Wisdom Saves Lives (Proverbs 23:9-18)

For many, the Word of God is not precious. Fools reject the Bible and its wisdom (Proverbs 23:9). Indeed, a continual lack of interest in the preaching and teaching of Scripture is one of the warning signs of a false faith. The natural or unspiritual (aka “lost”) person does not understand the Word of God or see it as important to their life; it is foolishness to them because they lack the presence of the Holy Spirit inside them applying the truth to their heart (1 Corinthians 2:14).

But to the born again believer in Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God is beautiful and lifesaving. When true Christians are warned not to take advantage of the poor, the weak, and the helpless, for example (Proverbs 23:10), they listen. They really do believe that God is a protector of those who cannot defend themselves, and they do not want to oppose God (Proverbs 23:11). A Christian who is right with God does not bully others. He or she does not want to be with or be like those who bully others or who disobey their parents and teachers. They do not “envy sinners” because they fear and love the Lord instead (Proverbs 23:17).

At the heart of every Christian’s obedience to the Lord is the powerful belief that God’s wisdom will save their lives, both in this world and the next. Christian children and teenagers receive the correction of their parents and teachers because they know that godly counsel and guidance will save them from suffering in this life and is proof of their inheritance in heaven (Proverbs 23:13-14). You see, by willingly obeying their parents and other authorities now, young people are learning to obey the Lord as adults. That obedience is not what saves us from hell, but it is the biblical evidence of a real faith in Christ. A heart-changing trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the cleansing of our sins is absolutely what DOES save us from hell. And when that faith is genuine, it leads to a new life of joyful obedience. As Jesus said, “If you love me, [you will] keep my commands” (John 14:15). Saving faith produces wisdom and joy in people’s lives. This will be seen in many ways as saved people lead changed lives, but it is most noticeable in their words that are now seasoned with love and grace (Proverbs 23:15-16).

So what is the attitude of your heart today? Is the Word of God foolishness to you? Or do you love it as precious knowledge that restores your soul (Proverbs 23:12)? Do you believe that there is live after death? Do you believe that by following Christ’s path of wisdom, you can look forward to the hope of heaven forever with your Lord and Savior (Proverbs 23:18)? Then apply your heart to God’s wisdom today and let it fill your soul with the joy of eternal life.

The Text (Proverbs 23:11-18)

9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words.

10 Do not remove the ancient landmark, Nor enter the fields of the fatherless;

11 For their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you.

12 Apply your heart to instruction, And your ears to words of knowledge.

13 Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.

14 You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.

15 My son, if your heart is wise, My heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself;

16 Yes, my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak right things.

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day;

18 For surely there is a hereafter, And your hope will not be cut off.

Questions to Think About

  1. When did reading the Bible on your own first become important to you? Was it right before or soon after your salvation? Or did your devotional life develop later?
  2. Do you usually approach Bible study as way to enjoy life with Christ or a chore that you ought to do?
  3. Are your more obedient to your parents and teachers since accepting Christ or rededicating your life to Him? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Anger of Man (Proverbs 19:11-12; 20:2-3)

Early in my teaching career in Florida, I had an interim headmaster who liked to quote James 1:20 to me: “For the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” I did not really like the man. We disagreed a lot theologically and had different philosophies of education, and looking back, I still don’t think he was a boss I would choose to work for today. So when he would recite James 1:20 to me after a difficult conference with a parent or a decision I had made in my classroom, I certainly did not like it. I would actually become more angry afterwards! But he was rightly applying the verse to my life, and it was counsel that I should have listened to more. The verse follows James 1:19, which tells Christians that we should all be “swift [quick] to hear” but “slow to speak, slow to anger.” This same teaching is found in today’s verses from Proverbs and is good advice for all of us.

The opposite of anger is patience, and it is a biblical virtue that God wants to develop in all of His sons and daughters. We are encouraged to always show “discretion,” which in this context means acting in ways that won’t provoke or offend others. We should be slow to get angry ourselves and slow to make other people angry (Proverbs 19:11a). To do that, we have to be willing to let go of a lot of little stuff that frustrates or annoys us or hurts our pride. Christians should not be people who love to start “quarrels” or fights, but rather peacemakers who bring healing to conflicts and broken relationships (Proverbs 20:3). If we learn to give our tempers to God and allow the Holy Spirit to produce patience in our lives, then we will enjoy peace with those in authority over us. The wrath or angry punishment of a king (for you that would mean parents, teachers, coaches, and one day bosses or customers/clients at your jobs) can be harsh and cause us to suffer (Proverbs 19:12a, 20:2). But if we let God tame our anger, then we can instead enjoy “favor” or kind blessings from our authorities (Proverbs 19:12b).

My hope is that we will all continually give our emotions to God and let Him keep producing the spiritual fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our daily lives” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Text (Proverbs 19:11-12; 20:2-3)

19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.

12 The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, But his favor is like dew on the grass…

20:2 The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion; Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life.

3 It is honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you struggle a lot with anger? Why or why not?
  2. In what ways during the past year has God been working to develop more patience in your life?
  3. Have you ever noticed better control over your temper after starting your day with time reading your Bible and praying? How do you think spending time with God helps you with your emotions and conflicts with other people?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Guard Your Ears (Proverbs 18:5-8)

We have already read several passages in Proverbs that warned us about controlling what we say. Today’s passage adds to those warnings the caution that we should also be careful about who and what we listen to. We should take not sides quickly by hearing only one side of a story and then rushing to form an opinion (Proverbs 18:5a). Instead, we should recognize that fools (ungodly people) often use their words to try to hurt and ruin godly people (Proverbs 18:5b). Such evil people stir up controversies and drama (Proverbs 18:6a) with their hateful gossip (Proverbs 18:8a). Their words will eventually get them and those who join them into great trouble, one way or another (Proverbs 18:6b,7b). Therefore, while it may be very tempting to listen to their stories and lies about others (Proverbs 18:8b), we must resist that sinful desire and instead choose not to listen. That could mean we need to tell some “friends” that we just don’t want to hear it when they start up with a rumor or a mean discussion about another person. If they won’t stop, it could mean physically walking away from the conversation. If they gossip all the time, it could mean choosing better friends to hang out with.

