Read Proverbs 19:1-12
The wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, those with integrity and those without are again contrasted in a better than format. You know by now which is better.
There are some crossover verses here as well, such as it is better to be poor and honest than rich and a liar. All things considered, most of us would prefer to be wealthy and honest, but if one must be sacrificed in our decision making, we are advised to give up the money before we give up integrity.
We also see this discussion with wealth and foolishness. Zeal without knowledge is a terrible combination. Today, we might say: “Haste makes waste.”
This wisdom offered in the words of today says if you proceed with a half baked plan in order to save time, be prepared to do the job twice.
Wealth, luxury, and resources in the hands of a fool are a total waste. The worker telling the boss how to do his job is completely backwards. These pieces of counsel are easily abused into meaning the ignorant don’t need any resources and we don’t need to listen to our workers. That’s not the message.
Empowering workers is a good thing. Developing leadership in a workforce is a good thing. Having a firebrand of discontent among your workers spoils the entire effort.
Likewise, putting resources in the hands of those who know how to use them produces results. Putting the same resources in the hands of those without knowledge and understanding just wastes the resources. Here are two examples, one old and one current.
In the Civil War, General McClellan,raised a huge army that was encamped near Washington, D.C. For that reason it was called the Army of the Potomac. It had many soldiers, was well equipped, and was quite a site. It had never lost a battle. The problem was that it had never won a battle either. It was just encamped. It just sat there.
Sometimes a large army just sitting there keeps the enemy from attacking and is a good deterrent to war, but the country was already at war and this war fighting resource was just sitting there. McClellan had to be relieved and replaced by a war figher.
Every year I meet with many people who have financial woes. They struggle to pay their bills and they end up in my office. Some say if they can just make it to their tax refund, then they will be ok. Sometimes we help with bills but so often a month after the tax refund has arrived, the same people are back in my office looking for help. They are now sporting a new vehicle with payments they can’t afford and have new phones that will soon have no service due to non-payment.
It is not that they didn’t get a healthy refund check, they did. It’s that resources were squandered.
If we were grouping proverbial things, we would want wisdom, leadership, and resources in one pile. That’s where we will see results.
In another pile put foolishness, discontent, and poverty for this grouping produces nothing but more of the same.
And these two groupings don’t mix well.
That doesn’t mean that we ignore people trapped in the second group. It means that our call is to lead them away from ignorance, irreverence, and poverty into wisdom, reverence, and abundance.
The proverbs proffer this dichotomy. In today’s terms you would no more mix in some ignorance with your resources than you would put rat poop in your chocolate chip cookies.
They don’t go together.
Then we come to the 11th verse in this pericope. It has a unique quality among many proverbs that focus so much on wisdom and wealth and integrity—all good things mind you; but this one is about being slow to anger and overlooking an offense.
It is about trusting God’s righteousness. It is about trusting God.
When we think of forgiveness, we think of the New Testament, but right here in the wisdom of the ancients is a harbinger of a forgiving spirit.
In fact, we are told that such forgiveness is counted to our glory. In today’s terms we would say, fruit to our credit for we want all that we do to bring glory to God.
In the early wisdom of God’s people is this enticement to be forgiving. We are called to be slow to anger. We know of similar counsel from the letter than James wrote to the Diaspora.
But it all comes back to trusting God. If there was a wrong done to us, we trust that God will deal with it as he sees fit. We don’t demand punishment, vengeance, or that mercy and grace be excluded from the options available for the transgressor.
We just trust that God will do exactly what needs to be done.
And this is not only fruit to our credit it is a huge burden lifted from our lives, for we can never reconcile what is just. Remember Lex Talionis, the law that we know by “an eye for an eye.” This law put limits on retaliation.
Why such a law?
The human heart never feels that enough vengeance was dealt out to account for the wrong done to us. Now each of us views justice from a very myopic vista that is blind to our own transgressions but magnifies those of others. It is as if we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
But in the wisdom of the ancients we see this foreshadowing of undeserved love. We see a call to forgive. We once again see this thread of grace even in the Old Testament.
Much of this proverb follows the better than model that we see in many proverbs, but it also contains this window to not only wisdom but grace.
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
Let us practice forgiveness as an act of obedience to God and as one of wisdom.
Let us forgive those who trespass against us.