Don’t Wear Yourself Out…Show Some Restraint! Proverb for the Day 23:4

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint

This proverb isn’t about any specific characters in Proverbs, just another of those good-things-to-know about life wise sayings.

The first phrase says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich.” We’re not supposed to invest all our thinking, time and energy into getting rich.

First, because all our efforts may just not produce much at all — and it wasn’t a good investment of our time or energy.

Second, we may be able to get riches, but may not be able to hold on to them very long.

Third, wealth isn’t all it is cracked up to be — and very possibly it won’t be able to provide the things that really matter to us.

Fourth, if God wants us to have it, we don’t need to wear ourselves out to try and make it happen. He can handle all that for us!

The second phrase of this wise saying adds some additional information, “Have the wisdom to show restraint.” But, to be honest, this is more of an explanation than a translation.

This phrase actually it consists of just two words in Hebrew: “from-your-own-understanding cease!”

It reminds me of one of my favorite verses in Proverbs (3:5), where the second clause says (in four Hebrew words) “…and lean not on your own understanding.”

Today’s verse suggests we should curb both our actions (“wear yourself out”) and our attitudes (“have the wisdom’). We’re not supposed to succumb to focusing on and going after wealth.

In the end, wisdom is way better than riches — because wisdom will bring sufficient riches along with it…and wisdom will help us appreciate what we do have more…and wisdom will empower us to be able to share our of what we have with others.

Just good things to know!

He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins! Proverb for the Day 22:1

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold 

A bumper sticker in the ’80’s taught the not-so-great truth “He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins.”

This wise saying offers just the opposite advice. “A good name is more desirable than great riches” and “to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

The message here is simple — who I am is far more important than what I have!

As a Pastor in Frederick, Maryland during the ’70s-’80s, I visited in some of the county’s nicest homes. They were gorgeous, inside and out, and it was pretty cool just to be able to see inside.

But I was there because the people living in these beautiful houses were miserable and couldn’t enjoy the wonderful things they had around them. Life is just not about stuff.

There are men here at Helping Up Mission who used to live in such nice houses…and they weren’t happy, either…so they turned to chemicals for relief…and that only made things worse!

On numerous occasions, these same guys have told me that they’re actually happier here and now — with very little to call their own — than they were then with all those things.

They’re getting more comfortable with the fact that who they are is more important than what they have. That’s wisdom…the Wisdom of Proverbs!

And Such Were Some Of Us… Proverb for the Day 21:10

The wicked crave evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them

Among the most frequently mentioned characters in Proverbs are “the wicked.” This verse mentions both their attitudes and actions.
What makes “the wicked” who they are is not what they do — but how they think. And it’s because of the way they think that they do the things they do.
“The wicked crave evil” offers some insight into their thought processes. For whatever reasons, “the wicked” have decided they really don’t care about what is good or about others — so to “crave evil” is about all that’s left.
Consequently, “their neighbors get no mercy from them.” 
This verse points out to us that there are people like this out there. And it will be the wisdom of Proverbs that will help us identify them and offer us the insights to best deal with them.
But…what this verse doesn’t discuss is the truth that “the wicked” can have a spiritual transformation. As the Apostle Paul once reminded the Corinthian church, “such were some of you” (I Corinthians 6:11).
Here at Helping Up Mission, the men I’ve come to know, love and respect are just not the same guys that their criminal records indicate. They’ve had a spiritual awakening that has begun a supernatural transformation process which simply can’t be explained in human terms.

The bad news is that there are some really wicked people out there. The good news is that they can — and do — change!

And hopefully, on this basis, the Apostle Paul can also say to each of us — “and such were some of you!”

OUCH! Proverb for the Day 20:30

Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being
This is a painful wise saying!
While some might simply explain it away as faulty ancient superstition about the virtue of pain — whether self-inflicted or put on upon us by others — I’ll suggest this verse offers some invaluable spiritual truths about life.
Parallel lines of ancient Hebrew poetry, they both say the same thing in different words “blows, wounds…and beating” actually “scrub away evil…purge the inmost being.”

