Doing Things God’s Way (Proverbs 21:4-8)

There are always two ways to do things – the easy way, and God’s way. The easy way is the path of the fool. It’s rooted in pride, or the belief that we know better than God and don’t have to follow His commands. The wicked do things their own way, and their work (for most people in ancient times this was farming, which included “plowing”) is sin in God’s sight, not matter how successful they might appear to be by the world’s standards (Proverbs 21:4). God’s way is to work hard because He wants to develop the character trait of diligence in our hearts. Hard work will lead to material and spiritual rewards for the follower of Christ, while lazy attempts to succeed without putting forth effort will one day lead to empty savings accounts and bankrupt souls (v. 5). The wicked lie and act deceitfully whenever they feel it will help them to get ahead in life (v. 6). They have no problem with hurting others, either physically or with their words and decisions, and treating people unjustly to get what they want (v. 7). It’s a totally self-centered, unholy approach to life. And it leads the person further and further down the road to their own spiritual ruin (vv. 6-7). But while their crooked ways make them guilty before a holy God, the honesty of Christians reflects work that is right and pure and pleases the Creator (v. 8).

Humility, hard work, and honesty – these are the qualities that God looks for in our lives. As students, God cares way more about how you do your class work, homework, and studying than what kind of grades you make. As God told the Old Testament judge Samuel, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). In your sports, God cares much more about how you behave and conduct yourself and whose glory you do things for than about the final scores and wins and losses. In your homes, God wants to see you obey and honor your parents from your heart, not just doing what you need to do to avoid punishments.

So what will it be this school year? Will you do things the easy way, or God’s way?

The Text (Proverbs 21:4-8)

4 A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin.

5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

7 The violence of the wicked will destroy them, Because they refuse to do justice.

8 The way of a guilty man is perverse; But as for the pure, his work is right.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do your efforts at school show humility, hard work, and honesty or pride, laziness, and deceit? How about in your sport? What about in your home?
  2. Why do you think that God cares so much more about how and why we do things than about what we accomplish?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Our Strong Tower (Proverbs 18:9-12)

People like to feel safe. Much of life on this earth seems like an endless effort to bring ourselves comfort, pleasure, and security. We must work and work hard to avoid poverty. Those who are “slothful” or lazy bring destruction to themselves and others (Proverbs 18:9). We don’t want to wind up poor, so we work hard at school so that we can get a good job afterwards. After we get our jobs, if we have the right mix of talent, training, and opportunities, then we may find ourselves with plenty of money to enjoy nice lifestyles. Our wealth can become a cushion or shield against suffering (v. 11a). We may even begin to believe that we are like the high-walled cities of ancient times, unable to be defeated by life’s hard knocks (v. 11b). This is the American dream. Watch any HGTV show. You will see people desiring to find comfort, pleasure, and safety in a home and lifestyle.

Hard work is biblical, and there is nothing wrong with earning and carefully managing wealth. And as my wife continually reminds me, there is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy your house. But the danger of success and riches is that they may cause us to put our trust in temporary accomplishments and possessions rather than our eternal Creator. So the Bible reminds in places like v. 12a that we must not become proud of our strength because pride that is never checked will eventually lead to our destruction, either now or in eternity. Remember the rich man and Lazarus? Or the rich young ruler? They thought they had it all, but Jesus said that they really had nothing in the end. What we want to do instead is to stay humble and give God all of the credit for our ability to work and all of the stuff that He has given us (v. 12b). For the godly, the Lord Himself is our forever “strong tower” who alone can give us real security (v. 10).

As students, today’s passage tells you to work hard but remember that God is in control. He has blessed you with talents, so use them for His glory. Give it your best at school, in your sport or fine art activity, and in your chores at home. Learn now not to be lazy but diligent. But don’t get proud of what you can do or how much money your parents have. Don’t grow proud and choke on God’s blessings. Rather, look to Jesus as your source of strength, hope, and safety. Let Him be your fortress today and every day.

The Text (Proverbs 18:9-12)

9 He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.

10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.

11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own esteem.

12 Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.

