This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on May 30th, 2004. There is no audio for this sermon.
PROVERBS 6:1-19 — REJECT THE WORTHLESS MAN 5/30/04
FREE YOURSELF FROM BEING ENTANGLED BY THE WORTHLESS MAN.
Last week( Prov.5), we looked at the Adulteress, or the worthless woman. Chapter 6 continues the same theme, except that it warns us about the worthless man or the false friend. The first 19 verses of Proverbs 6 describe, not three different people, but one kind of man – they are a portrait and a warning.
Do Not Put Yourself in the Power of Those Who Take No Thought for Your Well Being: The Father begins by warning of a situation which the son may have gotten himself into. He has become financially responsible for someone for whom he is not supposed to be responsible. He has pledged to pay a debt to a stranger – someone who has no relationship or concern for him – on behalf of this friend.
Like the adulteress this “friend” is thoughtless – and like the adulteress, his thoughtlessness is not morally neutral. He has put the son into a dangerous situation in which he could lose all he has to a powerful, unconcerned creditor. He has used the son for his own security without concern for the needs and security of the son.
Debt – The point being made here is that debt to a creditor with whom we have no relationship – who has no commitment to our family or well-being (eg. Debt solely on a business/financial basis), is extremely dangerous. From Proverbs point of view, the one who goes into debt to a wealthy creditor is like a bird in a snare, or a gazelle trapped by a hunter. He has lost control of his own life – having given it up to another. We are not to be entangled or entrapped by debt, nor by those who want us to go into debt with them to be their financial security.
The Father uses the same kinds of images of entrapment that he uses in talking about the adulteress. The hunter seeks to kill and the fowler to trap. The son should go and humble himself before those to whom he has garunteed payment. The son should break free of any commitment that binds him to the poisonous influence of the worthless man.
Do Not Become Entangled with Those who are Idle, Living Off the Work of Others: The Father then turns to the false friend and rebukes him. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?”
Why has this false friend gotten his son into this situation? Because he has not stored up provisions for himself – he has not gathered food at harvest (even an ant – an insect – knows better). Consequently, he needs to borrow money from others. The false friend is like the man who has many schemes to make money but who never does any work himself. He has, perhaps, dragged the son into one of his schemes, which he himself cannot afford to finance because of his laziness. The false friend wants to rest while others work. Laziness is his rest – not in order to restore him to productive work – but in order to avoid work.
As sons, we are being warned not to be entangled with those who endlessly make schemes, but who produce nothing themselves. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle…We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it, On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you…in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow…we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” (2Thess.3:6-10).
Twice the Father warns that disaster will fall on the worthless man (vs.11&15). The image of the armed bandit is ominous – the modern day equivalent would be like the situation of the son who gets caught up in gang violence – though he may be an innocent by-stander, in the presence of the worthless man, he is liable to be a victim of violence himself. The danger is that the son will become entangled with the judgment of poverty, the armed bandit, or the blow up of a social situation where the worthless man has been meddling.
Do Not Become Involved in the Conversation of an Idle Gossip: Although the false friend has no energy for work, he has both energy and talent for talking. He is a trouble maker whose talk leads to fighting, even among brothers. Again, 2Thessalonians 3:11 is instructive, “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busy bodies.” Those who are idle tend to spend their time talking about others. The gossip of a worthless, idle man is full of accusation. He is interested in the failings and struggles of others. He has a talent for seeing the sinful failings of others while he ignores his own sin.
As sons and daughters, we are to recognize the destructive power of gossip and to stay away from idle gossip that leads to trouble. We are not to become entangled with the gossip of idle people.
GUARD YOUR HEART FROM HIS ABOMINABLE WAY OF LIFE.
Do Not Be Poisoned by His Words: Do not listen either to the flattery of a worthless man or his accusations. Do not be involved in or listen to his secrets (the imagery of winking, pointing with his feet, or signaling with fingers). We should recognize that, even if some part of his accusation is true, he is a deceiver, an abomination before God and a poison to our spirit. The speech of the worthless man is as smooth and deceptive as that of the adulteress, and surprisingly similar. Like the adulteress and her accusations against the husband or wife (“She does not meet my needs, “He is insensitive”) – so the worthless man is full of accusation. He sees and rejoices and feeds on the failings and weaknesses and struggles of others.
Where our minds are full of accusation against others, criticism that is not constructive, discontent – we have listened to and been infected by the poison of his words. We have been called to love that covers over a multitude of sins, but the worthless man points out and highlights the sin of others to anyone who will listen and sows the seeds of discontent and bitterness. Those who listen to him long enough will be poisoned towards their brother.
