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The Proverbs and good judgment

Sometimes being judgmental is not a bad thing.

13:23 There is much food in the ploughed land of the poor; but it is taken away by wrongdoing (or “by want of judgment” KJV).

Some have looked at the words “wrongdoing” or “lack of judgment” in this verse and say that it is not just talking about the wrong done to the poor, but also the wrong done by the poor. Sure, the poor can suffer from injustice. It is also true that when the field to plow on is small, it must be used well. So those of us who shy away from words like “wrongdoing” and “judgment” out of a sense of care for others or whatever may need to re-think that. In that word “judgment,” when it is rightly used, is the way to solve both parts of the problem of why people are not being fed. It solves other problems as well.

14:2 He who goes on his way in righteousness has before him the fear of the Lord; but he whose ways are twisted (or devious) gives him no honor (or despises him).

Many do not like the idea that we should judge someone. What scripture commands though, is that, if we must judge someone, that we be fair and call someone a cheat only when there is clear proof. Without proof, we assume the best. So, if someone lives by the high ethics they talk about and says they fear the Lord, we should believe them. If someone says they do, but they don’t, then they don’t even when they say they do. Some feel that when this verse says, “the one whose ways are twisted despise him,” the “him” refers not to just the Lord, but to those who try and follow the Lord. We can also tell a lot about someone by the kind of enemies they have.

14:12 There is a way which seems straight before a man, but its end is the ways of death.

Solomon points out a painful fact. As a general rule, a person sees all the ways they live as being right and all of us make that same mistake (16:2 and 21:2). Given this broad problem, it’s easy to see why we don’t notice how many of our choices lead to our hurt and some can even lead to our death. Fools trust their heart on profound moral issues (28:26), but wise people listen to advice (12:15). They know that beneath good actions, even their own, can be bad motives (16:2). They attempt to weigh or measure their hearts in the same scale God does. They don’t make up their own rules for the game of life, and then declare themselves the winner.

14:17 He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices (or the schemer or crafty one) is hated (KJV).

Though none of us like to judge, Solomon argues that, when we must, we should judge things rightly. This is a good sample of that judgment. Those who are quick to anger stir up strife (22:9) and are often put to shame (25:8). We should not be friends with these people (22:24), but they do not make the list of those that the Almighty truly hates (6:16-19). Crafty people do make that list. These people make wicked plans and are good at deceit. The hot flash of anger that leads one to do foolish things is not the same as plotting and scheming. One such person is a child in the body of a grown up. The other is a monster.

16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits (KJV).

Those who feel the human heart should be their guide are simply wrong. Our inner compass cannot be trusted. It is so easy to think well of ourselves, even when it is not true. But to assume that all our ways are bad is not the answer, either. God weighs our inner man on His scale of right and wrong. He is not deceived; He just asks that we not be, as well.

My book, “Want To Be Wise? Applying the Wisdom Of Solomon To the Modern Issues We All Face,” is available on Amazon and through Wine Press Publishers. My blog is:

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