Proverbs 11

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on October 10th, 2004.         There is no audio available for this sermon.

PROVERBS 11:1-8    —   GOD OUR PROVIDER

Note: A chiasm is a literary structure used in Scripture – it actually refers to the outline form of the thought or phrases in a passage.  It is called a chiasm because it is shaped like the Greek letter “Chi” (X).  The line of thought in the above passage follows this pattern.

This is the first chiasm:

A) Statement is made about dishonesty

B) Statement is made about pride – arising from dishonesty

A) Statement is made about dishonesty

The second chiasm, here, expands on the first:

C) Statement about the worthlessness of wealth in time of crisis

D) Statement about how the wicked (those who trust in wealth) are destroyed while the righteous (those who trust in God) are delivered.

C) Statement about the ultimate worthlessness of power (and wealth).

The last vs. v.8 – is not part of a chiasm, but is a summary statement.

 

IN HUMILITY, LEARN TO TRUST GOD AS YOUR PROVIDER.

We are called to work to earn our living.  Paul tells the Thessalonians to “…work with your hands” (1 Thess.4:11), and that, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess.3:10).  But the attitude in which we do our work is also important.

Working with the Attitude of a Hard Heart:  These proverbs begin by setting up a first or primary chiasm which sets up two opposing views of work.  The first view or attitude is that of the man, or woman, who depends only on their own ability.  The example, taken from the writer’s own time, is the merchant who gets ahead by using dishonest scales.  Scales had a standard weight for a unit of gold, but a dishonest merchant could make the weight of his scales heavier in order to charge more gold, or silver.

This very common practice was abhorrent to God, not because it was unusually evil, but because of the attitude of the heart that it exposed.  Those who practiced such dishonesty among the people of God, showed that they did not trust in God to be their provider.  Their dishonesty exhibited a desire to live as their own provider – in unfaith, rejecting the notion of depending on God.  The proverbist describes the heart of this attitude as one of sinful pride.

You don’t have to rip people off to have this hard-hearted attitude, all you have to do is to stop thinking of God as your provider.  All you have to do to have the attitude of the dishonest merchant is to build your future and your security around wealth and possessions.

The Fruit of Our Independence from Our Provider:  Notice the second half of v.3 – the result of this attitude of self-sufficiency.  Dishonesty is eventually exposed – a major theme in Proverbs.

But even if it is not exposed, the dishonesty/duplicity of those who refuse to trust in God eventually catches up with them.  We are not self-sufficient – this is the great lie.  Those who trust in themselves destroy their lives, whether through having their dishonesty exposed to the public, or through the gaining of the wealth and security they worship to the loss of all else (family, health, etc.), or finally through giving up their soul to the worship of wealth, as the rich man in the parable of Jesus who has put all his trust in wealth only to die that night and face God (Lk12.13-21).

Working in the Attitude of Faith:  In contrast, the Lord delights in those who use accurate weights, who are guided by integrity.  This is more than a matter of mere honesty.  The Lord delights in those who do their work with integrity because, in this way, they learn to live humbly before God, depending on him to provide what they need.

To do business with integrity is to come to understand the provision of the Lord, to build a relationship of trusting in the Lord for one’s needs.  This grows within us a true humility – here a sense of our dependence on God.  And we are guided by this dependence into a straight way of trusting in the Lord.

 

RECOGNIZE THE EMPTINESS OF TRUSTING IN WEALTH.

The second chiasm expands on the the last verse of the first (v.3), highlighting the ultimate worthlessness of wealth and power, and the ultimate worth of righteousness and trusting in God.

Wealth Only Gives the Illusion of Security:  Wealth looks like security, the fact that the Proverbs speak against this mindset shows how long this idea has been around, and how persistent it is.  But “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath”, and, “when the wicked man dies his hope perishes, all he expected from his power comes to nothing”.  Wealth is no protection from evil – nor is it any use when we face death.   Wealth is like a sedative that keeps men comfortable and unaware as their souls slowly die of the cancer of indifference towards God.

Building a Life Around Wealth Leads to Other Evils:  At the heart of the chiasm – we are warned that “the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness… trapped by evil desires”.  The illusion of the security of wealth lends itself to the further illusion that one can give oneself to sinful desires without consequence.  It is an alluring lie that, over time, entraps those who give themselves to their pleasures.

Perhaps Paul had this section of Proverbs in mind when he wrote to Timothy, “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”  (1 Tim.6:10).

Trusting in God as Our Provider is the Only True Security:  “The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them.”  This gets to the heart of what it means for God to be our provider.  Rather than pouring all of our energy into the acquisition and maintenance of wealth, we are to recognize that “…life is more important than food… and the body more important than clothes.”  

Life is about enjoying the Creation of God and living in the way that God designed us to live, and so bringing glory to God by reflecting or imitating his personality.  So Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will  be given to you.” –  food and clothing and the needs of the moment, but also life!  God wants us to be alive, joyful, fulfilled – spiritually alive.  Wealth is empty to give this to us.  This is the straight way of the righteous.

 

LET GOD BE THE ONE TO RESCUE YOU FROM TROUBLE.

God is in the Process of Rescuing Us:  “The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead.”  The summary statement tells us that God will rescue those who trust in Him – while the wicked who build their lives around wealth, will not escape the trouble they worked so hard to avoid.

From a NT perspective, God has already gone to every length to rescue us from trouble.  The debt of sin put every one of us under the anger and judgment of God, and was a debt that we could not pay.  If we truly believe this, how can we put our trust in wealth or power – it is a denial of the gospel.

God is our Rescuer! God is our Provider!  He will provide (1) food and clothing and physical needs, (2) His presence through Spirit, (3) Forgiveness of sins, (4) and Eternal Life.  For those who seek Him, God will be a provider and a rescuer – ultimately rescuing us from a fallen world and providing for us a new Creation where we can live in His presence forever, finally fulfilled and at rest.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as  firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  (1Tim.6:17-19)

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This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on October 17th, 20004.  There is no audio available for this sermon.

PROVERBS11:9-14    —   THE POWER OF SPEECH FOR GOOD AND EVIL

Chiasm

9 With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;  when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

12 A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.

13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

Summary Statement

14 For lack of guidance a nations falls, but many advisers make victory sure.

 

WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

Identity: Who is My Neighbor? What is My City?  To begin with, before we begin to speak about gossip or slander, we have to talk about our identity as the people of God.  The first chiasm of thought is, after all, connected by this thread of neighbor and city.  And in order to understand how to apply these thoughts, we must come to an understanding of who our neighbor is, and what our city is.

In the OT mind, the city, the nation and one’s neighbor were all connected, in that they were all made up of the people of God, those God had delivered from Egypt and brought into the promised land.  My neighbor was not important merely because he or she was someone who happened to live next to me or down the street, but because he or she belonged to the descendants of Abraham, and was a child of promise, and was one whom God had saved from a life of slavery in Egypt and brought into the promised land.  In essence, one’s neighbor was important because he or she belonged to God, and was His possession – together with all God’s people.

It is with this identity that we have to think about the application of these verses.  They were written to the people of God.  This is not to say that we are free to slander or to gossip about those who are outside of the people of God – but rather it is to add force to the commands against slander and gossip – and to give us an understanding of what it is that we are seeking to protect, to nurture.

My neighbor, my city and my nation – in the Biblical sense – is the people of God, the church.  Our bond with one another is based on the fact that (1) we are spiritual descendants of Abraham, children of God, having been saved from a life of slavery to sin and death and brought into the city of the people of God who worship in the presence of God and follow Christ –  (2) that we are joined together with one another in a spiritual battle against sin, and for the souls of men and women, and (3) that we are joined by a common destiny – to inherit eternal life and to live together in fellowship with God forever.

Those who share this identity in common with one another are, in the truest sense, neighbors, family, brothers and sisters.  And this city, this nation is more important than where we may happen to live (Richmond, Williamsburg, Charles City, the U.S.A.) or who we may happen to live near (geographical neighbors).

 

EVIL SPEECH CAN DAMAGE AND TEAR APART GOD’S PEOPLE.

Malicious Speech Destroys:  “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor… a man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor.”

Specifically what is in view here is speaking evil of one’s neighbor, or making malicious, negative or accusing comments about their character.   The author of Proverbs tells us that this kind of speech comes out of a “godless”, or “graceless” heart.  Malicious speech is what comes out of our mouths when we look at one another without grace.  It is the very  opposite of what God says an does for us.  Where Christ’s forgives – malicious speech holds onto an offense and seeks to make another pay.  Where Christ’s love always believes, hopes and perseveres – graceless speech believes the worst, hopes for punishment, and is never satisfied.

Where is malicious Speech?  And where do we often find this graceless, destructive speech?  In the world certainly, but also in our marriages, where spouses have ceased to show one another grace.  With our children when we are frustrated.  In the church when there is a misunderstanding or a difficult situation.  Usually during the times when it is most important that we show grace and support one another.

Gossip Betrays:  “A gossip betrays a confidence…”  Gossip is closely related to malicious speech – it is the doorway to malicious speech – it is the willingness to entertain graceless speech – it is a betrayal of grace.  Gossip seeks out or gives out information from a graceless point of view.  Gossip spreads gracelessness through a community like a disease.  Gossip betrays the people of God because it gives the enemy of God’s people an opportunity to get in and work evil – to destroy unity and damage the faith and trust of believers.

