:6 This verse strikes a special chord with me. Now I don’t claim the title “elderly,” but I can testify that grandchildren are the crown of those in their senior years. What a blessing when God lets you enjoy the children of your own children in whom you’ve invested!

17:7 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

17:8 See 15:27.

17:9 Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends. Do you know what a friend is? A friend is someone to whom you can bare your soul and know it will go no further. Now, to “conceal an offense” doesn’t mean to excuse sin; rather, it means a person isn’t out to destroy you by using your transparency against you. A godly friend wants to lift you out of the mud—not leave you in it. See 11:13; 26:20-22.

17:10 A single rebuke is more effective in bringing about a change of heart in a wise man than a hundred lashes accomplishes on a fool. How easy is it for God to lead you to repent and learn?

17:11 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15.

17:12 Avoid the fool! How dangerous is it to pal around with foolish people? Solomon says you’re better off facing a grizzly bear mama who’s been robbed of her cubs.

17:13 See 25:21-22.

17:14 It only takes one harsh word to open the floodgates of conflict. “Don’t give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:26-27) to hinder God’s work among his people. Stop a dispute before it starts. See 29:11.

17:15 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15.

17:16 An old saying warns, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Unfortunately for him, he has no intention to put it to good use by buying wisdom. When all is said and done, a fool’s money will be gone, and he’ll still be stupid.

17:17 I can testify to the value of godly friends and brothers who have walked through life with me: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time. Difficult times can test our relationships, to be sure. But if you want to be a kingdom man or woman who perseveres when you feel like throwing in the towel, you need fellow kingdom people who will hold you up when you grow weary. After all, when do you need a friend the most? Not when you’re on top. A true friend stays with you when you’re heading downhill, when times are rough. Sometimes you don’t know who your friends are, in fact, until you’re in trouble.

Too many of us are Lone Ranger Christians. We’re trying to make it by ourselves when God’s plan is for us to grow, serve, and love in community. You can’t fulfill the “one another” commands of Scripture by yourself (see, e.g., John 15:12; Gal 6:2; Eph 4:32; 1 Thess 5:11). See 27:17.

17:18 See 6:1-5.

17:19 See 17:14; 29:11.

17:20 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

17:21 See 10:1.

17:22 Speak “the truth in love” (see Eph 4:15) because God has given us the ability to turn a broken spirit into a joyful heart with our words. So whether we’re offering loving admonishment to those in sin or tender comfort to those who are discouraged, we should speak with the knowledge that our mouths have power—and it’s best used to declare God’s perspective into a person’s life. See 12:25.

17:23 See 15:27.

17:24 The perceptive seek out and focus on one thing: wisdom. Their chief desire is to apply the divine viewpoint to every area of life.

17:25 See 10:1.

17:26 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15.

17:27 See 17:14; 29:11.

17:28 There is a time when we must speak (see 17:22). On the other hand, the one who opens his mouth too much (usually to hear himself talk) is likely to stick his foot in it (see 10:19). Sometimes wisdom involves simply keeping your trap shut.

18:1 See 11:14; 17:17.

18:2 See 10:19; 17:28.

18:3 See 1:17-19; 13:20-21.

18:4 See 16:21-24; 17:22.

18:5 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15.

18:6-8 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

18:9 That the lazy man is brother to a vandal indicates that to accept a paycheck without accomplishing the work agreed upon is stealing. See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 26:13-16.

18:10-12 When inevitable difficulties come, where will you turn? The rich man thinks his wealth is his fortified city. But Solomon says that’s only true in his imagination (18:11). Solomon should know; he had more riches than he could ever want. But money is no silver bullet. The only sure refuge in times of tribulation is the Lord God. His name is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected (18:10). Pride in one’s own resources leads to downfall (18:12).

18:13 See 12:13-14, 16, 18.

18:14 See 12:25; 17:22.

18:15 See 2:1-19.

18:16 Solomon has condemned bribes—evil gifts that pervert justice (15:27; 17:23). But that’s not what he’s talking about here. He’s simply acknowledging the fact that expressions of kindness can open doors that are otherwise closed.

18:17 Paul Harvey was famous for his radio program “The Rest of the Story.” When hearing a case, that should be our motto. We should always be determined to hear both sides of a dispute before we come to any conclusions about the matter.

18:18 Casting the lot was a practice that acknowledged the sovereignty of God (see 16:33). It was similar to rolling dice to discern his will. Today God gives believers his indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us.

