Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Proverbs 17:25-28

In Proverbs 17:25-28 Solomon continues to discuss the importance of parenting and raising us kids that are not fools. How do we do that?  By exposing them to a continual dose of wisdom and truth from God’s Word. Parents may find great grief in the foolish character of their children. That’s why shaping it is so important.  We can’t lose sight that it will always be their choice, but we certainly can influence some of those decisions and should not give up trying. “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.” Because of the maternal instinct and bond, there is a special pain and bitterness that belongs to the mother of a foolish child.

There is a system of right and wrong in God’s creation and economy. God’s moral order insists that the righteous be rewarded and the wicked be punished. To upset this or reverse it is not good and violates God’s intent. Good should be rewarded, and wickedness punished. “To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.” The same kind of action applies to those who lead. If a leader is upright, he should never be punished – especially by striking. Uprightness should be rewarded and honored, not punished. The world certainly can turn things upside down, but that doesn’t change God’s plan or intent.

Solomon again reminds us that our words matter – they mean things – and we need to learn to control our tongue.  It is such a small part of our body but can create so much havoc and destruction. Both wisdom and folly are often revealed by one’s words. Yet, in the case of wisdom, it may be revealed by the knowledge of when to keep quiet. We should never think that the wise man or woman reveals their wisdom by talking a lot. “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.“ The peace and contentment that properly come to the wise is described here as a calm spirit. To be constantly agitated and upset is a mark of folly, not wisdom.

Silence is sometimes golden, and words left unspoken can often be the wisest response we can make. This continues the idea from the previous proverb. There is a wonderful way that even a fool can be considered wise – to not speak. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.“ This may be the shortest distance from being a fool to being wise – to keep one’s mouth shut. If the fool cared about being considered perceptive, this gives an easy way for it to happen. I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s witty saying: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

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Proverbs 16:9-11

In Proverbs 16:9-11 Solomon begins by talking about planning.  There are many reasons planning makes sense, but we need to do it in alignment with God’s plans for us, not as a declarative way we want the future to be.  God alone knows the future, but it is important for us to be intentional about how we use our time, talent and treasure which is what planning is all about. So planning is not a bad thing. We, as the God in whose image we are made, need to think about and plan our way. Many people would do well to more carefully plan their way. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

The reality is that God alone determines the outcome. We plan as we can and should, but we should never think that our ability to plan makes us lord over our lives. It is the LORD who directs our steps.  He alone is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every plan we make should be held in humility before God and surrender to His ultimate will. We can plan our path in the future to the last detail, but we cannot implement and complete the plan unless it coincides with God’s plan for us. There will likely be some contrast between what we actually plan and what actually happens—God determines that. The change may be a little or a lot, but we must not forget that God is able to do abundantly more than we ask or think.  Our plans may actually be far less than what God has in mind.

Solomon reminds us that leaders should have something valuable to share – oracle here is the sense of wise guidance, the wisdom that should be on the lips of the king. That might change everything that happens in our governments around the world – if they would only speed when they have something wise to share.  It would be a lot quieter in the chambers of most legislatures.  “An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment.” The same lips that must speak wisdom and discernment should not also be used to go beyond God’s wisely appointed boundaries of judgment. Those who are in positions of authority are not empowered to ignore God’s laws but rather to uphold and follow them.

God does care about what happens in the marketplace too.  Fair business is so pleasing to God that it can be said that honest measures belong to Him. All of God’s measurements and assessments are fair and true. The proper measure does not come from the king, nor does it belong to the king. The right measure comes from God and belongs to Him. And we are required to act in the same way to be in obedience to Him. “A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.” Fair and honest business is God’s business, His work. God should not be absent in the marketplace but in the center of all that happens.

Proverbs 15:21-24

In Proverbs 15:21-24 Solomon gives us a bit more on those who lack wisdom and live a life of folly. For the fool, their foolishness (folly) is something they take pleasure in. They only hate their folly when they have to pay the bitter consequences of it. Otherwise, it is joy to them.  They have no real sense of what life could be if they lived it based on wisdom. “Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead”. With wisdom, our life is ordered and upright. The wise person finds joy in what is good and upright. It delivers a life based on God’s principles that yield a good return.

