Proverbs 26:20-28

Beware the Words of the Gossip and Flatterer

20) Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. 21) As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. 22) The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. 23) Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. 24) A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. 25) Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. 26) His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. 27) If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him. 28) A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

The gossip and flatterer are one and the same. He stirs up the pot with his gossip (v. 20), and tries to bring strife between brothers (v. 21). To the naive and unsuspecting, his words are swallowed hook, line, and sinker (v. 22). The gossip’s words are as smooth as glass (v. 23) and always seek to build up his listener, while tearing down his victim (v. 24). Deep in his heart, there is malice toward all except himself (v. 25). Rest assured that he will be discovered eventually for what he really is (v. 26), because he is just setting a trap for himself (v. 27). Finally, the gossip hates all who listen to his words, as well as those who are his victims (v. 28). He is operating in exact antithesis to the law of love, which seeks no harm for its neighbor (Romans 13:10).

Why does the gossip and flatterer do what he does? Why do these “abominations fill his heart” (v. 25)? He is simply attempting to elevate himself in the eyes of others. He is a victim of his own pride and is self-deceived. The wise person will see right through his smooth words to the malicious schemes and treachery in his heart.

Prayer of Application

Dear Lord, help me never to utter words detrimental to another person. And keep me from flattery to gain some kind of advantage. Rather, Lord, help me to expose this kind of evil.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:18-19

Beware of Excusing Evil as a Joke

18) Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows 19) is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

These verses really convict me of some of the stunts I was a party to in college. Some were not only done in jest, but were downright dangerous. I remember someone bringing a crossbow on campus. We tried to penetrate closed doors with its arrows. Suppose another student had walked out of one of those doors and had taken an arrow in the chest. The “deadly arrows” of verse 18 would have ceased to be metaphorical. Can you imagine our trying to explain we were “only joking”?

The words “shooting firebrands” remind me of a “joke” that was played on me. I was taking a shower one morning when a guy took a drawer full of my clean shirts and wedged it between my shower door and the bathroom wall so that I could neither escape nor throw water on him. Then he proceeded to shoot a stream of flaming lighter fluid onto the rear wall of the shower
stall. He laughed the whole time. Though I was not hurt, I failed to see any humor in it.

Perhaps the worst offender is he who deliberately deceives his neighbor, then excuses himself by saying it was a joke. Beware of the “practical lie” and the practical joke which can harm your neighbor. God doesn’t think them funny in the least.

Scriptural Examples

Pharaoh. Although the Bible doesn’t say so, he must have chuckled at his own deceit. He viewed the plagues as magic, so he kept on lying, thinking it was all a joke (Exodus chapters 7-12).

Aaron. When Moses came down from the mountain to find the people worshipping a golden calf, Aaron lied, saying that the calf had just “jumped out of the fire.” Later Aaron might have told his brother, “You know, I was only joking” (Exodus 32:1-24).

Prayer of Application

Dear God, Your Word tells us it is our responsibility to love You and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Help me never to treat my neighbor in an irresponsible way.

Copyright 2014/15 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:17

Mind Your Own Business

Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.

I remember a old photograph of President Lyndon Johnson holding up one of his hound dogs by its ears. There were screams of protest from the SPCA. But in ancient Syria, only President Johnson’s welfare would have been at stake. Their dogs were not hound dogs, but wild beasts that often roamed in packs. You wouldn’t have wanted to seize one by the ears.

Policemen say the most dangerous part of their job is marital disputes. They arrive at the scene to find the troubled couple screaming at each other. Stepping between the feuding pair, they find themselves the focus of a new quarrel, as the warring husband and wife join forces. It is a very tough job. Lawmen are paid not to mind their own business.

Proverbs often reminds us of the sinfulness of quarrelling. (Proverbs 17:14 and 19, for instance.) And those are our own quarrels! How much more should we avoid a quarrel that doesn’t concern us. The best idea is to mind your own business and not be sucked into a disagreement in which you don’t have a stake. The trick is to know the difference.

