New Living Translation
Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.
Laughter can hide pain who then the heart and soul of a hurting heart , but when the laughter of joy ends the sorrow and grief still remains keeping emotions raw
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. … This wise saying doesn’t tell us what to do or not to do.Jul 15, 2015
Proverb for the Day 14:13 — Heartache & Grief…Laughter & Rejoicing!
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.
This wise saying doesn’t tell us what to do or not to do. It simply offers a truth about life.
While we may not realize it — or even like it — in reality “laughter” and “heartache” can go together. That’s the real world!
Our verse suggests it’s okay to laugh and have some good feelings even when there’s ache in my heart. While we may sometimes feel like we’re “betraying” someone or something because we can laugh a little — this proverb tells us it’s okay.
The second phrase may be a little sadder but is just as real — “rejoicing may end in grief.” A parallel statement, I’ll suggest this line also “ups the ante” a bit.
The truth about life is that we can be rejoicing and enjoying things one moment…and suddenly the bottom falls out and we “end in grief.” That’s authentic living!
I think this verse is just a reminder that this is how life really goes. The world isn’t coming to an end when stuff happens and we’re struggling.
God’s still there, He still cares and He certainly knows what He’s doing! The Serenity Prayer says it this way: “Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace” (for the complete Serenity Prayer, see: https://helpingupmission.org/serenity-prayer).
And it’s okay — even healthy and good — if, along the way, we find something to smile and even laugh about…even in the midst of heartache!
The simple and foolish believe anything and fail to act with caution, and schemers and quick-tempered people end up going wrong. The poor are disliked, but if you’re rich it’s easier to make friends (even if they’re false friends). You should be kind to the poor, and work instead of talking too much.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
The world laughs itself to hell. Jokes, cartoons, comedians, sitcoms, parties, drunkenness, and mood-altering chemicals are the rage. Laughter is used to cover inward emptiness and deceive others that all is well. But the loneliness after such frivolity is crushing.
Life is not amusing. Dying is a terrible prospect. Hell is not funny. A party or drunken folly cannot eliminate the painful reality of dysfunctional living, unfulfilled expectations, the certainty of death, and the possibility of eternal damnation. Men cannot do enough to forget their pain and trouble. When the laughter ends, the heart feels even heavier grief.
What laughter has sorrow underneath? What mirth ends in heaviness? This cannot be the laughter and mirth of the righteous, for their happiness flows from a heart that is filled with contentment, hope, joy, and peace. The proverb must be dealing with the laughter of the wicked, who are described in the preceding and following proverbs (Pr 14:12,14).
Consider a fool’s life. Solomon analyzed the best that life on earth can offer, and he summarized it all as vanity and vexation of spirit (Eccl 1:14). Life is too short; it never meets expectations; it is filled with trouble and sorrow; the soul is not content with any amount of anything; death is sweet compared to the judgment that follows (Ec 12:13-14).
No wonder the world invented amusement parks. Musing is considering and thinking. To amuse is to replace those sober activities with frivolity and nonsense. So they spend a fortune to engage in folly to find fulfillment, but they must go to sleep that night knowing that it was an expensive and ridiculous diversion that did not work at all. They are empty.
No matter what unbelievers say, they are unhappy. It is easy to tell. The ones with the best circumstances, the ones the world admires the most, have the greatest misery. Consider Hollywood’s so-called stars. Their sorry lives of divorce, suicide, drunkenness, drugs, and other symptoms of dysfunction tell the truth. They are empty, miserable, and searching. The Bible calls them “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 1:13).
When your heart is sorrowful for conviction, self-examination, or loss, turning to laughter is not the solution, for outward cackling or chuckling does no good for such a soul. In fact, Solomon said that singing songs to a man with a heavy heart is an act of cruelty (Pr 25:20). A convicted or troubled heart should find its comfort in God, not foolish laughter, for such false and pretended mirth will result in even greater sadness and disappointment.
The author of “Amazing Grace” also wrote, “Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.” Reader, do you know the truth of his words? Seek the God of heaven this day. Those who have tried both ways of living swear by the righteous life (Ps 73:25-26; Eccl 12:13-14).
Even in Laughter, the Heart May Ache
Two-Minute Clip on Joy
• John Piper Modal
“Even in laughter the heart may ache” (Proverbs 14:13).
There are two reasons for this. It’s true for everybody, but especially for Christians. One is the sequential nature of pain and joy, and the other is the simultaneous nature of pain and joy.
“Even in laughter the heart may ache” (Proverbs 14:13).
The Bible says in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” So, there’s a certain sequence in our experience. And yet we all know that as one joy is dying, which calls for weeping, and another joy is being born, there’s a transition and a process in which we feel very awkward. We want to cry, and we want to laugh, and it feels awkward to do either. So, there’s laughter and pain together.
The other reason is the simultaneous nature of this experience. Paul said in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Well, we always know people who are weeping and people who are rejoicing. So, there’s always a good reason to be weeping and a good reason to be rejoicing simultaneously.
Paul said about his own experience, in Romans 9:2, that he had “unceasing anguish” in his heart, because of his lost kinsmen, the Jews. And yet he’s the one who preached to himself and to us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). So, while he’s always grieving in some way for his lost kinsmen, he’s rejoicing in Christ, which is why he gave us this phrase, which I think is so crucial, in 2 Corinthians 6:10: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
So, with laughter, there will be weeping, either because of the sequence and the transition that’s so awkward, or because of how simultaneous the reasons are for both.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.
BY: FCC STAFF
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
Whether we acknowledge them or not, deep within each of us our emotions churn away inside us, sometimes in ways that completely baffle us. Anger, fear, sadness, guilt, joy, peace… all these emotions are part of how we experience and process the world.
Scripture is no stranger to these emotions, and especially in the books of poetry, they can be on full display. Sometimes we feel just like what the prophet Jerimiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Not that our emotions are a bad thing, in and of themselves. As the wise teacher of Ecclesaties tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (3:1)) The preceding 7 verses then run the gamut of human emotion and experience.
Sometimes we can think that certain emotions, like anger, fear of sadness should be avoided all together. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Anger can be completely valid in the face of a true injustice. But as servants of Christ we must not act in ways that compromise our integrity before God, as James tells us, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (1:20) When faced with injustice, we should always take our case before God, and let his righteousness guide us in our actions.
And sorrow, is a natural and healthy response when we experience loss. Paul encouraged the Roman believers to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Celebrating the highs and lamenting the lows of life, especially with others, is part of walking with Christ. Just as we are not to let anger steer us into sin, we have to keep a healthy perspective when we experience sadness. As the psalmist declares, “Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, because I will praise him once again, since his presence saves me and he is my God.” (43:5)
And as our proverb for today tells us, sometimes, contradictory emotions can rise up in our hearts, or we can choose to mask our true emotions by pretending to feel something else. With all the complexities of our emotions how are we to keep ourselves by being overwhelmed and driven by them? Or how are we to respond in the face of strong emotions directed at us from others, or when we suspect they may be being less than genuine with how they are feeling?
