1 A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight.
God hates dishonest weights and measures because He hates when people steal from others and conduct business in a dishonest fashion. Honest, justice, fairness, and integrity are what pleases him. Trying to get ahead financially by cheating cannot bring God’s blessing which is free from sorrow, fear, and grief. God sees all, and He will render to each according to His deeds.
2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom.
The Lord must bring low the proud and arrogant, but He promises to honor those who honor Him. Those who humble themselves under His mighty hand, not relying in their own strength but in His power, will be exalted in due time. God is faithful, and in eternity the scales of justice will recognize the faithfulness of those who love wisdom. The person who is humble and contrite of heart and who trembles at God’s Word, God will look to bless (Isaiah 66:2).
3 The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
The Holy Spirit in the heart of the righteous works to lead the people of God in the way of integrity (Romans 8:14). The righteous are sensitive to their conscience, and they listen to God teaching them right from wrong. By faith, they turn away from evil, and they let God guide them according to His wisdom and according to what is good. The will of God is our sanctification, and those who are upright in heart pursue that route by faith and are guided by the Spirit into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit works relentlessly and tirelessly to sanctify our hearts and minds to more fully align with the will of God. He will always keep working to lead us into all truth according to the Scripture. On the other hand, the wicked are destroyed by their own lies, deception, and trickery. Continuing to do evil defiles and desensitizes the conscience and hardens people against God. They will pay in eternity for their evil deeds.
4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The point is that those who pursue riches at all costs and do evil to get wealth will recognize that it accounts for nothing because it won’t buy their way out of hell. It is salvation by grace through faith in Christ that brings holiness to a heart and that delivers from the second death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed.
Wisdom is a guide for life and continuing to strive to do what is good takes a lot of needless pain and strife out of the course of life. God’s commands are not burdensome, but the burden of sin is. Jesus’ yoke is light and burden easy, for He wants us to cast our cares upon Him. He makes our paths straight (Proverbs 3:6), and He preserves the way of His godly ones (Proverbs 2:8). The wicked, on the other hand, will be brought down by their own evil, probably in life and certainly in death. Even getting away with evil in the short term might be a shot in the arm of pleasure to them, but it brings decay to the inner person day after day. In Christ, we can be renewed inwardly day after day (2 Corinthians 4:16). One way or the other, the wicked will be held to account, and greed always destroys.
7 When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish,
And the hope of strong men perishes.
The wicked have sacrificed their souls for sinful pleasure now, and all that they may have thought that they had gained will be lost at the point of death. The wicked have no hope of heaven, and, even if they erroneously have hope of something good after they die, they will be gravely disappointed. Even those who boasted in their strength, money, and accomplishments in life will have nothing real to hope in. The wicked have mortgaged their eternal future for a few sinful years now. They will pay.
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
But the wicked takes his place.
9 With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
God does allow the righteous to suffer, but when He does, it is always for a purpose. What we know is that there is countless trouble that He protects us from (Psalm 28:7), but the wicked have no such divine protection. More importantly, with a focus on the afterlife, the wicked have eternal trouble awaiting them, whereas the righteous are delivered from death and hell. Even in life, despite the slander and false testimony of evil people, truth vindicates the righteous. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:19b when He was falsely accused, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Those who desire wisdom will find it and be able to sort the truth from the lies.
10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.
11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.
In general, people appreciate and value honest, generous, kind-hearted people. When a good person dies, people genuinely miss such a person. But when people who exploit others or rule by cruel force die, there is general rejoicing. Even those who don’t recognize or love wisdom benefit by the lives of the upright because honesty doesn’t steal from them and because love is always others-focused. The wicked lie, steal, and take advantage of others, and an entire city or nation can suffer at the hands of dishonest leadership.
12 He who despises his neighbor lacks sense,
But a man of understanding keeps silent.
Wicked people like to pick a fight and make fun of others. This stems from a lack of love and concern for others in their hearts. The believer should stand in stark contrast because he should love his neighbor and look out for the interests of others even more than his own (Philippians 2:3-4). His love should be a defining mark that He knows Christ (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7-8). Thus, in demonstration of the wisdom residing in his heart, he refuses to mock, deride, lie to, or speak ill of his neighbor.
13 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.