18:19 See 17:14.

18:20-21 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

18:22 A man’s decision to marry is one of the most important of his life. God gave Eve to Adam as a “helper”—a complement (see Gen 2:18). When a kingdom man finds a kingdom woman for a wife, he finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

18:23 See 17:5.

18:24 One with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother. Solomon isn’t saying it’s bad to have a lot of friends. But if everyone is your friend, something may be wrong. Everybody wants to be your friend when times are good for you—especially if you’re wealthy (19:4). But if you make these hangers-on your constant and only source of companionship, you’re not choosing wisely. We see illustrations of this all around us. Probably the most obvious is the politician who’s a friend to everybody who will contribute to his campaign, regardless of their views. See 17:17; 27:6, 17.

19:1 Money frequently leads people astray and can distract us from the more valuable things of the Lord. Seeking success and recognition from the culture is tempting, but better a poor person who lives with integrity than someone who has deceitful lips and is a fool. It’s obvious that in God’s kingdom economy, it’s better to be dirt poor with honorable character than to be insanely rich without also having spiritual wisdom. The plans that God gives us are far more valuable than anything we could obtain for ourselves.

19:2 See 12:16, 18.

19:3 See 14:1-3.

19:4 See 18:24.

19:5 See 12:17, 19, 22; 25:18-19.

19:6-7 The rich have the ability to influence others (19:6), yet the friends of the poor abandon him altogether (19:7). But remember 19:1.

19:8 The person who indulges in foolish living isn’t doing himself any favors. In reality, he hates himself because foolishness leads to ruin and, perhaps, an early grave (see 4:10-13). But whoever acquires good sense loves himself. He seeks God’s thoughts on life, receives God’s blessing, and finds success.

19:9 12:17, 19, 22; 25:18-19.

19:10 See 17:16.

19:11 See 29:11.

19:12 When government is acting justly, the only person who needs to fear a king’s rage is the one who does wrong (see Rom 13:4).

19:13-14 See 10:1; 18:22.

19:15 See 10:4-5; 13:25.

19:16 See 2:20-22; 11:4-10, 16-21; 12:28; 14:12; 15:24.

19:17 See 13:23; 17:5; 31:20.

19:18 If you fail to discipline your son in the home, he’ll pay for his lack of self-control outside the home—maybe even by his death. Don’t hate your child by neglecting to intervene in his life and to rebuke him when he strays. See 13:24.

19:19 See 17:14; 29:11.

19:20 See 1:22-33; 3:11-12; 9:7-9; 10:17; 25:11-12; 29:1.

19:21 Many plans are in a person’s heart, but above all else, we must believe the value of seeking God and his mind on all things. We can plan our schedules as much as we want, but only what God has declared is guaranteed to take place. God did not create us and redeem us to live a plotless, purposeless existence. And that’s good news! I don’t know many people who are content to live and die and have on their tombstone, “Joe was here.” We were made for greater things than to occupy space on the planet. God has a calling for you and me, and the beauty of it is that our callings are tailor-made for each of us. In the same way that we have unique fingerprints and DNA, we all have unique callings. Don’t settle for a paycheck, a house, and two cars. That may be the American dream, but God has a dream for you that is bigger. The Lord’s decree will prevail, so seek him and his calling for your life.

19:22 See 19:1.

19:23 See 3:21-26.

19:24 See 26:13-16.

19:25 See 17:10.

19:26 Young people need to know that their parents have a God-ordained role. A child’s first obligation is to his parent—not his buddies. God considers it a disgrace to turn against one’s own father and mother. See 10:1.

19:27 See 1:22-33; 3:11-12; 9:7-9; 10:17; 25:11-12; 29:1.

19:28-29 See 1:22-33.

20:1 Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler; whoever goes astray because of them is not wise. Alcohol consumption is not completely condemned in the Bible. Wine is often featured in the Old and New Testaments during times of celebration. It was also a common beverage because of the lack of water purification systems in ancient times. Drunkenness, however, is condemned soundly in Scripture. Alcohol dulls the senses and can produce foolish decisions. Be wary of those who push drinks in front of you, then. The staggering statistics surrounding alcoholism and drunk driving are other sufficient reasons to be cautious of it.

20:2 See 19:12.

20:3 See 17:14; 18:17; 29:11.

20:4 See 10:4-5; 26:13-16.