Paul offers a very profound insight in Colossians 3:15:
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
At the center of our hearts, the guiding principle behind our emotional experiences should be the peace of Christ. Letting peace be like the “boss” of all our emotions, staying grounded in Christ. This can help us experience our emotions without straying into sin and stirring up trouble.
If we are angry, we can know that Christ has established justice. If we are sad, we can be assured that in Christ, things can be restored. If we are afraid, we can seek refuge in Jesus. When guilt is present, we can turn to Christ for forgiveness. Even in our joy, we can and should remain anchored in Christ, thankful for the blessings we enjoy.
That thankfulness, a genuine gratitude for all God has given us, and allows us to experience, can help us stay anchored as we navigate the storms of our emotions. Job, who faced some mighty trials had reason to ride a roller-coaster of emotion, poetically states this truth:
”For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!”
Keeping our focus on Jesus, no matter what we are feeling, no matter how others may be feeling around us, is always a good idea.
Prayer for Today
Father, thank you for creating me with such an awesome array of emotions to experience. While I may not always understand why I am feeling what I am, help me to always know that I am at peace with you. Jesus, guide me by your example, that I may always do the Father’s will, no matter how I am feeling. By your Holy Spirit, grant me true peace, so I can always keep my focus on you. Amen.
Steer Clear of the Trouble-Maker -Proverbs 14:13-24
2 years ago
Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
Proverbs 14:22-24 (NIV)
Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness. All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The wealth of the wise is their crown, but the folly of fools yields folly.
Proverbs 14:22-24 (MSG)
Isn’t it obvious that conspirators lose out, while the thoughtful win love and trust? Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table. The wise accumulate wisdom; fools get stupider by the day.
“Do they not go astray who devise evil and wander from the way of righteousness?
But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good. In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The crown of the wise is their wealth [of wisdom], but the foolishness of [closed-minded] fools is [nothing but] folly.” -AMPLIFIED
“Good people stay away from evil. By watching what they do, they protect their lives.” -Solomon (Proverbs 16:17 NCV)
Steer clear of the trouble-maker. This is easy to say, but much more difficult to carry through with. There seem to be those people who look for trouble and then jump right in once they find it. Then there are others who find trouble and stand at a safe distance observing, sometimes inching into the trouble-makers circle a little at a time. Then there are also those, when they hear that there is a trouble-maker ahead, make a very wide circle around them, not wanting any part of the mischief that the trouble-maker is involved in.
As a child of God it is imperative that we make a decision from the start that we do not want to participate in or partake of any kind of chaos, confusion, or mayhem that the trouble-maker desires to stir up. Our priority should be to remain true to God and let our light shine.
“Laughter can mask heartache, and joy often gives way to grief.” -(VOICE)
Solomon reminds us that we all experience difficult times. Laughter can hide the heartache, but it will not take it away. It is absolutely possible to experience joy and grief at the same time. (Ex.: when we have lost a loved one, but find joy in remembering good times spent with them.)
“A disloyal heart has its fill of disloyal ways, but a good person will be satisfied from above.” -(VOICE)
Here is where trouble begins; when the fool, the backslider, becomes bored with his life and his ungodly ways. This boredom leads to disgust of one’s life and indifference. The fool starts to look for new excitement.
The godly, wise, person, though, is content with the life that God has blessed him with. He knows that each day is a new adventure given to Him by God.
“The backslider gets bored with himself; the godly man’s life is exciting.” -(TLB)
“The gullible believe anything they are told, but clever people know to question every step.” -(VOICE)
The fool, otherwise known as the gullible here, believes everything that they are told. They do not check out the facts. When someone tells them a whopper they accept it at face value and fall into deeper trouble every time. The clever, wise, person, though, checks out the facts, to be sure that the information given is, in fact, reliable. Remember, their desire is to steer clear of trouble.
“The wise are cautious and stay far from evil, but fools are hotheaded and careless.” -(VOICE)
The wise person watches where he walks. He is careful to stay away from shenanigans of the fool. His desire is to steer clear of all trouble. But the fool, he runs headstrong and reckless right into the middle of danger.
“Quick-tempered people make fools of themselves, and evil schemers make many enemies.” -(VOICE)
Those who tend to be hot-headed or quick-tempered in the end make fools of themselves. They will regret their impulsive reaction later.
“The naive are heirs to foolishness, but the clever are honored with insight.” -(VOICE)
The fool dreams up wild schemes, hoping to beguile others to join in. The wise person is aware of the fool’s plan, having godly insight, and steers clear.
“Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion; wise realists plant their feet on the ground.” -(MSG)
“Evil people will be humbled before the good; the wicked will stoop at the doorstep of the righteous.” -(VOICE)
Evil men and the fool will, in the end, be humbled and pay tribute to the wise. The wicked one will show respect and honor at the gates of the righteous one.
“The poor are hated even by their own neighbors, but the rich are loved by many friends.” -(VOICE)
Here we find Solomon addressing the poor man and the rich man. He tells us that the poor man will be despised by his neighbors, but the rich man will be loved by his neighbors. Solomon is not advocating that this is the way that it should be, but this tends to be the way things are. Further along in Proverbs we will see that the poor man tends to make a better, more reliable friend.
“Even his own neighbors despise the poor man, while the rich have many “friends.” ” -(TLB)
“Those who have contempt for their neighbors are sinners, but those who are kind to the poor are happy.” -(VOICE)
This proverb links to the previous one. It tells us that it is wrong to ignore out poor neighbor in their time of need. Those who have compassion on their poor neighbor will be blessed.
“But to despise the poor is to sin. Blessed are those who help them.” -(TLB)
“Don’t those who work evil stray from the truth? Those who plan goodness experience unfailing love and faithfulness.” -(VOICE)
Here we find a proverb directed right toward the trouble-maker. Those who are plotting evil, stirring up trouble, they will be lost. They are consciously choosing to walk away from what is right and true. But, those who choose to do good will in turn experience mercy and quietness.
“Prosperity comes from hard work, but talking too much leads to great scarcity.” -(VOICE)
Hard work will pay off; for it brings with it a reward. The fool though just stands around talking about the job, but doing nothing. He can expect nothing in return.
“Work brings profit; talk brings poverty!” -(TLB)
“The wise are honored for their wealth; the reward of fools is more foolishness.” -(VOICE)
The wise person will be recognized and honored for their hard work. The fool? He will be recognized for his irresponsibility and stupidity.
“Wise men are praised for their wisdom; fools are despised for their folly.” -(TLB)
Steer clear of the trouble-maker. He brings only mishap and misfortune. Choose from the start that you will do things God’s way. In this way you can know that He is your constant companion; watching out for and taking care of you every step through your journey of life.
