Proverbial Relationships with Gossips :: Hearsay Not

Richard Burton, an English scholar from Oxford University at Christ Church writes in his renowned book, The Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621, that “A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.” This is very much aligned with the analogy that King Solomon gives as advice when dealing with gossips as recorded in Proverbs 26:17-28.  The king who asked for wisdom from God and received it, writes, that where there is no hearsay (gossiping), strife ceaseth, and that talebearing is like wood to a fire. Most of us like to gossip, but the Bible tells us that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter (Proverbs 25:2). In a generation, where the social network is prevalent as a day-by-day engagement, not just in businesses, but in personal matters as well, as Christians we must be careful to not fall in the trap of using our words as catalysts that instigate strife or weapons that inflict deep wounds. Words must be used to build (encourage) one another and not de-face them. Let us remember, that the God is in heaven and we are on earth, so let our words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

Proverbs 26:20-22 (KJV)
20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbial Relationships with Sluggards :: Hinge Not

Proverbs 26:13-16 gives counsel about how to deal with sluggards. It describes a sluggard as one who is so lazy that even feeding himself or herself is considered by them to be a grievous task. They love to sleep and as a door turns on its hinges, so does a slothful man turn on his bed. The Bible goes to the extreme of calling someone who does not provide for his/her own, especially for those of their own house as one who has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel/unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). The sluggard is asked to go to the ant and consider the ant’s ways and be wise (Proverbs 6:6), for an ant not only works for the present but also plans and acts for the future.

Followers of Christ are called to a life of labor and not of laziness. The Bible says that we are saved by grace, through faith, ordained unto good works (labor and not laziness) (Ephesians 2:8-10). We must not hinge ourselves with a sluggard, lest when Jesus returns as Lord and Master, we would have nothing more to give him for the talents He has given us, and whatever we have been given would also be taken from us (Luke 19:12-26). Hinge Not with a sluggard!

Proverbs 26:13-16 (KJV)
13  The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
14 As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
15 The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Proverbial Relationships with Fools :: Heed or Heed Not!

Proverbs 26:1-12 gives advice on how to behave when dealing with fools. But who is a fool?
Some of the characteristics and definition of a fool according to the Bible are:
A fool says in his heart, “There is no God”, They are corrupt and they do abominable deeds (Psalm 14:1)
A fool has no delight in in understanding, but only in expressing his own opinion (Proverbs 18:2)
A fool has no self-control with his tongue but utters all his mind bringing ruin to himself (Proverbs 29:11; Proverbs 18:7)
A fool despises wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7)
A fool is like one who builds his house upon the sand, because he/she hear the words of Jesus but does nothing about it (Matthew 7:26)

So with an understanding of who a fool is, how are we as followers of Christ Jesus, to deal with them?

When dealing with fools, we must not answer nor heed the arguments of a fool, lest we also become like him. On the other hand,  when it is determined, that a fool’s position must  be challenged, it is important to answer the fool according to his own folly, lest he is wise in his own eyes. In other words, we must know when to heed and when not to heed to a fool.

Proverbs 26:4-5 (KJV)
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Proverbial Relationships with Yourself :: Hold On

Proverbs 25:25-28 advices us on how we must relate with ourselves. We must have self control and at the same time be selfless as well.

The Scripture likens the man/woman without self control to be like a city that is broken down and without walls (Proverbs 25:28). A broken down city without walls cannot withstand the attacks that come against it and in the same manner a person without self-control is not fortified in his/her defenses against the attacks that come. We must have restraint for anything in excess including sweet honey, which can in the end be bitter, when it is not in moderation. Just as holding on to the reins of the horse can make us control the direction of the horse, so also, having a rule over one’s own spirit can make us head in the direction that we ought to.

In addition to having self control, we must be selfless as well, not seeking our own glory. The Bible says that those who search their own glory is not glory at all. (Proverbs 25:27).

Proverbs 25:27-28 (KJV)
It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Proverbial Relationships with Enemies :: Heap

Proverbs 25:21-22 advices us on how we must relate with our enemies. The Bible also teaches us that  we must repay good for evil and not render evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that we are thereunto called, so that we should inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9) and warns us if on the other hand we repay evil for good, evil shall not depart from that house (Proverbs 17:13).

Jesus told us that we must love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Our love must be expressed in action. This means that if our enemy is hungry, we must give him/her bread to eat; and if he/she is thirsty, we must give him/her water to drink. For in doing so, we heap coals of fire upon their head and our reward will be from the LORD. (Proverbs 25:22).

God expressed his love in action i.e, while we were still sinners and ENEMIES of God, Jesus died for us (James 4:4, Romans 5:8); He became manna (the bread), so we may eat of Him and live. He is the source of living waters and all who thirsty can come to him to be quenched.

Point(s) to ponder:
1. Do you need to reconcile with any one?
2. Do good to them that are your enemies!

Proverbs 25:21-22 (KJV)
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

Proverbial Relationships with Neighbors :: Hasty and Halting

Proverbs 25:8-20 gives counsel on relationships with neighbors. This section advices us that we must at times use our feet and tongue hastily, while at other times, we must halt them, lest we weary our neighbor and be hated.

The Bible instructs us that we must not go forth hastily to strife (dispute) but when we have a dispute, we must be hasty with our feet to go and make peace; to amend the relationship and reconcile (Proverbs 25:8). We must also be hasty with our tongue, to debate our cause if we are at fault or speak words of compassion (mercy) and forgiveness, if we have been wronged (Proverbs 25:9). A word spoken at the right time (fitly) is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

The Bible is balanced in its counsel. We are also advised to halt our feet and tongue, when dealing with neighbors. Have you ever come across someone who is always in someone else’s business. Every time that person is encountered, people often exclaim something to the effect of “Oh no, here he/she comes!” We are to mind our own business. We are not to be bothersome. We are to halt our feet from our neighbor’s house lest we make them weary and hate us (Proverbs 25:17). If we are respectful of the other person’s time, we are more likely to be invited. We must also exercise restraint and halt our tongue from speaking lies and giving false witness against our neighbor. For in doing so, we end up, pounding (mauling) and piercing our neighbor for no real cause, because a man who bears false witness is a maul (to pound) and a sword, and a sharp arrow (to pierce) (Proverbs 25:18).

The word ‘Neighbor’ according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary is defined as one living or located near another. We live on earth and God is in heaven (Ecclesiastes 5:2). We are in this sense God’s neighbors. According to the parable of the good Samaritan, the one who had mercy is the one who is a neighbor (Luke 10:37).

Jesus was hasty with his feet to come and settle the strife (dispute) of sin between God (Himself) and us (mankind). He was hasty with his tongue to speak words of eternal life, love and compassion (mercy). Jesus also halts his feet. He does not barge into anyone’s life, but waits patiently at the door, knocking, and waiting for the person to open their life and let Him in (Revelation 3:20). Jesus halts his tongue, being God, for He cannot lie or bear false witnesses (Numbers 23:19), but instead truthfully mediates for us, even if we sin (1 John 2:1). Jesus Christ is the best neighbor one could ever have.

Jesus said, love thy neighbor as you would love yourself. This would mean, we should learn from the Scriptures how to relate with our neighbors; know when to be hasty and when to halt our feet and tongue.

Points to ponder:
1. Do you have anyone to go make amends with? Be first to go and settle the dispute and reconcile! Be hasty with your feet!
2. Is there someone who deserves a word of forgiveness or compassion or mercy from you? Withhold not your words that is fitting! Be hasty with your tongue!
3. Are you considered by others as being bothersome? Halt your feet and withdraw them from your neighbor’s house, lest you be hated.
4. Do not lie or bear false witness against your neighbor. Halt your tongue!

Proverbs 25:8-11 and 17-18 (KJV)
8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:
10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.

Proverbial Relationships with Kings :: Humility

Proverbs 25:1-7 gives counsel on how one must behave before kings. Often in our day to day lives, we seek to position ourselves to be in the best spot, especially before those with authority like our managers (i.e., rulers or kings), seeking recognition, prominence and preeminence, for the next promotion or pay raise.

The Bible is however very clear and explicit on how to behave in front of people with authority (i.e., managers, rulers, kings, etc). It should be with a humble heart and mind, lest we are abased and brought to shame.  Contextual to relationship with kings and rulers and people of prominence, the Bible unequivocally states that whoever humbles himself shall be exalted but whoever exalts himself shall be abased (Luke 14: 11).

Jesus, who deserves to be in the best spot, before God the Father, and the King of kings, did not seek recognition, prominence or preeminence. Instead, he made himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:7-8) and humbled Himself, from being God to man, to in fact being a dead man; so God, promoted Him to be a ruler over all, exalting Him over all and gave Him a Name that is above all names (Philippians 2:9).

Point(s) to ponder:
1. What is your/mine attitude before our rulers? Is it one that is reflective of a humble Spirit, like that of Jesus Christ, who made himself of no reputation?

Proverbs 25:6-7 (KJV)
6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.