1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.
God disciplines those sons Whom He loves not because He is cruel or vindictive but because He desires to teach us and train us in righteousness (Hebrews 12:9-10). Those who appreciate God’s discipline love knowledge. Children should appreciate the discipline of their parents because it teaches them right from wrong and how to have life to the full. It would be stupid to hate kind and faithful correction and those who lovingly do the correcting and teaching. Reproof is a protection, and it reaps a future blessing. To spurn, reject, or hate it is just plain stupid.
2 A good man will obtain favor from the Lord,
But He will condemn a man who devises evil.
3 A man will not be established by wickedness,
But the root of the righteous will not be moved.
The Lord loves His own, and God’s favor rests with the righteous. He delights in their obedience, and they will be rewarded for it. Those who do evil stand condemned before God because He is holy and must punish sin. Man needs to be connected to His Creator, but sin separates man from God. The righteous have Christ in their hearts, and their lives are built upon the foundation of His salvation. The wicked have no such foundation, for their lives have been foolishly built upon the sand rather than upon the Rock of Christ (Matthew 7:26). Thus, their destruction will come, but the righteous will be saved.
4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
The character qualities of the excellent wife are described at length in Proverbs 31, and such a woman is a priceless and rare find. She is like a crown to her husband because the fact that she loves him and is committed to him is such a glory, a prize, an honor, and a blessing. But a wife who shames her husband by disrespecting him, mocking him, cheating on him, and just plain simply failing to love him brings deep pain and agony to his soul. A good and godly wife can do so much good for her husband, but it is equally true that a shameful wife can do great harm and pain to him.
5 The thoughts of the righteous are just,
But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
The righteous think about what is good, right, pure, noble, and of good repute, and this will lead them to speak according to what is in their hearts and minds. The wicked can’t even speak honestly and helpfully when they get together, because the summation of foolishness is just more foolishness. As they deceive their hearers and deceive one another, how can anything truly productive get accomplished?
6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.
7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
But the house of the righteous will stand.
The wicked are interested not in the well-being of others and definitely not in caring about others’ interests ahead of their own. They lie in wait for blood to ambush the unwitting person physically and/or verbally. They love violence, and their words and evil deeds will come back to judge them. The righteous prove that they are new in Christ by words that are edifying and indicative of new life in Christ. They will be delivered in the day of judgment because Christ lives in their hearts.
8 A man will be praised according to his insight,
But one of perverse mind will be despised.
Insomuch as people have eyes to see and ears to hear, people appreciate someone with insight to help them, but they hate people who are out to get them and take advantage of them.
9 Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant
Than he who honors himself and lacks bread.
It is okay to be ridiculed when one knows that he is doing the right thing before God, for it is actually a blessing of God to be persecuted for the sake of Christ. It doesn’t matter what people say or think if we know that we are successful according to the standards of God. It is foolish, however, to brag about who one is and what one has when one is living a lie and accomplishing nothing of eternal value. Giving oneself approval is meaningless, and the approval of man is deceitful and passing. But the approval of God is what matters, what lasts, and what we should seek.
10 A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal,
But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.
In Genesis 1:28, the Lord put man in charge over the created order to care for it and be responsible. We are to be wise stewards of the created world, doing our part to look after what God has made. Wicked people have no compassion for animals or other parts of creation, and they treat them abusively and with cruelty, delighting in their violence and the suffering of the creatures. But a righteous man cares for the life of his animal and does his part to give it what it needs to be well. But the wicked doesn’t know such compassion, only cruelty. They couldn’t even be truly compassionate if they tried.
11 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.
Those who labor to grow crops will have food to eat when harvest comes, but those who waste their lives on worthless things will struggle to make ends meet. Beyond just the physical aspect of these principles is a spiritual one as well. Those who sow spiritually will also reap spiritually, for we will store up eternal rewards as a result of our faithful labor. Those who care not for eternity and who spurn the weight of glory will not bother to fear God and keep His commandments, and they will suffer for it (Galatians 6:7-8).
12 The wicked man desires the booty of evil men,
But the root of the righteous yields fruit.
Wicked people enjoy what wicked people value, and they are not bothered if their goods were gained through theft or other evil means. The righteous, on the other hand, refuse to take part in sharing in possessions gained by evil means and violence. They don’t need such things, for they have God’s provisions in their lives as a result of His faithfulness. As they obey Him by faith, they will have much spiritual fruit that will amount to great spiritual rewards. The righteous view these eternal prizes as far greater and more valuable than the short-lived and ill-gotten booty of evil men.
13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
But the righteous will escape from trouble.
Evil people don’t guard their speech, and they will be ensnared by their words. Some get caught in lies, others condemn themselves, and others mistakenly reveal hidden and deceptive motives. Their souls will be condemned, and their words will be just one reason why. The righteous, on the other hand, will avoid the entrapments of sin by speaking truth, speaking graciously, and speaking of what is good and pure. God will save the soul of the righteous from the trouble of eternal fire because of his faith in Christ leading to obedience, part of which is speech that is honorable to God and edifying to others.
14 A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words,
And the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.
It is a joy to be able to speak the wisdom of God and actually see somebody benefit from hearing what we have said by the grace of God. There is great satisfaction in propagating wisdom and the gospel and seeing people edified and encouraged. We can only reap according to how we sow and how we water. God will give the growth, but our faithfulness and our rewards require that we participate and do some planting and watering. That way, when some seeds grow and some plants begin to produce fruit of their own, we can rejoice that God was faithful to be able to use us in His service. Bringing God joy and glory and seeing others glory and have joy in Him is a great measure of satisfaction to the righteous person.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
It is easy to think we are right if we don’t compare our beliefs to the authority of Scripture. A fool just goes along in his own folly not bothering to think through what he thinks and believes in light of what Scripture has already said. Even fools can think they are wise if they don’t value the wisdom contained in the Scripture. The wisdom of God is viewed as foolishness by the world (1 Corinthians 3:19). When confronted with the truth of Scripture, a fool will disregard it and put more confidence in his own faulty conclusions. A wise man, when confronted with counsel consistent with God’s Word, will listen and humbly submit to the truth.
16 A fool’s anger is known at once,
But a prudent man conceals dishonor.
A fool lashes out when facing apparent dishonor, and he is ready to fight at the smallest provocation. A wise man is able to swallow his pride and recognize that a gentle answer turns away wrath. There is a time to stand up to defend himself or his own, but most of the time all that is required is to just forgive in his heart and effectively forget the wrong he has just suffered.
17 He who speaks truth tells what is right,
But a false witness, deceit.
Those who speak the truth do right before God, portraying things as they are and in a manner consistent with the truth of God’s Word. Those who bear false witness are liars, distorting reality and leading people astray. This is clearly wrong and can put the innocent in harm’s way.
18 There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Some use their speech to tear people down as with thrusts of a sword, but our speech should be wholesome and for the edification of others (Ephesians 4:29). The sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God, cuts to teach and build up (Hebrews 4:12), but evil speech delights in provoking anger and discouraging others. Those who speak from wisdom do so in a way that is seasoned with salt so as to bring grace to the hearers (Colossians 4:6), accomplishing restoration, renewal, revival, and regeneration.
19 Truthful lips will be established forever,
But a lying tongue is only for a moment.
Those who practice the truth find the Light of Christ, and those who speak truth and love truth as a way of life demonstrate the reality of their faith. Those who lie and never seek God’s forgiveness will suffer the wrath of God. Life is but a vapor, here and then gone, and spending it lying is an absolute waste.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
But counselors of peace have joy.
Those who devise evil plans do so from hearts that love to deceive others for their own person gain or to see others suffer. Their hearts enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, and thus they sin by deceiving others. A godly counselor has joy in his heart in that he knows that what he says will bring healing, life, and blessing to those who heed sound wisdom.
21 No harm befalls the righteous,
But the wicked are filled with trouble.
In this life we will have trouble (John 16:33), for Satan tempts, God allows trials (James 1:2-4), evil people are everywhere, and the earth is cursed and fallen. Even those who love God and have been redeemed by Christ will suffer and be persecuted for their faith (2 Timothy 3:12). But there is a difference between the trials of life, which we should take joy in because of how they produce in us godly character, and creating unneeded difficulty for ourselves. A lot of trouble and harm on this earth can be avoided by making wise decisions, not associating with the wrong people, and by living a quiet, peaceable life. The wicked may prosper for a time on earth, but their eternal destruction is sure. Even on earth, they must constantly look over their shoulder to see if they are about to get backstabbed, caught, or suffer harm. Wisdom protects those who love it by avoiding a lot of unnecessary snares and needless suffering. The foolish and the wicked, on the other hand, run to trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
But those who deal faithfully are His delight.
One of the ten commandments is that we ought not to bear false witness because God hates lies, for lies stem from the father of lies, Satan himself. He hates deceit and seeing people taken advantage of or betrayed. Those who honor friendships and agreements by dealing faithfully and truthfully honor God. Our world is full of those who are professional liars and who have great skill at skirting the whole truth. They pick their words carefully to sound honest while covering the truth up. This is not right, and it angers God.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
But the heart of fools proclaims folly.
The heart of a wise man is filed with knowledge and understanding. He knows when to share that understanding with others, and he knows when not to because he would be throwing pearls before swine who would only turn and try to tear him to pieces (Matthew 7:6). Jesus kept silent before Pilate because there wasn’t anything else worth saying that would make any difference (Matthew 27:14). There is a time to preach to a person, and there is a time to focus our efforts elsewhere. Foolishness is in the heart of a fool, and he blabbers it so that others who know wisdom will know he is foolish. Other foolish people may think he is wise, for fools do delight in their folly and the erroneous wisdom of man. Even the choices that a foolish person makes reveals his lack of wisdom even if he tries to keep his mouth shut. What is in the heart ultimate comes out and reveals the true state of a person.
24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
But the slack hand will be put to forced labor.
It is unusual for lazy people to end up in positions of great responsibility. Typically, those who work really hard and devote themselves to a cause rise up the ranks. Those who don’t apply themselves and don’t reward those who employ them will end up doing the jobs nobody else really wants to do. Diligence is a value even the world recognizes. Sadly, too often they like those who are diligent and deceitful, a dangerous combination.
25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,
But a good word makes it glad.
The Lord tells us that worrying and being anxious is worthless and accomplishes nothing (Luke 12:25, Philippians 4:6). He wants us to just focus on seeking the priorities of the kingdom (Matthew 6:33), and He says that He will take care of the rest. In life, there is so much to worry about, but ultimately our freedom comes in remembering and acknowledging that we are not in control and that God is. He is good and faithful, and being reminded of that is a very good word indeed. As we recall to mind the truths of God’s Word, the mercies of God, and the wisdom of God, we can be set free from anxiety and have joy in our hearts. There is great peace and joy in believing the promises of God and acting upon them in faith.
26 The righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
But the way of the wicked leads them astray.
A godly testimony is the result of a righteous heart and life. Even believers are imperfect, but there should be clear evidence of ongoing sanctification and love. Our good works shine the Light of Christ to those around us (Matthew 5:16) because a godly life points to Christ because of the inherent miracle that it is (Hebrews 12:14). Wicked people draw on the wickedness of others and lead them astray. Whether our neighbors like the light we shine or not, we need to shine it so that the darkness can be exposed by the Light. The darkness may not comprehend what the Light reveals, but the gospel is powerful to change lives and open people’s hearts to the truth (Romans 1:16).
27 A lazy man does not roast his prey,
But the precious possession of a man is diligence.
A person who is lazy doesn’t have food because he hasn’t caught it or had the wherewithal to cook it if he did catch it. He can expect to go hungry. The opposite of laziness is diligence. Diligence is a valued character trait because God values faithful, honest labor in matters of everyday life and in matters of the kingdom. Diligence is a stark contrast to the lazy heart, for it demonstrates a valuing of eternity, the weight of glory, and the reality that God will hold us accountable for how we use the time and opportunities He gives us. Diligence itself doesn’t save or sanctify anybody, but when it is combined with wisdom, it is something we all should seek.
28 In the way of righteousness is life,
And in its pathway there is no death.
Those who have the fruit of righteousness in their lives reveal themselves as having been transformed by the gospel of Christ. These have the promise of eternal life, for they know Christ. Their physical bodies will one day die, but Christ will raise their souls alive to be with Him forever. In Christ, death has no victory or sting (1 Corinthians 15:55), but it is merely the time when the perishable is traded for the imperishable new resurrection body that has as its inheritance heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42).