“Don’t let the sin in your life ensnare you and put you in danger. Release the things that drag you down and make you susceptible to Satan’s influence. Steer clear of sin and stay free from being entangled in the enemy’s trap!” -Senior Living Ministries: How to Steer Clear of the Enemy’s Trap
Lord, give me wisdom so that I am steering clear of the trouble-maker and the fool. I have made my choice; I want to be holy as you are holy. My desire is that my light will shine brightly for you. Do not allow me to fall for the tricks of the Enemy or those whose desire is to drag me down. I know that your Holy Spirit is my constant companion. Let my heart be in tune to His nudging’s and prompting’s. Lord, lead me in the pathways of your righteousness. Thank you.
Tag: Proverbs 14:13
SERIES: Proverbs: True Wisdom for Living
Preached in Manhattan, N.Y. on December 5, 2004
Book of Proverbs
25 An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
10 Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.
13 Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief.
30 A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.
4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. 14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
2 All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
14 A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
1 The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
We’re looking at the book of Proverbs every week, and we continue to do that. We’re looking at the subject of wisdom. We’ve said wisdom is competence with regard to the complex realities of life. It means being not less than moral and good, but more. For example, if you want to help a poor family out of poverty, that’s wonderful. That’s right. That’s good. It’s moral.
If you’re a simpleminded conservative and you think poverty is completely the result of lack of personal responsibility or if you’re a simpleminded liberal and you think poverty is completely the result of unjust social structures … In other words, if you’re reductionistic, if you’re simplistic, if you’re not savvy about the complex realities of poverty, though you mean well and you’re being moral and right and good, you can ruin that poor family’s life.
Tonight what we want to do is talk about wisdom with regard to the complex realities of the inner being, the inner life, or what we would today call the psychological life, which is, as we’re going to see in a moment, a modern category that’s actually itself too reductionistic. Nevertheless, what are we talking about?
We all at certain times just have a lot of trouble understanding and dealing with the very deep, conflicting, confusing, powerful, sometimes warring dynamic impulses and feelings that just roll through our hearts, roll through ourselves. Sometimes we don’t feel we have any power over it. We feel helpless, and we don’t know how we got to feeling like that. We know there’s something deeply wrong with it. We don’t know what to do about it.
Tonight maybe we’ll get some wisdom because we’re taking a look at what the book of Proverbs says about this subject, and I’d like to look at the passage under four headings. Let’s see what we learn from these collected proverbs. You’re not going to be wise unless you understand the priority of the inner life, the complexity of the inner life, the solitude of the inner life, and the healing of the inner life.
1. The priority of the inner life
Take a look at the second from the last proverb in the list, and we’ll learn something about the priority of the inner life. “A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” What does the word spirit mean? In the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Old Testament, the word spirit is actually literally the word for wind.
Whenever the word wind, ruwach, is used in the Old Testament it has to do with force, with power, with energy. When it refers to your inside, the human inner being, the human spirit is roughly analogous to what we would call today emotional energy, passion for life, that which propels us out into life, makes us want life, makes us want to take it on, navigate, deal with it.
What’s a crushed spirit? A crushed spirit then is to look out at life and to have no desire for it, have little or no joy in it, have no passion to get out there and deal with it. Of course, there are degrees of a crushed spirit. It can be anywhere from listlessness and restlessness to discouragement to despondency to being very, very cast down and to losing all desire to live.
What is this proverb saying? Look at it again, and here’s what it’s saying. There is nothing more important than maintaining your inner being. When it says, “A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” here’s what it’s saying. “A broken body can be sustained with difficulty by a strong spirit, but a crushed or broken spirit can never be sustained or carried by the strongest body of all.”
In other words, this proverb is getting at something actually the whole Bible gets at. We human beings are obsessed with the idea that our happiness is determined by our external circumstances, that our happiness is completely determined by whether our body is healthy or whether our body looks good, whether we have money, whether people are treating us right, whether things are going well out there. That’s what makes us happy, or that’s what makes us unhappy.
The Bible actually says, “No, it has nothing to do with your circumstances. Happiness is determined by how you deal with your circumstances from inside, how you process, how you address, how you view them.” That’s the reason why Paul’s prayers for the churches he’s writing in the New Testament letters are amazing.
When you consider when he’s writing all these churches, he’s writing churches that were in great difficulty and straits. He’s writing churches that were persecuted. He’s writing churches where civil magistrates had broken in and pulled off some of the Christian families to jail. Yet whenever he says, “I’m praying this for you” or “I’m praying this for you,” he never mentions things like that.
He never says, “I’m praying that civil magistrate won’t come and take any more of you off to jail.” He doesn’t pray for protection. He doesn’t pray against suffering. What does he pray for? He prays this sort of thing. Here’s Ephesians 3. He says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being …”
Do you know what he’s saying? “If your life is all broken, all things are wrong, and your spirit is strong and powerful, you move out into the world in strength, but if everything about your life is going fine, just all the circumstances are doing fine but your spirit is crushed, you move out into the world in weakness.”
Do you believe that? Do you understand the priority of that? The Bible says, Proverbs says, if you don’t, you’re a fool. I’ll put it another way. Are you far, far, far more concerned to deposit grace in your spirit than you are to deposit money in your bank account? If you’re not, you’re a fool.
2. The complexity of the inner life
After having said what we just said, it’s natural to ask a question like, “All right. So what do you do to keep your inner being from deteriorating? What goes wrong with a spirit? What causes a crushed spirit? Why do our emotions and our feelings seem to get out of control? Why do we get so downcast sometimes? Why do we lose all passion for life? Why do we struggle so much? What is our problem?”
Do you know what the biblical answer is? It’s complicated. I want to show you this for the next couple of minutes. In fact, the Bible’s understanding of human nature, understanding of what goes wrong inside is more nuanced, more multifaceted, more multidimensional, more complex than any other answer I know of, any other counseling model, any book on despondency or what’s wrong or how to have emotional health or how to have a happy life.
You read them all, and compared to the Bible they are one-dimensional. They are reductionistic. They boil everything down. They’re too simpleminded. They’re too simplistic. They’re not savvy. They’re not wise. The Bible gives you the most fully nuanced, the most complex assessment of what can go wrong and lead to despondency and lead to a crushed spirit. Let’s take a look at five of them. They’re right in here.
A. A crushed spirit may have a physical aspect. I know that sounds very weird. For example, let’s take a look at 14:30. “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.” The word passion means literally a hot feeling. That word can refer to anger or bitterness or envy or fear or something like that. What it’s giving us here is a very nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the relationship of the body to the emotions.
Emotional unhealth leads to physical unhealth in all kinds of ways, disintegration, deterioration, but what’s the implication? The implication, of course, is since the body and the emotions are united, then bodily weakness can lead to emotional unhealth. If you’re weary, if you’re not eating right, if you have chemical imbalances, there’s a physical aspect to being crushed in spirit. There can be. There often is.
