Our reading today begins in Proverbs 22. The first half of the chapter are more wisdom one-liners. 22:1 tells us that our reputation is worth more than earthly riches. Verse 2 speaks of the fact that the reason we do not show partiality based on someone’s possessions (see Jas 2:1-13) is because all are made by God. This is pointing to the inherent dignity of being created in His image (see Gen 1:26-27). The reward of riches in verse 4 are not earthly riches, but heavenly. Verse 6 is another verse that is often quoted as an unconditional promise. However, it is a general principle. Wisdom dictates that we train a child (by word and example) to walk the straight and narrow path of fear of the Lord and obedience.
Verse 7 spells out the unfortunate truth of life in this world: money talks. Verse 9 speaks of the blessing of a “good eye.” This is talking about keeping our eye on heavenly things. If our treasure is in heaven, we will share our earthly goods. Verse 10 speaks again of the company we keep. Situations do not result in strife, abuse, and fighting; how people react to those situations determine the results. Avoid foolish people who react in foolish ways, and the strife, abuse, and fighting go with them. Verse 13 speaks of how we can all make excuses for not doing what ought to be done. But there are no excuses. Verse 14 speaks of God’s sovereignty. Sin does not just anger God, it results in Him leaving us to our own devices and us falling into further sin as punishment (see Rom 1:24-25).
Verses 17-21 speak of seeking wisdom and the blessings that result. Note that wisdom leads us to trust in the Lord (v. 19 – see 3:5). Verses 22-23 speak of God’s heart for the poor and afflicted. Throughout the Old Testament, God commands that the downtrodden be taken care of. This is also why Christ came (see Luke 4:18-19). This is why we are here (Jas 1:27). Verses 24-25 speak again of the company we keep. Verse 28 speaks of fair dealings. Moving the ancient landmark is moving your property line dishonestly to gain more land (see also 23:10)
Chapter 23 begins with a harsh warning against coveting earthly treasures (23:1-5). It would be better to die than to covet these things (v. 2). Earthly riches are deceptive (v. 3), because they are so very temporary (v. 5). We should not work just to acquire more earthly goods; they are not an end in themselves (v. 4). Verses 6-8 warn us against taking from falsely generous people. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7), so we should not take from one who gives reluctantly. Verses 10-11 warn against taking advantage of the disadvantaged, because God is on their side.
Verses 13-14 go with 22:6. Do not be afraid (or feel badly) to discipline your child. His temporary punishment may save him from eternal punishment! Verses 17-18 speak of that foolish envy (see 24:1-2). It is contrasted with fear of the Lord. Remember, the righteous (wise) and the wicked (foolish) each have their sure end (v. 18). Verses 20-21 speaks against the excesses of food and drink. Verses 22-25 tell us that seeking Godly wisdom is how we please Godly parents.
Verses 29-35 speak against drunkenness in particular. It has severe negative physical effects (v. 29). It may be enticing (v. 31) but it will end in pain (v. 32). Drunkenness makes you lose control (v. 33-34). It will make you think much more highly of yourself than you ought (ever heard the expression “beer muscles”? – v. 35).
Chapter 24 begins with a warning against envying the wicked (24:1-2). In verses 3-6, we see that many things that we believe result from skill, effort, and strength really result from wisdom. In verses 8-9, we see that the plans of the fool’s heart are sin (see 21:2). Verse 10 reminds again of the testing (purifying) of our righteousness in this life. When under trial, wisdom or foolishness will reveal itself. Verses 11-12 tell us we have no excuse for not helping those in need. We cannot plead ignorance. And those in need, include those who need to see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (see Matt 5:16).
Verses 13-14 tells us that wisdom is sweet to the wise, and those who seek it have a sure end. Verses 17-18 tell us not to rejoice in the failings of even the wicked. Verses 19-20 point us again to the heavenly. If our treasure is in heaven, we should not worry about whether or not the wicked prosper in this life. It is the eternal that matters.