Where is Gossip?  Gossip will always exist where there are people willing to listen to it.  Even the church is never short of people with graceless tongues, who accuse and abuse anyone they become disgruntled with.

 

REJECT EVIL SPEECH.

Escape Evil Speech Through Knowledge:  “…through knowledge the righteous will escape.”  If we understand malicious speech as graceless, then we know that such speech is always a lie.  Malicious speech is not truth, but rather it is the story from an evil point of view – it is the story from Satan’s (Lit. “the accuser”) point of view.  We should remember that Jesus called Satan, “…a liar and the father of lies” (Jn.8:44).  Through malicious speech, Satan accused God of evil intentions and led Adam and Eve into sin.

To exercise knowledge means that we use discernment listening to people.  Discernment will help us to recognize the difference between malicious speech and true concern:  (1) Malicious or graceless speech delights in evil –  love delights in what is true.  (2) Malicious or graceless speech presumes to know the motives of the heart – humility does not. (3) Malicious speech delights in accusation – love rejoices in healing.

If we use discernment to reject malicious speech, we can escape the effect of graceless speech on our own souls and also protect God’s people.

Reject Gossip by Holding Your Tongue:  “…a man of understanding holds his tongue.”    The man or woman of understanding does not listen to, and does not spread gossip.  It takes understanding to see the true destructive and Satanic nature of gossip and malicious speech.  These sins – more than any other – destroy churches, wound the people of God, bring a cynical and evil spirit into the church, ruin fellowship, and put God’s people into an ungracious, unloving, un-trusting, impatient, un-joyful state of mind and heart.

 

COME TO JESUS, “THE WORD”.

For Grace:  “Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.”   The blessing of the upright is speech that blesses (“makes happy”) – it is speech with grace.  But how can we become people who speak with grace?

John 1 describes Jesus as “The Word… full of grace and truth”.  Jesus has seen our sin and, rather than speaking judgment on us, has spoken grace to us – called us ‘Children of God”.  We have received grace, more than that – the grace that we have received from Jesus is now the truth about who we are.  We have been re-named, from sinful, rebellious people to where we are now called children of God.

But gracious, blessing speech is not natural to us.  We need to come to Jesus, the Word, in all the sinfulness of our critical, cynical, back biting speech, and receive grace to speak in a new way.  We need the power of God at work in us to be able to speak blessing to others, and so build up and “exalt” the church.

Summary – Become a Counselor of Grace to God’s People:  “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.”   Christ calls us not only to turn from gossip and malicious speech, he calls us to redeemed speech — to be a grace speaker.  We need to learn a new language – of grace. We need to come to Christ to learn this new language of encouragement and love and gracious forgiveness – to be able to bless.

Christ has given us the privilege to become advisers of grace to his people.  The church needs “many advisers” in order to be built up so that we can become secure in grace and thrive.

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 This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on October 24th, 2004.  There is no audio available for this sermon.PROVERBS  11:15-31  —   THE TREE OF LIFE AND BEAUTY WITHOUT DISCRETION

Irresponsibility vs. Responsibility:  15 He who puts up security for another will surely sufferbut whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe.

Generous Kindness vs. Cruelty:  16 A kindhearted woman gains respect,but ruthless men gain only money   17 a kind man benefits himself but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.  18 The wicked man earns deceptive wages,but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

Devotion to God vs. a Perverse Heart:  19 The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.  20 The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.   21 Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished but those who are righteous will go free.

A Woman Who Rejects Discretion:  22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

The Desire of Righteousness vs. The Hope of Wickedness:  23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.

Generosity vs. Selfishness:  24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly,but comes to poverty.  25 A generous man will prosper;he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  26 People curse the man who hoards grain,but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell.  27 He who seeks good finds good will, but evil comes to him who searches for it.

Living Responsibly Towards Family:  28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.  29 He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.

Summary – Tree of Life Image:  30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.  31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!

A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WITHOUT DISCRETION.

There are two main images towards which this passage moves: (1) The fruitful Tree of Life – in the summary statement in vs.30, and (2) The Beautiful Woman without Discretion at the center of the chiasmus.  These images are the end result of two different lifestyles that are contrasted and compared in these verses.

“Like a ring of gold in the snout of a pig, is a beautiful woman, but turning away from discretion.”  What does this image mean?  A beautiful woman appears attractive – but if she has no discretion (no “caution, self-restraint of modesty”), her beauty is lessened – ruined.  No wise man will desire her beauty because her lack of discretion makes her someone who cannot be trusted to behave appropriately, or to do what is right.  Her inappropriate behavior controls what people think of her and how they respond to her.

Interestingly, the pig (an unclean animal) with a gold ring in its snout, also has something beautiful – the gold ring – but because it is a pig, the beauty of the ring is lost.  The gold ring merely becomes a means of leading the pig around and controlling it.