The counsel from today’s text is clear. We must not only guard our lips and hearts, but our ears, too. May God help us all to live out that wisdom today.

The Text (Proverbs 18:5-8)

5 It is not good to show partiality to the wicked, Or to overthrow the righteous in judgment.

6 A fool’s lips enter into contention, And his mouth calls for blows.

7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul.

8 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you have any friends or “friends” who gossip or talk bad about others a lot? What do you do whenever they start gossiping?
  2. Why do you think that people gossip? Why do think that people enjoy listening to gossip? Why do you think that the Bible says gossip is wrong?
  3. How are you doing with controlling your own speech right now? Do you notice that certain friends help you to avoid gossiping and instead speak more kind and encouraging words to others? Maybe you should spend more time with them!

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Life with Jesus is Better (Proverbs 16:16,19,32; 17:1)

Life with Jesus is better than life without Him. Ask any sincere Christian, and they will tell you that they would not give up their relationship with Christ for anything in the world. Knowing and living for God is the way of wisdom, and that way is full of a joy that no amount of money can buy (Proverbs 16:16). A humble walk with Christ frees us from the selfish pride that drives people apart from God and each other (Proverbs 16:19). The Holy Spirit empowers Christians to gain victory over their anger (AMEN!) and control over their emotions, something that is very hard or even impossible to accomplish in our own strength (Proverbs 16:32). Finally, faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring peace to our families, which is better than having great riches but conflict in our own homes (Proverbs 17:1. To explain it in modern terms, the Bible is saying that a meal of burgers or tacos in a house filled with Christian love and kindness is better than steak and lobster eaten by a family that is continually fighting and separated on islands of selfish living.

As students, you may not have much influence on the spiritual environment of your homes. But one day you will. One day, you will be husbands and fathers or wives and mothers and you will have the opportunity to lead your family to love and obey God. The preparation for that begins now. If your parents are strong Christians, then do everything you can to follow their example and learn to live the better way of wisdom. Be teachable and open to their correction and counsel. Let them raise you up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). If your parents are not committed believers, then do your best to be Christian salt and light in your family. Obey your parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1) in every way that you can. Live out your faith before them, and pray daily in your private devotions for God to get ahold of their hearts. The narrow road to heaven will be tough at times, but life on this earth is going to be tough anyways. Better to live it with Jesus than without Him. You will find other saints on the road with you, too; God does not intend for us to live for Him on our own. Christian mentors and friends at school and church will help you along your journey. Pick the better way of Christ and stay the course. You will be better off for it!

The Text (Proverbs 16:16,19,32; 17:1)

16:16 How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver…

16:19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud…

16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with strife.

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways during the past year have you experienced the truth that “life with Christ is better”?
  2. What is your spiritual role in your family right now? Are you in a supporting / following role, or does God need you to step up and be a leader? Either way, in what specific ways can you better live out your faith in your home?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Living in the Fear of the Lord (Proverbs 16:1-9)

God is in control, and God wants us to trust in Him with our whole hearts. Those two ideas run throughout today’s challenge from Proverbs 16:1-9. We are encouraged to remember that while we constantly make plans for our lives, the Lord is the one who has the last say on what happens to us (Proverbs 16:1,9). Even the downfall of the wicked, though they deserve the consequences of their sin, is still in some way under God’s authority (this is not something we can totally grasp, but it is what the Bible is teaching in places like Proverbs 16:4). Therefore, we must commit our hopes to God and let Him guide us as we make and pursue plans (v. 3). A big part of that daily submission to God involves letting Him purify our motives and intentions. We cannot stay proud and just do whatever we think is best for us (vv. 2, 5). Instead, we must seek to know God’s will as it is revealed to us in Scripture and then do it. When we walk with Jesus with a humble, unselfish mindset, then we enjoy the blessing of His peace and presence, even finding protection from those who attack us (v. 7). We experience in practice now the righteousness of Christ that has already been credited to our accounts in heaven. And this is better than having great money or power but a guilty, sin-burdened conscience (v. 8).

Spread throughout this passage is the call for Christians to live in the fear of the Lord. This means repenting or turning away from sin and turning to God in faith (v. 6b). This is the fruit of the salvation we have experienced through faith in Jesus Christ. When you were saved, you put your trust in the blood of Jesus for the atonement or payment for your sins. Then you received and experienced God’s forgiveness. The Bible says this about what Jesus did for us: “And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is the New Testament fulfillment of what Proverbs 16:6a is describing in today’s passage. Hundreds of years before Jesus came to this earth in the flesh, Solomon was explaining here in the Old Testament that salvation comes only by the grace of God through faith in His work for us. Holy objects like the Ark of the Covenant (pictured above) and rituals like animal sacrifices were symbols pointing forward to Jesus’s death on the cross. The fact that God sent His own perfect Son to die for us should forever lead us to at once tremble and rejoice before Him and be willing to do whatever He commands. That’s the fear of the Lord, and it’s where we need to live each day.

The Text (Proverbs 16:1-9)

16:1 The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits.

3 Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.

4 The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

5 Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.

6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.

7 When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

8 Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice.

9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Questions to Think About

  1. Can you think of some of your plans from the past year that did not work out as you expected? What happened? As you look back now, can you see how God was in control?
  2. Do you live in “the fear of the Lord”? How can you tell?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel