Say the right thing. Do the right thing.

Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. ~Proverbs 31:8-9 HCSB

According to the dictionary, the word “dispossessed” means

  1. Deprived of possession.
  2. Spiritually impoverished or alienated.

So what are Christians to do about people who are invisible to society, physically or spiritually homeless, or deprived of their security? Speak up for them, the scripture says. But why? And how?

Verse 8 seems to imply that being dispossessed is an injustice in itself. That may well be the case with physical belongings. Te Bible is filled with many admonitions to care for the poor and needy, and many Christians have accomplished amazing things in their pursuits to aid the poor. 

But what of those who suffer spiritual poverty? Consider how 2 Corinthians 8:9 speaks to this issue:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Jesus himself, through his death on the cross, provides the answer. The riches of his kingdom are available to anyone who is presently lacking in spiritual wealth. How will people learn that this immeasurably valuable gift can be theirs?

Romans 10:14-15 offers this insight:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

So speaking up and judging righteously may mean telling a spiritually impoverished person about the free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Have you ever shared your faith with another person? What might prevent you from doing that today?

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Give me only my daily bread

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.. ~Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV

Proverbs 30 begins by attributing the entire chapter to Agur, son of Jakeh, and explaining that this “inspired utterance” was originally for a man named Ithiel. But, like all scripture, there is truth and meaning here for us, as well.

Agur’s prayer says, “keep falsehood and lies far from me.” He entreats God, asking that he would be disciplined to tell the truth, rather than dealing in lies. Agur is, apparently, interested in maintaining his integrity.

The he turns his attention to the subject of wealth. Agur is anxious to avoid poverty – but not because he might be hungry. Rather, he does not want to be tempted to steal, which would dishonor God. At the same time, he does not seek great financial prosperity, concerned that he might acquire too much, and reject God as a result.

In contemporary American culture, telling the truth is still looked upon as virtuous, and telling a lie is not. Being truthful is a mark of good character.

But what about wealth? According to our culture, there is no limit to the acquisition of wealth and possessions, and it’s all healthy. If you don’t have enough, simply borrow some money to buy more things, the culture says.

Since we’ve been financially blessed almost beyond measure, shouldn’t the North American church have a Biblical understanding of how money works? Romans 12:2 says, in part:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

And Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Are American Christians allowing the secular culture to dictate our attitudes about money? How does – or should – Agur’s prayer inform your perception of money and wealth?

Spoke too soon?

Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. ~Proverbs 29:20 NKJV

Have you ever said something without thinking, only to regret speaking the words aloud? Or perhaps you’ve heard someone else speak words that were hurtful or foolish, and asked yourself, “What were they thinking?

What can we do to slow down our words, or at least lessen the likelihood that we will utter foolish things? Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, in part, “many words mark the speech of a fool.” So one answer may be to speak less, or less often.

Another important strategy for Christ-followers is to make sure that our hearts and minds are full of God’s word. Consider Jesus’ response to the Pharisees who accused him of being posessed by Satan in Matthew 12:33-35:

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

A person who meditates regularly on scripture is more likely to speak God’s word aloud than someone who does not. Remember, no one will ever regret speaking the words of scripture.

Proverbs 29:20 reminds us to consider our words carefully, and this is reinforced in James 3:2-12:

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect,able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

What will you do today to tame your tongue?

You can’t keep secrets from God

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. ~Proverbs 28:13 NASB

In medieval times, a common battle tactic involved massing many archers, and having them fire in unison into enemy ranks. The resulting barrage of incoming arrows typically decimated (and demoralized) the opposing troops. Archers had to fire carefully enough to land their arrows among the enemy, but they didn’t need to single out any one soldier.

The Bible describes “transgressions” by using an archery term for “missing the mark,” as when an archer aims at the target, and the arrow goes astray. So  “transgressions” might be described as times when we

  • fail to take careful aim
  • use inferior equipment, or fail to care for good equipment
  • don’t fire when we’re supposed to
  • don’t bother to shoot at all

God longs to forgive us and show us his compassion when we approach him with a repentant heart. Proverbs 28:13 promises that when you confess your disobedience and shortcomings, the Lord will forgive you. He sees every time you miss the mark, so there’s no sense in trying to conceal it from him. God already knows. He’s just waiting for you to approach him honestly and sincerely. Jeremiah 16:17 reiterates this principle:

My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.

In the New Testament, James 5:16 takes this even further, saying in part, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.” 

How are you doing on hitting the mark? Need some target practice? As you confess your own sin to God, ask the Holy Spirit to help you take time today to aim carefully. And seek out an accountability partner you trust.

Be careful when you speak of tomorrow

Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth. ~Proverbs 27:1 NKJV

“Boast” isn’t a word we use frequently. Perhaps “brag” is a more easily-understood contemporary term. This proverb would seem to caution us against unnecessarily trying to predict our own future.

In the New Testament, James 4:14-16 expands upon this concept in greater detail:

Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong.

The scriptures, then, seem to remind us that it is presumptuous of us to declare that we will do, or be, or go – unless we preface that with the disclaimer “Lord willing.” Interestingly, the Amplified Bible renders Proverbs 27:1 as, “Do not boast of [yourself and] tomorrow, for you know not what a day may bring forth.” (emphasis added). God’s word continually encourages us to cultivate humility in our lives.

How will you allow the truth of God’s word to affect your view of tomorrow? And perhaps even more importantly, how will this change your speech about the future?

Shhh! It’s a secret…

For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. ~Proverbs 26:20 NASB

If you’ve ever been camping or visited a beach in the evening, odds are you’ve enjoyed the warm glow of a wood fire. After most of the wood is consumed, it’s time to cook hot dogs, bake bread on a stick, or even roast marshmallows over the glowing embers. Ready for a s’more yet?

But unless someone adds more wood to the fire, it burns from embers to ashes, and the heat eventually dissipates.

What does that have to do with whispering?

Gossiping all too often leads to contention – otherwise known as strife, controversy, or even rivalry. The “whisperer” in Proverbs 26:20 is the person who has something to tell you about someone else, but they will only offer it when they think the person they’re speaking of cannot overhear. Have you ever walked into a room where two (or more) people are leaning in, listening to someone speak in hushed tones? Many of them flash an awkward glance when they see you, don’t they? That may be because the whisperer is fueling the fires of competition or argument.

Just as a campfire needs fuel to continue burning hot, so contention relies on gossip to keep the strife going strong. When the whispering stops, controversy dies.

Are you tempted to listen to gossip? Or perhaps to be the gossip? Ask the Lord today to help you avoid listening to – or being – the whisperer.

Do you have an assigned seat?

Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great. It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace. ~Proverbs 25:6-7 NLT

Just as we might expect to have an assigned seat at a banquet hosted by a king, this verse from Proverbs seems to remind us that God has expectations about our behavior when it comes to time in his presence. In Luke 14:7-11, Jesus offers a story that may well be based upon Proverbs 25:6-7:

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

So those of us who seek attention and glory for ourselves risk public humiliation. But if we come to the party with an attitude of honest humility, there is a good chance the host will bestow honor upon us, and everyone present will know that it was the hosts’ choice to do so. James 4:10 reminds us of this principle, with a promise:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Fortunately, Hebrews 4:16 reminds us that we have received the invitation that Proverbs 25:6-7 says we need:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Remember to be grateful for God’s open invitation today.