Proverbs 23: Introduction


Proverbs and Life’s Traps

The number one trap humans face in life is their own sin. Way back in Chapter One the father warned his son about not joining with those who try to entrap others. Verses 17 and 18 said, “How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds! These men lie in wait for their own blood, they waylay only themselves!” Sin traps the sinner. But not all of life’s traps involve one’s own sin. Traps are also set by the wicked for the unwary. Chapter 23 speaks of several types of traps.

We are warned to beware of the deceitful host who has something up his sleeve beyond the delicacies he’s offered you (vv. 1-3, 5-7). Beware of the trap of fleeting riches (vv. 4-5). The scornful fool lies in wait for your wisdom in verse 8. Beware of the trap of trying to take candy from a baby. His Defender stands ready to pounce on you (vv. 10-11). Look out for the trap of the undisciplined child. It will spring shut sooner than you think (vv. 13-14). Watch out for the traps of envy (vv. 17-18), drunkenness and gluttony (vv. 19-21), scorn of parental guidance (vv. 22-25), adultery and fornication (vv. 26-28), and finally, the trap of drunkenness, which is revisited in verses 29 through 35. But the key verse for avoiding all these traps is in verse 26: “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.” God wants to be the treasure of your heart (Matthew 6:21).

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:29

Honor God in Your Work

Do you see a man skilled in his work (KJV, “diligent in his business”)? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.

When we are introduced to someone the first question usually asked is, “What do you do?” Our identity is often tied to what we do for a living. People are workers, the creation of a working God who established the sanctity of labor in the first chapters of Genesis. There we read of God’s own labor in Creation. Adam tended the garden and became the first scientist as he gave names to living things (Genesis 2:19).

In the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, work was divided into two classes. The sacred calling was to serve in the church, while everyone else did profane, secular work. But Scripture doesn’t teach such dualism. On the contrary, we find that all work is sacred (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; Exodus 23:12; 34:21). The curse following the Fall added frustration to work.

Throughout Scripture we see godly people honored by secular powers and communities for their diligence in business or in the work of their hands. Those like Joseph and Daniel are examples of how God honors the labor of our hands and brains. We need to be faithful to God in the work He has given us on the job, at home, or in the church. We bring honor and glory to Him by being faithful at that work.

Scriptural Examples

Joseph’s brothers. Pharaoh put Joseph’s brothers who had special abilities in charge of his own livestock. These men would serve the king, not obscure men (Genesis 47:6).

Bezalel and Oholiab. These men were filled with the Spirit of God and given skill, ability, and knowledge in the crafts that were used in the construction of the tabernacle, in its furnishings, and in the priestly garments (Exodus 31:1-7; 35:30).

Prayer of Application

Dear Lord, help me to honor You in my work. I thank You, Lord, that You have given me meaningful and fulfilling work to do and that You have given me the skills with which to do it.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:28

Do Not Stray from the Apostles’ Teaching

Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.

Since satellites are now used in precise survey work and title insurance is available, real estate boundary-stone movement isn’t the crime it used to be. But in spiritual things, boundary-stone movement is a thriving business.

Back in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic church accused the Reformers of moving the “ancient boundary stone,” by which they meant their traditions. In reality, it was Rome who had, by her traditions, moved the boundary stone established by God; principally the rock of salvation by faith alone (Sola Fide). That was a boundary stone that had been established as early as God’s dealing with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15, 21) and Abraham (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-25). Rome displaced the pure doctrine of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) for one of grace plus works.

Other false doctrines were brought in. The once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ for His people (Hebrews 10:12-14) was moved aside in favor of a mass where Christ is brought down and sacrificed over and over again. They denied the Christian’s blessed assurance (Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:35-39) and brought in doubt with their extrabiblical notion of purgatory.

I have a great deal of heaviness in my heart for those sitting under the teaching of the “boundary-stone movers.” But Rome isn’t the only culprit. Many who call themselves Protestant are equally at fault. Turn to Proverbs 23:10-11 for more.