Questions to Think About

  1. Are you known as a hard worker? In what ways?
  2. Does your family trust in God as their “strong tower”? How can you tell?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Work of the Refiner (Proverbs 17:2-3)

Many times when students think about Christian schools, churches, and even Christianity in general, they see only rules. They somehow get the false idea that following Christ is just about dressing appropriately, sitting quietly when you’re supposed to, and overall making the adults in your life happy. If you play this game well, then you think you are a “good Christian kid” and can go on with your life as you like as long as you keep following the rules. But this is not biblical faith! If you’ve been paying attention to what we’ve been teaching in chapel and the blog and Bible class, my prayer is that God has shown you that Christianity is about a heartfelt, growing relationship with Christ. Real wisdom, says God in Proverbs, is only found in “the fear of the Lord.” We obey rules because we love Jesus because He first loved us. He loved us and died for us and rose from the dead for us so that we could find life everlasting in Him. What He asks from us in return is that we submit to His Lordship over our lives. He says we must allow Him to do His work of redemption and transformation in us, His work of changing our hearts and lives to become like His.

Today Proverbs tells us that this heartfelt relationship with God is more important than who are parents are or how much money they have. True faith will lead to wisdom, or doing God’s will, and will raise up students from the most humble backgrounds to an inheritance in God’s kingdom, while those who live foolishly for sin and self will find only shame (Proverbs 17:2). God is not very concerned with where you come from, but He cares very much about where you are going. The God of the Bible will use trials and tough circumstances to purify us, to refine our souls the way that super hot furnaces burn off the junk to produce silver and gold (Proverbs 17:3). My prayer is that we would all submit to the work of the Refiner’s fire in our lives, knowing that God has a plan and purpose for our temporary suffering and struggles.

The Text (Proverbs 17:2-3)

2 A wise servant will rule over a son who causes shame, And will share an inheritance among the brothers.

3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests the hearts.

Questions to Think About

  1. Before you accepted Christ, did you think of Christianity as a bunch of rules to be followed? Why or why not?
  2. What trials or challenges is God using to refine your heart right now? How are you responding to the work of the Refiner?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

God, Government, and You (Proverbs 16:10-15)

Leaders should be honest and fair. They should promote justice for all the people they lead. Why? Because God is just. The very concepts of honesty and fairness were created by God (Proverbs 16:11). Therefore, God desires for those who rule and lead on earth to imitate Him. Those in authority rule on God’s behalf as His stewards. They are to speak His commands and words to those they govern (v. 10a). Their words should not violate truth and justice (v. 10b). Leaders should not sin but do right (v. 12) and love those who follow them in godly living (v. 13). What about those who are not in charge but must follow those who lead? Well, they should recognize that not all leaders live up the the standards of justice that God desires. Therefore, they should act wisely and humbly and do their best not to offend and anger those in authority over them, knowing that they might suffer the “king’s wrath” if they their leaders disrespect or disobedience (v. 14). To have the blessing and favor of those above you is to enjoy peace and prosperity (v. 15).

For us today, we no longer live under the rule of kings. But we still have government leaders and we all have bosses in daily life, so the principles of this passage from Proverbs definitely still apply to us now. Whenever you get to be the leader in class or in a club or on a team or even among your friends, work hard to be honest, fair, and just. Treat those you lead with respect and kindness and do your best to honor God with your words and decisions. And in your roles as followers, obey and show respect to those whom God has placed in authority over you: your parents, your teachers, your coaches, and any other adults who are given leadership over you. You will enjoy God’s pleasure because submitting to authority is His will. Remember Romans 13:1-5, the passage Mr. Reel uses to teach about the “Reel Rules” for his classroom? Rule 5 was the most important of all – “Always obey the teacher.” I bet those of you who did that in all of your classes had a better year than those who didn’t (ahem, pink slips, ahem…). Whether you did or didn’t have a good year with obeying authority or leading last year, determine now to make this year a good year by obeying, respecting, being kind and honest and fair, and seeing how God honors your righteous behavior.