Solomon was clear that success in life is not something that happens alone.  We need to be surrounded by wise people. The difference between success and failure can often be found in those who plan with or without counsel. Wisdom understands that other people also have wisdom. I have learned the hard way that one of the best sources of counsel is my spouse.  We need to begin there with every decision. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed”. Normally there is more insight from many people than from one. Getting many eyes to see and many minds to think about plans can often see those plans established and successful.

When we can help someone else with our wisdom and experience, it is exciting. Right and wise words have the potential and power to bring great joy to one’s self and to others. And they can truly make a difference in the outcome of another person, company or organization. “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is”! Saying the right thing at the right time is a real blessing to all. The value in a good word is often not only found in its content, but also in it’s timing. The right word at the right time (in due season) is a powerful force for good. We can all impact those in our patch by sharing what we have learned and know with others.

Time keeps moving, and with it, so does the impact of life. One of the great benefits for a life of wisdom is that, generally, life gets better as the years go on. The progress of their life winds upward and not down; they move from glory to glory. This doesn’t mean a perfect life, or one free from pain or suffering, but a blessed life where God is in complete control. “The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath”. The progress of a wise life isn’t just in what it heads toward (upward), but also in what it moves away from. Heaven becomes closer and hell becomes further distant behind.

Proverbs 12:5-12

In Proverbs 12:5-12 Solomon begins by reminding us that the righteous man or woman is not only right in their actions, but even in their thoughts. They know something of what it means to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. “The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful”. Those who are not righteous are filled with deceit, deception and error.  The wicked wait to destroy for their own gain.  But the upright gives good and wise words that rescue them from evil. “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them”.

Solomon is clear that the wicked will lose the battle.  In life, we may lose once in a while but we know who wins the war.  Having no root in righteousness, the wicked cannot and will not stand. They will one day be overthrown and simply perish. “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand”. In contrast, God will protect the righteous.  They will endure and stand against anything that comes at them. Wise men and women will be recognized and honored for their wisdom. “A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of twisted mind is despised”. The one who has a twisted or crooked mind will be despised.

Solomon calls out the power of being a servant.  It is servant leadership that will be rewarded.  It may not always be appreciated by those around a servant leader, but God certainly sees and knows. “Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread”.  The proud man who is focused on himself will never lead to happiness or prosperity.  Solomon then changes focus to how we treat animals.  It may see different, but it actually is very much connected.  A righteous man respects all life, and we should care and show compassion to all animals.  “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel”. Those who are wicked will be cruel to things lowly to themselves just like Satan is.

Hard work generates God’s bless and allows one to enjoy the fruits of their labor. “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense”. But the one who lives for worthless things and wastes his time and effort will be lacking.  Swinnock wrote “The proud person is Satan’s throne, and the idle man his pillow. He sits in the former and sleeps quietly on the latter.” The wicked will covet what others have and never be satisfied with their own. “Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers, but the root of the righteous bears fruit”. God’s righteous men and woman don’t need to covet that owned by evil men, because they are like fruit bearing trees. This comes from their very root, from who they are.

Proverbs 9:10-18

In Proverbs 9:10-18 Solomon reminds us that wisdom begins through fear of the Lord.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Solomon has told us this before.  In fact, his writing in chapter one says the exact same thing. To begin to gain wisdom requires that we understand who God is and have a very healthy respect and reverence for the Creator. He is worthy of our fear – not is a ‘scared’ sort of way, but is an admission that He is sitting on the throne and in control of all things. Living a life pleasing to God is founded on this important principle: wisdom begins with a right relationship with God.

It may seem strange that a right relationship with God is based on fear.  But is is different than how we normally would think of real fear.  It is the sense of awe and reverence. It honors God as He really is—holy, just, and creator of all. It is not a cowering or ‘I’m afraid of you’ fear, but it is a kind of fear nonetheless. Those who do not recognize or honor God fall short of true wisdom in some way or another. Solomon goes on to tell us that as we get to know God – to really know Him – we also will receive insight.  How can we know God better?  Dive deeply into His Word.  He has revealed Himself to us through the pages of scripture and the Story of His universe and creation.  We can truly know Him if we seek to.

Does seeking wisdom matter.  Solomon again tells us that “For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.” Wisdom brings benefits to those who receive it.  While we don’t know the exact impact in the number of days, we can be sure that the blessing of wisdom will be worth the effort to seek and find it.  Finding wisdom’s start through the fear of the LORD will always be rewarded. Pursuing wisdom is a personal thing.  “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.”  You cannot gain it for someone else. Solomon explained how wisdom and folly directly affect the individual. But it is a personal journey we must take.

Solomon ends this chapter reminding us that there is always something that lies in front of us that wants to take us off course. “The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” Foolishness and wisdom are everywhere.  They seek our attention and give us the opportunity to follow.  One leads to life.  The other to death.  We must be careful in what we listen to and which one we follow.  Wisdom is the only choice that leads us to life the way God intends.

Proverbs 6:25-31

In Proverbs 6:25-31 Solomon addresses again the topic of adultery which he has seen up close and personal, first with his dad, and then in his own life.  King David was a brilliant strategist on the battlefield and a wise ruler on the throne, but he lost his common sense when he gazed at his neighbor’s wife and lusted for her. “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.”  The blame for sin can only be placed on the one who chooses to sin.  While there may be another involved in the sinful activity, there is no way to pass the blame to them, as sin only happens when we choose to disobey God and His commands.

Note that the blame is upon the adulterer. He may blame the tempting woman, his wife, his lusts, his desires, his circumstances, God, or the devil himself. Yet at the end of it all, he destroys his own soul.  The guilty one destroys his own life.  It can’t be blamed on anyone else – responsibility for self-destruction falls on the one who makes the sinful choice.  And it doesn’t go away quickly.  “Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.”  In addition to the ways that sexual immorality brings harm it will also bring disgrace when it is discovered.  The pain is not short and easy – it is deep and destructive.

It also impacts others, not just those who are involved in the sexual sin.  As such, it can cause them to react severely.  “For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.” It can be forgiven by God, but the impact and the hurt related to sexual sin does not stop quickly.  It can cause people to take revenge and attempt to get even or correct the act of sin.  This is an injury that is beyond any form of compensation. No gifts can satisfy the pain and suffering that results from the choice of sexual sin.  It wounds the body and soul, and dishonors the family, congregation, and community.  Pain flows everywhere.

Sexual immorality offers pleasure and excitement and often romance. It may or may not deliver those things, but even if it does it carries a price beyond any that can be paid.  “He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.” Once sexual sin occurs, there is often no way to restore relationships and compensate the hurt.  Even when effort is made to seek forgiveness and repentance follows, the pain of sexual sin is often more than many can endure, and they are unable to forgive.  Unfortunately, the lack of forgiveness makes those hurt captive of their own bitterness and pain.  It is far better to walk in God’s ways and avoid any type of sexual immorality as it carries a terrible and long lasting penalty.

Proverbs 6:1-11

In Proverbs 6:1-11 Solomon shifts gears from adultery to money and work. “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor”. Solomon warned his son against guaranteeing the debts of others, whether they were a friend or a stranger. This was the promise to pay the debts of the friend or stranger if they failed to pay.

This wasn’t really like loaning someone money, nor exactly like cosigning a loan. In modern financial terms, it was more like guaranteeing someone’s open line of credit. It is a promise made with the words of your mouth but will affect and afflict your wallet or purse if things go bad. Solomons advice is pretty clear.  If you’ve committed to guarantee something for someone – go and get released.  Timing is everything.  Sooner than later. “Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler”. A gazelle would do anything to escape the hunter, and a bird would do anything to escape the fowler. Solomon tried to communicate the urgency his son should have in escaping responsibility for the debt of others.

Solomon changes his focus to explaining the importance of hard work. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest”. Solomon spoke wisdom to the sluggard – essentially, the lazy man or woman. That lazy person should learn from the ant, an insect we know for doing hard work. The ant is wise and worthy of imitation because she works hard without having to be told to work hard. The book of Proverbs speaks a lot about the value of hard work, and for good reason. The difference between success and failure, between potential disappointment or being fulfilled, is often hard work.

Solomon directly addresses those who are not hard workers. “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man”. Solomon asked the lazy man to give account for his ways. The thought is, You want to sleep – how long? There is life to be lived and work to be done. Solomon is addressing the sluggard, but his teaching is targeted at his son and the rest of us who will be reading his words.  The sluggard loves to procrastinate and think things can always be done later. The hard worker can look forward to later because of accomplishments today!

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