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
- What sins did God speak to you about today as you read these verses?
- Do you notice a different attitude towards sin in your life now than when you were in elementary school? Explain.
- 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”?