Monday, March 11, 2019

PROVERBS Collection 3-4: Less Is More by Johne Conner

PROVERBS
LESS IS MORE
by
John Conner

COLLECTION 3: 
The Thirty Sayings of the Wise (22.17-24)

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 36-A:
Prov.22:17-21 TRUST IS BORN BY INTERNALIZING WISDOM
A new (third) collection of proverbs (22:17-24:22) is identified as Thirty Sayings of the Wise (22:17,20) a number symbolizing a complete and perfect teaching. The style returns to the repetition of direct commands from a parent to the son used in the first collection. This unit (vv.17-21) is the 1st ‘saying’ and it serves also as a prologue to the collection. It has two sections each with four lines (vv.17-18; 20-21) at the beginning and the end that enclose the central two lines (v.19). The purpose of learning to trust the Lord (v.19) is fronted by an admonition to absorb the wisdom by attention and benefits it gives. The trust engendered is explained by the last four lines as the parents’ purpose and by the benefits clearly described.
Again the exhortation is to conscious, diligent attentiveness to the sayings of the wise (v.17) as they give beauty and pleasure to the one who is able to recall and apply them in his living (v.18). But they need to be known well within one’s heart (internalized) to appear on the lips.
But it is not just the reciting of wisdom that makes one lovely or pleasing – it is the trust in the Lord, the reliance upon Him and His ways and thus obeying Him that is the aim of the diligent attention to wisdom (v.19). Thus the parent says, “I teach even you today!” that is my purpose for these sayings – wise behavior!
Again by means of a question (vv.20, 21) the parent elicits the son’s responsive involvement in this education project. He solicits the recognition that these thirty sayings are for advice and knowledge that shapes life and behavior (v.21). Reliable words, reliable, faithful reports and responses to those we serve are the way of wisdom. But you have to know them to obey them!

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 36-B:
Prov.22:22-25 SOMETIMES “NO!” IS WISE
Often wisdom is displayed, not by what you do, but by what you refuse to do. The 2nd and 3rd Sayings of the Wise point to this reality. Each pair also gives an explanation or warning as to why such restraint is wise, especially when it comes to how we gain wealth and the kind of people we associate with. 
History continues to prove that the rich often get that way by ‘using’ those with less. Thus it is no surprise that the exhortation is to not rob or crush the economically poor or afflicted. Price gouging with rents or during a shortage of supplies is common exploitation, but this saying points out that we will have to answer to the LORD their protector for such abuse or oppression and that He will return ‘tit for tat’ to those who oppress ones weaker.
Our associates do teach us and train us in our manner of relating – for good or bad. Thus the 3rd saying tells us to refuse to have hotheads or wrathful people as associates. The reason is clear – we will learn their manner of relating and it will bring us into many snares and troubles relationally. Thus avoid gaining by taking advantage of those with less and avoid friendships with quick-tempered, verbally raging people.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 36-C:
Prov.22:26-28 SAY “NO!” TO GET RICH QUICK SCHEMES
The purpose of these 30 Sayings is to help us trust the Lord (22:19), to have confidence in him. Thus we should not be surprised that they speak about finances and wealth a lot. Is our security in our money, or in the Lord Who provides money and all things for us?
Continuing the emphasis on things to which we should wisely say, “NO!” these two sayings warn against entanglements of debts and gaining by fraud. The 4th Saying (vv.26,27) warns against the dangers of indebtedness. We should say no to all indebtedness which might endanger out most basic possessions – like our own bed. This happens when we enter into debts, which are not secured by specific property, or with collateral that securely covers the total indebtedness. Too much of our credit card and consumer debt is of this nature and is too easy to obtain – but never easy to disentangle from it. Also included here would be our need to say “No!” to certifying a loan for someone else. This is a great way to destroy a relationship and to get ensnared in a debt. The motivation (v.27) is clear – if you don’t resist this – you can end up losing your bed and be sleeping on the ground.
The 5th Saying (v.28) must be understood as referring to land markers which were used to assign the Lord’s lands to the tribes and individual families of Israel. Land fraud by movement of boundary markers is an ancient crime that is still used to gain more productive assets. But it has never been morally right and still is not. Any act of taking what has not been gained by us or given to us may have short-term benefits – but it is wrong and will not ultimately bring the blessings sought.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 37-A:
Prov.22:29-23:5 TRUST SKILLS, NOT FEASTS NOR FORTUNES 
After the introduction (22:17-21) to the 30 Sayings Of The Wise, we encounter ten Sayings all of which but one are prohibitions, warning us what NOT to do (mostly related to wealth). The unusual one, the 6th Saying, begins this session (22:29) bidding our eyes to gaze upon one who, by wisely trusting the Lord, develops his skills and expertise. As a result, he becomes valuable and recognized by those with influence, like kings. The one gem of skilled/wise ability will not simply be lost among obscure people, but his sparkling abilities will give him a place of influence among the influential. Notice again the use of a rhetorical question to draw forth from us a response!
Again the next two Sayings return again to prohibitions of what not to do, both warning regarding deceptive situations whose appearances can fool the gullible. The 7th Saying 23:1-3) gives the setting of a feast provided by a ruler offering his guests delicious morsels. To the gullible with a hearty appetite, it might appear to be a flattering honor to be included and an opportunity to ‘tank up.” But the “mark well” or “observe carefully” of v.1b warns one that all is not as it appears, for the food is deceptive (v.3b). The feast is covering a trap or test of one’s character or self-control. So, especially if we tend to eat too much, we had better put a knife to our throat and restrain ourselves. All is not as it appears!
The 8th Saying (vv.4-5) likewise shows that with deceptive riches, the eyes may see things glittering, but fail to realize that the glittering is the fluttering of wings carrying them away like an eagle soaring to the heavens. If our eyes are caught by the promises of security and provisions, we need to be careful not to trust our own insight and wisdom independent from the Lord’s wisdom. This leads to the wearisome pursuit of that which does not satisfy, nor stay.
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 37-B:

