Proverbs – God’s practical guide to a joyful life
Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well.
Oohhh, this week is exciting! Joining us with Solomon, is Martin Luther and St. Paul. What an exciting discussion we will be having. Let’s top up our coffees and get started…
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse anyone for no reason- when they have done you no harm.
There’s a story in the Old Testament that expresses Solomon’s wisdom in 1 Kings: 16-27: Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king. The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
I wonder if it was after this ruling, or others like it, that Solomon wrote his words of wisdom for this week’s devotion. He’s basically saying don’t be like the second woman where you would find self gain at someone else’s loss. Although I’m sure most of us haven’t gone and switched our child with someone else’s – intentionally, we can do some not-so-loving things to others for the sake of our own pride or desires.
In fact, each and every one of those points that Solomon lists in our reading is simply to better myself, puff myself up, or to not inconvenience myself. It is all self-centred sinning. If you think about it, each scenario listed is obviously something we wouldn’t do unless we were jealous of our neighbour, or envious of our neighbour. It’s all those wicked schemes we plan because we are not satisfied with what we have or are, and want to better ourselves at the expense of others, and we especially do not want to boost them up, even if they deserve it, because we want to be the one being boosted and complimented.
So, we need to set aside all self-centred, boastful attitudes, especially when it affects our neighbours and loved ones. But we should put on love first. For just as the real mother was willing to give up her child in order to save his life, we too must give up our self-centred wants and desires for the sake of others, and to love them. Martin Luther explains it this way from the meaning of the Eighth Commandment:
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. (http://catechism.cph.org/en/10-commandments.html)
To summarize, Solomon has shared what not to do, and Martin Luther has shared what to do. However, let us end with the words of St. Paul which leave us confident in the type of behaviour and attitude we are able to have in Christ which will combat all the sinful, self-centred behaviour warned against by Solomon:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26) AMEN!
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I can so easily put myself ahead of others and seek personal gain at their expense. Please forgive me. Help me to see them and love them as you love them. Help me to clothe myself with the fruits of the spirit so others will see you through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!