Scriptural Examples

Paul. The great apostle condemned anyone who would preach another gospel than the one he preached. In these verses he didn’t say it just once, he said it twice. “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned(Galatians 1:6-10).

Prayer of Application

Father, thank You for the gospel of salvation by grace alone. It offers salvation without cost to any who would receive it. Help people escape the teaching of those who have changed it.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:26-27

Do Not Pledge All of Your Assets

26) Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; 27) if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.

Suppose you and a friend decide to go into business together, wholesaling “widgets” to hardware stores. You handle sales and your partner administers the office and warehouse and does the bookkeeping. It will take about $100,000 to get off the ground, includinginventory,vehicle,and working capital. You have$20,000 in savings and your friend can put up $10,000. The bank will lend you $70,000 in a line of credit.

As collateral, the bank wants full security of equipment and receivables. Additionally, they get separate guarantees from the partners. They get all your assets in case of default.

The business is a success right from the start, thanks to your sales efforts. Then one day you come in and find a note from your partner, saying he had to leave town. He leaves no forwarding address. The bank account is empty, the line of credit is drawn down to zero, and you owe for orders to manufacturers totalling tens of thousands of dollars. Your “partner” has turned his $10,000 into $150,000 and left you holding the bag.

The bank seizes all the collateral and you are out of business. Then, in place of the $50,000 payment still owed, they take your car, your savings and securities, and finally your home and the very bed in which you used to sleep at night.

This story is not farfetched. It happens all of the time. People sign personally on notes only to find creditors knocking on the door when a partner defaults. Through no fault of yours you have lost all you own, and you and your family are left bankrupt. Derek Kidner says (p. 71) these warnings against pledging assets do not banish generosity, but rather gambling. Be careful. Don’t “strike hands in pledge or put up security for debts.” More than a good night’s sleep is at stake.

(2014 note: I realize that most banks today will generally not make a business loan without separate guarantees that encumber all your assets. Nevertheless, the warning still stands. Be careful.)

Prayer of Application

Dear Father, help me to avoid the traps that set themselves up for the unwary. I know indebtedness is one such trap, particularly in guaranteeing the indebtedness for another.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:24-25

Do Not Befriend a Hot-Tempered Man

24) Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, 25) or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.

Years ago, there was a popular TV show called The Honeymooners. Jackie Gleason played Ralph Cramden, a bus driver in the big city with a temper as expansive as his prominent waistline. The target of his temper tantrums were his wife, Alice, and the dim-witted, sewer worker Norton, played by Art Carney. The show continued for years. Isn’t it ironic that many of the popular TV shows display a human activity or habit that is anathema to God? In the case of Cheers it was adultery (see Proverbs 22:14). In The Honeymooners it was the hot temper. How many more shows feature violence, murder, oppression, coveteousness, and like sins?

What is it about the hot-tempered, angry person that is offensive to God? First, he is selfish through and through. Second, he may get angry because his overweening pride gets stepped on and he wants to strike back. Third, he is a person who is out of control. He lacks self-control and wisdom. And fourth, when he gets angry he is really angry at God for not making him the center of the universe. He lacks understanding.

We are not to befriend such a person. His pride and covetousness may rub off on us (1 Corinthians 15:33). That’s one reason we need to be careful of which TV shows we watch. We might get ensnared by the sin they promote.

Scriptural Examples

Jonah. Following his visit to Nineveh he became sullen and angry. He was angry with God for not destroying the Ninevites and for causing his vine to wither. God said that Jonah was selfishly more concerned with his own welfare than with the welfare of the 120,000 people of the city (Jonah 3:10-4:11).

Prayer of Application

Lord, keep me from pride that elevates self, and when self does not get its way, bursts forth in anger. Help those who have this life dominating sin, showing them the calmness of Christ.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:22-23

Do Not Exploit or Oppress the Poor

22) Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, 23) for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Our Lord was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself(Matthew 22:36-40). The proverbs above are not just a warning against a minor breach of these two great commandments but against an absolute and utter violation of them.