When others tell us something in confidence, they deserve our faithfulness to keep their secret (barring, of course, that there isn’t some imminent threat to a person, for example). A talebearer is one who needs to learn to keep his mouth shut. His blabbering of others secrets loses their trust and makes having a relationship of any depth or value impossible. Trust is a critical part of the foundation of friendship.
14 Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
It is the naïve and untaught who are prone to suffer the most because they lack wisdom and wise counselors and teachers to give them guidance. Whole churches and groups of people can be led astray by poor teaching or the lack of good teaching. But when truth is multiplied amongst God’s people because of a plurality of godly counselors and teachers, the body can be strengthened and protected from deception. Even outside of the church walls, we need to be careful who we listen to as our counselors, for even if we have a lot of them, they could all be wrong if we are listening to the wrong people. Thus, an abundance of counselors who speak wisdom because they fear God and value Scripture is the goal. Rehoboam had several friends that gave him advice, but the advice was terrible (1 Kings 12:8). Moses heard wisdom but from one man, his father-in-law, Jethro, and it was helpful (Exodus 18:17). The Scripture is sufficient, and it is enough to equip the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and to know wisdom and understanding. Counsel must always be weighed against the truth of God’s Word. “I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99)
15 He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it,
But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.
Solomon reiterates a point he made in Proverbs 6:1-5 concerning ridding oneself of being a financial guarantor for a stranger or neighbor. There is security in not allowing the whims or misfortunes of another to rid an honest, hard-working person of all of his hard-earned wealth due to mutualized debt accountability. There is a place for giving another a gift or a loan, but putting all of one’s assets on the line for another is a risk not worth taking.
16 A gracious woman attains honor,
And ruthless men attain riches.
17 The merciful man does himself good,
But the cruel man does himself harm.
Gracious women tend to be well-respected in the world, and it is good to be gracious. Among men, it is the cruel, cutthroat, and ruthless ones who seem to make it to the top. They even tend to garner respect, if even through fear. This is a warped reality, but it is nonetheless a true observation. Solomon is quick to point out that men should be merciful just as women should be, and cruelty does both others and oneself harm. Cruelty is the opposite of love, and it is indicative of a soul that needs redemption.
18 The wicked earns deceptive wages,
But he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.
19 He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life,
And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.
It might seem like the wicked are prospering as cruelty and violence can be used to get ahead on earth. However, these are “deceptive wages”, for the wages of sin is death. And death and wrath awaits the wicked. The righteous, even if they are poor on earth, will have a great reward in the coming life. The fact remains that those who are righteous by faith will inherit eternal life, and the wicked will be sentenced to eternal pain and destruction in hell.
20 The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their walk are His delight.
21 Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished,
But the descendants of the righteous will be delivered.
God delights in the righteous, and He is honored by our obedience before Him. This is our praise to Him, and it brings Him glory. The evil are a stinky aroma to His nostrils, and they store up His wrath and punishment. God doesn’t view evil as innocent mistakes but as an abomination that will not go unpunished. The righteous and those who believe in God through their testimony will be delivered from death into eternal life.
22 As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout
So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.
There is nothing wrong with being externally beautiful. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel in the Old Testament were described as being physically beautiful, for example. Gold is also beautiful, but, when fashioned into a ring and put in the snout of a pig, it’s beauty becomes discounted, perverted, and covered in filth. There is something just wrong and repulsive about putting a valuable and beautiful gold ring in pig snot, mud, and grime. A beautiful woman who takes the beauty that God has fashioned her with and acts promiscuously and without discretion is doing to herself what the pig does to that ring. It is taking something that could be so astounding and a great treasure for a husband and making it undesirable and used. Of course, God is able to cleanse the soul with mercy and forgiveness, but why play around with fire? Taking the principle of Proverbs 6:27 and applying it in reverse for the seductress/adulteress, “Can a [woman] take fire in [her] bosom And [her] clothes not be burned?” The goal of a young man who desires to be married should be to find a woman who is beautiful in his eyes and who praises the Lord with her life. As Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
23 The desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
When we are saved by Christ, we are given new hearts, indwelt by the Spirit, and regenerated into a new creation in Christ. We are controlled by His love (2 Corinthians 5:14). We still stumble and we battle the flesh daily, but the Lord changes our desires toward only what is good (Psalm 37:4). We just have to learn to trust Him as He sets us free from what we thought were our desires. He will free us from our deception and give us His desires as the desires of our hearts. The more we delight in Him, the more our desires will align with His. But the key is that our new heart is capable of this. It doesn’t have to be forever bound to the depraved nature it was once characterized by. A depraved heart wouldn’t even be able to look forward to heaven, but in Christ it can now desire what is good. A righteous heart doesn’t rejoice in evil but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). It abhors evil and clings to what is good (Romans 12:9). It loves others, thinks on what is good, right, and pure (Philippians 4:8), and wants what is best for others. It stands in stark contrast to the heart of the wicked which always desires evil and is constantly incurring more divine wrath (Jeremiah 17:9). Given the promise of heaven which we are to set our hope completely upon, we have a very good desire to look forward to. The wicked have no such hope.
