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Proverbs 11:1-31

March 16, 2015

Now that we are in a section of Proverbs in which each chapter is a listing of many individual short sayings, let me suggest a way of making devotional use of this material.  Read through the chapter slowly and out loud, and place a check next to the sayings that speak to you or attract your attention.  Reduce the number to the “top five” or “top three.”  Write them down and post them on your desk or refrigerator.  Recite them every day for a week.  Then next week move on to the next chapter and do the same.

As I read through this chapter, I am drawn to the following proverbs:

Verse 1 is about the fundamental importance of justice.  Nothing symbolizes justice more clearly than properly balanced scales for weighing products.  In the marketplace, the easiest way to make a fast (dishonest) buck is to use false scales that short-change the customer.  A friend of mine who was in the restaurant business told me about a man who started a chicken restaurant and couldn’t figure out why he was always losing money.  My friend asked him, “Do you weigh the chicken when it’s shipped to you?”  The may said, “No, the supplier does that for me.”  My friend said:  “Always weigh it yourself.”  So the man did, and he discovered that his supplier was shorting him on every shipment.  He called the supplier to complain, and the supplier said, “If you’re going to weigh those shipments yourself, we’ll have to charge you more.”  This is a funny story of the chutzpah of a dishonest supplier, but it’s really not funny.  False weights are injustice, and injustice puts the whole world out of balance.  It is fundamentally contrary to the nature of God.

Verse 2 suggests that pride is a problem whereas humility is a virtue.  This is contrary to our culture (and many other cultures that love fame). We are often encouraged to have pride in ourselves and pride in our achievements.  I agree that delighting in what we are able to accomplish and create is a good thing.  But if we boast about our accomplishments, or begin valuing ourselves more than some others because of our accomplishments, then we are warping our relationship with humanity, and we are setting ourselves up for our own inevitable failures and disgraces.  But if we always keep in mind that we have the same value as everyone else, and if we realize that we will inevitably have failures and mistakes as well as achievements and successes, then we can go through life untroubled and appreciated by others.

Verse 4 is not completely clear in its references, but it suggests that in the last analysis, in the ultimate crisis, it is goodness that can save us, not wealth.  Wealth will not stop death.  But our right relationships with others and with God is our protection no matter what happens.

Verse 12 reminds us that it is better to say nothing than to criticize in a way that belittles another.  My mother often told us children when we were verbally putting each other down, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I don’t think that is true all of the time, but it’s true more often than we usually practice it.  We may need to confront someone’s behavior from time to time, but there is nothing positive in belittling.  We put others down in a vain attempt to lift up ourselves.  Belittling others is a sign of our own lack of self-esteem and our desperate attempt to feel better about ourselves by making others feel worse.

Verse 14 intrigues me because of its reference to “an abundance of counselors.”  We need more than just one wise person to guide us, we need a whole company, because each person’s wisdom has its own limitations.  The more people we can involve in a process of discernment, the more likely we will get a truly wise and useful result.

Verses 24 and 25 speak of the paradox of generosity.  It would seem that the more frugal and tight-fisted we are, the more we should be able to be enriched and secure.  But generosity has a magical, multiplying effect.  When we are generous with others, others are generous with us.  The more we share, the more we receive–not with some sort of mathematical certainty, but in an unpredictable way.  Tight-fistedness often, surprisingly, results in a net loss, because tight-fistedness lacks the crucial dimension of relationship.  We need good relationships to truly thrive and be secure; generosity creates such relationships.

So which proverbs made it into your top selections?


From → Proverbs

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