The immediate image that comes to mind is of punishment for something we’ve done wrong. And we’ll all admit to the value that come out of being punished for bad choices at different times in our past.

But I’ll take this proverb just a step further beyond punishment. Regardless of the source or cause, painful “blows and wounds…beatings,” in general, can be a valuable way for me to learn some of life’s most important lessons.

This wise saying is the foundation for a line in The Serenity Prayer:

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace

Rather than reacting to the source of cause of my difficulties — if I’m able to see a divine meaning, purpose and value behind it — all this pain really will “scrub away evil…purge the inmost being…and become a pathway to peace” for me!

Here at Helping Up Mission, guys frequently tell me that their greatest moments of spiritual clarity have come in jails and hospital beds!

This wise saying doesn’t say we have to appreciate or enjoy the process — just know that it can have real value in my life!


I’ve Got This Great Idea… Proverb for the Day 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails

This is another of those general facts-of-life wise saying of just really good things to know.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart” — we sure can come up with some great ideas! Of course, in many instances, they seemed like a good idea at the time, but really weren’t.
Yet, other plans were good…but our timing was off…or there was something in the future that we just couldn’t know about that did or could have simply destroyed my great idea.
So, the best plan I could ever have in my heart would actually be God’s plan — because “it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails!”

I’ve never been very good at talking God into doing one of my great ideas. In fact, I’ve pretty much quit trying!

Since He sees what I don’t see…and knows what I don’t know, I really can’t do any better than what He’s got going. And He always knows how to get His plans completed — on time and on budget!
Now the fact is, He may have actually put His plan in my heart some time ago! And I may have already adopted it as my plan — and that’s not a bad thing.

But we just really need to know that all good plans do originate with Him. Consequently, He’s the best One to actually bring it to completion.

While imperfect in implementation, I’ve found the best way to practice this concept in my life is HOW — Honest, Open and Willing…before God…one day at a time!


Two Ladies…In The Streets Proverb for the Day 8:1-3

1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 Beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:

As seen regularly in Proverbs, verse 1 pairs the qualities “wisdom” and “understanding” together. With wisdom being the key concept in Proverbs, it appears that a connection with wisdom naturally leads to connecting with understanding, as well.

The key concept in Proverbs, we define wisdom as “seeing life from God’s point of view.” Defining understanding as “realizing how right choices lead to a meaningful life,” it’s easy to see how, together, they could make life really meaningful for anyone.

In keeping with the father-son discussions in the book, both qualities are depicted in the feminine. Dad tells his boy to appreciate and treat them like “Lady Wisdom” and “Lady Understanding.”

In our verses, these two “Ladies” are seen yelling (“call out” and “raise her voice”) at key locations around ancient cities — “on the heights along the way,” “where the paths meet” and “beside the gates leading into the city.”

Israelite cities in Solomon’s time had no temples (only Jerusalem) or synagogues (not yet in existence), so these would be the best places to get the attention of the most people (note 1:20-21).

It suggests that Ladies Wisdom and Understanding are out in public, totally accessible and available, actively seeking to develop a relationship with any and all who will pay attention!

We don’t have to be intellectuals, highly educated, rich, famous, powerful or know all the right people to hook up with them. Instead they’re in the streets looking for us!

We’re familiar with immoral women in the streets, so it’s good to know that these two great character qualities – personified as women – are also out there actively seeking anyone who might be interested.

It happened to me!

The only explanation for all that’s happened in my life the past four decades can only be explained by the truth that God’s Wisdom and Understanding are really available to anyone willing and ready to receive them.

Nothing To Do…Watch An Ant! Proverb for the Day 6:6-8

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

These three verses are a unit addressed to the “sluggard” – a lazy person and regular character in Proverbs. The way it reads, this may have been a well-known wise saying in Solomon’s time.

“Sluggard” person was told “go to the ant” (mentioned in Proverbs only here and 30:25) — a pretty simple task for someone with nothing else to do.

And, based on ancient living conditions, it probably wasn’t hard to find an ant scurrying around — even in the king’s palace where Solomon lived. So our lazy one wouldn’t have to go very far or look too hard to start this little project.