You say, “How could that be?” For example, I had a thyroid problem a couple of years ago. Of course, the problem is gone, as well as the thyroid. That’s why it’s gone. One of the things I learned about is what happens when you don’t have the thyroid hormone or you don’t have enough of it. Oh my word! Even though I didn’t experience anything like this, here’s something I can just tell you the truth of.
If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone in your body, you’re going to eventually want to kill yourself. You say, “Of course, that’s all in your head.” Of course, it’s all in your head! The crushed spirit is in your head, but the point is if you lose all desire to even live because of something wrong with your body, you have a crushed spirit. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, and one of the causes can be the physical.
B. A crushed spirit may have an emotional, relational aspect. Look at the very first proverb on the list. “An anxious heart weighs a man down …” That’s synonymous with a crushed spirit. It’s talking about literally sinking. “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Don’t trivialize it. In English it comes across a little bit trivial-sounding.
What is it saying you need sometimes? What do you need? You need an outside word of love, of kindness. You need support. Sometimes you don’t need medicine. Sometimes you don’t need therapy. You don’t need an answer. You don’t need complicated reflection. You need love sometimes, because we have an emotional, relational nature. You just need arms around you. You need a shoulder. You need intimacy. You need support.
C. A crushed spirit may have a moral aspect. Take a look at the last of the proverbs in the list. “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” What’s that talking about? It’s a quote from Leviticus 26, where God says, “If you disobey me, you will flee though no one pursues.”
My word, look how nuanced this is. It’s talking about conscience. It’s talking about guilt. It’s talking about what can go wrong inside, in your spirit, in your emotions, what can go wrong inside if you know you’re not living right, if you know you’re not living up to standards, if you feel guilt, if you feel shame, if you feel like a failure in any way.
Look how nuanced it is. It doesn’t say you flee when someone pursues; you flee when no one pursues. Guilt just generalizes a sense there’s something wrong with you, so you not only feel guilty for some things you ought to feel guilty for, but you also can’t help then feeling guilty for all kinds of things you shouldn’t feel guilty for.
Someone criticizes you, and you feel assaulted, attacked. It’s a bad conscience. You make a little failure, and you feel like a total failure. It’s a bad conscience. There’s a moral aspect. There’s a conscience aspect. That’s not all. Do you realize how wrong it would be if you treat a crushed spirit that’s basically a physical problem as a moral problem?
D. A crushed spirit may have an existential aspect. Go to the fourth proverb down. “Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief.” When you first read that, do you know what you’re automatically doing? You say, “Oh, I think I know what that’s talking about,” and you’re relativizing it.
You’re saying, “Sometimes some people are laughing and they’re having fun, but down deep they’re still sad. They’re putting on a happy face. They’re trying to forget their troubles. Though they are laughing, down deep they’re sad. Though they’re trying to be happy, in the end they’re still grieving.”
It doesn’t say, “Some people in laughter the heart is sad,” does it? It’s an absolute statement. What amazed me was every single Hebrew commentator, every Hebrew scholar, I looked at about this verse says we mustn’t relativize it. We must realize what a profound thing it’s saying. This is true of everybody. Why?
Do you not realize there’s an existential angst that comes down deep from under …? Everybody knows all parties eventually are going to be over. All joy really does end in grief. You say, “What are you talking about?” Let me just give you some examples. Here’s the happy family, sitting around the dining room table. The simple reality is one of those people is eventually going to see every other member dead.
Death ends everything. Everything your heart wants out of life eventually will be taken away from you. If you don’t die a tragic young death, eventually your health will be taken away from you. Your loved ones will be taken away from you. Everything will be taken away from you. It’ll all be gone.
Some of you are saying, “Gee, I’m so glad I came tonight. This is a wonderful … I guess that’s right. I guess that’s true, but do you have to tell me about it? Do we have to think about it?” Guess what? Try not to think about it. This is saying down deep you know about it. There is a ground note of sadness you cannot overcome.
New York is filled with people who say, “Well, I don’t believe I was created. I believe I’m here by accident, and I believe when you’re dead, that’s it. You rot. That’s it. You’re gone. I understand that, but the point is have fun while you’re here.” Wait a minute. If your origin is insignificant and your destiny is insignificant, which means someday nobody will even remember anything you ever did, have the guts to admit your life is insignificant.
What that means is unless you have some way of dealing philosophically with this, unless you have some way of ascribing meaning to the daily things you do, which is really pretty hard, you’re going to have this ground note of sadness that underneath all your laughter you’re going to be sad, because you know all joy eventually ends in grief. I’m not exaggerating. Do you see what’s happening now? This is a philosophical problem, and a lot of people have it.
In fact, we all have it until somebody helps us deal with death.
Proverbs 14:13 ►
(13) Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.–By this God would teach us that nothing can satisfy the soul of man but Himself, and so would urge us to seek Him, who is the only true object of our desires. (Comp. Psalm 36:8.)
Verse 13. – Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful (comp. ver. 10). This recalls Lucretius’s lines (4:1129) –
“Medio de fonte leporum
Surgit amari aliquid, quod in ipsis fioribus angat. The text is scarcely to be taken as universally true, but either as specially applicable to those mentioned in the preceding verse, or as teaching that the outward mirth often cloaks hidden sorrow (comp. Virgil, ‘AEneid,’ 1:208, etc.). And the end of that joy is bitterness; it has in it no element of endurance, and when it is past, the real grief that it masked comes into prominence. In this mortal life also joy and sorrow are strangely intermingled; sorrow fellows closely on the steps of joy; as some one somewhere says, “The sweetest waters at length find their way to the sea, and are embittered there.” Lesetre refers to Pascal, ‘Pensees,’ 2:1: “Tous se plaignent…de tout pays, de tout temps, de tous ages, et de toutes conditions. Une preuve si longue, si continuelle et si uniforme, devrait bien nous convaincre de l’impuissance ou nous sommes d’arriver au bien par nos efforts: mais l’exemple ne nous intruit point… Le present ne nous satisfaisant jamais, l’esperance nous pipe, et, de malheur en malheur, nous meue jusqu’a la mort, qui en est le comble eternel. C’est une chose etrange, qu’il n’y a rien dans la nature qui n’ait ete capable de tenir la place de la fin et du bonheur de l’homme …. L’homme etant dechu de son etat naturel, il n’y arien a quoi il n’ait ete capable de so porter. Depuis qu’il a perdu le vrai bien, tout egalement peut lui paraitre tel, jusqu’a ea destruction propre, toute contraire qu’elle est a la raison et a la nature tout ensemble.” This illustrates also ver. 12. Proverbs like “There is no rose without a thorn” are common enough in all languages. The Latins said, “Ubi uber, ibi tuber;” and “Ubi mel, ibi fel.” Greek experience produced the gnome –
Αρ ἐστὶ συγγενές τι λύπη καὶ βίος.