Prov.23:6-11 LIVING BEFORE THE LIVING LORD
Living in view of the Lord’s living, active involvement in His world and our lives is the way of wisdom. All the prohibitions, or “Do Not!” commands, of this section of the 30 Sayings assume this reality as the basis for its directives. It is contrasted to living by our own insight or our maneuverings. The 9th Saying (23:6-8) warns against thinking that we can talk and dine our way into favor with the wealthy and influential. We might finagle our way in and the host might even tell us to “Eat and drink,” but his heart is not in it and we find that our pleasant, ingratiating words are wasted and we might even get so upset we vomit his delicacies.
Wasted words, like those just mentioned, are words which are spoken into the ears of a fool. Thus the 10th Saying exhorts caution regarding to whom we speak prudent words. A fool will only hold words of wisdom in snarled contempt – either laughter or ridicule will be the response received.
The Lord’s active involvement is the basis for the final Saying in this collection of ten. The command is to not seek to gain financial advantage by either taking someone else’s land or by harvesting from the fields of those disadvantaged, like the fatherless. The reason for this prohibition is that the Lord is their Defender, and He is strong, and we will discover that the Lord Himself will plead the cause of the oppressed and vulnerable against us. Living in view of the Lord’s living involvement is wise!
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 37-C:
Prov.23:12-16 WISDOM: TO KIDS, GRANDKIDS & BEYOND
This section within The Thirty Sayings (23:12-24:2) again focuses upon the transmission of wisdom from one generation to the future generations – furthering the aim of the entire book. God’s design is that families are the conduit of training the heart in wisdom. This requires parents, kids, and grandkids all be schooled in forming hearts that respond to instruction and discipline. In a fallen, warped world wisdom does not come without conscious, attentive pursuit and discipline.
The 12th Saying (v.12) is another general appeal to all generations for conscious, deliberate pursuit of wisdom. This involves the inner disposition of the heart that opens the ears to hear the instruction and knowledge that can shape the heart. Parents, kids, and grandkids all need this alert, conscious attention to wisdom because it is not the natural way.
The 13th Saying (vv.13,14) seems to be the father telling the son that he will also need to help his children learn discipline. And he reminds him that corporeal discipline is often necessary to protect from death itself that hounds an undisciplined life. The abuse of physical discipline has been justly condemned – there is no excuse for physical injury and emotional battering. But let us not be bullied into thinking that there is never the need or place for warm, affectionate, and yet firm, appropriately applied, physical pain as a means of training our inner hearts. The fact that the poet has to encourage the use of this tool implies the reluctance of the parent to use this tool. He knows life and death is the issue in learning wisdom.
The 14th Saying (vv.15,16) holds forth the incredible joy and satisfaction shared when wisdom is displayed among generations. John the Apostle said he had no greater joy than to hear that his children were walking in the truth (3 John 1:4). Likewise, this father is overjoyed when he sees his progeny living wisely and speaking uprightly. This is strong motivation – for what child does not in the depths of his heart long for his parents’ acceptance and praise!
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 38-A:
Prov.23:17-21 HOPES AND APPETITIES – WITH CARE!
The parent continues to prod the child to consciously direct their heart into the way of wisdom with directions about what not to do, what to do and why. Sayings 15 and 16 both follow this curriculum of prohibition, command, and motivation. 
The 15th Saying knows that everyone has hopes and desires for the ‘good’ life. But the way one pursues their heart’s hopes is the difference. And we live in God’s world where not every action immediately bears its ultimate consequence. In fact, it often looks to appearances that those pursuing the sinful path do reap their dreams and desires. Thus the parent exhorts the child to guard his heart’s zeal or envy for sinners and their ways. The true passion or zeal must be for a fear of the LORD that is ever vigilant, all the time! The reason is that there is a future with a definite end and the LORD determines that end and for those fearing Him our long enduring desire and hope will certainly be fulfilled, not cut off! The fear of the LORD is the way to the ‘good life!’
The 16th Saying assumes that those we associate with do impact us – for good or bad. This time in reverse the order it gives first the exhortation and then the prohibition warning of the conscious alertness necessary to avoid two specific kinds of bad influencers. The father boldly appeals for attention with a “yes, I’m talking to you – LISTEN!” Having attention he commands the child to make his heart take strides, to consciously direct it to the way of wisdom. This vigilance is necessary so as to embrace the prohibition to avoid those given to too much alcohol and/or too much eating- drunkenness and gluttony. Both have been too common in every age. The motivation lies in the danger posed by both. Both sins tend to create states of drowsiness both mental and physical. This leads to poor work habits and poor spending decisions and eventually leave one destitute or in rags. Too much of a good thing can destroy you – so don’t be among such undisciplined eaters and drinkers!
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 38-B:
Prov.23:22-28 CHILD TO ADULT TRANSITIONS
Part of the grave danger of growing up is the challenge of becoming self-sufficient and independent of parents, without abandoning or rejecting the kind of spiritual dependence, values and commitments which enabled them to responsibly birth, nurture, train and set in place such independence for the child. That is, good parents are dependent and fear the Lord and they thus train their children; but they realize that the child must for himself accept and adopt such dependence. But it is tricky for a child to transition to independence from parents and yet be dependent for oneself upon their values and beliefs. Yet there is also the creaturely instinct which wants to please the parent, and herein is an avenue for good transitions.
The 17th Saying (vv.22-25) appeals to the child’s sense of giving joy to the parents, to their wanting the parent’s rejoicing. The parent exhorts the child to listen and to buy: to listen to birth parents and buy the truth. The parent prohibits contempt for one mother and the accompanying devaluing of the wisdom, instruction, and insight she provides. Appealing to the parent's exultation in a righteous and wise child the plea is to provide a cause for their rejoicing and exultation by growing up wisely.
The wise parent also knows the power and danger for those growing up of sexual pleasure. Knowing the traps that are there, the 18th Saying (vv.26-28) appeals first for a heart commitment by the child. Spiritual heart resolve to the parent and God is requested and expected. Then a request is made of the child to guide the receptive organ of the eyes so to take pleasure in the good. This focus thus protects from the visual sensual pleasures. This prior commitment and focus of vision are given motivation by graphically depicting the deceptive dangers and powerful ploys of seductive predators. With metaphors from hunting of a deep pit and narrow well, the deceptive danger and its ensnaring power are depicted (v.27). Then the active and aggressive image of a robber shows that sexual power is forceful and too often effective in making traitors of the unprepared.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 38-C:
Prov.23:29-35 THE BITTER BITE OF THE BOTTLE 
The 19th Saying focuses upon one of the oldest and most common traps or enemies of wisdom – alcohol. This mocking song begins with questions (v.29) to prod for attention and then draws attention to the alluring looks, ambiance, and tastes of wine (vv.30-31). Yet this is shown to be deadly deceptive by comparing its bite of a venomous snake( 32). The tell-tale signs of eyes and mouth under the bitter control of drink are sure signs of trouble (v.33). The staggering impact is graphically depicted as a ship in a tumultuous storm and then as someone physically beaten (vv.34,35a). The addictive nature of alcohol is finally portrayed (v.35b) by the idiocy of one receiving such a beating and then waking up to do the same thing all over again.
Any who have encountered the debilitating addiction know the sadness and the danger of this common, simple allurement. Indeed as v.29 indicates bitter conflicts, complaints, needless bruises are the sad consequences and bite of the bottle.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 39-A:
Prov.24:1-4 SAYINGS ON WAYS AND MEANS
Sayings 20 and 21 stand in contrast with one another warning that the two means or ways available to secure the things we want or need are vastly different. Saying 20 exhorts one to avoid the means used by the evil people; while Saying 21 shows the agency of the process of wisdom ultimately rewards.
The assumption is that in this fallen topsy-turvy world the evil often is successful enough to catch our eye by their success. Saying 20 shows that this tempts us to envy them and desire to associate or go along with them. But sometimes when we get close we see that their means of dealing with people is evil – they resort to violence: pondering physical, emotional, relational ways to get what they want at the expense of others. With a heart thus inclined there is no surprise that verbal abuse is a tool of choice. Who has not seen the bullying, the insinuations, lies and false statements flying in business and politics? So the warning – do NOT envy them or associate with them!
In contrast, is the patient process of the way of wisdom. The emphasis of Saying 21 is the agency or means of the three foundational stones: wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. None of these are learned quickly or simply – we grow in possessing them and they with us. It is by these healthy means that we build, establish and fill a home (not just the house). These verbs reflect the means that the Lord Himself used to make the world (3:19), indeed the way of true creativity. And notice the household and rooms ultimately have precious treasures that are precious and pleasant – not violent and abusive. There are truly quite different ways and means of living – let us choose wisely which we use!