20:5 God has a customized plan for each of us, and the wise person makes discovering that plan a priority. Counsel in a person’s heart is deep water; but a person of understanding draws it out. When the Holy Spirit connects with the human spirit, he brings illumination to the mind concerning the plan and will of God.

20:6 See 11:12-13; 27:6.

20:7 A righteous man blesses his children by acting with integrity. So Dad, know that the choices you make every day—both small and large—affect your kids. What legacy do you want to leave them?

20:8 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15.

20:9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure”? Solomon’s rhetorical question is a reminder that his exhortations in Proverbs regarding righteousness are not blind to the reality of human sinfulness. Ultimately, no one is righteous but one (see Luke 18:19; Rom 3:10). But by trusting in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit, we can pursue lives in alignment with God’s standards.

20:10 See 11:1.

20:11 Parents need to convince their teenagers that wisdom is something to pursue now—not once they become adults, for even a young man is known by his actions. Your reputation doesn’t wait to develop until you reach a certain age; it is cultivated over time.

20:12-14 God has given you a hearing ear and a seeing eye—the ability to observe the world and grow in wisdom (20:12), so use Proverbs’ observations about how the world works and the influence of the Holy Spirit to help you make sensible decisions. Two examples of what this looks like follow in 20:13-14. The lazy person loves sleep and thus goes hungry, so open your eyes if you don’t want to be poor (20:13). Similarly, don’t believe everything you hear. If someone is trying to work a deal to his own advantage, he may say something that doesn’t match reality. Be discerning (20:14).

20:15 See 8:5-21.

20:16 See 6:1-5.

20:17 Sin never delivers what it promises. A little taste of it seems sweet, but indulging in it always leads to self-destruction.

20:18 An old saying warns, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Don’t engage in an activity, then, without doing wise planning by obtaining sound guidance. If you seek no advice but your own, the results will be as limited as the input. See 11:14.

20:19 See 11:12-13; 17:9; 26:20.

20:20 Curse your parents—whom God has ordained to train you in wisdom—and get ready for the spiritual lights to go out.

20:21 This proverb brings to mind Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11-32). In that case prematurely obtaining inheritance did indeed result in ruin. When someone unskilled at financial management acquires money quickly, he’s likely to lose it quickly too.

20:22 Don’t seek vengeance when you are wronged. Trust in the one who sees all, knows all, and can do all to rescue you. Moses and Paul agree that the best course of action is leaving vengeance in the hands of God (see Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19).

20:23 See 11:1.

20:24 See 16:1, 4.

20:25 Don’t make a rash commitment to the Lord and later change your mind. Jesus challenged those who listened to him to consider the cost of being his disciple (see Luke 14:27-30). Being a kingdom man or woman brings blessing, but it requires steadfast dedication to the divine purpose.

20:26 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15; 19:12.

20:27 The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts. God uses his Holy Spirit and our own spirits to show us his will. The Holy Spirit illumines our spiritual eyes so we begin to see our circumstances through God’s perspective. This functions as a satellite dish that enables us to tune in to the things of God. It’s why your spirit needs to stay closely linked with the Holy Spirit.

20:28 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15.

20:29 See 16:31.

20:30 Governments are ordained by God to punish criminals (see Rom 13:4). Just rulers therefore protect their citizens and chastise wrongdoers.

21:1 A king’s heart is like channeled water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses. Since God is the sovereign over his universe, he is intimately concerned with the affairs of nations. In fact, Psalm 22:28 declares that “kingship belongs to the Lord; he rules over the nations.” No matter how powerful the rulers of this world are, they cannot prevent God from fulfilling his purposes—whether they acknowledge him or not.

21:2-3 All a person’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs hearts (21:2). This proverb will make you think twice before making an important decision without consulting the Lord! Motives are tricky things. In fact, even we don’t always know why we do what we do, and at times we can fool ourselves into thinking that our reasons are God’s reasons. The Lord looks right through to the very center of who we are, and he knows exactly what drives us. Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice (21:3). Remember the example of King Saul (see 1 Sam 15:1-29).

21:4 See 6:16-17; 13:10; 27:1.

21:5-7 God expects us to earn through honest and diligent labor (21:5), not through lying (21:6) or violence (21:7). This is a kingdom standard.

21:8 This verse encapsulates much of what Solomon has said. Whether we embrace our own agenda or God’s agenda will be revealed by either crooked or upright behavior. It can’t be hidden.

21:9 See 12:4.

