A Sample of Wisdom

Text: Proverbs 3:27-35

A series of proverbs is given to demonstrate what can be learned from wisdom. A first it might appear that each proverb is independent, but an idea present in one proverb is picked up by the next proverb to make a new application. This chaining of ideas becomes a subtle form of poetry in a list form.

When good is owed to someone and you have the ability to do that good, then we are told not to hold back from doing good (Proverbs 3:27). A simple example is a boss who owes his employees their wages (Leviticus 19:13). But it can also be applied to knowing someone needs help. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). God isn’t expecting you to do the impossible, but when you have the ability to do good, we are not to refrain. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

The next proverb extends the principle further (Proverbs 3:28). Delaying to do good is just as bad as not doing it all. Again, delaying to pay wages is a clear example (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). The reason is simple. An opportunity passed to do good may be an opportunity lost. We don’t know if we will be around tomorrow. “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

We’ve talked about doing good, so next, we consider the opposite – doing evil (Proverbs 3:29). Doing evil should be clearly wrong by itself (Micah 2:1-2), but it becomes particularly foolish when a person decides to harm a neighbor. Whether you live in an apartment complex or a village, it is natural to put some trust in the people around you. You all have some interest in the safety of the area in which you live. Thus, any harm to your neighbor is harm to yourself. “Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies; nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause. For they do not speak peace, but they devise deceitful matters against the quiet ones in the land” (Psalms 35:19-20). The harm that comes from someone you thought you could trust is particularly hurtful.

Again we extend the concept. It is more than just outright plotting of evil (Proverbs 3:30). Making yourself an enemy of someone who has done you no wrong is also foolish. This most often comes about when a person makes accusations before all the facts in the matter are gathered. Whether we are talking about being over quick to sue a person in court or just being quick to expect the worse out of everyone around you, the results are equally poor (Romans 12:18-21; Proverbs 18:6; 25:8).

Turning it around, a person who is under attack by another should not allow him to envy his oppressor (Proverbs 3:31). It doesn’t matter if it appears that he is getting away with it for the moment or that he is profiting from it (Psalms 37:1, 7-9). Wrong is wrong regardless of the apparent outcome. If you envy the oppressor, you are believing that what he is doing is right.

But when a person thinks an evil, like oppression, is good in some circumstances, he has become perverse (Proverbs 3:32). Perversity is the twisting of morality. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). God finds such warped views of good and evil to be particularly disgusting. An abomination is literally something that makes you sick to your stomach. In contrast, God is intimately close to the upright (Psalms 25:14). An upright person is the opposite of a perverse man. The upright man is uncomplicated and straightforward. Right is always right and wrong is always wrong to an upright man.

We shouldn’t assume that God just doesn’t like the wicked. The next proverb (Proverbs 3:33) tells us that God actively works against the wicked while helping the just (Proverbs 21:12; Psalms 1:3, 6).

Nor is this limited to actively wicked. God considers the attitude of people and repays in kind (Proverbs 3:34). The scoffer or the scornful are those who don’t believe what others believe and mock others for believing differently from themselves. In other words, scoffers are driven by personal pride. Thus, God doesn’t believe in those who refuse to believe in God (Proverbs 19:29). But to people with a humble attitude are extended grace by God (Isaiah 57:15; James 4:16).

The conclusion is that the wise who heed God will inherit glory (Psalms 73:24), but the legacy of those who refuse to learn will be shame (Proverbs 3:35).

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be ashamed; behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but you shall cry for sorrow of heart, and wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name”” (Isaiah 65:13-15).

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).

For Discussion:

  1. Pick two or three of the proverbs in this section. Find examples from the news or your own personal experience that illustrates the truth of what Solomon is teaching.
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