Prov.24:5-9 WISDOM VINDICATES ITSELF
The Thirty Sayings continue its focus upon the benefits of wisdom by showing how it gives strength amidst the distressing situations of life. The next three Sayings contrast the prevailing power of wisdom (vv.5-6) in life situations that are public in nature with the ultimate public rejection of foolish living (vv.7-9). 
Wisdom not only builds, establishes and fills its home well (vv.3,4), it also is able to protect itself and others. Saying 22 (vv.5,6) shows that the dependence upon wisdom, knowledge, guidance, and counsel give both the strength and the strategies needed to wage war – militarily or spiritually. Strength comes from wisdom and understanding, and this humility then seeks guidance and many counselors to develop an effective strategy to successfully handle threats to home and society.
The contrasting backdrop to such wisdom is the focus of the next two Sayings. The 23rd Saying shows that the root of the incompetence for the fool is the lack of humility. The statement that “wisdom is too high” reflects as Bruce Waltke says that, “the incorrigible lacks the wings of piety and humility that soar high enough to attain the heavenly wisdom for public affairs.” Being thus impaired, the fool finds himself without words or influence in public or legal issues.
In stark contrast to the good influence and competent strategies of the wise (vv. 5, 6), the 24th Saying (vv.8,9) displays the public censure and repudiation of the mocking fool. With a bare statement of fact, the poet says the public will label as “Schemer!” one planning evil. Then more tellingly, he declares such scheming of evil is sin – against God’s order for society. Thus it is no wonder that humanity hates, or finds repugnant, such a mocker.
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 39-C:

Prov.24:10-14 STRENGTH & PLEASURE IN WISDOM
Sometimes an observation of negative realities is the best motivation for positive behavior. Saying 25 utilizes this method to exhort one to show oneself strong by caring for and protecting others in times of deadly distress. First is the general observation of fact (v.10) that to falter or be slack in a time of distress displays the reality of one’s weakness of character and strength. No clue as to why one falters or what is lacked – just the truth that inner strength was lacking.
Then a concrete example is offered by means of an exhortation to engagement in the needs of others (v.11) and motivation from the Lord’s all-knowing providence and justice (v.12). A person of true inner strength will not falter, but will lovingly protect others threatened with danger and injustices. The exhortation is to deliver and hold back those endangered. The motivation is presented by voicing the common excuse of those who are slack, “We did not know.” And this excuse is challenged by questions which call forth from us the clear acknowledgment that our Lord is indeed all knowing, all powerful, and justly repays both good done and help withheld.
Saying 26 guards the prior Saying against the mistake of thinking wisdom is raw, bare, austere justice. The delight and benefits of wisdom are extolled by means of a comparison to the benefits and pleasures (sweetness) of honey. The comparative exhortations are clear: Eat honey and know wisdom! Honey is good (for you) and wisdom is your life! Honey tastes sweet and wisdom gives a blessed future and eternal hope! Wisdom is the path of strength and joy!
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 40-A:


Prov.24:15-20 BE CAREFUL WITH JUSTICE
Once again these Sayings focus on what to avoid, the “Do Not” behavior of wisdom. The poet grounds the validation for each prohibition in the Lord’s established moral ordering of His world. 
Saying 27 admonishes one not to adopt the secretive and violent methods of the wicked (v.15). They indirectly destroy good people by seeking to get their means of provisions and places of rest, like businesses and homes. The reason given is that it is hard to keep a good man down (v.16)! The poet observes that even if the righteous falls seven times he will yet arise again. This is in contrast to the irreversible fall and ultimate calamity of the wicked. Suffering is an assumed reality, but ultimate conquest of goodness is assured.
Yet this assurance is to be carefully guarded against a bitter revengeful heart that callously rejoices in the punishment of those who have wronged them. Saying 28 makes it clear that justice does not permit sinful degrading of the wicked by rejoicing over their judgment (v.17). In fact, God’s justice is also governed by His holiness and He will cease the temporal wrath upon the wicked if the righteous allows his heart to sinfully gloat in smug arrogance over the downfall of the wicked (v.18). We rejoice that justice prevails, yet we weep for those upon whom it brings its disaster.
In the face of such evil and wicked people, and the possible delay of their just punishment, Saying 29 cautions against two common opposite reactions. It prohibits both fretting and about envying the wicked who temporally don’t receive their just punishment. Injustice suffered without punishment of the wrongdoer can cause a slow burning anger that builds resentment and bitterness – thus the admonition – DO NOT (v.19a). The other emotion of envy at their seemingly ‘getting off’ without consequences is also prohibited (v.19b). The reason is that evil people have no blessed future – ultimately their lamp will be snuffed out – God’s holiness, though it may delay justice, demands justice will ultimately prevail in His world (v.20). The cross of Jesus is the only place available for us to escape the justice we deserve for our evil. HE is the only refuge and only hope of blessing!