Scriptural Examples

Moses. Moses went out to see the Hebrew people at hard labor and saw an Egyptian beating one of them. He killed the Egyptian. That was his first mistake. Then he went back to the scene and found two Hebrews fighting each other. Stepping into the quarrel, he was rebuked for it. At least he found out word that he had murdered the Egyptian was out, so he fled the country (Exodus 2:11-14).

The busybodies. Paul warned of these folks who made it their business to be in everybody else’s business. They were gossips who went from house to house doing things they had no business doing (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:13).

Prayer of Application

Lord, keep my nose out of areas that don’t concern me. But some of the things that concern my fellow Christians are my concern. Help me to discern what is my business and what is not.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:13-16

Flee from Spiritual Sloth

13) The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” 14) As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. 15) The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. 16) The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.

Derek Kidner says the sluggard of Proverbs is faithless (13), feckless (14), foodless (15), and foolish (16). He neglects his responsibilities to his family, work, and friends, and you can be certain he will neglect his larger spiritual duty to God. Let’s see how these verses describe the spiritual sluggard.

First, in verse 13, he is spiritually faithless. He won’t step out in faith to do anything. He always has an excuse. There may not really be “a lion in the road,” but something is always standing between the sluggard and his duty.

Second, in verse 14, he is spiritually feckless, or irresponsible. A door never leaves its door jamb. In the same way, the sluggard’s life is going nowhere. He is without goals or the strategies for attaining those goals. He likes his soft bed, but can doze just as easily in a pew on Sunday morning.

Third, in verse 15, the sluggard is spiritually foodless. While he may know some Christian jargon, the deep things of Christ are avoided. He’s a spiritual baby, feeding on baby food and milk, not able to chew on the real meat of the Word (Hebrews 5:13-14). Why? Because a deeper knowledge of God may convict him of his sloth and awaken him from his slumber.

Finally, in verse 16, the spiritual sluggard is foolish. He is puffed up in pride. He bluffs his way through life, not understanding that his superficiality is as plain to others as the nose on his face. Don’t join the spiritual sloth. Rather, flee from sloth and join with those who, in humility and diligence, work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Prayer of Application

Father, keep me from spiritual sloth. I know how easy it is to forsake Bible study, prayer, and reflection, and instead seek my own pleasure. Help me to live faithfully before You.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:12

Beware of “The Wisdom of the Wise”

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

The fool who is ignorant is far better off than one who prides himself on his wisdom. The former has the hope of gaining real wisdom, while the latter shuts his mind to it altogether. I marvel at fools who revel in their wisdom. In the “Jesus Seminar,” people have taken scissors to the Scriptures, clipping out those words of Christ that don’t fit their agenda. What foolishness!

But God sits in His heaven and laughs (Psalm 2:1-6), saying, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?(1 Corinthians 1:19-20)

The wisdom of God and the world’s wisdom are direct opposites. People say, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my fate.” God said, “Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God(Romans 14:11). People say, “There are many paths to God.” Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me(John 14:6).

Submit to the Word of God as your only sourcebook of truth, evaluating all “facts” through its grid. We are so profoundly affected by sin that God’s truth is easily obscured. Let your wisdom be God’s wisdom, and walk humbly with Him.

Scriptural Examples

The Pharisee and the Publican. They went up to the temple to pray. The self-righteous Pharisee commended himself to God. But the Publican beat his breast and begged for mercy. Jesus said the latter went home justified (Luke 18:10-14).

The Laodiceans. They were rebuked for lukewarmness and for their pride in earthly wealth and wisdom. They were really wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:16-18).

Prayer of Application

Dear God, thank You for the wisdom that comes from above. Your wisdom has been hidden from the wise and learned of this earth, but revealed to those who are simple and needy.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:11

Recognize a Fool by His Actions

As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats KJV: “returneth to”] his folly.

The dog returns to its vomit because that comes naturally. The fool also returns to what he does naturally. Peter quotes this proverb in 2 Peter 2:20-22, where he refers to those who have claimed to be believers but who have returned to a life of sin. Better that they had never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ than to turn their backs on it (2 Peter 2:21; Acts 17:30).

