Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Indications of pride and arrogance include being over-confident in one’s strength and having a false conviction of one’s own sovereignty over his life. Only God is sovereign and in total control, and only He knows what will happen this day and the next. A believer’s boasting should always be in God alone, for He is faithful and true. Christians should not make presumptions upon the future as if there is nothing that could go wrong or hinder them, for even their very next breath is dependent upon the grace of God (Colossians 1:17). If the Lord wills, they will do this or that. Other such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-14)
2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
It is foolish to praise oneself and laud one’s own achievements, for the only approval that matters is that of Jesus Himself. Believers should not live for the approval of others, but it is better to be praised by others as they recognize something honorable that believers have done than for believers to boast about it of their own accord. Vain glory in and of itself is dishonorable and unpraiseworthy.
3 A stone is heavy and the sand weighty,
But the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.
Sticks and stones can break bones, and words can actually do even more damage. Fools enjoy provoking others to anger and evil, and the damage that their words do can exceed that of other attacks. It is very tempting and easy to respond in selfish wrath to a fool, but wisdom is gracious, gentle, and always peaceable, not seeking a fight. Letting a fool provoke one to folly is just dumb, and wisdom knows how to walk away and let a fool boast in his own stupidity.
4 Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood,
But who can stand before jealousy?
Jealousy has a way of consuming a person such that he will do drastic things that involve all sorts of evil. Wrath is a strong motivator as is anger, but envy can consume a person. Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), seeking the worship of Him alone, and we can be sure that He will render judgment to those who do not worship Him.
5 Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
A reproof out in the open might be truthful, but it may not be in the appropriate setting. There is a time to correct a person or challenge his thinking, but initially it should be done in private if at all possible. Otherwise, it can be seen as public humiliation rather than instruction. But at least in a rebuke there is a sign that a person cares about truth and about the relationship. However, those who pretend that they do not love when they actually do commit such a travesty because it robs a person of a fulfilling relationship. By not backing up actually loving convictions with actual words and actions, a person is left thinking that they are unloved or even despised. Thus, there is unnecessary sorrow and loss for no good reason. It is better to be corrected which in and of itself demonstrates some level of care and concern than to be loved and never know it and even wonder if the person cares at all.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
The wounds of a friend are for our good because they will only rebuke us if we need it. However, those who hate us will gladly enable and empower our own foolishness because they know it will harm us in the end.
7 A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.
A person who is full is not going to be hungry even for something sweet like honey, but those who are starving will eat just about anything even if it is bitter. Even bitter foods will be sweet to a person who is desperate for food. When a person is full of the joy of the Lord and knows he is loved by others, there will be no need to seek out the bitter scraps of the devil. Bitterness can be appealing and appetizing to a person who is desperate for love and affection. But those who are filled with confidence in Christ’s goodness and love will find in Him all that they need, and they will not find an appetite even for Satan’s best efforts at putting honey on grime.
8 Like a bird that wanders from her nest,
So is a man who wanders from his home.
There is a difference between wandering aimlessly from home where one’s responsibilities are and taking off with one’s family to a new place where God has led. Wandering implies confusion and foolish decision-making and possibly even an abandonment of loved ones, but a person led by the Spirit will know what God wants of him and will lead his home accordingly.
9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
A friend who loves and who fears God is well-equipped to give godly counsel, and his friend will receive it gladly. A good and wise word is like a fragrant aroma to a humble heart.
10 Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,
And do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;
Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.
A friend who is near will be insulted if a person who suffers a calamity rejects his help or doesn’t even turn to him in his time of need opting rather to travel a great distance to take refuge in the home of a family member. Now, there might be a good reason to do this, but the thing to remember is not to spurn or underestimate the care and concern of local friends and family. Those friendships should be honored, and a true friend longs to be able to help in difficult times.
11 Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
That I may reply to him who reproaches me.
When a son who has been taught in wisdom and trained in righteousness by a parent grows up and walks in it, it is a source of great joy for the parent. It vindicates him in his own mind that he has indeed chosen wisely and done right in raising his child even if others have mocked him for what he has done and said in the process. Fools may never be convinced that godly teaching and discipline is good and right, but a godly child is vindication enough (Matthew 11:19).
12 A prudent man sees evil and hides himself,
The naive proceed and pay the penalty.
Those who are wise are able to identify danger, traps, and trouble ahead of time because they are looking at the world through the grid of Scripture. They know that violating God’s principles is inherently destructive, and they watch out for danger accordingly. Those who are naïve are blind to the danger around them because they are either part of it or just overestimate the goodness of people. Those who walk blindly into a trap and who think evil people will act righteously will suffer for their foolish and erroneous thinking.