COLLECTION 4
Further Sayings of the Wise  (24.23-34)

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 40-B:
Prov.24:21-26 OF GOVERNANCE AND JUSTICE
The Thirty Sayings of the Wise ends with a reminder that wisdom is the best way to live because the Lord and His kings are the agents who carry out His moral governance in His world. The admonition is to fear the Lord and His king and to not associate with those who seek change by ways other than appropriate submission (v.21). In short, give respect and submission to God and His rulers and avoid rebellious agitators. The reason for such warning is now grounded in the action of God and kings to bring certain and sudden disaster on those who oppose His rule (v.22). First, the suddenness is highlighted (v.22a), and then a question (v.22b) prods us to think regarding the surprising nature of the judgment awaiting defiant ones.
Now the poet presents another unnumbered collection of Sayings of the Wise (24:23-34) after the prior Thirty Sayings. They are simply introduced as such in verse twenty-three. The first Saying focuses upon the judicial system among a community. It first boldly states that it is not good to show partiality in a judgment (v.23b). It then shows why this is the case by two illustrations: one of partiality and one of justice.
The direct speech of a judge’s partial verdict (v.24a) saying “You are innocent,” to a guilty person, draws the scene. The consequences are a social uproar against the judge, calling God’s curse upon the acquitted and the judge (v.24b). The community implicitly knows that partiality is not good. Contrasting this scene is one who establishes what is right or just. This one experiences the pleasure of blessings seemingly showered upon him by the community (v25). The community always knows what is just, especially when they are the ones who have been wronged. Oh for more just judges who know righteousness and give just verdicts!

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 40-C:
Prov.24:26-31 WISE WORDS AND WORK
More Sayings continue with a focus upon words and work. Not only is a judge’s just verdict a blessing, but also in general words of honesty, spoken to one directly, are a blessing (v.26). Honest replies spoken and received are elevated to the level of an intimate kiss. We are such people pleasers by nature that to have people lovingly, caringly speak honestly to us is a mark of true love and friendship.
Productivity before consuming is a principle that our easy credit, debt-ridden culture has forgotten. This Saying (v.27) reminds one of the principle of harvest or correct patterns of work. We must labor to eat or consume; and it thus plowing, sewing and harvesting the fields takes precedence over consuming and house building. Secure your trade or profession first, then think about a family or a mortgage!
Words again are two-sided weapons tempting us to dishonesty and vengeance (vv.28-29). Not only is honesty a blessing (v.26) but dishonesty by using words to get even with another is wrong – a temptation to be shunned. The scene is of neighbors who apparently don’t have the best relationship and an opportunity to ‘get even’ by bearing false, unfounded witness against them presents itself. Thus the golden rule must be jealously adhered to: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Our desire for vengeance is so strong we must diligently guard against it.
Both work and the lack of it leaves a visible footprint! This Saying (vv.30,31) pictures a stroll through the neighborhood and the observing of a lot or field covered with nettles and weeds and the stone wall fallen apart. The lesson clearly seen is that the owner is a senseless sluggard – too lazy to be productive with the resources at hand. Positive lesson – work is good and productive and ‘looks better!”
Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 41-A:

Prov.24:32 – 25:3 NECESSARY WORK & GLORY OF INSIGHT
The Further Sayings (24:23-34) are brought to a close by a careful analysis and lesson from the prior observation of the untended field. First, the importance of paying attention and giving studied thought to observations of life is emphasized by the poet as he states his process of learning (v.23) He saw, paid attention to what he saw, observed it and consciously accepted the lesson it taught. Wisdom must be consciously and diligently sought! Then the lesson learned is articulated. In a fallen, cursed earth entropy works against those who fail in diligence and work. Just a little slack or negligence and the attack of nature overtakes the cultivated fields and built walls. And the images imply the attack is violent and surprising – we know from experience it is devastating. Wisdom knows work is necessary!
A Fifth Collection in Proverbs (25:1- 29:27) are said to be authored by Solomon but collected and arranged by the court of later King Hezekiah (v.1). They seem to be designed to train court officials in the art of wise governance as civil servants.
The introduction (vv.2-3) makes a comparison between God and kings. What is common to both is a depth of knowledge and insight in their actions that simply cannot be known by their subjects. Like a parent making decisions and actions that a child simply is incapable understand due to lack of ability and experience – so both God and kings are honored or have glory because they have inscrutable wisdom. God’s actions in the governance of heavens and earth are reflected in the king's heart that has diligently searched out matters that those not in his position could learn. The governance of both God and kings must at times be trusted without comprehension of the details. Trusting the heart of God and good kings shows forth their glory or honor.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

PROVERBS Collection 2: Less Is More by Johne Conner

PROVERBS
LESS IS MORE
by
John Conner



COLLECTION 2: 
Solomon I  (10-22.16)

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 15-b:
Prov.10:1-5 Proverbs Proper – Let’s Make Some Comparisons
We begin a new section (10:1 – 22:16) which following the Hebrew style of poetry uses parallel structuring of statements to make comparisons. The first part (10:1 – 15:29) consists of comparisons mostly of opposites, and the second (15:30 – 22:16) will mostly use comparisons of similarities. 
Given the focus of the prior chapters, we are not surprised to see that the focus of the parallel comparisons is on the difference between the wise and the foolish. After calling attention to the new collection, “The proverbs of Solomon,” the poet uses the deep longing of every child to receive the parents’ praise. This motive of pleasing parents is used to launch a series of contrasts by pointing out that a son’s conduct can bring either gladness or grief (v.1b) based on being either wise or foolish.
First, the contrast asserts that the benefit of material possessions depends upon whether they were gained by righteous ways or wicked ways (v.2) and the reason for the contrast in benefits is ultimately because Yahweh Himself responds to the moral/ethical manner of securing one's treasures (v.3). Then the contrast of the practical way this contrast happens: one is diligent and timely in work, the other is slack and sleepy instead of laboring. Sufficiency or shameful lack are the contrasted results. The wise do not avoid work!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 15-c:
Prov.10:6-16 By Their Speech You Shall Know Them This continues comparing the contrast between the wise and the fool by looking at the impact of their speech. The contrast of the impact of speech is first on oneself (vv.6-9) and then on others (vv.11-14), with a hinge (v.10), which touches on both. Another look at wealth and security (vv.15,16) is the final contrast of this section.
Blessings and a good social reputation OR violence and being forgotten are largely determined by what and how one speaks (vv.6,7). Thus the righteous and the wicked can be known by their words. Also the wise knows when not to speak but listen and learn – in humility he is open to instruction, guided by it in his walk and thus walks securely. But the fool, babbles continuingly, thinking more of his own opinion and gets twisted in his own spin and comes to public ruin (vv.8-9). The focus shifts with v.10 to the impact upon others of one’s speech. The speech of the righteous is a spring of life, a healing concealment of others wrongs and is a source of wisdom. But the speech stirs up hatred, violence, fearful confusion. In short relationships and social order are made better or worse by one’s speech.
A final contrast between the righteous and the wicked is the benefits they receive from material possessions. For the righteous with wealth comes security that is rooted in the Lord, not the wealth and with that to life, while the wicked find anxiety, worry, ultimately sin and death from their wrongful pursuit of wealth.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 16-A:
Prov.10:17-21 The Power of Fake News And Valuable Lips A second large section (10:17-11:31) develops the contrasting comparisons of the righteous and the wicked in terms of their deeds and their destinies. The section is introduced by one verse (v.17) showing the contrasting effects of contrasting responses to God’s instruction. Open responsiveness and keeping of the Lord’s instruction is life inducing, but resistance and reje
ction of correction leads self and others away from life.
The first unit (10:18-32) contrasts the speech and the expectations between these two different responders to the Lord. The first part (vv.18-22) of the unit returns again to the incredible impact of one’s speech. We see too often how hatred is scarcely covered by lies and ‘fake news’ openly published and multiplied. This destroys people and the culture of civil debate. But prudent restraint of words can stem the downward slide.
Positive speech is extremely valuable like silver and it can shepherd, feed, protect, nourish individuals and a society – but it stems from a righteous use of tongue and lips. The fools heart does not value righteousness, thus dies from lack of sense (vv.20-21).

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 16-B:
Prov.10:22-26 The Dread of Pain OR The Prospect of Enduring Pleasure
Everyone desires/requires resources which make for security – the question is where and how are they sought? Here is where the contrast begins – to whom one looks to satisfy these desires for security. The comparisons, by contrast, continues as it moves from speech (vv.17-21) to contrasting of desires, deeds, and destinies under Yahweh’s ordering of His world between the wicked and the righteous (vv.22-26).
The wise person begins with the eyes fixed on the ultimate source of pleasure, Yahweh (v.22). While the wicked take pleasure or sport in doing wrong, looking to his own power to satisfy and provide – the wise understand the moral order of God’s world (v.23). Even the wicked cannot escape as their own conscious is haunted by the dread of what will come from their villainy (v.24). And that dread is well founded for a sudden tempest will make a reality of their dread of insecurity and they will lose resources and life itself. But the righteous have enduring pleasures established forever (v.25). A practical illustration of the reality of such irritation and hurt ends the section (v.26) by comparing such unexpected hurt to the common physical shock and reaction to vinegar and smoke – pain!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 16-C:
Prov.10:27-32 Expectations – Joyfully Fulfilled OR Terribly Crushed Consciously or not, we all have hopes of joy we hope will be enduring. These are the springs of our actions. These verses contrast the firm, stable expectations of the wise with the transient, ultimate disappointment of the wicked. The key to the contrast is one’s response to the Yahweh. The righteous fear Him and His way and thus set their expectations upon 
Him and order their ways and walk accordingly. They are not disappointed - longevity, security, joy, and speech reflecting wisdom flow from their character. The wicked perish, instability, fear-filled insecurity, speech marked by insecure perversity and ultimately being cut-off hounds their paths, making for disappointed living.
Stability, emotional security, and enduring joy characterize the path of wisdom. Instability, insecurity, short-lived pleasures and ultimate disappointment characterize the path of the wicked. It all depends upon whom you ultimately listen to for your defining of reality!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 11-A:
Prov.11:1-8 How We Gain Wealth Reveals Where We Look For Security We all know we need to gain wealth. It is necessary and good for our living on God’s earth. But these verses show that the way we go about securing wealth, reveals to us and to others where we think our security ultimately lies. Again the comparisons made are contrasting the wicked and the righteous. They are displayed to be contrasting by the methods of their s
ecuring wealth and by the consequences they reap because of where they place their confidence.
The wicked think that their wealth is so necessary that they are willing to be deceptive and in pride use perversity to cheat others and think they can ignore Yahweh’s ordered world (vv.1,2). But too late they learn this ill-gotten gain does not profit and they are tripped up and fall by their on deceptive practices. In short – their hope perishes, vanishes. (vv.6,7).
The righteous are humble and modest and know that accurate measurements and fair dealings which trust not their gain but the Lord who blesses is the way forward. They refuse to compromise their integrity before Him and others and are lead (vv.3,5) on straight paths and are delivered (vv.4,6,8) from adversity and death by Him Whom they trust more than wealth.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 11-B:
Prov.11:9-15 Perilous Days of Uncivil Civic Discourse Healthy community is founded in healthy speech and relationships. The contrasting comparisons continue, this time focusing upon the impact contrasting speech has on a people – be it a family, town or nation. We in the U.S. are being reminded of how words can either tear or mend the fabric of community. Good communication builds up the community bonds; selfish, slanderous, d
eceptive communication tears it down (v.11) It begins between neighbors (v.9) when selfish deception to gain advantage becomes the tool of advantage. The righteous must work hard at getting the facts, accurate knowledge, to be protected. The importance of such diligence is recognized by the community, by the city. Moral justice exalts or builds up a community, but wicked mouths destroy (vv.10,11).
Too often these days, we are seeing that slander is a veiled tool of hate and despising of those being slandered. The leaks of confidences shared, even of plans being made before implemented hinder healthy planning and governing. A person of understanding knows very well that holding the tongue and concealing information are not the same as destructive lies (vv.12,13), but guarding confidence serves prudent serving of the group.
Yet we must not let the slander of the wicked bully us into retreat or silence or isolation or unwise commitments. The wise always seeks guidance and a multitude and variety of perspectives; and also avoids striking deals, handshakes, which place us and others in debt to others (vv.14,15). We ALL need to remember that civil, courteous, truthful, well-mannered speech is NECESSARY for community to continue!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 11-C:
Prov.11:16-22 Kindness WILL Benefit In The End A common saying is that ‘good guys finish last.” This section boldly challenges that statement asserting the paradoxical path to lasting self-benefit is humble graciousness, kindness, righteousness, and blamelessness. The poet continues to use parallel comparisons to contrast the wise/righteous with the foolish/wicked. He begins (v.16) with an ‘honored’ woman, then ends (v.22) BY
 contrasting a woman whose beauty is turned grotesque due to piggish indiscretion.
The fool thinks he has to be self-assertive to gain the advantage and thus uses violence and cruelty thinking he is climbing up. But vv.16-17 show this is deceitful and actually does damage to oneself, while the graciousness and kind person rewards himself. And it is not just wages that show this paradoxical benefit (v.18) it escalates to become a life and death contrast (v.19). The certainty of this paradox is rooted in Yahweh response to such perversity and evil (v.20) and this assures the eventual punishment of evil (v.21). The last verse (v.22) shifts from a contrasting comparison to an absurd one. It likens a woman gifted with natural beauty who dishonors such beauty by indiscrete behavior to a pig having a valuable gold ring in its snout as it roots through the garbage, swill, and dirt. Graciousness and kindness ultimately glorifies!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 18-A:
Prov.11:23-27 The Paradox of Getting What You Want It has been said that paradox is truth standing on its head, waving hands and legs to be clearly seen. With these continued comparisons of contrast, the poet clearly shows the surprising paradox that generosity of spirit receives good, while stinginess of spirit suffers evil instead of the gain for which it longed. And he is clear that this is rooted in one's desires and manifes
ted in one's actions.
At the beginning (v.23) and the end (v.27) this section shows that ones desires and wants to move us in differing actions. Are we seeking to be a blessing to others or to grab what we think we need from others, even if it harms them? The paradox is that which Jesus articulated – “He who seeks to gain His life will lose it, He who seeks to lose His life for My sake and the gospel will find it!” The wise know that generosity which shares will be blessed, while the one grasping and withholding in fear never has enough (v.24). This odd paradox is fleshed out with two verses (vv.25-26) each using agricultural images to make the point – generosity pays while stingy, greedy self-protection impoverishes. This is true relationally, materially and spiritually – God’s world is wholly unified.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 18-B:
Prov.11:28-31 The Certainty That Selfishness Stumbles Our last segment (vv.23-27) showed how selfish, stingy living does not get what it is trying to achieve. This section (vv.28-31) says “Amen!” to that by asserting the certainty that the sinner who trusts in wealth will ultimately fall disastrously. 
Let’s start first with the last verse (v.31) and note the poet’s statement of certainty. For the first time, we encounter the poet’s climax marker “how much more” to make a climatic contrast between the righteous and the wicked sinner. This assertion is used with a similar purpose by Peter in 1 Peter 4:18 arguing from the lesser to the greater to show the certainty. IF God does repay and discipline the righteous (and He does – note 12:1) here and now on the earth, CERTAINLY we can know that the wicked WILL receive recompense! It will NOT pay to live a stingy, selfish life!
Now look how the poet uses contrasting images (falling house and sprouting foliage) in v.28 to show the differing results, then in vv.29-30 highlights each part of the contrasts used in v.28. One who relies on wealth and seeks it as his security (v.28a) – ruins his household, inherits the wind, and becomes enslaved (v.29). Meanwhile, the righteous - who trusts in the Lord and lives generously, is a fruit-bearing tree of life that winsomely benefits others with his wisdom (v.30). Miserliness leads to misery. Generosity leads to grace!

Prov.12:1-7 Affections Determine Destiny You become like what you love. Our affections, who or what we love, shape our thinking and planning, impacts our speech and ultimately determines our long-term destiny. Continuing to use contrasting comparisons the poet again appeals for a positive response to wisdom by making a contrasting characterization of character which reveals what one loves (v.1). The love or openness of one’s heart to discipline or correction leads one to become either wisely knowledgeable or a brute ignoramus. Only those who know the benefits of learning by being corrected will love correction and be pliable and open to being formed by it.
To help us know the benefit of such openness to discipline the poet then states the benefits in a general manner (vv.2-3) and then with a specific, particular illustration (vv.4-7) of the contrast of impact. First, the general results are contrasted. The good, righteous person receives the Lord’s favorable smile and will not be uprooted in adversity. But the crafty, scheming, self-serving person is condemned and thus not permanently established, but is eternally insecure.
To flesh out these contrasting destinies he turns to the potential impact a woman can have upon her husband and her household contrasting the character (v.4), plans (v.5), speech (v.6) and destinies (v.7) between the wise and the foolish. There seems to be a causal progression indicated. The shameful wife causes rottenness, as she plans and guides deceitfully with works that ambush the innocent but when they are overturned they come to the end of themselves. The noble and virtuous wife brings honor as her planning works for justice and her mouth protects and delivers – thus without surprise she stands firm in the end.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 19-A:
Prov.12:8-12 Prudent Lives Yields Economic Stability Wisdom has its social and economic impact. The poet continues to encourage us to pursue wisdom by holding forth the practical impact in our lives from wisdom. He begins with a general observation in v. 8, then gives three specific examples (vv.9-11), and closes with a reminder of the long-term, enduring benefit of right living (v.12)
The general truth is that people generally give public respect to prudent people, while the muddle-headed, who do not think about reality clearly are held in ridicule or contempt (v.8). Now three stories of prudent thinking about reality is contrasted with warped thinking. The prudent is willing to be thought less of by others, instead of being tempted by social pressure to live above his means and thus not be able to afford having a laborer. But the foolish values human opinion and boasts about himself, but lacks means even to provide for his own (v.9) Secondly a prudent person genuinely cares for others, especially his workers while the wicked are even cruel with their attempts to be merciful (v.10). Finally, hard work always pays better than empty schemes or ideas that don’t have solid work behind them (v.11). The glut of gambling and get-rich pyramid schemes still abound.
The conclusion (v.12) is that viewing reality with the fear of the Lord yields fruitfulness and enduring social and economic health. But the wicked are left with empty desires and longings for the spoil or booty of evil pursuits. It pays to pursue wisdom!
LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 19-A:
Prov.12:13-14 You Can Only Reap What Your Sow Consequences are inseparably related to the kind of action causing them. Here in the middle of two unites talking about wise and unwise speech and deeds there is a transition which highlights the sure and certain relationship of kind with kind. Any gardener can tell you that if you want to harvest watermelons you cannot get it if you sow okra. 
First the negative point, it is normal that the evil mans verbal deception and abuse comes back upon himself. Eventually harshness, unkind and lying lips receive the evil they carry. But the righteous escapes all sorts of troubles simply by speaking kind and simple truth. This sure protection for the righteous is then reinforced by reminding us that both words of his mouth, and the deed of his hands, will certainly yield the satisfying fruit of goodness.
As Paul says, we should not be deceived – deeds born of the flesh reap corruption while deeds born of the Spirit harvest life – an inseparable connection.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 19-A:
Prov.12:15-23 Out Of The Heart The Mouth Speaks This opens another unit contrasting the righteous and the foolish as revealed in their words (vv.16-23) and their works (vv.24-27). It is opened (v.15) and closed (v.28) by two statements regarding “the ways” of these contrasting people. 
Today we look at wise and foolish speech. Even our speech is impacted by our inner disposition (v.15). One who does not arrogantly trust his own knowledge or ability seeks counsel and become wise in his use of words. But one who is self-confident thinks his own ways don’t need evaluation of others, thus he brashly, uncritically speaks.
This contrasting inner disposition is revealed by speech patterns The fool doesn’t control his emotions and his annoyance is made public (v.16) and speaking recklessly he lashes and stabs with words whomever is around (v.18). Also his tongue is used deceitfully (v.17), thus he will only be trusted in his community for a brief while (v.19). The shrewd person ignores that which annoys the wise (v.16) and thus his tongue works peace and healing in the group (v.18). He is a trustworthy witness regarding others (v.17) thus naturally is established in the group (v.19).
Now the contrasting speech patterns are linked to the heart (vv.20,23). The fool plans evil, thus speaks scheming deceit and his words cry out folly. The shrewd person does not spout everything he knows, but counsels peace. The contrasting results between the two are shown and revealed to be assured by the Lord Himself in the two verses between (vv.21,22). The righteous is protected while the wicked are full of harm as the Lord hates lying and shows His favor to the trustworthy.


LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 20-A:
Prov.12:24-28 Good Work, Good Words, And Good, Enduring Life The contrast between the words and works of the righteous and the foolish are here brought to a conclusion noting that the consequences in this life are good, and that this goodness continues into eternity. The poet begins with four verses of contrasting comparisons and ends with a comparison of the similar results.
The contrasts begin (v.24) and end (v.27) with the different consequences experienced between the diligent worker and a slack, sluggish, negligent worker. The diligent hand, because he disciplines himself will have influence over others. The sluggish, seeking to avoid labor, ends up in compulsory, forced labor. Failure to provide for oneself, leads to a poverty that enslaved (v.24). This paradox is given a bite with humor in v.27 where the slacker won’t even bother to roast the available wild game available while the diligent does feed on the available possessions. Between these ‘work’ observations we find the contrast of ‘good words’ or ‘counsel sought.’ The power of a word to encourage, enliven and animate is contrasted with the depressing power of anxiety – hope is powerful – a good word gives hope (v.25). Also the contrast is seen between the righteous who seeks out friends and neighbors to either/or give or receive counsel. The wise knows he needs insight. But the wicked following only their own way, leads themselves astray (v.26)
The final compares the similar destinations/consequences of the path and the journey of the righteous. The first line says they are life giving – good consequences. The final line says it goes longer than life and extends into immortality.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 20-B:
Prov.13:1-6 Hearing Impacts Life! Once again the poet opens another section as he did the book by pointing out the crucial role of listening and the difference it makes. One with open ears is quick to respond to both instruction and correction and grows wise (v.1a). But the foolish become that way because in insecure arrogance they repeatedly refuse instruction and rebukes (v.1b). This progression works its impact upon one’s 
manner of speaking. The wise by good words benefits others and himself and guards his tongue to protect life (vv.2a & 3a), while the one using treacherous, unfaithful words works violence and self ruin (vv.2b & 3b).
More than words are impacted by listening – one’s energy and ambition are either incited or stunted, with not surprising results. The sluggard ends with empty cravings unfulfilled while the diligent receives satisfaction (v.4). Finally vv.5-6 shows that the righteous person hates false words and thus guards a blameless way, while the wicked is overturned by his sinful way and reaps shame and disgrace. All of this dependent upon ears being open and receptive to instruction and correction.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 20-C:
Prov.13:7-11 Unsound Finances Reveal Unsound Character Our current culture of easy credit and living beyond one’s income needs to hear this message. This unit emphasizes that wisdom and folly are revealed by one’s manner of dealing with money. Again the comparisons are contrasting the righteous and the wicked (v.9) and their styles of approaching wealth. 
The poet begins (v.7) with contrasting the opposite ways people get into financial trouble by false pretense. One, who has little, lies by living beyond his means trying to make others think he is wealthy. Another, who has much, lies by claiming to have nothing, seemingly not willing to share or help others. In both character is defective and harmful.
One’s openness or not to correction or moral rebuke is also displayed by one’s wealth. Verse 8 shows that a person can is open to responding to threats of moral danger and can utilize his wealth to avoid, while the poor is closed to such moral corrections and unresponsive – remains impoverished. And v.10 accents this showing the closed-minded pride creates social strife while the wise listens to counsel and seeks a better plan.
The endurance and preservation of wealth are also related to character. Both vv.9 and 11 show this. And v. 11 shows the key is sound, gradual growth of wealth, not get rich quick schemes and deceitfully taking advantage of others. Money speaks, about character!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 21-A:
Prov.13:12-19 How The Heart’s Desire Is Fulfilled To be human is to have expectations, longings and desires. All have these appetites, but is there a sure pathway to find them fulfilled and satisfied? To point the way to this pathway the poet uses a double frame or double sandwich method. That is v.12 is parallel to v. 19 (first and last in unit) and then v.13 is parallel to v.18 (2nd and next to last). The outside frame shows
 that desires fulfilled is the tree of life and pleases the soul – our longings do have fulfillment. But they also warn a sick heart refuses to turn from evil, hating to turn it loose.
The second frame (vv.13,18) shows that the sure source to a heart that desires the good is respectful, humble receptivity to God’s words of command, instruction and correction. If one values God’s Word lightly (despises it) he is ruined, usually by poverty and public shame. But to fear and respond to the Word will be repaid and publicly esteemed.
The inner four verses flesh out some specific contrast to the consequences of whether or not one pursue his desires by obedient response to God’s word or not. The contrasts are between life and death (v.14) favor and destruction (v.15), protections or public foolishness (v.16) and then being a healing agent or perishing (v.17). That which we really desire, that for which we are made IS able to find satisfaction – but the desire must be fashioned, formed, protected and guided by God’s revelation in His Word.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 21-B:
Prov.13:20-25 Fly With The Crows & Get Shot With The Crows This was a saying I heard a lot growing up in rural Texas. To understand it you must realize that crows were undesirable and consider a nuisance at best, if not a thieving predator. The point of course is that whom you associate with has consequences – in this case negatively for bad. Today’s Proverb unit holds up this same truth of the impact of our companions, but sh
ows that it works both ways – positively for good, or as above, negatively for bad results. It is clearly encouraging us to walk with those who lead us to good consequences.
The main point is made in v. 20 and then several illustrations of this reality follow. What is at stake in our chosen companions is either becoming wise or suffering harm. The next two verses give illustration to this contrast and are linked by two frames. The words “sinners” and “good” appear in both verses. Sinners are pursued by trouble (v.21) and their wealth ends up flowing to them or their descendants (v.22). But the righteous receives good rewards (v.21) and is able to leave a legacy to kids and grandkids (v.22). This connection between ones actions and consequences is shown in v.23 to not always be directly linked. Sometimes raw injustice can impoverish the undefended poor – trouble does have a way of pursuing (v.21). Also the material legacy of good people is passed forward in a healthy manner by wise, tough, diligent discipline and training of their children. Material legacy is insured by a good moral legacy. The lesson is rounded off by looking at the basic needs either being or not being met (v.25) – depending upon with whom we associate and thus who we ourselves become.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 21-C:
Prov.14:1-7 Self Damage Inflicted By Foolish Pride This new unit again urges us to walk in wisdom by a collection of proverbs that set forth several examples of how foolish pride leads to self-inflicted wounds and damage. Thus it ends with the counsel to flee from foolish people.
While a wise woman constructively builds a home, the foolish one, with her own hands/actions/choices, tears hers apart (v.1). A straight path lays open to one who walks in awe of the Lord; but the haughty one, rejecting the Lord and His ways, finds crooked, difficult paths (v.2). A fool's own unrestrained mouth is the rod that punishes such pride, while the wise is protected by the good use of his lips (v.3). The smug pride of appearances, little work, no cattle, clean barns is also self defeating and self punishing (no harvests), because abundant harvests only come by the strength of messy oxen. May not look or smell good – but it is wise and productive!
An honest person won’t use even one lie, but the false witness can’t speak the truth for breathing continuous lies – self inflicted deception (v.5). An arrogant mocker seems to seek wisdom but can’t be humble enough to identify it when he sees it. While for the discerning it is quite evident (v.6). Now with such a record of self-inflicted damage from the foolish, with whom no wisdom or knowledge is found – it is best to leave their presence!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 22-A:
Prov.14:8-15 Not Everything Is As It Appears A wise person understands that externals can be deceptive, while the simple, trusting his own judgment (v.12) instead of God’s revelation, is often deceived. The poet uses a pattern of four pairs in a up then down stair step pattern to urge one to discern reality by the Creator, rather than mere senses. The pattern is: A – vv.8, 15; B – vv.9-14; C – vv.10,13; D – vv.11,12.
The opening/closing pair (vv.8, 15) contrasts the prudent or shrewd wise person with the foolish or gullible fool. The wise have insight that guards his ways and steps, while the fool is deceived and believes anything. The second pair (vv.9, 14) shows that the fool does not think guilt merits any response, yet is eventually punished for his ways; but the upright receives social favor and full reward for their good. The third pair (vv.10, 13) reminds us that external laughter or joy may not reveal the reality of inner bitterness or grief of a person’s heart. The inner most pair (vv.11, 12) shows the core of the matter is that mere dependence upon one’s own judgment, that ignores moral realities, will lead to destruction and ultimately death. Even if the wicked has a house (appearance of stability and security) while the upright lives only in a tent – moral uprightness will ultimately flourish. The wise walk by revelation, not by senses of mere sight.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 22-B:
Prov.14:15-18 Different Methods Yield Different Results Picking up the contrast again in v.15 which was seen in v.8, the poet repeats the gullible/shrewd contrast again in v.18 forming another unit for vv.15-18. The thrust here is to show that the differing ways or methods of the wise and the fool certainly result in differing consequences.
The outer pair of vv.15, 18 moves from the careless, uncritical, unthinking ways of the gullible in v. 15 to the consequences resulting in folly inherited (v.18). Likewise it shows the contrast of the wise being cautious and discerning in method (v.15), who in consequence is crowned with knowledge (v.18). The four inner lines (vv.16,17) clarify the contrast of methods, beginning with the wise fearing the Lord and turning from evil (v.16a). The next three lines show two faulty methods of the fool. First there are the live-out-loud kind of fool who is quick-tempered, unrestrained and cock-sure of his ways, and yet commits public folly (vv.16b,17a). There are also the more calm, calculating, schemer types of fools who try to undercut others, yet it results in their being hated by many (v.17b). Choose your methods and choose your consequences. Folly or wisdom – which will it be?