Can a person lose his or her salvation? If a person were saved by good works, then later evil works would very well cause him to lose his standing before God. But we are saved by grace, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), so works can’t get us “unsaved.” That would make God a liar and take away the efficacy of His free grace. Since we know that God only speaks the truth, it is impossible to lose one’s salvation!

Dr. J. Vernon McGee believed in the security of the believer, but he also believed in the insecurity of the make-believer. There are many who merely claim to be Christians. They may have even taught a Bible study or filled a pulpit. But if they are fools, sooner or later they’ll return to their folly.

Who’s saved and who’s not isn’t our business. That’s God’s business. Our business is to sow seed and to feed the sheep. But occasionally, when we see someone fall back into a life of sin, we wonder. It could be just a dog returning to its vomit.

Scriptural Examples

Peter and Judas. Each denied the Lord Jesus. But Peter found restoration and healing at the hand of his Lord. Judas, on the other hand, went to his death unrepentant. Was his the example of a man who was saved earlier, then lost his salvation somehow? No. Jesus knew all along of the one who would betray Him. Judas was always a wolf (dog?) among the sheep (Matthew 26:21-25, 33-35, 46-50, 69-75; 27:3-5; John 21:2-19).

Prayer of Application

Father, thank You for the assurance of Your salvation which comes to those who do Your will. Keep me from sin, Lord. Only Your mighty hand will cause me to persevere until the end.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:10

Interview Prospective Employees Carefully

Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.

If you are ever placed in a position where it is your responsibility to hire new employees, approach that task with all the diligence you can muster. It is most critical in any business and can literally mean the difference between success or failure. To just pick the first person who walks in the door, whether the job is for janitor or chief executive officer, is like walking in front of a machine gun nest. It is fraught with peril. And in today’s society of frivolous lawsuits, it’s even much more critical than when this proverb was written.

I once had a very good employee quit. She had been the receptionist, secretary, accounts receivable clerk, bookkeeper, and girl Friday all rolled into one. I (stupidly) was in a panic to hire someone to fill her shoes. I interviewed a few people and then chose a woman I hoped would fit. It didn’t take long to find out she was a disaster. Her foul language and rough manner alienated both customers and other employees alike. I am thankful she did not sue us following her termination.

Almost every month or so we hear of a gunman who opens fire in a crowded subway, on a college campus, or in a restaurant. This proverb compares that gunman with the hiring of a “fool or any passer-by.” Be selective in your hiring. Remember, the prospective employee will never look better than during the interview.

Scriptural Examples

The vineyard laborers. Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who hired laborers. He didn’t interview them, he just called them in. Careful study reveals the landowner was God, and He doesn’t need to interview. He’s omniscient. We are not omniscient! Interview carefully! (Matt. 20:1-16).

Prayer of Application

Father, thank You for the responsibility of choosing others as employees. But I cannot always see through the smile and the résumé. Help me to choose those who will succeed.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:6-9

Beware of Putting a Fool into Godly Service

6) Like cutting off one’s feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool. 7) Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. 8) Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. 9) Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

These four verses speak of elevating a fool to the role of pastor or Bible teacher or any place of authority. Fools in pulpits and on TV screens are “cutting off the feet and doing violence” (v. 6) to those deluded by their message. The “limp legs of a lame man” (v. 7) exhibit the worthless fools who attempt to explain God’s wisdom.

To let a fool teach is like “tying a stone in a sling” (v. 8), because the sling’s purpose is to release the stone. Finally, we have the picture of a drunk in a thornbush. He’s too smashed to get up and too full of pain to lie there. He’s between a rock and a hard place, as are you if you give credence to a fool.

The following examples were provided by Ironside (pp. 364-366) as representative of the four verses here.

Scriptural Examples

Jonah (v. 6). He was sent by God to Nineveh to deliver the Word of God to those people. But Jonah had other ideas, and his shipmates nearly had “their feet cut off(Jonah 1:1-17).

Saul (v. 7). The king of Israel took off his clothes before Samuel and others and lay down for a day and a night. He prophesied to the prophets like a lame man (1 Samuel 19:24).