The Text (Proverbs 16:10-15)

10 Divination is on the lips of the king; His mouth must not transgress in judgment.

11 Honest weights and scales are the Lord’s; All the weights in the bag are His work.

12 It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, For a throne is established by righteousness.

13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings, And they love him who speaks what is right.

14 As messengers of death is the king’s wrath, But a wise man will appease it.

15 In the light of the king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.

Questions to Think About

  1. Who have been some godly leaders in your life, people who modeled honesty, fairness, and justice for those under their authority?
  2. Will you have any opportunities to be a leader this year? Explain.
  3. Did you do a good job of obeying and respecting your teachers last year? How did your behavior affect the way those teachers treated you?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Wicked vs. the Righteous (Proverbs 15:19-29)

Much of Proverbs comes to us in the form of contrast, specifically the contrast between the lives of the wicked (lost, ungodly, foolish) and the lives of the righteous (saved by Christ, godly, wise). Basically, God says in each verse or pair of verses: “This is the behavior and/or heart condition of those who serve sin, and this is the bad consequence they receive. But this is the behavior and heart of those who follow me, and these are the rewards that they receive.”

Such is the case with today’s passage. We are told that laziness (which is a sin) will throw obstacles into our paths, but the “upright” or righteous will face smoother roads in life, presumably because they are not lazy but instead work hard (Proverbs 29:19). The righteous bring joy to their parents, but the wicked show them disrespect, which by contrast would cause them sorrow and grief (v. 20). The wicked lack “discernment” or good judgment, so they love foolishness, while the righteous are wise and walk in that wisdom by making smart decisions (v. 21). The wicked are stubborn and won’t accept “counsel” or advice from other people, but the righteous come up with better plans because they get input from godly mentors and friends (v. 22). The righteous learn to say the right things at the right time so as to build others up (v. 23), thinking before they speak and choosing their words carefully (v. 28a). But the wicked have no self-control and just pour out every sinful thought that occurs to them (v. 28b). The wicked are proud (v. 25a) and greedy (v. 27a) and so draw God’s hand of judgment against them, while the righteous are honest (v. 27b) and humble like poor widows with nothing and no one to help them but God (v. 25b). The sum of it all is that because the hearts of the wicked are set against God, they draw hardships and opposition from Him, while the righteous please God with their thoughts and actions and so draw His favor and protection (vv. 26, 24). And more important than anything else, the righteous enjoy loving fellowship with their Creator, who hears their prayers, while the wicked live without the presence and peace of God in their lives (v. 28).

Now a word of caution. What Proverbs describes in verses like these are ideals and general patterns for teaching purposes. We are supposed to read these contrasts and desire to be like the righteous and not like the wicked. As people who are growing but not yet perfect in Christ, we will not always copy the behaviors of the righteous and avoid the behaviors of the wicked. Christians will struggle with sin until the day we die or Christ returns for us. You will battle laziness, greed, and lack of self-control. This does not mean that you are not saved. If those were the unforgivable sins, there would be no hope for any American teenager ever! To the contrary, the fact that as you read these verses God spoke to you about different sinful actions and thoughts in your life is a good thing. It is a sign that you are alive and sensitive to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. The people who are really in trouble, the truly “wicked” or unsaved people, are those who are blinded to their sin problems and never feel remorse when they act foolishly and break God’s commandments. The key question for our spiritual condition is not, “Are you perfect?” but, “Do you want to be?” May we all say, “Yes, Lord Jesus!” today.

The Text (Proverbs 15:19-29)

19 The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, But the way of the upright is a highway.

20 A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish man despises his mother.

21 Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, But a man of understanding walks uprightly.

22 Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.

23 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!

24 The way of life winds upward for the wise, That he may turn away from hell below.

25 The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, But He will establish the boundary of the widow.

26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, But the words of the pure are pleasant.

27 He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live.

28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.

29 The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

Questions to Think About

  1. What sins did God speak to you about today as you read these verses?
  2. Do you notice a different attitude towards sin in your life now than when you were in elementary school? Explain.
  3. How does today’s devotion help you to better understand Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:48 for His followers to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel