Stability of Moral Choices

Text: Proverbs 12:1-28


(Proverbs 12:1-7)

It takes discipline, both positive and especially negative, to gain knowledge. Therefore, a love of knowledge requires a love of being corrected. But people, who hate being told they are wrong, are ignorant or brutish.

A good man gains favor from God, but a man who plots evil receives condemnation from God. "Good" refers to someone who intends to do good and acts upon his intentions. How we behave and think then determines how God chooses to treat us (Romans 2:5-11). Wickedness cannot bring about a stable life, especially when you consider that God is against the evil (Psalms 73:18). Only by living a righteous life will a person find stability (Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8).

An example of this is an excellent, strong, or steadfast, wife. Not only would righteousness bring her strength but it reflects on her husband as well, making him look good in the eyes of others. In contrast, a woman who shames her husband ruins him to the very depth of his being and destroys his physical health.

The thoughts of the righteous focus on what is right and so, by implication, their advice is sound. However, the advice of the wicked is not trustworthy because their thoughts are on evil. They use words to cover up their intent Thus, advice is only as good as the source. The wicked encourages others to commit acts of violence (Proverbs 1:11-19), but the righteous deliver themselves from harm by their words.

Proverbs 12:7 sums up this section: the wicked are unstable and will not last but the righteous will remain for generations (Psalms 37:35-37; Proverbs 10:25,30).

For Discussion:

  1. How can we determine if we are dealing with a righteous or wicked person?
  2. How does Luke 20:20-21 illustrate these proverbs?
  3. How does Esther 7:1-10 illustrate these proverbs?


(Proverbs 12:8-12)

A man who shows wisdom and insight will receive commendation, but a perverse man will be despised because how he thinks is reflected in his words and actions. By implication, the wise man is an upright or straightforward person. But just because a person is despised, it doesn't follow that he is crooked. We should not seek out being elevated in the sight of others. You are better off being overlooked and still having someone working for you than giving yourself honor but having nothing to eat. You can't eat praise.

The righteous are concerned about others, including animals. How a person treats animals reflects how he will treat people. In contrast, the kindest deeds of the wicked are nothing but cruelties. In other words, even in apparently kind deeds, there are sharp barbs of cruelties hidden within. They think they are being kind when they are not as cruel as they could have been.

A farmer does several steps before planting his seed. The fields have to be turned over after the harvest and then the ground has to be tilled, breaking up the dirt into fine particles before the seeds are planted. It might seem tempting to skip these steps, but without them, crop yields would drastically drop. But because of his willingness to work diligently, he is able to produce food to satisfy himself. However, a person who prefers to chase after fantasies, idle pleasures, and things with no value and avoids work doesn't understand the impact it has on his life. He doesn't see that past idleness leads to future hunger. The difference between the two outcomes stems from two attitudes of the heart.

The wicked crave the plunder of other evil people. It is a greed, but rarely does it give the covetous what they want. What little the wicked do gain is by taking from others. However, righteousness is firmly rooted and yields produce in its time. The difference is between coveting and producing. The righteous are productive people.


(Proverbs 12:13-23)

Wicked people are often caught by their words since words tend to reflect what is in their hearts (Matthew 12:34; Psalms 64:8; Proverbs 6:2). In contrast righteous people usually escape problems (Psalms 34:19). Implied is that the righteous are delivered by the wisdom of their words. Proverbs 12:14 continues the thought from the end of verse 13. A person finds satisfaction in what results from his words and his labor that are rooted in righteousness.

Fools think that their way is right. Since they don't like to learn, they never stop to ask or consider what other people think. However, a wise person listens to advise, knowing that it is possible that he might have overlooked something or might even be wrong about a matter.

Fools also make no attempt to hide their anger. He has no patience. His emotions rule his thoughts and actions. But a person who thinks ahead knows he has to keep his emotions in check. It isn't that he doesn't get angry for just reasons, but his emotions don't control his decisions or actions. When he is insulted or embarrassed by others, he suppresses it because in the long run getting angry will not improve things. A good example of this is found in the story of David and Nabal in I Samuel 25. This is why Christians are called to be longsuffering (II Timothy 4:1-5; Ephesians 4:1-3).