We see the poor here being exploited because they are poor, and therefore easy prey. We break the commandment to love our neighbor when we do not help the poor and needy, when it is within our power to do so. Here, the poor are being exploited, which is far worse. Even more contemptible is the judge who crushes the needy in his courtroom. That is a person who uses his God-given position to oppress the poor. Not smart!

God is on the side of the poor and needy. When someone attempts to exploit and oppress them, he is openly attempting to exploit and oppress Almighty God, for He is their champion.

Scriptural Examples

The poor man and his lamb. Nathan told David this story of a rich man who took the only little lamb of a poor neighbor and cooked it. David burned with indignation and said the rich man deserved to die. Nathan then equated the rich man with David, and the king was humbled (2 Samuel 12:1-13).

Job’s friends. Zophar and Eliphaz brought this charge against their suffering companion. According to them, he had obviously oppressed the poor and had received his just reward in his tortures. It was a lie (Job 20:19-23; 22:5-10).

Prayer of Application

Father, by taking up the cause of the poor You give us a picture of Your mercy and grace. But it also points out You are a God of ultimate justice, who will not stand for oppression.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:17-21

Listen to What Not to Do

17) Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, 18) for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. 19) So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you. 20) Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, 21) teaching you true and reliable words, so that you can give sound answers to him who sent you?

Solomon begins a different form of address to his listeners in this section entitled “Sayings of the Wise,” which extends through 24:22. He leaves the Hebrew parallel style and begins to address us directly, telling us what not to do.

The phrase most commonly used in “Sayings of the Wise” is “do not.” It appears 25 times in the NIV text in these verses. Even though the phrase “do not” is one of the most frequent combinations of words in the Bible, its use here greatly exceeds elsewhere in Scripture. Per my calculations, if one were to apply the frequency with which “do not” appears in these verses to the entire Bible, there would be over 12,000 uses, or over nine times its current usage.

These five verses are a mini-introduction, much like we had in the first nine chapters of the book. In verse 17, we are enjoined to pay attention and apply the words to our lives. Learning without practical application only brings pride.Then in verse 19 he tells us why: “So that your trust may be in the Lord.” They are words of counsel and knowledge (v. 20). Again, we have here the revealed will of God: divine counsel and knowledge of the Holy One set forth in His Word.

Finally, they are true words—words of reliability—given that we might be able to answer to the One who sends us forth into this world to obey Him. By that obedience, may the pagans see our good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us (1 Peter 2:12).

Prayer of Application

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word which is so beneficial in its boundless truth and wisdom. Help me to apply it to every area of my life that I might live my life in obedience to it.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:16

Beware of These Roads to the Poorhouse

He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

Karl Marx spoke of a day when the masses would revolt against their rich oppressors and form a classless society. Well, the classless society never happened. The Russian proletariat who revolted in 1917 merely traded their Czarist oppressors for Communist ones. Ultimately, both systems have tumbled and have been reduced to poverty.

Many of us are familiar with the beautifully ornate Faberge eggs of the former Czarist rulers of Russia. These stunning works of art each contain a hidden treasure intended to delight its recipient. They were gifts royalty gave to royalty for their pleasure, while the people were starving to death. Like the Bolsheviks after them, the Czars came to ruin.

If you are an employer, these verses will speak to you about paying your employees fairly. While profit is desirable and, yes, even mandatory for any business, excess profits that exploit others will work to your ruin. God, who has given us the stewardship of material possessions on this earth, holds us accountable. He is the protector of laborers, widows, fatherless, and aliens (Malachi 3:5) and will bring down the house of those who treat them unfairly.

Scriptural Examples

The money changers. Jesus displayed His righteous anger at those who made huge profits by imposing false rates of exchange and overcharging for animals to be used in sacrifiice. They would ultimately pay heavily (John 2:14-16).

