The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.
A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30), and she is one, whether married with children or not, who advances the kingdom and orders her life according to what pleases God. Christ is the only foundation worth building on. The foolish not only attempt to build their lives on sand, but they also by their sin and poor decisions destroy themselves. In regard to those women who are married with children, a woman who fears God will respect her husband, work hard, do her best to not let career overtake her responsibility to love and care for her children, and be a spiritual glue that holds a home together in reverence for Christ. She will pass on truths of righteousness, gems of wisdom, and be an example of love and devotion. A foolish woman spurns her husband, invites immorality, and regards her children as a burden and a nuisance rather than as a gift of God.
2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.
The fear of God leads to wise choices and following the commands of God. Those who do not fear God won’t be motivated to turn from sin by faith and obey God. Obedience before God is evidence of true heart change and indicative of the presence of wisdom. Those who trick people, lie, and find any way possible to sin prove that they lack wisdom in their hearts because their hearts are full of hate toward God. Wise people love God, and foolish people hate Him.
3 In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back,
But the lips of the wise will protect them.
Foolish people say dumb things, and it gets them into trouble. Wise people control the words of their mouths so that they don’t say things that they will regret.
4 Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.
There is no honor before the Lord in being a servant who goes and buries the talents God has entrusted him with. God doesn’t merely want His initial investment back, for that takes no faith. Since faith is what pleases God, we must bear fruit and give Him a return on His investment. This is difficult, it is not always neat and pretty, and there will be struggles and trouble along the way. A barn might stay nice and clean if there aren’t any oxen in it, but oxen are needed despite their messes to generate profit and plow fields. There is no profit in an empty barn, even if it is spotless and sparkly clean. We must understand that we are to be workers, we must be willing to spiritually sweat, and we need to bear fruit by faith.
5 A trustworthy witness will not lie,
But a false witness utters lies.
Those who are trustworthy do not change their story as a witness or cover up the truth. They will speak the truth and protect the innocent life so that justice can be served.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none,
But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.
A person who lacks faith and the humility to actually want to know the truth can read and study all they want and yet never come to the truth. But those who humble themselves before God and seek His wisdom will find it. Those who practice the truth will come to the Light (John 3:21). They will find the knowledge that they seek in Him. Scoffers rarely seek wisdom out, but those who actually ask some questions will be too blinded in their pride and arrogance to identify wisdom when it hits them squarely in the face.
7 Leave the presence of a fool,
Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
Going to a fool to get knowledge is a great way to gain foolishness and be corrupted. We must be aware that those who love evil and rejoice in error are contagious in terms of spreading foolishness, and we must avoid their negative influence. We may go to them with the gospel, but we may not look to them for insight or influence.
8 The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,
But the foolishness of fools is deceit.
God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), for He wants us to know wisdom. He will give it to those who ask in faith (James 1:5-7). He wants us to understand how we can best invest our lives and what meaning and purpose is all about. Those who are wise know what life is about, and they actively seek to do God’s will. Fools wander in their own deceit, deceiving others along the way, not knowing what they are here for and not really bothering to care. They are fools to despise the wrath of God and His judgment, and they do not adjust their lives according to the fear of God. Thus, they have no wisdom as they reject the revelation of God to them through the creation, through Christ, through their consciences, and through the canon of Scripture. The Word of God is a light to the path of the righteous, and His wisdom is a beacon for direction.
9 Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is good will.
Fools don’t take sin seriously because they don’t fear God. They think evil and danger are almost humorous because they do not care about the goodwill of their fellow man. The righteous are not consumed by selfishness, but they actually care about the welfare of others, even ahead of their own (Philippians 2:3-4). Thus, they want others to avoid the perils of sin and fear God. It is the only way to life, and His love is the only reliable motivator for people to care about their fellow man (1 John 4:7-8).
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.
In the heart is what we really think, feel, and desire. It is the core of who we are and what drives us. A close friend might be able to be allowed in to know who we really are and what we are all about. Then he or she can rejoice with us when we rejoice and mourn with us when we are sad. But the true heart is kept from a mere stranger because trust is a needed foundation for opening up the insides of our hearts. God knows our hearts already, and He is trustworthy. Thus, we should always be open, honest, and vulnerable before Him. Our hearts are safe with Him, and as we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
Eventually, the wicked will pay for their evil deeds. They may walk into their own traps and suffer affliction as a result of their evil deeds on earth, though many get away with evil at least for a time in this life. What is certain is that in eternity God will settle all accounts, and the boasting of the wicked will be destroyed. The upright may have trouble in this life, but they will avoid a lot of needless adversity that doing evil and foolish things creates. The ultimate expression of the blessing and favor of God will come for the righteous in eternity, when they will inherit their promised eternal life. That is a house with a foundation built on Christ that will last, and even death and Satan cannot interfere to destroy that house.