This sowing of discord among brothers, says the Father, is an abomination to God. The six things that the Lord hates all feed the abominable work of producing discontent, bitterness and broken relationships…
(1) He encourages pride and self righteousness that raises one person up against another,
(2) His flattering lips are full of lies to get others to listen t him.
(3) He stirs up trouble against the innocent.
(4) He devises evil plans to set one person against another.
(5) He is quick to attack, joining in a bad situation to make it worse.
(6) He fills the heart full of accusations – turning the failings and struggles of others into malicious evil.
(7) All of these things feed into the abomination (accursedness) of starting trouble, sowing hatred and bitterness.
RECOGNIZE THAT CHRIST WANTS TO REDEEM US FROM BEING WORTHLESS.
Let Christ Redeem You from Carelessness: Christ came to save us both from being careless towards others – putting them at risk for our own selfish purposes and pursuits – and from putting ourselves into the hand of those who take no thought for our well being. We belong to God as sons. We are now members of the eternal family of God – a community of fellow believers who care for us, and whom we are called to care for – both physical and spiritual well-being.
Consequently, we have a responsibility and a support. We are not to live like orphans – alone and without help. We are to help one another in times of need, and also to seek support from one another and not from strangers who neither know or care for us.
Let Christ Redeem You from Idleness: In the same way, Christ has come to redeem us from idle, directionless, lives. In Christ we all have a calling to bring glory to God in everything that we do. Work is redeemed in Christ so that any skill or duty can be offered up to God – done graciously and with excellence.
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on June 13th, 2004. There is no audio available for this sermon.
PROVERBS 6:20-35 — LIMITING OURSELVES FOR THE SAKE OF LOVE
LIMIT YOURSELF IN ORDER TO BE FREE.
Let Wisdom Limit Your Heart’s Wandering: “…keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around our neck.” Notice the language of “binding” and “fastening”. There is a very definite command to limit our imaginations – to hold our minds in check.
How do we guard our hearts – the well-springs out of which our actions and decisions flow? We guard them by watching over and limiting what goes into them – by limiting the spring that feeds our desires and decisions. The heart is to be bound – tied down, by the teachings of wisdom, because it is so prone to wander. The heart is to, metaphorically, have a collar around its neck that can be pulled this way and that by the commandments – because like a dog, our hearts are prone to follow even the most obscene appetites.
Our Example is Christ: Christ was willing to limit himself (Phil.2:5ff), by becoming a servant and humbling himself – living in the form of a human being. His willingness to become limited – to be humbled – to be obedient even to death – became his glory. In the same way, we honor God and bring him glory by limiting the imaginations of our own hearts. This very clearly follows the example of Christ and leads to holiness and new life.
Let Wisdom Protect You: “When you walk. They will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.” Wisdom calls us to keep these limitations – these controlling teachings – and not to throw them away as oppressive. Why? Because that which keeps our hearts under control is not oppressive, but rather is a protection. Society rages against “repressive religion”, like a group of small children who protest because they have not been allowed to go play in the middle of a 6 lane highway. Wisdom that limits the imaginations of our hearts and our behavior is not repressive, it is protective.
Our Protector and Companion is Christ: The picture given by the Father, here, is one where Wisdom is like a close companion: Walking along the way with us as a guide – Watching over us as we are in the vulnerable state of sleep – and speaking instruction to us when we wake early in the morning. This brings back to mind the key to Biblical Wisdom – it is not just practical principles, or helpful advice – Wisdom is treated like a person who takes the journey of life alongside of us (NT understanding – Jesus is Wisdom). To refuse Wisdom, is to refuse a person – and to reject the loving Father who wants to treat us as sons. But those who listen to Wisdom and rely on the grace of God for obedience are accepting Christ as their companion.
Let Wisdom Illuminate Your Mind: “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching a light, and the correction of discipline are the way to life keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.” The willingness to limit the imaginations of our hearts – to bind our hearts to wisdom – also results in the opening and illumination of our understanding.
There is a clearly drawn choice here – a line – to choose to let the imaginings of the heart run wild, and so to be led by those imaginings, blinded to all else, or to limit the imaginations of the heart to the teachings of wisdom, and so to be able to see and discern between what is good and worthy – and what is perverse and evil — to be able to receive correction and be disciplined, or to be so led by our own desires and appetites that we cannot receive correction or live disciplined lives – to live or to die.
Our Light is Christ: Wisdom is a light. As we choose to listen to wisdom, to limit our imaginations to what is pure, Christ shows us further grace and obedience. There is no question that the road or path of obedience and grace leads us further into obedience and grace. Christ – Wisdom made flesh – is our living guide in every situation in life.