He or she was also supposed to “consider its ways and be wise.” The end of this exercise was for them to gain wisdom…from an ant!

In case they didn’t know exactly what to be considering, a couple of hints were offered, “it has no commander, no overseer or ruler” (:7). The ant has no recognizable boss and yet stays busy, seemingly, always knowing to do the next right thing.

If lazy person watched long enough, he or she’d observe that ant – without recognizable oversight — “stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (:8).

“Harvest” is when everyone gathers provisions for the year. “Summer” (:8; also see 30:25) is when there isn’t so much (see also 10:5)…but ant can always find something!

So, if this little dude was smart enough and sufficiently capable to do this kind of preparation and take care of itself…grownup lazy person should be able to do it, too!

Ways & Paths…Ouch! Proverb for the Day 5:21

For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths

This entire chapter is instruction from father to son about the value of marriage and the folly of infidelity. This verse is the first of the final three in the chapter which offer a sobering conclusion to the discussion.

We all need to remember that, in the end, “a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths.” God sees all we do.

The “ways” and “paths” of this proverb are literally about the roads a person is traveling…where he/she stops…who he/she meets along the road…and what happens. God sees it all!

It’s just a sober reminder that He knows all that’s been going on. The following two verses note there will be consequences to our negative thoughts and actions.

It can all be a bit unnerving!

But, while this verse notes He’s watching, the rest of the Bible makes it clear that He does so because He loves us and is going to take care of us.

As He watches, he sees the bad things others do to me — and He’ll handle it for me! He also sees the struggles and pains I’m going through — and He will strengthen and empower me!

And, finally, He keeps His eye on me — to save me from myself! While that might include some discomfort…it will be for my own good!

Ways & Words…Gets Me Every Time! Proverb for the Day 2:12

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse

As father again instructs his son (:1) about how to get the most out of life, he focuses on “wisdom” (see :2, 6, 10). Our verse starts an extended wise saying about how wisdom can save us from bad men (:12-15)…and, later, from bad women (:16-19)!

“Save,” deliver, rescue and spare from bad situations is what God’s wisdom (:6) can do for us. In this section it’s saving us from people’s “wicked ways” and “perverse words.”

“Ways of wicked men” suggests what they do, how they act. To be “saved” from this might involve being delivered from things they’re trying to do to me…or “save” me from living and acting like them.

“Men whose words are perverse” is about crooked, twisted or, literally, “turned upside down” words. What they say just can’t be trusted.

Again, wisdom will “save” me from what they say to or about me…or “save” me from learning to think and talk like them.

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in what other people are doing or saying. But our victory will not come by focusing on them or how to outsmart them.

This verse says wisdom will handle it for us. I just need to be willing to keep my focus on God’s Wisdom — not on their ways and words.

Listening to Your Momma? Proverb for the Day 1:8

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching

The first chapter of Proverbs sets the stage for the rest of the book. Consequently, mentions here tend to have special significance.

In this verse we have the first appearance of the phrase “my son” — a favorite in Proverbs. “My son” was frequently used in ancient wisdom literature and is suggested to often represent teacher-to-student instruction.

But it’s first used here — at the very beginning of the book — in conjunction with “your father” and “your mother” suggests s family setting. I think it also puts the entire book in the realm of wisdom to be taught, learned and practiced in the context of family relationships.

Our verse is the first in a two-verse wise saying — here “the What,” the next verse offering “the Why.”

The “What” involves two parallel commands (“listen” and “do not forsake”) — the second commands in the book (see 1:5).  The instructions are “listen…to your father’s instructions and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Especially in this first section of the book (chapters 1-9), paying attention to father’s instruction is the most frequently given command (see 1:10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11; 4:1, 3, 10, 20: 5:1, 7, 20; 6:1, 3, 20; 7:1, 24).

Listening to mother isn’t mentioned nearly as often (only 6:20). But I’ll suggest its appearance right here — at the very beginning — indicates it’s importance.

Consequently, I find it fascinating that the last chapter of Proverbs (31) is also instruction from mother. While dad talks a lot throughout the whole book — in the end — momma gets the last word!