24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.
25 The generous man will be prosperous,
And he who waters will himself be watered.
26 He who withholds grain, the people will curse him,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
2 Corinthians 9:6, 11 says, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” The idea is that as God gives ability, we should be generous in terms of giving to the kingdom, both financially and with our time and energy. The more seeds we plant, by God’s grace, the more we will see a harvest of souls. God loves a cheerful giver. We are not supposed to be foolish and impoverish ourselves, but we are to be generous where we can be generous. There is no point in dying with a bank vault full of cash or with a gospel that we never shared. God will honor us and remember us for our generosity. Some people try to steal and skim from what should belong to others. This does not earn them the favor of others, and it definitely does not please God. But there is blessing on those who don’t keep back what they don’t need and who make sure that others can benefit from it. Those who are kind and generous toward others will find that others will be more likely to be generous with them than if they were stingy and greedy in their time of need.
27 He who diligently seeks good seeks favor,
But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
A person who diligently seeks good is one who desires God’s blessing. But those who seek after evil will find it and be destroyed by it.
28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.
There is nothing wrong with having riches, but there is wrong in holding back from those in need when a person is in a position to help. There is also wrong in trusting in money for protection or happiness when God alone is to be trusted for life, joy, and peace. Money doesn’t go to heaven, and it can’t buy a person’s way out of hell. But it can be used for a lot of good while on earth. The righteous, whether they have a lot of the world’s means or not, will have all that they need and more given the spiritual riches that they have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Godliness with contentment is not just a net neutral, but it is great gain. Like a tree that is healthy, mature, growing, and green thanks to ample sun and water, so too will the righteous be (Psalm 1:3).
29 He who troubles his own house will inherit wind,
And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.
It is not God-honoring or indicative of a redeemed heart for a person to cause trouble to those in his own house, especially his wife and children. A person should look after his family like a shepherd, seeking to meet needs and demonstrating the grace and generosity of God. God does not hold back with us, nor is He stingy, cruel or unjust. An earthly father should imitate that attitude of our heavenly Father. Inheriting heaven, which the righteous will, is much better than inheriting nothing, which the cruel, selfish, and corrupt will. A Biblical theme in the gospels is that the last will be first, and the first will be last (Mark 10:31). The idea is that those who wisely made themselves the servant of all will be great in heaven (Mark 9:35), and those who sought to get power and control no matter the method on earth will pay their dues in eternity.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.
The tree of life is the Biblical symbol of eternal life in Genesis 3 and in Revelation 22. The lives of the righteous should be a tree of life to others as they live out and preach the gospel to others. Thus, they bear fruit leading to eternal life for those who receive Christ as a result of their testimony. They reason with people concerning Christ and eternity so that souls can be won to Christ.
31 If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth,
How much more the wicked and the sinner!
Righteousness doesn’t always go recognized and rewarded on the earth. Sometimes it brings ridicule and persecution, and wickedness is exalted. But insomuch as righteousness is valued on earth (and it will certainly be rewarded in heaven), how much more will evil people pay for their evil! Even on earth, people long to see murderers, oppressors, and tyrants executed, but how much more to be feared is the eternal lake of fire and the second death! The wicked may gain fame and fortune while on earth, but that will be the extent of their reward. Eternal punishment is a far more significant “reward” than all of the vain glories of the world combined.