Do not be envious of evil men,
Nor desire to be with them;
2 For their minds devise violence,
And their lips talk of trouble.
When the wicked prosper and when it seems that sinful shortcuts are the better way, it can be tempting to be envious of their position and circumstances. It can be tempting to want to assimilate to their way of being in order to get the passing pleasures of sin. But Christians must not desire their evil ways or their companionship. Evil people love violence, betrayal, harm, and selfish gain. There is no real trustworthy friendship among evil people, but each uses the other for his own personal gain. Loyalty, love, peace, and trust are in the house of the righteous, but in the path of evil men comes trouble. Their eternal destiny is death, and their lifestyles ought not to be envied or copied (Psalm 37). The righteous will be rewarded and honored in the end (2 Corinthians 5:10). (see also v. 19-20)
3 By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
4 And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
Wisdom is how the kingdom of God advances in a heart, in a home, in a church, and in a nation. All that is spiritually valuable, worthwhile, and lasting requires faith in Christ and wisdom according to His Word. Christ will one day judge the acts of believers according to whether they are truly fruitful or not, and rewards will be dependent upon whether or not the deeds were done in faith and wisdom and according to the power of Christ alone (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Wisdom is required for things of eternal value, and it is what strengthens a church, advances the kingdom of God, and builds a home that honors Christ and provides joy to its members. The fruit of wisdom and the knowledge of God and His Word is spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3, Psalm 16:11).
5 A wise man is strong,
And a man of knowledge increases power.
6 For by wise guidance you will wage war,
And in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Wisdom makes a person spiritually strong, it teaches him how to discern false teaching, and it helps him rightly dissect the Word of truth. There is power in Christ and in His Word, and the wise man embraces its full power by learning it and believing it. The fool, on the other hand, may have a form of godliness while denying the power of Christ and His Word. Thus, his life is powerless against sin as he remains a captive of the devil. Believers are no longer slaves to sin, but they can by faith present their bodies as instruments of righteousness to Christ for His use in His service. Believers can do nothing of themselves, but their sufficiency is in Christ and His Word which makes them strong, able, and powerful in and through Him to do all that Christ calls them to do. Apart from Christ, believers can do nothing (John 15:5), but in Christ and by His power working in them, they will be changed and used to change others (Galatians 2:20). Wisdom is useful for winning spiritual battles and for navigating the events of this life and this world. The more a person knows the Word and the more godly counselors he has, the better decisions he will make.
7 Wisdom is too exalted for a fool,
He does not open his mouth in the gate.
Wisdom leads to spiritual success, but such wisdom is too much for the fool. He has nothing to offer those who walk in wisdom. He has nothing to say to add value to a conversation between wise men.
8 One who plans to do evil,
Men will call a schemer.
9 The devising of folly is sin,
And the scoffer is an abomination to men.
A schemer is not an honorable label to have because it implies exploiting people, deception, lying, and pragmatism over morality. It also implies intended harm and the advancement of a personal agenda over the welfare of others. Those who plot evil do so because of the evil in their hearts. This is foolishness, and plotting foolish deeds is sin. Those who do not fear God or take sin seriously are abominable before God. Scoffing at God and His Word is a great way to store up His wrath (Psalm 1).
10 If you are slack in the day of distress,
Your strength is limited.
Just as physical strength and emotional fortitude helps a person overcome in battle, spiritual strength to do what is right and to keep believing the truth is necessary to persevere and still have joy when trouble and trials come (James 1:2-4). Those who are strong recognize that their strength comes in and through Christ in them, not by way of their own flesh. They trust wholly in Him, and the joy of His presence is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work?
The hope, prayer, and desire of every believer should be that none would perish but that all would come to believe in Jesus. This is God’s desire also (2 Peter 3:9). The reality, however, is that many people suppress their conscience, ignore the revelation of God in creation, blaspheme the Holy Spirit calling to their hearts, and ignore the commands of the Bible. They reject Jesus despite the reality of His historical life on earth and subsequent death and resurrection. Man will not be able to plead ignorance, for God has made Himself known (Romans 1:18-20, 32; Psalm 19:1-2). The only unforgiveable sin is to reject the Spirit’s drawing on the hearts of men (Luke 12:10), and this proves that men are accountable and responsible for their choosing to keep on sinning and raising their fists in the air against God in anger and rebellion. They willfully choose to refuse to give Him thanks, and God allows them to sin. He will not force a person to believe, but He wants them all to repent. Those who earnestly practice the truth and want to know the truth will find it in Christ (John 3:21). Those who enjoy evil will be punished accordingly. He will one day judge all people according to their deeds, and only those who are made righteous in Christ will enter His heaven. Only on account of His righteous life can we be made holy.
13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste;
14 Know that wisdom is thus for your soul;
If you find it, then there will be a future,
And your hope will not be cut off.
Wisdom is a choice delicacy and a delicious treat for the soul. Just as honey tastes good and then is pleasing to the stomach, wisdom brings joy, peace, satisfaction, hope, and life to the full (John 10:10) because of eternal life found only in Christ (John 17:3).
15 Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous;
Do not destroy his resting place;
16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again,
But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
God looks after the righteous, and He upholds them with His righteous right hand. It is not that they are never allowed to experience trouble, hardship, or suffering, for they will. But by faith they will continue to persevere in love, hope, and good deeds no matter how many times they are opposed, persecuted, and insulted. No attack or plot of the wicked can make a Christian stop loving Christ, stop hoping in heaven, stop believing and preaching the gospel, and stop loving even those who are doing the persecuting. The wicked have nothing to hold onto when they fall into trouble, for God is not on their side. The wicked will pay for attacking the righteous, but the righteous have a heavenly dwelling to look forward to even if their earthly resting places are destroyed.
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Or the Lord will see it and be displeased,
And turn His anger away from him.
There is a certain joy that comes from seeing God’s vengeance poured out, and there is a certain hope in the reality that God will settle all accounts in eternity. Justice is something that believers can be encouraged by. However, that does not mean that this gives believers the right to hate their enemies, for Scripture commands that they love them even as they are persecuting them (Matthew 5:44). Believers should hate their sin and their master, the devil, but they must love their souls. Sending a person to hell on account of their evil deeds doesn’t make God giddy with pleasure as a result of their pain and eternal suffering, but it does satisfy His justice. We can rejoice in justice, but we should never wish bad things to come upon people or enjoy that they are in pain. Christ kindly calls to the lost and the wicked offering them hope and a chance to start anew. But when that opportunity is passed over, then justice must be meted out. In this world, believers should take no joy in evil, and they should hope for justice on earth. But that doesn’t mean that they can become callous in regard to the state of the souls of the people doing the evil. If Christians do not love them, how can they ever hope to compassionately share the gospel with them? Given how harmful it is as far as gospel advancement for a believer to hate an unbeliever, God may actually, according to verse 18, stop punishing the unbeliever temporarily on earth in order to stop the boasting of the disobedient believer. Believers should boast in the Lord in regard to both His kindness and justice but not concerning the pain and suffering of others, even of their enemies.
19 Do not fret because of evildoers
Or be envious of the wicked;
20 For there will be no future for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Picking up the theme from verse 1, believers are told not to get frustrated when they see wicked people who are not yet being punished for their sin because they will be punished in eternity. Justice will be served by Almighty God, and their eternal sentence in hell apart from the God is sure. Christians must not ever envy their passing prosperity because spiritual prosperity and eternal prosperity is what counts (Psalm 37). Jesus will settle all accounts.
21 My son, fear the Lord and the king;
Do not associate with those who are given to change,
22 For their calamity will rise suddenly,
And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?
It is never wise to stand in opposition to God, for God will bring ruin to the wicked. It is also generally not a good idea to try to act subversively toward a governing authority, given that it will likely end with their rage being poured out upon the conspirators. This verse is not denouncing change, reform, social progress, or even political redress. There are times when a government is so wicked that it needs to be overthrown. However, in general, it is God-honoring to respect and submit to governmental authorities even if one despises some of their policies and positions (Romans 13:1-7).
23 These also are sayings of the wise.
To show partiality in judgment is not good.
24 He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him;
25 But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them.
Wisdom does not show partiality or pervert justice, calling the wicked righteous or the righteous wicked. Those who care for justice hold such judgments and those who make them in spite, and the people, if they have any sense, appreciate a just system where evildoers are punished. They recognize that justice is for their own benefit, protection, and welfare.
26 He kisses the lips
Who gives a right answer.
A wise response that brings edification and encouragement is like a kiss of affection. Of course, there is also the possibility of a kiss of betrayal like Judas, who gave the answer that the religious leaders were seeking but which was not according to wisdom. We would do well to give the right answer according to God rather than kissing up to people to make them like us at the expense of the truth and justice.
27 Prepare your work outside
And make it ready for yourself in the field;
Afterwards, then, build your house.
It is much more effective and efficient to preplan a building project and gather all of the required materials so that they can be ready when needed. Otherwise progress is slowed when more figuring has to be done and when more product has to be gathered. There is wisdom in planning and strategizing, but ultimately even then we still need the blessing and provision of God on our work (Psalm 127:1). Christians should equip themselves with the Word of God and prepare themselves to be able to share the gospel. That way, when the opportunity comes for spiritual fruit, they are ready and prepared, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
And do not deceive with your lips.
As has been said many times in this book, God hates deceptive witnesses, those who pervert justice, and those who make a practice of lying.
29 Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me;
I will render to the man according to his work.”
The natural bent of the unredeemed heart is revenge, but God says that Christians ought to follow the golden rule of doing to others what they would want others to do to them (Matthew 7:12). God also says to leave vengeance to Him, knowing that He will repay (Romans 12:19). The whole idea of just retribution such as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is to be left to God ultimately in eternity (Matthew 5:38-39). Crime should be punished by a justice system on earth where a punishment is proportionate to the crime, but, even still, there are a lot of evil things done that are not able to be prosecuted or that would not be considered technically illegal. Peace must be found in knowing that wrong that escapes justice now will be punished by God ultimately. Christianity is not about taking revenge, holding grudges, or looking to get even. The policy of Christians should be to love those who do them harm and to treat them as they themselves would wish to be treated. They must be willing to forgive (Luke 6:37) and to love their enemies (Luke 6:27).
30 I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
31 And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
32 When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, and received instruction.
33 “ A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,”
34 Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man.
Those who are lazy and who lack sense can expect to starve at harvest time because they have neglected their vineyards. They can expect to not earn enough money to live on. The reality of this world is that it takes work to grow food and to earn a living. Things go from order to disorder, chaos, and destruction. The world is cursed with thorns and thistles being one such manifestation. Laziness allows sin and its effects to run amok, but wisdom resists the pull to give in and give up.