Proverbs 12:17 seems overly obvious: honest people tell what is right and liars tell lies. Clearly, there is more here than what we see on the surface. The character of a person sets the value of his words and we should expect people to act in a consistent manner. This is especially important in a court where a perjurer could ruin a person's life with his false testimony, but it has equal application in any situation where we must make decisions based on someone's words.

Words spoken without careful thought can cause serious harm, like a sword thrust. However, wise people speak words that heal another person's soul.

Truth doesn't change, so when a person speaks the truth stands firm. But the words of a liar always break down. The reason is simple: there are so many potential lies that the liar forgets what lies he's told.

People who plan evil tend to tell lies because they don't want their plans revealed. Those seeking peace with others give advice that leads to joy for the person giving the advice. Notice that the first half tells us the source of lies while the second half tells us the outcome of advising peace. Filling in the implications: Those who devise harm tells lies and have no joy while those who seek for peace tell the truth and have personal joy.

When a person seeks to be righteous, he is protected from harm (Psalms 91:10), but a wicked person has his fill of trouble. A person tends to get back more than he sows (Hosea 8:7).

Most importantly, liars are an abomination to the God of Truth, but those who deal honestly with others are a delight to God. Notice the comparison between words and deeds. Words reflect what a person does, or does not, do.

Those who are thinking ahead do not reveal everything that they know. As an example, if you are negotiating a deal, you don't tell people what your limits are. Or, if you think someone is lying, you don't let the person know everything you know to see if what he says matches up with what you know. Thus, this is another reason to limit our words to only those carefully considered (Proverbs 10:19). In contrast, the very thoughts, or emotions, of fools loudly proclaim them to be foolish (Ecclesiastes 10:3). They have no restraint on their tongues (Proverbs 10:8,10).

For discussion:

  1. Apply Proverbs 12:17 to researching information on the Internet.
  2. Using this section, what should I look for to know the type of person I'm dealing with?


(Proverbs 12:24-28)

Hard work leads to positions of leadership over time, but laziness causes men to be reduced in status until they are forced into laboring. Generally, it is due to laziness leading to poverty and debt. Thus, the irony is that those seeking to avoid work end up being forced to work.

Anxiety leads to depression, but an appropriate kind word can counter the depression. This is a specific example of the healing mentioned in Proverbs 12:18. But such is the way of righteous people, they seek the good of the people around them while the wicked tend to lead people astray. Notice also the contrast between open-ended anxiety and a single good word.

The first line of Proverbs 12:26 is considered difficult to translate. Literally, it states: yahter (let him search out) mere'ehu (from his fellow) tsaddiq (the righteous). The NIV translates it as "A righteous man is cautious in friendship." The NKJV renders it as "The righteous should choose his friends carefully." While the NASB sees it saying "The righteous is a guide to his neighbor." The problem is that there is not enough context to determine which is the correct translation and either translation matches similar points in the rest of the Bible and can be seen as a contrast to the second half of the proverb.

If the NASB is correct, then the proverb is a contrast between how the righteous and wicked behave. Righteous people are focused on helping those around them to reach further righteousness, while wicked people lead people into further wickedness. If the NKJV and NIV are correct, then because wicked people lead people astray, the righteous are careful about who they select as friends because they don't wish to be led astray.

Even when a lazy man catches game when he hunts, he is too lazy to cook it. The implication is that he doesn't value it. He hunts only for the sport. Thus, he gains no benefit from his efforts because he doesn't finish the task. But a man who is not lazy finds the very work that he does a possession to be prized. In turn, what he processes by his efforts is also prized.

The very lifestyle of the righteous, the way he chooses to live in this temporal world, is life-giving and leads to eternal life. Most of the proverbs from the last three chapters are contrasts, yet suddenly this verse is a synonymous comparison. It makes the point stand out – summarizing the points made so far in Proverbs. Wisdom is the source of life (Proverbs 1:33; 2:20-21; 3:18; 8:35). It only benefits a person when wisdom is followed in everyday decisions.

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