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Proverbs and some thoughts on the good life

10:17 He who takes note of teaching (or correction or instruction) is (in) a way of life, but he who gives up training is a cause of error.

Or “People who accept correction are on the pathway to life.”(NLT)

It is common to think that the finest virtues one can have in life are being a free thinker, being able to stand up for our rights and to follow our dreams. Those things are good, but are not the central issue of life, according to this verse. The way of life is this: “can we be taught?” Those people are destined to live in the fullest sense of the term. One that can be told to do right and still do wrong, has made life’s most basic error.

“You can’t talk your way out of what you’ve behaved yourself into,” — Stephen Covey.

14:14 He whose heart is turned away will have the reward of his ways in full measure; but a good man will have the reward of his doings (many trans: from himself or from what is within himself).

The exact Hebrew term for one who is “turned away” means one who “flinches” (Strongs). It also describes someone who is “repulsed” or “driven back,” as if one retreats in a battle or gives up a fight. To “flinch” when someone swings a fist may warn us that this heart may not be really sure which side it wants to fight for. Like the man in the Civil War who wore blue and grey and got shot by both sides, a half-hearted love gets its full and dreadful reward. But the profound reward of a good man comes from inside himself. That must be because he has a “whole heart” (Jer 3:10) or one that stays true no matter which way the war goes. We can’t always choose our battles, but we can choose whose side we are on.

14:21 He who has no respect for his neighbor is a sinner, (or most translations: He who despises his neighbor, sins) but he who has pity for the poor is happy (or blessed).

Having contempt for those close to us is common. Foul, brazen, obscene words and threats often flow quickly between neighbors, even when the offense is minor. Showing respect for those who live next to you or whom you see often is felt to be a nice thing to do. But Solomon says it is also the right thing to do. It is foolish to speak of one with contempt (11:12) and it is wrong to ignore one who is poor. As a matter of fact, there are many warnings not to do wrong to our neighbors, but to love them as we love ourselves. Breaking out of the normal, selfish life to the happy and blessed one depends many times on how we treat others.

14:22 Will not the designers of evil come into error? But mercy and good faith (or kindness and truth) are for the designers of good.

The word error here comes from a word that means to “wander,” to “stagger” as if drunk, or to be “seduced” (BDB). These are not the kinds of things we want to happen to us when we are making plans. In the conflict between good and evil, Solomon points out the upper hand that those who plan good enjoy over those who conspire to do bad. The good are allowed to be loyal or faithful to something that won’t let them down, to something they know is true. Yet they must also receive and give it out with mercy. With these two weapons, they are preserved (Ps 61:7) and evil destroyed (16:6).

15:24 The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath (KJV).

The steps to heaven are gradual, as are paths to hell. The distance between the two should be great and should become greater with time. A wise person makes a clean break from doing wrong. They separate their heart from evil thoughts, if they can’t separate themselves from an evil world. They do this by aiming for a much higher good. We should set our goals to do much for the God and for doing right. If we achieve less than that, we have still avoided hell.

16:3 Put your works into the hands of the Lord, and your purposes (also plan or invention-BDB) will be made certain (or be firm, stable or established).

A bookshelf remains a thought in the mind of a carpenter until he builds it. Then, what began as an idea becomes “certain.” Moving from lofty plan to finished product is often harder if one adds the extra burden of doing right. But if we put our work into His hands, He then shares the burden with us and blesses what we do. This is why a trust in God is both a good thing and a smart thing to do. It is good in that it requires us to be upright. It is smart because it allows us to see the limits of what we can do and trust Him for what we can’t.

16:7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his haters be at peace with him.

We can fail to connect with our Creator when we ask Him to crush our foes when what He wants is for us to change our ways.

My book, “Want To Be Wise? Applying the Wisdom Of Solomon To the Modern Issues We All Face.” by Jeff Smith, is available through Wine Press Publishers. My blog is www.want2bwise.blogspot.com/.

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