“Sorrow and life are very near of kin.” Who Christian learns another lesson, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The LXX. has introduced a negative, which gives a sense exactly contrary to the Hebrew and to all the other versions: “In joys there is no admixture of sorrow, but the final joy cometh unto grief.” The negative has doubtless crept inadvertently into the text; if it were genuine, the sentence might be explained of the sinner’s joy, which he finds for a time and exults in, but which does not last, and is felt to be a delusion as life closes.
14:1 A woman who has no fear of God, who is wilful and wasteful, and indulges her ease, will as certainly ruin her family, as if she plucked her house down. 2. Here are grace and sin in their true colours. Those that despise God’s precepts and promises, despise God and all his power and mercy. 3. Pride grows from that root of bitterness which is in the heart. The root must be plucked up, or we cannot conquer this branch. The prudent words of wise men get them out of difficulties. 4. There can be no advantage without something which, though of little moment, will affright the indolent. 5. A conscientious witness will not dare to represent anything otherwise than according to his knowledge. 6. A scorner treats Divine things with contempt. He that feels his ignorance and unworthiness will search the Scriptures in a humble spirit. 7. We discover a wicked man if there is no savour of piety in his discourse. 8. We are travellers, whose concern is, not to spy out wonders, but to get to their journey’s end; to understand the rules we are to walk by, also the ends we are to walk toward. The bad man cheats himself, and goes on in his mistake. 9. Foolish and profane men consider sin a mere trifle, to be made light of rather than mourned over. Fools mock at the sin-offering; but those that make light of sin, make light of Christ. 10. We do not know what stings of conscience, or consuming passions, torment the prosperous sinner. Nor does the world know the peace of mind a serious Christian enjoys, even in poverty and sickness. 11. Sin ruins many great families; whilst righteousness often raises and strengthens even mean families. 12. The ways of carelessness, of worldliness, and of sensuality, seem right to those that walk in them; but self-deceivers prove self-destroyers. See the vanity of carnal mirth. 14. Of all sinners backsliders will have the most terror when they reflect on their own ways. 15. Eager readiness to believe what others say, has ever proved mischievous. The whole world was thus ruined at first. The man who is spiritually wise, depends on the Saviour alone for acceptance. He is watchful against the enemies of his salvation, by taking heed to God’s word. 16. Holy fear guards against every thing unholy. 17. An angry man is to be pitied as well as blamed; but the revengeful is more hateful.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful,…. As Belshazzar’s was in the midst of his feast and jollity, when he saw the writing on the wall; so sin may stare a man in the face, and guilt load his conscience and fill him with sorrow, amidst his merriment; a man may put on a merry countenance, and feign a laugh, when his heart is very sorrowful; and oftentimes this sorrow comes by sinful laughter, by mocking at sin and jesting at religion;
and the end of that mirth is heaviness: sometimes in this life a sinner mourns at last, and mourns for his wicked mirth, or that he has made himself so merry with religious persons and things, and oftentimes when it is too late; so the end of that mirth the fool in the Gospel promised himself was heaviness, when his soul was required of him; this was the case of the rich man who had his good things here, and his evil things hereafter
What does Proverbs 14:13 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]
Earthly happiness is fleeting (Matthew 6:19–21). Appearances can be deceiving (1 Samuel 16:7; John 7:24). Those who laugh, on the outside, might be in deep pain, in their heart. Earthly pursuits will not change this, and any joy they bring is temporary. Even while a sinner laughs, his heart may be sorrowful, and when his joy ends, he experiences grief (Proverbs 10:8; 11:23). Those who put their faith in Christ can rest in knowing their sorrow will be truly healed (Revelation 21:4).
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us where he looked for meaning and satisfaction. Among the places he looked was pleasure, but he did not find any significance or satisfaction there. He concludes his book by exhorting his readers to remember the Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:13). First Timothy 5:6 affirms that “she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” Real significance comes only from a right relationship with God. The psalmist testifies that God is the source of genuine, lasting delight. He writes: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Proverbs 14:11–14 is a brief section which contrasts the righteous and the wicked. Solomon takes these moments to emphasize the final destinies of the evil and the upright. Those who reject God will come to an inglorious end, but those who submit to His truth will enjoy a glorious destiny. The wicked will get what he deserves, having built a life of sin, but the upright will be rewarded for walking in righteousness. Points made here echo those seen in Proverbs 12:7–15.
This continues a series of literal “proverbs:” short statements of general-case wisdom. The first ten verses of this chapter contrast positive and negative traits related to work ethic, self-control, and seeking wisdom. Then come several verses contrasting the fate of the righteous with that of the wicked. The rest of this passage provides statements on a broad range of subjects.
Proverbs 14 – The Contrast Between Wisdom and Folly
The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.
a. The wise woman builds her house: Wisdom builds. It looks at what is and wisely considers how to make it better. Many homes have been made by a godly, wise woman who looks after the home and builds it.
i. “By her prudent and industrious management she increases property in the family, furniture in the house, and food and raiment for her household. This is the true building of a house. The thriftless wife acts differently, and the opposite is the result.” (Clarke)
b. The foolish pulls it down: Folly tears down. Instead of supporting and building what is, folly shows its destructive nature. The woman of a home has tremendous power to make it a better or worse place.
i. With her hands: “As the husband is as the head from whom all the sinews do flow, so she is as the hands into which they flow, and enable them to do their office.” (Trapp)
ii. “Note the foolish woman—her idleness, waste, love of pleasure, lack of all forethought and care…. We see her house torn down in confusion. It would have been a sad result if this had been done by an enemy. But it is the doing, or rather undoing, of her own hands.” (Bridges)
He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.
a. He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord: One who is upright through their heritage, past habits, and general course of life still has the decision to walk in their uprightness. Doing this demonstrates that they do fear the Lord.
i. The first line of this proverb communicates the New Testament attitude towards Christian obedience. Our call is to be what we are. Jesus has made us new creatures in Christ; He has made us upright. Our duty is to walk in that uprightness.
b. He who is perverse in his ways despises Him: The disobedient man shows that he really despises God and His authority. They say, we will not have this Man to reign over us (Luke 19:14). This displays the sinfulness of sin; it is often not only weakness, it is deep-seated rebellion against God.
In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them.
a. In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride: The fool deserves the rod of correction (Proverbs 10:13). In the word picture used here, the rod of correction is made of the fool’s pride, and it comes from his own mouth.
i. “The fool’s pride finds a rod in his mouth that lashes himself—he is his own worst enemy—and others.” (Waltke)
ii. “Here it is a rod of pride. Sometimes it strikes against God and sometimes against men…. Were this iron rod to rule the earth, who could tolerate it?” (Bridges)
b. The lips of the wise will preserve them: The mouth of a fool brings punishment to the fool, but the wise man or woman is rescued (preserved) by their own wise words.
Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
a. Where no oxen are, the trough is clean: Where there is no work being accomplished, there is no mess or disorder to deal with. If you have oxen, they will bring a good measure of mess and work with them.
b. But much increase comes by the strength of an ox: Yet, the mess an ox brings is worth it. There is much good (increase) that comes from the impressive strength of an ox. Those who insist that there never be mess or disorder will miss the increase that comes from good things that can be a bit messy.
i. This is an important principle when it comes to church life and Christian community. There are some who, out of good intentions, are obsessed with making sure there is never any kind of “mess” to address among believers. Each and every expression of spiritual life must be hyper-regulated and suspiciously watched with the expectation of grave error. Not only is this an offense against Christian liberty, but it also creates an environment where, spiritually speaking, there is little increase – because no one will tolerate any mess in the trough.
ii. “Orderliness can reach the point of sterility. This proverb is not a plea for slovenliness, physical or moral, but for the readiness to accept upheaval, and a mess to clear up, as the price of growth. It has many applications to personal, institutional and spiritual life, and could well be inscribed in the minute-books of religious bodies, to foster a farmer’s outlook, rather than a curator’s.” (Kidner)
iii. Adam Clarke used this proverb to describe seven reasons why oxen were superior to horses as farm animals, concluding: “In all large farms oxen are greatly to be preferred to horses. Have but patience with this most patient animal, and you will soon find that there is much increase by the strength and labour of the ox.”
A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.
a. A faithful witness does not lie: This simple and straightforward statement has much spiritual instruction in it. Jesus called His followers to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). One of the primary responsibilities of a witness is to simply tell the truth and to not lie. When we have a genuine faith and experience in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we can give simple, true witness to Him.
b. A false witness will utter lies: Again, this simple statement points to a great spiritual truth. We should never be a false witness for Jesus Christ and utter lies about who He is and what He has done in our life.
i. Will utter lies: “Is or will be a false witness, when occasion requires it. Having debauched his conscience by daily lying, he is thereby prepared and disposed to false witness-bearing.” (Poole)
A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who understands.
a. A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it: When someone seeks wisdom and does not find it, it is evidence that they are likely a scoffer – someone whose pursuit of wisdom and the truth is cynical and superficial.
i. “Such may seek wisdom; but he never can find it, because he does not seek it where it is to be found; neither in the teaching of God’s Spirit, nor in the revelation of his will.” (Clarke)
b. Knowledge is easy to him who understands: Jesus promised, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7). This is a promise to the sincere seeker, the one who understands.
Go from the presence of a foolish man,
When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
a. Go from the presence of a foolish man: Earlier Proverbs (such as Proverbs 13:20) spoke of the danger of foolish friends. Here the encouragement is to avoid the presence of a foolish man altogether.
i. “One cannot increase in knowledge by associating with a fool—nothing comes from nothing, as many can affirm.” (Ross)
b. When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge: The fool and the wise man can almost always be known by their words. This is a wonderful and often neglected way to discern if someone is wise or a fool.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way,
But the folly of fools is deceit.
a. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: The prudent man or woman carefully considers and understands his way. They know the path they are on, their point upon the path, and their progress along the way.
i. The wisdom of the prudent: “It consists not in vain speculations, nor in a curious prying into other men’s matters, nor in cunning arts of deceiving others; but in a diligent study of his own duty, and of the way to true and eternal happiness.” (Poole)
b. The folly of fools is deceit: This explains one reason why folly and fools can be popular. Their attraction is based on deceit, in the same way that the bait deceives the fish into ignoring the hook.
Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is favor.
a. Fools mock at sin: This is in the nature of fools and their folly. They think sin is a light thing, worthy to be mocked. Their mockery of sin is connected with their lack of the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:29 and 8:13).
i. “But he that makes a sport of sinning, will find it no sport to suffer the vengeance of an eternal fire.” (Clarke)
b. But among the upright there is favor: Those who are upright before God and man find favor among God and men.
i. “Fools do wrong and scoff at making reparations, but they find no divine or mutual favor and acceptance.” (Waltke)
The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.
a. The heart knows its own bitterness: There is pain and bitterness enough for every heart. The sense is that though one’s heart knows its own bitterness, it is difficult for anyone else to know the pain and bitterness of another’s heart.
i. “We may not judge our brethren as though we understood them, and were competent to give a verdict upon them. Do not sit down, like Job’s friends, and condemn the innocent.” (Spurgeon)
b. A stranger does not share its joy: What was true regarding the bitterness of life in the first line of this proverb is also often true regarding the joy of life. It can be difficult for someone else to truly share the joy of another’s heart.
i. “No less personal is the heart’s joy. It lies deep within. Michal could understand David’s bravery, but not his joy. She knew him as a man of war, not as a man of God.” (Bridges)
ii. Spurgeon listed and described many joys that are personal in nature, and therefore often a stranger does not share them.
· The joy of sin forgiven.
· The joy of sin conquered.
· The joy of restored relationship with God.
· The joy of accepted service.
· The joy of answered prayer.
· The joy of usefulness for God.
· The joy of peace in time of trouble.
· Highest of all: the joy of communion with God.
The house of the wicked will be overthrown,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
a. The house of the wicked will be overthrown: Whatever is built on a poor foundation cannot stand, especially against the storm of God’s coming judgment.
b. The tent of the upright will flourish: The wicked man boasts of his great house and looks down upon his upright neighbor who lives in only a tent. Yet the tent of the upright is more secure than the house of the wicked.
i. “The tent is by no means used for any kind of dwelling but refers to a nomadic tent. It is a bell tent, supported in the middle by a wooden pole and composed of several dark, goatskin curtains. It was fastened down to pegs with cords.” (Waltke)
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
a. There is a way that seems right to a man: Proverbs often speaks of the way, the path of life a man or woman walks upon. Solomon observed that this way often seems right to a man. His path of life seems fine to him, and he wonders why God or anyone else would have a different opinion.
i. “The issue then is how deceptive evil is. It might promise and deliver happiness, power, and the good life, but it cannot sustain what it gives.” (Ross)
b. But its end is the way of death: Though it seems right, it isn’t right – it leads to death. Wisdom understands that what may seem right to a man isn’t necessarily right; it can in fact be the way of death.
i. This proverb reminds us that the way of death is rarely clearly marked. “The safety and destiny of a road are not always as they appear (Matt. 7:13, 14). The deceptive road leads as certainly to death as the plainly marked one.” (Waltke)
ii. This makes plain our need for a revelation from God. We can’t entirely trust our own examination and judgment. To really know we are on the way of life (instead of the way of death), we need to fear the Lord and receive His wisdom, especially as revealed in His word.
iii. The principle of this proverb is so important that God repeated it again at Proverbs 16:25.
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief.
a. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow: The person who often laughs is not always happy. The outward expression of laughter may be used to mask great sorrow in the heart.
i. “The design of the proverb is to declare the vanity of all worldly joys and comforts, and to teach men moderation in them, and to persuade us to seek for more solid and durable joys.” (Poole)
b. The end of mirth may be grief: Laughter and mirth may do more than mask sorrow; they may very well end in grief. We are grateful for laughter and godly mirth, but not if they keep us from the fear of the Lord and the wisdom associated with it.