13 Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger;
And for an adulterous woman hold him in pledge.
As has been said many times already in this book (Proverbs 6:1-5, 11:15, 17:18, 22:26), it is dangerous and unwise to become a guarantor for another person’s debt. It could cost a person everything including the shirt on his back. The naïve don’t recognize this danger and walk right into it. They also commit evil such as adultery without realizing that it might cost them even their lives. There is no way to repay that kind of wrong to a jealous husband (Proverbs 6:35). It is like literally becoming a debt that can never be repaid.
14 He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning,
It will be reckoned a curse to him.
Those who bless their friends with a loud voice so that others can hear may be honest and innocent in their intentions, but a person will be prone to thinking that they are up to something evil or that they are aware of some malicious plan afoot of which they are trying to cover their tracks. Otherwise, why not say the blessing privately and with a normal voice or just pray for the person in the quiet of one’s heart?
15 A constant dripping on a day of steady rain
And a contentious woman are alike;
16 He who would restrain her restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right hand.
Here is yet another reference to the contentious woman (Proverbs 21:9, 19; 25:24), and it is equally not positive. The warning is for a person to marry wisely, for the agony and frustration of being married to a wife who enjoys arguing, fighting, nagging, complaining, and being bitter is like a dripping faucet that never gives one peace and quiet. Trying to teach her how to be respectful, kind, and considerate is like trying to catch the wind or grasp at oil. Fools cannot be taught, and a contentious wife demonstrates her foolishness. By creating a miserable existence for her husband, she demonstrates her wicked heart and love for misery, pain, and strife.
17 Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
People influence one another whether they are trying to or not, and this is why bad company corrupts good morals. It is also why being around other wise people can be beneficial to one’s heart, mind, and soul if any humility is present. Ultimately, a person is sanctified by the Word of truth (John 17:17), and this is what is needed for a man to sharpen another man the right way. Even in the absence of wise counsel and godly friends, a person can still be trained and sharpened by the Word of God. Jeremiah 23:29 says, “‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’”
18 He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit,
And he who cares for his master will be honored.
There will be no fruit for those who do not plant, water, and tend to the plants and trees. It takes work to have food, and a godly master will be grateful for a helper who honors him by caring for him and tending to his fields and possessions. Both parts of the Proverb point to spiritual realities regarding reaping and sowing, for our Master wants us to bear abundant spiritual fruit and to honor and care for His priorities in all that we do and say. The Master will faithfully rewards his servants.
19 As in water face reflects face,
So the heart of man reflects man.
The heart of man is the real man, and what is in the heart will be reflected by what is said and done. The fruit from a persons’ life will reveal whether a person’s heart is good or evil (Matthew 7:20, Mark 7:20).
20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.
Those who are sentenced to face the sting of the second death of being cast into hell will find that it never ends. A wicked heart will never be satisfied in wickedness, for true satisfaction comes only in knowing Christ. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied, but those who live according to the lust of the eyes and flesh will find that they always need to lust for more. Their emptiness will never end, and their foolishness will never bring them the abundant life.
21 The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold,
And each is tested by the praise accorded him.
When a person is loved and adored by people, it will test his resolve not to become prideful, to be able to have self-control, and to continue to fear God and keep His commandments. It will reveal whether or not he is truly humble and servant-hearted or if he is drawn to power, prestige, and the approval of people over the approval of God. The praise of men is indeed a great test, and those who love God with all of their hearts will come through the test refined and purified.
22 Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain,
Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.
A fool does not respond to the challenges of life and to the consequences of sin by learning and changing his ways. No matter what trouble befalls him or how corrupt he becomes, he will not humble himself. He is the dross, not the silver or the gold.
23 Know well the condition of your flocks,
And pay attention to your herds;
24 For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
25 When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
26 The lambs will be for your clothing,
And the goats will bring the price of a field,
27 And there will be goats’ milk enough for your food,
For the food of your household,
And sustenance for your maidens.
Riches can come, and riches can go. Wealth is fleeting, and positions of power tend to come and go as well. One should never put all of his eggs in one basket or presume on the future. Those who have faithfully tended to the little things day after day will find that they have what they need in the day of trouble. They have not frittered away what God has given them, but they have preserved it, cared for it, and invested it wisely. It is never good or wise to neglect the little things while presuming on one big thing to work out. Similarly, spiritual fruit is often a result of daily investments made and service done rather than one big accomplishment or event.