LIMIT YOURSELF IN ORDER TO AVOID DESTRUCTION.
Do Not Lust: “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes…” Now the Father comes to the heart of the matter. Lust is the great, soul-destroying pollutant of the well-spring of our hearts. For women, the desire to control men with their beauty. For men it is the desire to have women sexually. Both are warned: The man explicitly, The woman implicitly. The man’s heart rages out of control in his lust after the beauty of the woman. The woman’s heart is twisted in her desire to captivate, or capture the man with her charms. Both are in danger of being destroyed.
Lust Will Prey On a Man’s Life: “…for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.“ We should not miss the contrasting images of Wisdom as the companion that protects and the Adulteress who preys on the life of the son like a lion – seeking to devour him.
But there is also a contrast between the prostitute – who reduces a man – causing him to pay her price ( a loaf of bread), for pleasure, and selling himself, his soul, for that price – and the adulteress, who in the context of a long term illicit relationship, will destroy his life.
Lust clouds a man’s judgment, so that he is led by his appetite. Lust weakens a man’s self-control so that he is not only susceptible to the adulteress, but actually looking for her (see Prov.7). He follows his appetites right into the lion’s den.
Lust Sets a Fire in The Soul: “Can a man scoop hot fires into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? Again, we should not miss the contrast of the images of the fire that illumines (the lamp of Wisdom), and the fire that spreads and destroys. Lust is like a wild-fire that catches and spreads and destroys. The man who is captivated by lust and fascinated by its fire, and allows his mind to dabble with the wild-fire of lust is foolish enough to think that he can control the fire. But lust is very flammable, and sparks up, setting fire to and damaging the innocence and freedom of the mind. The fire rages out of control, going farther and doing more damage than he could have imagined. What a fool that man is to take such a dangerous and destructive thing and scoop it into his lap.
Adultery Exposes a Man to Shame and Humiliation: “Men do not despise a thief is he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment, whoever does so destroy himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away.”
The “blow” described here is the slap in the face. Stealing when you are starving is understandable, but it is still stealing and punishable by law. It was not Jewish Law that a man should repay what he stole seven times over – this is an expression of his making complete restoration.
In contrast, there is no restoration that can be made for adultery – no way to repay. Any other sin might be made right, but adultery is the kind of violation that cannot be undone. The man who opens the door of lust, becoming susceptible to adultery is stupid, he is preparing to destroy his reputation and face public humiliation and shame that cannot be wiped away.
Adultery Arouses Jealousy and Enrages the Faithful Husband: “…for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge; He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.”
BECAUSE WE ARE THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.
Our God is Jealous For Us: All of these images: The lust and adultery of the man, the waywardness and unfaithfulness of the woman, their shame and disgrace, and the rage of the husband – also point to our relationship with God.
We have been foolish sons and daughters who have let the imaginations of our hearts run wild. We have been the fools who walked right into danger, forsaking wisdom as our companion. We have been the fools who rejected the guidance of wisdom. We have been controlled by lust and have been led by it into many harmful and evil sins.
On the other hand, Jesus has been our jealous husband – longing for us to be faithful – enraged at our unfaithfulness. If we are to truly receive the grace of the Gospel, we have to see our sin this way.
Christ is Our Hosea: The OT book of Hosea really captures the way in which Christ runs after us in our sin – and brings us back home to live with us as a loving husband. Let his grace – and the hatefulness of our lust and spiritual adultery and sin, be the sword that finally pierces and kills our unfaithfulness and lust. And receive Christ as Example, Companion, Light, and Husband.
We are never to put a strain on the community of God’s people because of idleness. Again, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is instructive: “We hear that some among you are idle…Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (2Thess.3:11-12). Working and earning a living is the will of God to keep us from the spiritually dangerous practice of idleness – which can lead our wandering hearts into all kinds of sin and foolishness.
Let Christ Redeem You from a Critical Spirit: Finally, Christ has come to redeem us from a spirit of accusation and hatred. “At one time we too were foolish disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:3-5). We All Owed an Un-payable Debt – Jesus Paid our Debt and We are all Debtors to Grace. We All are in Debt to Jesus who did the Work of Atonement for Us. We All were Set Against God and One Another, and Jesus became our Peace. None of us redeemed ourselves.
Let us put away the gracelessness of a critical spirit that takes offense, that is discontent, that dwells on accusation and hatred. Let us recognize what an abomination such a spirit is to those who have received such grace as this, while we were still enemies of God. Let us put away the worthless pursuit of gossip and idleness and carelessness, and instead, live to the glory of God, who has shown us such grace.