Herod Agrippa I(v. 8). The people gave honor to Herod, calling him a “god.” The fool believed them and refused to pass on the glory to God. He died and was eaten by worms (Acts 12:20-23).

Shemaiah the Nehelamite (v. 9). He incurred the wrath of God because he prophesied a lie to Jeremiah. His punishment was to be far worse than a few thorns (Jeremiah 29:30-32).

Prayer of Application

Lord God, send revival to our land today and a return to the full counsel of the Word. Build Your church by establishing the pulpits of righteous people, and tearing down those of fools.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:4-5

Use Discretion When Answering a Fool

4) Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. 5) Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Many ancient rabbis saw contradiction in these verses that made some question the canonicity of the book of Proverbs. But what we have here is the inspired wisdom of God’s Word, showing us that there is a “time to be silent and a time to speak(Ecclesiastes 3:7).

One way a fool displays folly is in a display of anger. Let’s suppose you are in a discussion with a fool. Suddenly, he begins to get angry and starts to shout. Verse 4 here should be applied immediately. Maybe the best thing to do is to walk away in silence. If you shout back, you will “be like him yourself.

But folly is also manifested in irrationality. Some deny the very basic laws of logic. For instance, the fool may say that the Islamic faith and the Christian faith are both true, when in actuality they are poles apart. Logically they could both be false, but not both true. In this situation, the fool needs to be challenged in his folly, lest “he…be wise in his own eyes.

Scriptural Examples

Hezekiah’s men. Before attacking Jerusalem, the king of Assyria sent his field commander forward to talk the leadership of the city into surrendering. This fool railed against God and against Hezekiah, king of Israel, saying that the people had no hope short of capitulation. Hezekiah ordered his men not to answer the fool and they obeyed (2 Kings 18:16-36).

Nehemiah. When the fool Sanballat accused the Jews of plotting a revolt, Nehemiah spoke up. He responded in writing with a firm denial of the charges (Nehemiah 6:5-8).

Jeremiah. After the foolish Hananiah broke the wooden yoke off of Jeremiah’s neck, he uttered a false prophecy. Instead of contradicting him, Jeremiah walked away (Jeremiah 28:10-11).

Prayer of Application

Heavenly Father, give me wisdom and discretion as I speak to people who do not know You. Help me to respond in ways that are pleasing to You, and in conformity with Your wisdom.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley

Proverbs 26:3

Spare the Rod and Encourage the Fool

A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools!

The halter and the whip seem to be placed on the wrong animals here. But ancient Assyrian asses were apparently less stubborn than their more fleet-footed counterparts, Assyrian horses. The point here is that both the horse and the ass need a measure of physical stimulation to cause them to go in the direction the rider desires. In the same way, it takes a rod to drive the fool away from his foolishness.

Remember the young American some years ago who was arrested in Singapore and sentenced to receive a certain number of strokes from a bamboo rod? We are beginning to hear much more about corporal punishment for law breakers in America. Legislatures a few years ago were working on bills that would bring public floggings back to the courthouse steps. When parents will not supply the rod, the state will ultimately need to wield it. Currently there is very little rod-wielding going on in our communities as people walk away from felonies with little more than a slap on the wrist.

Is this verse suggesting that we encourage our legislators to bring about public whippings of the lawbreakers in our midst? What do you think?

Scriptural Examples

Pharaoh. He is arguably the biggest fool in the Bible. Like all fools Pharaoh sorely needed a dose of humility, and God gave it to him. After repeated warnings and consequent plagues upon His people—God’s rod for Pharaoh’s back—the Egyptian king met a liquid grave (Exodus 10:1-29).

The citizens of Succoth and Peniel. All Gideon wanted from these folks was some bread for his fighting men. These fools wouldn’t part with even a meager crust, so Gideon laid a heavy rod on their backsides (Judges 8:5-16).

Prayer of Application

Father, America is weighed down with criminals who plea bargain their way to freedom and laugh at the judicial system. Show our courts and lawmakers a better way, Lord.

Copyright 2014 – Robert C. Beasley