The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways,
But a good man will be satisfied from above.
a. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways: Those who decline in their relationship and obedience to God will suffer from it, even if their decline is only in heart. Their own backsliding ways will come upon them.
i. The backslider: “The first part of his name is ‘backslider.’ He is not a back runner, nor a back leaper, but a backslider, that is to say he slides back with an easy, effortless motion, softly, quietly, perhaps unsuspected by himself or anybody else.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Every spot does not mean that you have leprosy. Every sin does not indicate that you are a backslider.” (Bridges)
iii. “What is implied in being filled with his own ways? Having his soul saturated with folly, sin, and disappointment.” (Clarke)
iv. “The story of Judas has been written over and over again in the lives of other traitors. We have heard of Judas as a deacon, and as an elder; we have heard Judas preach, we have read the works of Judas the bishop, and seen Judas the missionary. Judas sometimes continues in his profession for many years, but, sooner or later, the true character of the man is discovered.” (Spurgeon)
b. A good man will be satisfied from above: The wise ones who do good enjoy God’s blessing and the satisfaction that comes from Him.
i. “Which simply means that whatever may be within a man, in the deepest region of his personality, will sooner or later be wrought out into actual experience and visibility.” (Morgan)
The simple believes every word,
But the prudent considers well his steps.
a. The simple believes every word: The man or woman who lacks wisdom (the simple) has little ability to discern truth from falsehood. They believe everyone, especially if they seem sincere.
i. “To believe every word of God is faith. To believe every word of man is credulity…. An indiscriminate faith is, therefore, fraught with mischief. The world was ruined by this weakness (Genesis 3:1-6).” (Bridges)
b. The prudent considers well his steps: The wise man or woman doesn’t believe everything is as it first appears. While they do think carefully about others, they give even more consideration to their ownsteps.
A wise man fears and departs from evil,
But a fool rages and is self-confident.
a. A wise man fears and departs from evil: The wise man appreciates evil for what it is and keeps himself far from it. He does not overestimate or test his own strength in resisting evil; he departs from it.
b. A fool rages and is self-confident: Instead of godly fear, the fool rages with uncontrolled temper and outbursts. Despite his bad temper, he is self-confident. The self-confidence of fools is a mystery and a marvel.
A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of wicked intentions is hated.
a. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly: In the previous proverb the fool raged; here his quick temper leads him to act out his foolishness. The wise man has the self-control to not react immediately and out of bad temper.
i. Quick tempered-man: “Ketsar appayim, ‘short of nostrils:’ because, when a man is angry, his nose is contracted, and drawn up towards his eyes.” (Clarke)
b. A man of wicked intentions is hated: The love that fools and wicked men have for each other is limited. The man of wicked intentions is understood to be untrustworthy and therefore hated.
The simple inherit folly,
But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
a. The simple inherit folly: As someone gains an inheritance as that which is due to them, so the simple inherit folly. For those who willfully reject wisdom, folly is due.
b. The prudent are crowned with knowledge: A wise (prudent) man or woman enjoys the benefits of their wisdom. Knowledge sits upon them as a graceful and noble crown.
The evil will bow before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
a. The evil will bow before the good: In this present age, it often feels that the evil win and sometimes triumph over the good. With true wisdom, Solomon reminds us that ultimately evil will bow in submission before the good.
i. “Ultimately the wicked will acknowledge and serve the righteous. The figure used here is of a conquered people kneeling before their victors awaiting their commands.” (Ross)
ii. “The Egyptians and Joseph’s brothers bowed before Joseph. The proud Pharaoh and his people bowed before Moses. The saints will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2).” (Bridges)
b. The wicked at the gates of the righteous: As if they came in humble surrender to the leaders of the city, the wicked will bow at the gates of the righteous.
The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor,
But the rich has many friends.
a. The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor: This is another of the proverbs that honestly describes the benefits of wealth. When a person is poor, they don’t have as many friends and maybe their own neighbor may hate them.
i. “This is a humbling but common illustration of natural selfishness…. But Jesus was deliberately the poor man’s friend. How endearing is Jesus’ love!” (Bridges)
b. The rich has many friends: This is a simple fact of life. The friends of the rich might be insincere friends, but there are more of them.
He who despises his neighbor sins;
But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
a. He who despises his neighbor sins: Men and women are made in the image of God, and therefore we are commanded to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39). To despise is to hate, so to despise your neighbor is to sin.
b. He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he: The generous heart is the happy heart. The link between the first and second lines of this proverb shows that whoever has mercy on the poor should never do it in a superior manner that would show they despise the poor they say they help.
Do they not go astray who devise evil?
But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good.
a. Do they not go astray who devise evil? Doing evil is an obvious sin, but even the plotting and devising of evil leads us astray. God cares about our heart and mind as well as our outward actions (Matthew 5:21-32).
i. Devise evil: “Hebrew, That plough it and plot it, that dig it and delve it, that whet their wits and beat their brains about it – do not these err?” (Trapp)
b. But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good: The wicked will plot their evil, but wisdom leads us to devise good for others and ourselves. This will bring the blessings of mercy and truth into our lives.
i. “Wicked as it is to do evil, it is far more wicked to plot evil. Children of God, do you show the same diligence and determination in planning to do good?” (Bridges)
In all labor there is profit,
But idle chatter leads only to poverty.
a. In all labor there is profit: As a principle, hard work is always rewarded. Even if there is not an immediate profit from the work, there is reward from God and in the building and demonstration of character.
b. But idle chatter leads only to poverty: If labor leads to profit, then anything that distracts from labor – such as idle chatter – will keep profits away, and lead to poverty. We can imagine a group of employees gathered together with idlechatter and entertaining conversation leading to no profit for their employer.
i. “People should be more afraid of idle talk than of hard work. Or, to put it another way, do not just talk about it—Do it!” (Ross)
ii. “Great talkers are do-littles, for the most part…. And ‘why stand you looking upon one another? Get you down to Egypt,’ said Jacob to his sons. [Genesis 42:1-2]” (Trapp)
The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the foolishness of fools is folly.
a. The crown of the wise is their riches: Solomon was smart enough to know that riches can come in several ways. He knew that one of the ways riches came was through wisdom and hard work. When this is the case, those riches are like a crown of the wise, both evidence and reward of their wisdom.
b. The foolishness of fools is folly: For those who reject wisdom, the only crown they get is more folly. Their foolishness is multiplied.