The rich. James spoke of those who withheld the wages of the poor while they lived in luxury and self-indulgence. A day of misery was coming. Their wealth had rotted. They had only been fattened for their own slaughter (James 5:1-5).

Prayer of Application

Dear heavenly Father, help me to treat others less fortunate than myself with dignity and justice. Place in my heart Your love which reaches out to others in kindness and humility.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:15

Spare the Rod and the Child Will Stay Spoiled

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

Some years ago there was a popular novel and motion picture called Rosemary’s Baby. In it, a woman unwittingly conceived the child of Satan. As the happy parents-in-waiting made preparations for the blessed event, the Antichrist was forming in Rosemary’s womb. In one central respect, “Rosemary’s Baby” is a snapshot of every woman’s baby. We are all born children of Satan (John 8:44) and slaves to sin (Romans 6:15-17).

From the day a child is born, the struggle begins to determine who is in control, his parents or him. His wickedness must be driven out by the rod of discipline. In today’s society children are believed to be “innocent” and only become “bad” through societal conditioning. Now that may be a nice sentiment, but it cannot stand up under rigorous investigation. The truth of this proverb, however, may be demonstrated universally. It’s not just some who sin, everyone sins. Sin is grounded in our nature (Psalm 51:5).

What type of “rod” do we use? My dad used to take off his belt and use that on my rear end. I don’t necessarily recommend that rod, though it did leave a lasting impression on me. I think whatever the rod may be, from physical punishment to the withholding of toys and treats, it must not be done from revenge or in passion, but in tenderness and compassion and out of love for the child. To allow a child to go his own way, without the rebuke of punishment for the sins he commits, is to destine him for a life of selfishness and conflict.

As parents, the most important thing for us to understand is this: If you spare the rod, you won’t spoil your child. He’s spoiled even before the doctor slaps his little fanny. Only the rod of discipline in your hand can turn him from from his natural bent to rebellion. It’s a big responsibility, and one the neglect of which we are seeing today throughout America.

Prayer of Application

Father, I pray every parent in America could understand this principle. People are sinners from birth and can only be turned from their wicked ways by Your grace and the parents’ rod.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 22:14

Beware the Deep Pit of God’s Wrath

The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is under the Lord’s wrath will fall into it.

One of the most popular TV shows of the ‘80s and early ‘90s was the sitcom Cheers. The series took place in a basement bar in Boston whose denizens included a bartender/owner named Sam Malone. Sam was a former Red Sox pitcher who was more famous for his exploits in bed than for those on the mound. In many respects, Sam’s promiscuity represented the ethos of our culture, i.e.: “Sex is fun. It feels good so it must be good. Get sex whenever and wherever you can.”

But the warning of this proverb is anything but funny. All who succumb to the mouth of the adulteress are under the wrath of an angry God. God gave humankind the gift of sexual intercourse to be enjoyed only in the context of the heterosexual marriage union (Genesis 2:20-25; Hebrews 13:4). What a testimony it is to man’s depravity that this greatest of life’s physical pleasures should be used to mock the Creator who gave it.

The bottom line is this: all sin is insanity. Called to choose heaven, people choose hell. Only by the grace of God available in the work of the Savior can anyone be saved. But God’s love to sinners is deeper than the deepest pit leading to hell. There is no sin so grievous as to restrict God’s mercy. God’s call is to repent from it and believe in the One who can fully save (1 Timothy 1:16; Isaiah 45:22; Acts 2:21).

Scriptural Examples

The Corinthian adulterer. The believers in Corinth had a man in their assembly who was sleeping with his stepmother. And they were proud of it! I’m sure that they were like the many Christians today who laugh at shows like “Cheers” but fail to see God’s wrath overiding any humor in adultery. Paul told the Corinthians to expel the sinner from their midst (1 Corinthians 5:1-3).

Prayer of Application

Father, thank You for the gift of sexuality. Lord, people have perverted Your gift and cheapened it in sin. Help America to forsake sexual sin and turn to You for grace.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley