1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline,
But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Discipline done by a loving father is always for the well-being of a child to teach him the danger of sin and the joy of obeying God. A wise son will respond humbly to the instruction and training, and he will love his father for being willing to discipline him when he does wrong and when he defies the instruction of the Lord. Our heavenly Father disciplines us as sons whom He loves, and wise parents will discipline their children also. Those who hate wisdom and love foolishness scoff when they are confronted with truth or correction. They despise righteousness and live only for themselves, and this will end badly for them.
2 From the fruit of a man’s mouth he enjoys good,
But the desire of the treacherous is violence.
Those who speak kind, encouraging words of wisdom and edification will see good accomplished as they bear fruit for the kingdom. It will bring joy to their hearts. They will be peacemakers, giving gentle answers even when being provoked by violence, treacherous people who like to see others harmed.
3 The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Wisdom is demonstrated by an ability to control what one says and when and to be able to be discrete when necessary. Not lashing out verbally or provoking others is smart because it will avoid putting ourselves in a position where people would want to harm us out of anger. Those who can’t keep secrets betray friends and maybe lose friends, and those who like to cast insults make many enemies. The wise person uses his mouth to encourage, heal, and promote peace.
4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
But the soul of the diligent is made fat.
Laziness keeps people from having food to feed their physical bodies, but it also leaves the soul empty. This is because there is joy in doing the work of God and in bringing joy to His heart by fruitful labor. There is a reward for those who bother to seek out the truth, for they will find eternal life in Christ (Hebrews 11:6). The spiritually lazy person doesn’t care about the truth, and he will suffer loss (Romans 6:23). Those who eagerly seek to know God will be blessed with every spiritual blessing and the promise of eternal life (Ephesians 1:3). Their souls will be satisfied, for they will have hungered and thirsted for righteousness. In Christ’s presence, they will find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
5 A righteous man hates falsehood,
But a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.
There is a clear dichotomy between the righteous and the wicked. There is a clear dividing line between what is good and what is evil. Wise people choose righteousness, and they tell the truth because they hate lies. Wicked people act foolishly, shamefully, and disgustingly because such is the nature of sin. Evil harms people and destroys the soul, the ultimate disgusting habit, especially in light of the holiness of God.
6 Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless,
But wickedness subverts the sinner.
Following the commands of God doesn’t mean no trials or travails will befall a believer, but it does mean that he will avoid a lot of the needless suffering and traps that those who love sin and violence create for themselves. Wickedness is not something that the wicked control, but their wickedness controls them. They are captives of the devil, and it will destroy them one way or the other eventually. The wages of sin is death.
7 There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing;
Another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.
Some people like to act like they are rich because they think that they need to do so in order to make people like them or to find satisfaction. The reality is that they have nothing. The sad reality is that even if they were poor, they could be rich spiritually through godliness and contentment which is great profit. Other people who have a lot of money prefer to act poor because they are afraid that people will only like them for their money, try to steal their money, or try to leech off of them, among other things. By giving in secret to the Lord and to those in need and living a quiet life (1 Timothy 2:2) without being overly lavish and materialistically indulgent, a person who has a lot of material wealth can avoid some of the deceitfulness of wealth (Matthew 13:22, Proverbs 30:7-9).
8 The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth,
But the poor hears no rebuke.
Building on verse 7, the poor don’t have to concern themselves with being taken for a ransom because they have no money to pay a ransom. There is nothing for someone else to steal or envy. The poor person has his own things that he can worry about, but ransom and threats from people concerning money is probably not going to be one of them.
9 The light of the righteous rejoices,
But the lamp of the wicked goes out.
The lamp of the wicked is short-lived because eternal punishment in hell will put out their arrogance and boasting with permanence. The righteous can rejoice, however, because the light that they have is the Light of Christ in their hearts, and He guarantees their future eternity in heaven. Thus, even if they suffer loss on earth, they can still rejoice because they can never lose their Savior or their promise of heaven. The wicked may prosper on earth, but God will settle all accounts so that justice will be served. The righteous will be rewarded.
10 Through insolence comes nothing but strife,
But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
Stubbornness to receive wise counsel from the Scripture is foolishness, and, since God’s commands are given for our good and for our protection, those who reject them can expect to miss out on many of God’s blessings. Sin creates division, partiality, death, and destruction, but those who listen to God’s Word and receive it in humility will enjoy the fruits of wisdom, peace, joy, and avoiding so much needless pain.
11 Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles,
But the one who gathers by labor increases it.
Some people commit fraud and make a lot of money dishonestly. This is, of course, wrong and against God’s command not to steal. None of this will benefit a person in eternity, and the wealth gained by dishonest means will rot the soul. Its benefits will dwindle until eternity swallows it whole. Those who earn a living by honest labor will find joy in their work, and they will please God as they do their work for Him, rather than for the approval of people (Colossians 3:23). Honest labor is the only way for wealth to increase simultaneously with joy and spiritual reward. Even on earth, where fraud sometimes goes without prosecution, fraudsters constantly have to look over their shoulders to make sure nobody has found them out or if their associates are going to backstab them. It makes the bounty gained by fraud of less and less actual value because of the fear and strife that it brings with it.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
It is difficult to wait for something good, but, when it finally arrives, it is well worth the wait (see also verse 19). For example, many young people don’t want to wait until marriage to consummate the marriage even though God says to do so. The waiting can feel agonizing to the heart, but, once the wait is ended, it makes the reward that much more wonderful. The same is true of heaven. It is difficult to long for the day when all pain and suffering will end when it means waiting, but we must continue to hope in heaven and labor faithfully. Then, when that day finally arrives, it will be so much better for we will have prepared our hearts for it.
13 The one who despises the word will be in debt to it,
But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.
The debt of our sin was nailed to the cross, and those who put their faith in Christ can be forgiven of their sin. God will hold man to account for his evil deeds, and only the shed blood of Christ can wipe out the penalty for sin. Those who believe in Christ and who follow Him in obedience and faith will be rewarded for their faithfulness.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn aside from the snares of death.
Those who know wisdom seek to share it with others so that they can be turned from their sin to life in Christ. Even believers need to keep hearing the truth of God’s Word, for they, too, can make sinful decisions which can cause them great harm. Wisdom always points to truth, to life, and to what is good and what pleases God. The greatest blessing will always come from obedience to God and wisdom.
15 Good understanding produces favor,
But the way of the treacherous is hard.
Jesus said that following Him is easy in that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). That doesn’t mean that it is easy to keep from sinning, but what is means is that His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Sin is what saps a person’s hope, joy, and vitality (Psalm 32:3-4), but doing the commands of God from faith brings new strength and renewed joy (Nehemiah 8:10). Continuing to sin and to self-justify, rationalize, and cover up evil is highly stressful and dangerous. That is a hard way to live. But doing things God’s way brings life and healing to relationships, hope in eternity, and a purpose for this life. It leads to others being blessed by our lives as well, but the favor of God is the blessing we should seek above all else. In His favor is great blessing and life to the full (John 10:10).
16 Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool displays folly.
The wisdom of the wise will be evident by how they act and by what they speak. It will be evident that they have understanding and insight that most lack because they know the Word. The world may reject that wisdom, preferring their own wisdom which is actually foolishness. In so doing, they prove themselves to be fools before those who have eyes to see. The world has many things that they hold to as being truth and wisdom, but they are false and without knowledge. God’s wisdom is for His people, for in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). By our fruits, whether those of wisdom or of folly, we will be known (Matthew 7:20).
17 A wicked messenger falls into adversity,
But a faithful envoy brings healing.
A messenger is somebody that others have to put their trust in. If he is wicked and doesn’t give the message that he was supposed to give, many will be harmed. Those whom he betrayed will seek to destroy him, and those who benefitted from his treachery and betrayal won’t have any reason to trust him either. Either way, an untrustworthy messenger is a person who is in great danger. Those who prove themselves faithful to do what they were asked to do and to say what they were asked to say are a great blessing to those who depend upon them. Their lives are a benefit and encouragement to those who trusted them.
18 Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline,
But he who regards reproof will be honored.
Those who are lazy and who lack diligence because they have no reverence for God and thus no self-control will suffer loss, whether financial, relational, or a wide variety of ways. These refuse to be trained by the wisdom of others because they love their evil ways more. But those who listen to the training of God and the reproof of His Word will be blessed. God will honor those who honor Him.
19 Desire realized is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to turn away from evil.
Fools cannot handle turning away from evil and waiting upon God for provision, protection, and blessing. They would rather take shortcuts, lie, and deceive than do things God’s way. They have no patience for the plan of God, and thus they are willing to settle for less than His best. But those who are willing to wait upon God and do things His way will find in Him what they really wanted (Psalm 37:4, Ephesians 3:20), and He will give them the desires of their hearts. He will do beyond what they could ask or imagine because He is faithful, and He leaves a legacy of goodness and mercy in the lives of His children (Psalm 23:6). When we realize that God is our chief desire and delight, we will find sweetness in our souls. When we trust God for His good and perfect gifts (James 1:17) rather than take sinful shortcuts or half-measures, we will find that our cup overflows with joy.
20 He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33), for being around fools leads to foolishness multiplying, which never ends well. But being around those who love God and His wisdom will find that to be contagious if they are humble enough to be taught by it.
21 Adversity pursues sinners,
But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.
Those who make dumb and foolish choices will find that they create needless strife and adversity for themselves. Those who love righteousness and walk in it will find spiritual prosperity, and, by avoiding needless pitfalls, God will supply their needs as they seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:19). (see also Proverbs 22:5)
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
Not everybody will have the world’s goods to be able to pass on to their children, but those who are able demonstrate wisdom and kindness to pass that wealth on to their children and grandchildren. But what is more important than financial resources is passing on the wisdom of God. The joy in giving children financial resources will be hard to come by if money is going to fools. Thus, wisdom is more valuable of an inheritance to pass on because its worth is far more than gold, silver, or precious jewels. Passing on some resources to offspring who love wisdom is simply a means of putting an opportunity for good and generosity into the hands of those who will steward it wisely. It is a chance to propagate wisdom and generosity. The most important reward is not money but eternal, and those who invest their talents wisely will receive honor from Christ in heaven. The wicked who do not bear fruit and earn a return on the Master’s investment will give what they had been entrusted with to those with many rewards already (Matthew 25:28). Even on earth, God delights in giving more opportunities to those who have been faithful with what they have been given already so that they can be faithful with more. Their opportunity for more spiritual gain may come at the expense or loss of one who loves evil and sin.
23 Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
But it is swept away by injustice.
A just thing to do would be to give the poor a chance to work the fields that are lying fallow for no good reason. Then, they can provide an income for their families, and they can provide a return on the investment of those who in justice have provided the funds to begin farming. But injustice scorns the poor and lets opportunities for mutual benefit go wasting. In evil people’s love for selfish gain and lack of love for those in need, they can often be blinded by the benefits of helping others.
24 He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
Just as God disciplines those sons whom He loves, so, too, an earthly father disciplines his children when they do wrong and rebel against the commands of God. They must learn that His commands are not burdensome, but they are for their good and well-being. Thus, discipline demonstrates love, and it needs to be done fairly, without wrath, consistently, and diligently. It is the parent and child fighting sin together with understanding, gentleness, and explanation, not a parent lashing out at a child. That is not discipline but abusive anger.
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
But the stomach of the wicked is in need.
God provides for His children physically (Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 8:14), but He is most concerned that we are satisfied with righteousness. The wicked hunger for increasing evil and the latest fix or temporary satiation. Their appetite is never satisfied because feasting on evil never can satisfy. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, which is characteristic of the righteous, does provide satisfaction rather than passing satiation. Wickedness can lead to poverty and hunger, but righteousness is a blessing to all.