How is this image being used?  The character of the beautiful woman who  turns away from discretion is flawed.  Her lack of self-restraint exposes the fact that she cares only for herself and her own appetites.  This is the character that is described in this passage in three areas (1) in our attitude towards responsibilities, (2) in our attitude towards others, and (3) in our attitude towards God.

Lack of Discretion – Irresponsibility:  “He who puts up security for another will surely suffer… “   To put up security for another meant to guarantee a loan. During this time in the OT, people lived in extended families – not only children and parents, but also grandparents, in-laws, cousins, etc.  The wealth belonged to the family – and to take it and guarantee a loan for another was the height of irresponsibility –  since, if the “other” did not pay off the debt, the guarantor and the family was left with a burden of debt which would effect/control their lives.

Irresponsibility – caring only for oneself and one’s own appetites, thoughtless behavior, leads us into these situations in where  we lose control of our lives – to the hurt of our families.  Irresponsibility causes suffering, not only for ourselves – but for those whose lives are wound up with ours.  Irresponsibility leads to the loss of what we have  [Note vs.29, “He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind…”].

Lack of Discretion – Selfish Disregard of Others:  “…ruthless men gain only money… a cruel man brings trouble on himself… the wicked man earns deceptive wages… people curse the man who hoards grain…”    The second section of the chiasmus focuses on selfish disregard for others.  The person given to selfishness is controlled by self-concern and is unwilling to care for or think of those around him/her.  Consequently his life is full of trouble – conflict with others who curse him for his selfishness.  His wages are deceptive, because, although he may be gaining money, he is losing the love and support of others, and his soul.

Here the image of the pig led around by the gold ring in its snout is particularly powerful:  the selfish person is led captive by that which seems beautiful and valuable to them – but it is a ring in their nose – one which will ultimately lead them to a slaughter house.  This image would have been particularly disgusting to Jews – to whom a pig was the symbol of impurity and uncleanness.

Lack of Discretion – a Perverse Heart:  “…he who pursues evil goes to his death.  The Lord detests men of perverse heart…”    Self-centeredness towards God leads to a heart that is perverse – controlled by sinful desires.  It is a heart made unclean by the pursuit of its own selfish desires –  arising from an unwillingness to see that our hearts were made for God – to love God.

Consequently, such a person is detestable to God – under his anger and judgment, unclean like a pig and going to his death.

 

THE TREE OF LIFE.

The image of the Tree of Life comes from Genesis two – the garden of eden – and appears throughout Scripture (especially in Ezekiel & Revelation).  Where the woman who turns away from discretion represents selfishness, the Tree of Life represents generosity and fruitfulness.

What is interesting is that the Tree of Life is God’s possession – not man’s.  The tree of life represents the grace of God to produce in us those things which are not naturally in us.

God Seeks to Produce Responsibility in Us:  “…the righteous will thrive like a green leaf… whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe.”    If refusing to strike hands in pledge to pay off someone else’s debt means anything, it means that we are to pay attention and take care of that which is our responsibility.  The one who strikes hands in pledge takes on responsibility not his own, while neglecting what is his responsibility.

We have God given responsibilities – those things which are central duties of life:  For a parent, the care of his/her children – for a worker, to do excellent work – for a student, to learn his/her subjects and become educated.  To fulfill these core responsibilities is to create an atmosphere of life – it is to give ourselves to those things that God has given us to do.

To see these core responsibilities as, somehow, unworthy of us – to reject that which is most central to our lives for duties and callings which seem more exotic or exciting, is foolish (Like an apple tree trying to bear bananas).  To neglect the clear responsibilities of life for other pursuits is to step away from the will of God.  But to take up our responsibilities, over time, produces the fruit that God desires for us.

God Seeks to Produce Kindness and Generosity in Us:  “A kindhearted woman gains respect… a kind man benefits himself… A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”     The kindhearted woman and kind man make it clear that the generosity in view here goes beyond mere financial generosity – it is a generosity of life – love for others expressed through kindness (one of the fruits of the Spirit).

Kind generosity, here, means showing grace to others, caring for the needs of others – not irresponsibly by joining them as they go into debt – but through gracious and generous relationships with others – showing kindness and  sharing what we have.  We are to be trees of life within our communities – bearing fruit of generosity and kindness by God’s grace.

God Seeks to Produce Devotion in Us:  “The truly righteous man attains life… The Lord… delights in those who ways are blameless… the desire of the righteous ends only in good…”   Finally, God seeks to produce true devotion in our lives –  a love for God and a blamelessness which is not natural to fallen human beings.  God seeks to produce this life within us that we were made for – fellowship with God, through which we can be truly made alive.  Ultimately this life within us makes us trees of life – a witness to those around us – those who save souls and are wise.

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