21:10-13 These verses remind us of the differences between the wicked and the righteous. The wicked shows no mercy for his neighbor and receives no mercy himself (21:10, 13). The righteous loves others as himself (see 3:27-30; 10:11, 12; Lev 19:18; Mark 12:31). And while the wicked learn nothing from their ways, the righteous observe and learn (21:11-12).

21:14 See 18:16.

21:15 See 14:28-35; 16:10-15; 19:12.

21:16 See 2:20-22; 11:4-10, 21; 12:28; 14:12; 15:24.

21:17 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 26:13-16.

21:18 The wicked will pay for their sins.

21:19 See 12:4.

21:20 See 6:6-11; 10:2-5; 12:24; 18:9; 26:13-16.

21:21 It’s simple. If you pursue righteousness, you will find righteousness. “Seek, and you will find” (Matt 7:7). See 2:1-5; 11:27.

21:22 See 11:14; 20:18.

21:23 See 10:11, 13-14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:12-13; 12:13-14, 16-22; 16:21-24; 25:11-12.

21:24 See 6:16-17; 13:10; 27:1.

21:25-26 See 10:4-5.

21:27 Remember: God looks at the heart. Worshiping the Lord with wicked motives is detestable to him. We are to worship him because he deserves it—not simply because we selfishly want something from him.

21:28 See 12:17, 19, 22; 25:18-19.

21:29 A bold face doesn’t replace sound decision-making. A confident attitude that’s not informed by wisdom will lead to disaster. You can’t bluff your way through life.

21:30-31 We mustn’t forget that true wisdom comes from knowing and fearing God (1:7; 9:10). Try to be wise without bowing to him, and you will lose (21:30). Align yourself with God’s agenda, and you will win (21:31).

22:1-5 The Lord has made both the rich man and the poor one (22:2), and both are accountable to him for how they live. If you follow a crooked path, riches will not protect you from punishment or the snares of life (22:3, 5). On the other hand, having a good name—a good reputation—is far more valuable than wealth (22:1). The one who lives in the fear of the Lord will be blessed by him (22:4).

22:6 A vital way that biblical authority is made manifest in God’s kingdom is through the family. That reality, in fact, stands behind one of the most well-known verses in the Bible: Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it. Child training involves making our teaching understandable so kids can differentiate between wisdom and foolishness as early as possible. We shouldn’t soft-pedal the truth or only say what our children want to hear. And we shouldn’t bulldoze them or beat them over the head with the truth either. Another way to translate “on his way” is “according to his way”—that is, according to each child’s unique personality or bent. The way you deal with each child under your authority, then, should differ so that every one benefits from the kind of training most likely to leave a positive impact.

Proverbs has much to say about the necessity of training children in wisdom. The repeated refrain is that foolish children bring grief and sorrow to their parents, while a wise son or daughter brings them joy (10:1; 15:20; 17:21, 25; 19:13; 23:24; 29:3, 15). The obedience of a child is no small thing to God. Children living at home under the authority of their parents are called to obey their moms and dads, unless their parents lead them to disobey God. Yet not only are children commanded to receive their parents’ wisdom and instruction, parents are commanded to intentionally train their children. We must be purposeful and take advantage of every opportunity to point them down the wise path. Tragically, the failure of many parents to teach and discipline their children is at the heart of many of society’s problems today. God’s kingdom works through the family.

22:7 Avoid excessive debt. If you don’t want to be a slave to the lender, learn sound financial principles and live within your means.

22:8-11 If you plant tomatoes, you won’t get pumpkins. You harvest what you plant; you reap what you sow. Sow injustice and reap disaster (22:8); sow generosity and reap a blessing (22:9). Mocking lips reap conflict (22:10); gracious lips reap the king’s attention (22:11). See 1:22-33; 6:24-35.

22:12 See 15:3.

22:13 In other words, the slacker makes excuses to avoid working. See 10:2-5; 26:13-16.

22:14 See 5:1-23; 6:20–7:27.

22:15 Foolishness is bound to the heart of a youth; a rod of discipline will separate it from him (see 13:24; 29:15, 17). Solomon is talking about willful foolishness—not just childishness and silliness. Many kids who are now reaching adulthood were never disciplined by their parents. Unfortunately, because they didn’t receive loving discipline at home, society is forced to correct them through the police and the government. They weren’t taught that their actions come with consequences. Disciplining your children requires courage and commitment. But, when done with love, it bears fruit that benefits everyone.

22:16 See 13:23; 17:5.