III. Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 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.

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.

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