12 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Man needs to understand that in his natural state as a captive of the devil and as one born with a sin nature (Romans 3:23) and deceitful heart (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9) that he is prone to do wrong and to love evil more than good. Original sin is a reality ever since the fall, and those who have a nature bent toward sin go ahead and commit sin. The wages of that sin is death and eternal condemnation in hell. Man laughs at God, the Bible, and Jesus even though the evidence is everywhere to validate what is true in creation, the conscience, the canon of Scripture, and the cross. Thinking he is wise, he is in fact foolish, for his wicked and fallen heart has led him astray. (see also Proverbs 16:25, 21:2)
13 Even in laughter the heart may be in pain,
And the end of joy may be grief.
It is possible to laugh even when the heart is struggling with great sorrow, pain, and grief. That doesn’t mean that a person is actually joyful inside just because he is drowning his sorrows with some distraction or coping mechanism. True joy means dealing with the sorrow in the heart and finding joy in Christ. The ironic thing, though, is that there is a cost to finding true joy and satisfaction in Christ, and it is that the gospel brings a sword of division between those who follow Christ and those who do not. Thus, there is grief that follows finding the joy of Christ as Christians may suffer, lose friendships, suffer persecution, or even be disowned by family on account of their faith. But, as Paul said, the joy of knowing Christ is of such a greater value than all that we might otherwise consider gain (Philippians 3:8). The joy of knowing Christ ultimately outweighs the cost of following Him.
14 The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways,
But a good man will be satisfied with his.
True Christians will have fruit to validate the reality of their faith (Matthew 7:20). They will stumble in many ways (James 3:2), and they may even seem to go backward in their faith for a while. But true believers will endure to the end because Christ will finish the work He began in their hearts (Philippians 1:6). This is not to say that they cannot make shipwreck of their faith (1 Timothy 1:19) or become disqualified in terms of their Christian testimony (1 Corinthians 9:27). But it is to say that true believers by the grace of God will persevere to the end because God will perfect what He started (Hebrews 12:1-2). Not even Satan can take a believer out of God’s hand (John 10:28), and even those believers who finish life with a whimper spiritually will still be glorified with God in Christ. But they will persevere in that Christ will keep them and constantly work through His Spirit to convict their hearts of sin. Those who harden themselves against the truth because of a chosen rebellion to sin must be, after confrontation by other believers, put out of fellowship and turned over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh with the hope that it will preserve their soul (1 Corinthians 5:5). That is, if a person is truly saved, the junkfood of Satan just will not be enough, and people who truly know God and the choice delicacies of His Word will return to fellowship and repent.
However, there are others who go away from the family of God because they never were of the family of God (1 John 2:19). They were faking it, initially getting excited about Jesus but never really surrendering to Him. These backslide because they go back to being who they really are in their hearts. Allowing them to continue in fellowship is the worst thing possible because they don’t have any fellowship and could be deceived into thinking that they are eternally safe when they are not. Sin must be confronted and pointed out.
In Christ, we are new creations with new hearts that are controlled by love (2 Corinthians 5:14) and which possess the desires of the heart of God. Thus, a good man is a man with a changed heart and who is indwelt by Christ and controlled by His love to do the good works that He has prepared for him to do. His desires align with God’s increasingly as he delights in Him, and he is satisfied with doing the work of God and enjoying Him. He recognizes the futility and stupidity of sin and its inability to satisfy, and he increasingly sees the abundant wisdom of God and the benefits of doing His will.
15 The naive believes everything,
But the sensible man considers his steps.
A naïve person is overly trusting of people because he underestimates the nature of the heart of sinful man. He is easily taken by deception because he isn’t looking out for his steps. He is not expecting to be tricked, trapped, or devoured. He thinks that people are generally good, and his view of sin, Satan, and evil is warped. The naïve are prone to destruction because of their lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), and this is why learning the Scripture is so important (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17). It is also wise to prepare children and those we are responsible to teach of the reality of living in a fallen world. They need to be taught to think through what they are doing and why and what they believe and why. Otherwise, they will likely fall into deceit, get taken advantage of, and suffer great harm. We can get into trouble by rebelling against God or by being deceived on account of being naïve. Both are dangerous, and the cure for being naïve is wisdom and Scriptural understanding. We should be innocent of evil but experts in righteousness (Romans 16:19). We should be shrewd as serpents (Matthew 10:16) when it comes to dealing with the serpent, Satan, and his followers as well as his captives, fallen man.
16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless.
Scripture commands us to consider the days as being evil so that we can walk circumspectly as one who is wise (Ephesians 5:15-16). This means that we are to be aware of the reality of the spiritual battle going on around us, we ought to possess an urgency to advance truth and the gospel, and we must carefully consider how we spend our time and invest our talents. A wise person turns away from evil because he realizes that God sees all, and he wants to bring the heart of God joy and gain eternal rewards. He is concerned about his testimony because he doesn’t want to interfere with being able to shine the light of Christ. Fools take dumb risks and do dumb things because they overestimate their strength and ability, and they don’t think through things, particularly in light of what God would think or what would matter in view of eternity. Fools have a very shallow, selfish, and short-sighted perspective, but the wise live in light of the life to come.
17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of evil devices is hated.
A foolish person is easily provoked to anger and to acting out rashly in wrath and revenge. Those who harm others and make them live in fear and oppression because of their many evil devices are hated by those whom they harm and by those who wish to see them come to justice.
18 The naive inherit foolishness,
But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.
The consequence of being naïve is more foolishness, and the results of foolishness are destruction, shame, and dishonor. Those who act in good sense, meaning that they value the Scripture and live according to the fear of God, will inherit the crown of life (James 1:12) and increasing knowledge and understanding.
19 The evil will bow down before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
In life, sometimes evil people rule over the good, but ultimately all people must bow before the Savior (Philippians 2:10). The righteous will be honored on the day of judgment, while the evil will be cast into the fire of hell. Finally, the good in Christ will be honored and exalted as fairness and justice are executed by the Savior. The wicked will not enter the gates of heaven, but the righteous will be granted entrance and eternal honor.
20 The poor is hated even by his neighbor,
But those who love the rich are many.
People in their natural state are selfish to the core because of their wicked hearts. They like the world’s goods, and they hate those who are needy, poor, and who can offer them nothing to make them feel better about themselves. But wealth is deceptive because many people associate with rich people because of their money. It makes wicked people feel better about themselves to have friends in high places, and they hope they might share in the bounty. Rich people get much attention, fame, and worship in this life, but the poor are often neglected and forgotten. This is why part of being a Christian is to value those whom the world doesn’t value and to love those whom the world scorns (Proverbs 14:21, 31; 31:20). This doesn’t mean that the rich don’t need the love of Christ also, for they do. However, it means that Christianity is distinct in that it doesn’t promote partiality and favoritism toward the rich, the famous, and the noble of the earth (James 2:9).
21 He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.
Love for all people is characteristic of true believers (John 13:34-35), and loving our neighbor as ourselves is one of Christ’s two greatest commandments, the first being to love God with our entire being (Matthew 22:39). Those who love God by necessity are transformed by that love such that they are moved to love others (2 Corinthians 5:14). Those who do not do so act sinfully and in contradiction with the nature and will of God. Those who love God and act on that love by giving to those in need and showing them that they care for them will find great joy in their selfless act of worship in being gracious to the poor. The ultimate gift is seeing a person’s heart open and glorify God on account of the Christian’s faithful and good works (Matthew 5:16).
22 Will they not go astray who devise evil?
But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.
Those who devise evil may get away with it for a while, and some may not suffer duly throughout the course of their entire lives. Typically, evil leads to needless pain and suffering, but even if it does not on earth, it will earn them an eternity in hell. But those who seek to come up with good things to do as God leads them will find that promoting kindness and truth is a very fulfilling and worthwhile objective. It will be accompanied by many eternal rewards as well.
23 In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty.
Those who work faithfully, quietly, and honestly will find benefit, financial and spiritual, in their labor if they do what they do to the honor and glory of Christ. In work, it is tempting to focus on making others happy when the ultimate focus needs to be on making God happy through what we do (Colossians 3:17, 23). He is honored by a good heart attitude and a testimony that reflects the fruit of the Spirit. Those who don’t work and value laziness instead will find that just merely running their mouths will not make money or feed their stomachs. Some people talk big of themselves and what they are going to do in their lives, while others get to work and actually do the will of God.
24 The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the folly of fools is foolishness.
Wisdom may lead to earthly prosperity, but following Christ is no guarantee of health, wealth, and prosperity. A large bank account does not validate whether or not one has wisdom. Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds (Matthew 11:19), meaning that a life lived for Christ and in light of the many spiritual riches that we have in Christ is what counts. The riches of eternity are far more valuable than any dollars we might accrue on earth. Storing up treasures in heaven as a result of wise living is a crown of honor and true wealth. Fools, on the other hand, commit folly because they love foolishness. It is who they are, it is what they do, and it is what they love. It will end badly for them.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
But he who utters lies is treacherous.
Those who tell the truth allow justice to function properly, but bearing false witness is a treacherous act and a betrayal against the innocent, the justice system, people in general, and certainly against God. The truth might hurt, but it also protects, preserves, sets free the innocent, and saves.
26 In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge.
There is great confidence in knowing that we are the Lord’s and that we will go to be with Him forever in eternity. In life, we will always be able to find comfort in His presence, confidence in His promise, and certainty in His Word. There is great refuge in knowing that we belong to the Sovereign of the Universe. Not even Satan himself can pluck us out of His hand.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
That one may avoid the snares of death.
The fear of the Lord leads to eternal life and eternal rewards, and it avoids a lot of needless trouble on earth that being a fool necessarily involves. Those who live according to God’s commandments because they want to please Him above all else knowing they will be held to account for how they live their lives are wise. As their lives demonstrate the power of the cross and as they speak boldly the truth of Christ, life can come to others as well.
28 In a multitude of people is a king’s glory,
But in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.
A king that doesn’t have the backing, support, and devotion of his people is in trouble, but those who have the affection of their people will see that their rule can be established. As more people come to the kingdom to enjoy prosperity, justice, and opportunity, a king’s glory advances because his country advances.
29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
It is wise to not be easily provoked to anger. Some people like a good fight to prove how tough they are. But those who give a gentle answer turn away wrath and show people that the peace of God is more important than promoting selfish gain. It is evidence of foolishness to have a short fuse and quick temper.
30 A tranquil heart is life to the body,
But passion is rottenness to the bones.
A heart filled with God’s peace that surpasses understanding is a healthy place to be. God’s peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ. It protects us from being consumed by evil passions and desires which eat us away spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is good to be zealous for God and for good works, but the fire of hate, wrath, and vengeance destroys. Christians should be those who have forgiven others because they have been forgiven in Christ, they should not hold grudges, they should not be driven or consumed by unrighteous anger, and they should be quiet in spirit, tranquil of heart, and peaceable by nature.
31 He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.
Taunting God is never a wise decision, for vengeance is the Lord’s. He will pour out the wrath which He stores up on account of the wicked deeds of evil people. One sure way to mock God is to exploit and extort those in need. When the rich take advantage of the poor and cause them to suffer unjustly, it angers God. God cares about the poor just as He cares about all people. Since He is love, He longs to see people get enough food, drink, clothing, shelter, etc. Kindly helping the poor is a way to love Jesus Himself if done with a heart that worships Him (Matthew 25:31-46). Good societal works is not the gospel, but it is evidence of the gospel and a way to see God open doors for the gospel (Matthew 5:16, John 13:34-35). Those who are gracious to the poor honor God. As a church, we should be sure to care for those in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10), but we should also be focused on those who are rejected and neglected by our society. God is a gracious God, and true religion is meeting the needs of orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). Christianity that has no compassion or desire to help the hurting is a sorry picture of the love and grace of God.
32 The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing,
But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.
The wicked may prosper in life, and this can be very frustrating for a good person (Psalm 73). Furthermore, the righteous may suffer disproportionately in this life. But ultimately the righteous person has a refuge in Christ when he dies, but the wicked with be cast down to hell on account of his wrongdoing. God will render to each according to his deeds. He will pour out His just wrath and take vengeance on evil people. He will see to it that the righteous are rewarded.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,
But in the hearts of fools it is made known.
Fools reveal that they are fools by their deeds and by what they speak. Eventually what is inside a person’s heart overflows into their actions. A person can pretend for a time in regard to who they are and what they love, but eventually the heart will win out. Those who have wisdom in their hearts will see fruit in their lives that bear that out. The wise treasure understanding in their hearts, but the fool mocks, laughs, and is provoked to anger when wisdom knocks on the door of his heart.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a disgrace to any people.
The funny thing about people who are born with a sin nature and are bent toward sinful behavior is that, because they do have a conscience and because sin is destructive, they do see righteousness in general as a good thing. They just don’t adhere to it very well. However, it is also true that they confuse what is wise and what is right, but it is a rare person who will actually say that honesty, justice, fairness, etc. are bad things. It is rare that even an unsaved person would prefer to live in a nation that ignores liberty and individual rights, for example. Righteousness does exalt a nation, for godly values create a better living environment. Nations ruled by wicked people and who have no rule of law are viewed by those who have any sense as unjust, undesirable, and even backward. Sin is a disgrace to a country certainly by God’s standards but often even by those of fallen man. As a nation moves away from God and His righteousness, it can expect more turmoil, more division, more trouble, more destruction, more uprisings, and more difficulty. Righteousness brings stability, peace, fairness, justice and better conditions for living and prosperity overall. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
35 The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,
But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.
A servant who does good for the kingdom and adds benefit to the welfare of all is a value to a king with any sense at all. His favor should be upon such a person. A servant who is lazy, corrupt, or dishonest should anger a king who has any value for righteousness. Regardless of how people respond, it is always the right thing to do what we do for God according to what honors Him. Daniel did this, and it cost him a night in the lion’s den because of the foolishness of King Darius. But the king also was fond of him because he knew that he was a man of wisdom who had never done the king any wrong. Daniel had the king’s favor because he acted wisely and did the king no harm but only good, though He always served God above all.