Evaluating Choices

Text: Proverbs 13:1-25

Choices have Consequences

(Proverbs 13:1-6)

Wisdom teaches us that we don’t know everything and that we will make mistakes. While discipline is not pleasant, the wise person knows that it leads to learning (Hebrews 12:11). A scoffer does not think he is wrong – everyone else is wrong – so he rejects any rebuke (Proverbs 9:7-8). Notice that the there is no verb in the first half. It is supplied by negating the second half.

A person enjoys (literally “eats”) the good results that come from his words (Proverbs 12:14), but a deceitful person thinks about violence and, so doesn’t benefit anyone, including himself. Notice that here the second half has no verb, but is gain by paralleling the first line. The deceitful person feeds on violence in his thoughts.

When a person is careful about what he says, he preserves his life (Proverbs 10:14), but a person who says everything he thinks will end up destroying himself. Forethought prevents a person from saying things that can get other people angry or hurt.

Lazy people want thing, but they are too lazy to actually do anything to gain what they want. People who are willing to work hard have plenty (Proverbs 10:4). This verse literally says “the diligent will be made fat.” “To be made fat” is an idiom meaning to be prosperous. It stands in contrast to the starvation lazy people face because they will not work.

A righteous man hates lies. A wicked man is not turned off by sin. He acts in shameful and disgusting ways and doesn’t think about it.

Righteousness has benefits: it protects the practitioner of righteousness. When you do the right thing, you don’t get into trouble. However, wickedness perverts (or twists) the sinner. It changes him for the worse. Thus, the wicked are feeding on poisons that are destroying them.

Wealth Isn’t What It Appears to Be

(Proverbs 13:7-8)

The behavior of a person can lie. Some people act like they are rich but are not. Others may act like they are poor when they are not (Similar to Proverbs 12:9.)

A rich man’s wealth can be used to ransom his life in times of great danger, but a poor man is rarely in danger since he has no money to be demanded. Thus, wealth doesn’t offer as much security as you might at first suspect, since it also makes you a bigger target.

For Discussion:

  1. Proverbs 13:7 is presented as a fact. Are the two people described sinning?
  2. Why would someone pretend to be rich?
  3. Why would someone pretend to be poor?

Value of Wise Living

(Proverbs 13:9-11)

The life of righteous people is an influence that shines out for all to see (Proverbs 4:18; Matthew 5:14-16). The influence of a wicked person is as short-lived as his life (Job 18:5-6; 21:17).

Pride leads a person to reject the views of other people leading disagreements and strife. A humble person listens to other people’s advice. Because he sees things from multiple viewpoints he can act with wisdom. Proverbs 11:14 makes a similar point.

When fraud (literally “vanity”) is used to gain wealth, that wealth tends to diminish. That is because the motivation for fraud is laziness. A person willing to work for wealth tends to increase his wealth. Proverbs 11:18 makes a similar point.

For Discussion:

  1. What is the difference between Proverbs 11:18 and Proverbs 13:11?

The Need to Accomplish

(Proverbs 13:12)

When a person has expectations that are never fulfilled, he eventually despairs and gives up. It is only when expectations are met that joy and renewed life comes to a person. This point is often lost in the workplace. Managers set quotas with promised rewards and at first those rewards make employees work harder. But too often managers, trying to save money, will keep raising the bar resulting in the opposite effect. Why strive for something that becomes harder to obtain?

Value of Listening

(Proverbs 13:13-16)

The verb chaval in Proverbs 13:13 can be translated as either “to take in pledge” or “to destroy or ruin.” Some translations see this as being contrasted between owing and rewarding. Others see the contrast between destruction and reward. Thus, it is either: A person who despises God’s word will find himself under obligation to keep it. Those who respect the commandments will find themselves rewarded. The other view is: Putting yourself against God’s wisdom will result in your ruin. A seemingly small attitude toward God’s wisdom can have strong repercussions.

God’s law is wisdom and brings life to those who partake of it. It helps the listener avoid traps that can lead to death. Proverbs 14:27 uses nearly the same words; thus, “the teaching of the wise” is the same as “the fear of the Lord.” This verse emphasizes the content while the other emphasis the attitude.

Faithfulness, by implication, leads to good reasoning (understanding), which results in favor (Romans 14:18). A life of unfaithfulness leads to poor reasoning, by implication, which results in a difficult life. The word translated as “hard” is the Hebrew word ethan, which means constant, strong, or rough. The implication is that the unfaithful have a continuing difficult or rough life.

Prudent people act from the facts that they have gathered to guide them in the direction they are seeking to head. Fools don’t have facts to work with, nor foresight regarding what might result, so their folly is placed on display for all to see.

Dealing with People

(Proverbs 13:17-20)

A unfaithful or wicked messenger ends up in trouble and, thus, causes more trouble to an already strained relationship. The use of “falls” means he causes trouble without really trying, it happens by neglect and seemingly by accident. An ambassador or envoy is more than a messenger. He speaks on behalf of the king and is able to act on behalf of the king. It is a position of extreme trust and a faithful ambassador heals strained relationships.

Neglect of discipline results in poverty and shame. Discipline teaches us the ways that don’t work. It corrects us from making future mistakes. Thus, those who give heed to correction will ultimately receive honor, even though it seems embarrassing at the moment. The final word in Hebrew, yekhubbadh, can mean either honor or made wealthy.

Proverbs 13:19 returns to the thoughts in Proverbs 13:12. To have something finished that you have desired is sweet. Fools find it disgusting to leave sin, nor is sin ever finished with them. By implication, fools would rather have unrealized hopes than to give up evil. In other words, if a person wants to sin, no offers of a better life will deter them.

A person who follows the same way of life of wise men will become wise. A person who associates with fools will come to ruin. Who we have in our lives will influence us (I Corinthians 15:33). In Hebrew, there is a play on words between “companion” (weroeh) and “destroyed or harmed” (yeroa’). Notice, also, that there is more effort involved in walking with someone than associating with them.  

Legacy of Our Choices

(Proverbs 13:21-25)

Difficulties chase after sinners, but good repays the righteous. In Hebrew, “good” is personified. The World English Bible captures this well, “Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous.” In both cases, the receiver is not directly seeking after the result (Proverbs 11:31).

The good leave a legacy that lasts for generations. It is not just wealth, but instruction on how to deal with wealth and in being righteous. The wicked’s wealth tends to end up profiting the righteous (Ecclesiastes 2:26; Job 27:16-17). See Psalms 37:18,22, 26. The wicked’s wealth doesn’t last long enough to be passed down (Proverbs 11:29).

There is plenty of opportunity for the poor to improve their lot if they but work for it (Proverbs 12:11); however, injustices in society too often sweep away those opportunities (Ezekiel 22:29). It could also be a warning against personal injustice toward others (Jeremiah 17:11).

Too often parents avoid punishment because they don’t want to hurt their children, but Solomon points out that a parent who won’t punish their child when it is deserved actually hates the child because he shows no concern for the child’s future. To love a child is to correct him promptly when it will keep him on track. Those who don’t like to punish their child will often wait too long before they feel they are forced to punish a misbehaving child. The “rod” refers to physical discipline but is not limited to just physical punishment. See: Hebrews 12:5-11.

The righteous has enough to satisfy him, but the wicked never has enough (Proverbs 10:3). One reason was mentioned back in Proverbs 13:11, the wealth of the wicked doesn’t last, but the righteous understands the need for hard labor, which results in profit.