A true witness delivers souls,
But a deceitful witness speaks lies.
a. A true witness delivers souls: This is true on an everyday life level, where truth brings light, blessing, and freedom. Where lies and false reports dominate, souls will be in darkness and bondage. This is also true on a spiritual or ministry level, where God will use the true witness of the preacher to rescue souls.
i. “A man who will trim the facts for you will trim them as easily against you; and a career or a life may hang on a word.” (Kidner)
b. A deceitful witness speaks lies: Those who spread such lies and false reports fail to do the good of a true witness and they practice the evil of their lies.
i. “This proverb appears to have legal proceedings in view. Honesty in court is not a mere fine point of law; people’s lives depend upon it.” (Garrett)
In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
a. In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence: One might think that fear always leads to a loss of confidence. But that isn’t how it works with the fear of the Lord. Our honor, reverence, and sense of awe towards Him moves us from self-confidence and towards strong confidence in God’s love and greatness.
b. His children will have a place of refuge: God always provides Himself as a refuge for His children (God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, Psalm 46:1).
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
a. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life: One might think that fear always leads to less life, not more. But that isn’t how it works with the fear of the Lord. Proper fear of the Lord is rooted in understanding who God is and who we are in relation to Him. That itself is like a fountain of life.
b. To turn one away from the snares of death: There are many additional benefits that come from a proper fear of the Lord, and one of those is to have a greater measure of God’s watchful care and protection.
In a multitude of people is a king’s honor,
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.
a. In a multitude of people is a king’s honor: Kings focus on the glory and strength useful and apparent in this world. With that focus, the more people the better. The greater the multitude of people, the greater is the king’s honor.
i. “A prince’s power varies with the size of his empire. This statement is generally true of empires; from a human viewpoint political power is based on the number of people in the party.” (Ross)
ii. Related to spiritual things and Christian ministry, the principle of this proverb shows the weakness of a worldly, humanistic view of ministry. It is of the carnal, worldly wisdom of kings to understand large crowds as the only real measure of success. We imagine that the Apostle Paul might rephrase this line: In a multitude of people is a king’s honor, but in love, faithfulness, and sacrificial service is an apostle’s honor. A multitude of people in ministry is never to be despised, but we should have a greater measure of success than that.
b. In the lack of people is the downfall of a prince: If there are no people to govern, there won’t be much governing. In the ancient world, rulers thought much about increasing the populations in their governed realm.
i. “The proverb, however, must be held in tension with the biblical teaching that large numbers are of little value with the Lord’s presence (e.g., Psalm 33:16-17).” (Waltke)
He who is slow to wrath has great understanding,
But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
a. He who is slow to wrath has great understanding: There is great wisdom in the ability to control one’s response to provoking situations. Being quickto wrath brings many regrets.
b. He who is impulsive exalts folly: The impulsive, uncontrolled person who quickly reacts without thinking lives in a way that exalts foolishness.
A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.
a. A sound heart is life to the body: If heart here meant the physical organ that beats in the chest, any medical doctor would agree. Yet Solomon had in mind heart as a metaphor for our innermost being. When we are sound on the inside, it brings health and life to the whole body.
b. Envy is rottenness to the bones: The presence of envy is presented as a contrast to a sound heart. Envy corrupts us from within and can poison many otherwise good things.
i. “The proverb teaches that to nurse a resentment is bad for body as well as soul: it is no sacrifice when we renounce it.” (Kidner)
He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
a. He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: To oppress the poor is to sin against them, but it is also to sin against and to insult God Himself. To oppress and despise the poor is to despise his Maker, the one in whose image all humanity was made.
b. He who honors Him has mercy on the needy: The one who honors and loves God will reflect God’s own mercy on the needy. A cold, mean heart towards the poor shows a lack of honor towards God.
i. “Verse 31 stands in the ancient Near Eastern tradition of warning rulers not to trample upon the rights of the poor; the king who ignores this advice will soon find himself without a nation.” (Garrett)
The wicked is banished in his wickedness,
But the righteous has a refuge in his death.
a. The wicked is banished in his wickedness: Godliness and wisdom are useful for many things, and one of their great benefits is the way that they make for good community. Yet the wicked will be banished, being of no benefit and of definite danger to the community.
b. The righteous has a refuge in his death: The righteous man or woman enjoys refuge in the community, but also even unto his death. God will demonstrate His care for the righteous.
i. The Old Testament in general and the Book of Proverbs in particular don’t have much specific information or confidence in the life to come. There are rare flashes of this confidence, and a refuge in his death is one of those. “Job and the Psalms show occasional glimpses, such as this, of what lies normally beyond their view.” (Kidner)
Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding,
But what is in the heart of fools is made known.
a. Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding: The idea is that wisdom finds a suitable home in the heart of those who have wisdom (understanding). It isn’t like a temporary visitor; it comes and rests in the heart.
i. “True wisdom sets its throne in the heart.” (Bridges)
b. What is in the heart of fools is made known: The wisdom of a wise man’s heart will be revealed; so will the folly of the fool’s heart. What we are is eventually evident in what we do.
Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
a. Righteousness exalts a nation: Because righteousness is to follow God’s will and God’s way, it will always exalt a person, a family, a neighborhood, a city, a state, or even a nation. This is both because of the natural consequences of righteousness and because of God’s active response of blessing.
i. Many things may, in human perspective, exalt a nation. Military might, economic prosperity, status among nations, cultural influence, and athletic victory may each make a nation seem exalted. Yet ultimately, none of those things match righteousness as a way a nation is truly exalted. One might say that the most patriotic thing a citizen might do is repent of their sin and then receive and pursue God’s righteousness in their life.
b. But sin is a reproach to any people: When a people reject righteousness and choose sin, it will bring reproach and insult upon them. We never gain through our rejection of God and our embrace of sin.
i. “No nation is so low as not to sink even lower under sin. The strongest nations are given an indelible blot if they are overcome by sin. What an enemy an ungodly man is to his country. He may talk eloquently about his patriotism, but even if God should elevate him in his work, he will only bring disgrace on his people.” (Bridges)
The king’s favor is toward a wise servant,
But his wrath is against him who causes shame.
a. The king’s favor is toward a wise servant: On a human level, there is nothing greater than the favor of those in places of power and prestige such as kings. Having that favor is one of the rewards of wisdom.
i. “What will the solemn day of reckoning bring to me? May I, may we all be found to be wise servants to the best of Kings.” (Bridges)
b. His wrath is against him who causes shame: Kings are allergic to shame. Their power and presence rests upon the image of success and majesty. Therefore, to cause shame is to gain the wrath of the kings of this world.
i. Causes shame: “Both to himself, by his foolish management of the king’s affairs committed to him; and to the king, who made so foolish a choice of a servant.” (Poole)
ii. “The saying is a bracing reminder not to blame luck or favouritism but one’s own shortcomings, for any lack of recognition. Moffatt gives the sense well: ‘The king favours an able minister; his anger is for the incompetent.’” (Kidner)
iii. We are forever grateful that the King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15 and Revelation 19:16) did not despise the shame of our sin, but bore it in Himself on the cross.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
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