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 22-C:
Prov.14:18-24 Relational Influence & Ethical Behavior ARE Connected The poet now helps the youth see that one’s behavior pattern (wise or foolish) will most definitely impact one’s influence in the sphere of his relationships. He again uses a repeated pairing of words (crown : folly) to create a frame around the unit (vv.18-24). And again he reaches back to the end of the prior unit (v.18) to also begin the new unit.
The frame sets the theme that consequences flow out of behavior and by using repeated words (crown : folly) shows the contrast in social or relational status that results. The gullible fool by his folly reaps folly, while the shrewd wise are crowned by knowledge and the accompanying wealth (vv.18, 24). The ‘crown’ idea shows the status if honored by others. This is spelled out in v.19 where the evil or wicked are specifically predicted to ‘bow down’ before the ‘crowned’ good people. This is fleshed out in vv.20-21 showing the sad but true reactions of people to economic status among us neighbors. The poor tend to be hated due to their neediness, while the wealthy have too many ‘friends’ (v.20). But the wise neighbor shows favor to the poor and is blessed, while the sinner belittles or despises the neighbor (v.21).
These contrasting reactions can harden into habitual ways of now ‘planning’ for evil or good (v.22) and have certain consequences – going astray or meeting kindness. This social consequence is just as certain as the economic consequences flowing from strenuous labor instead of empty talk. Profit or scarcity, provision or lack thereof flow directly from one’s behavior. So it is clear – a crown of positive influence among our peers flows from wise, good, kind behavior!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 23-A:
Prov.14:25-28 Character Has Consequences This sections continues with the focus on consequences showing how one’s personal character impacts others, family and even a nation. It also roots this healthy character in the theme of the book – the fear of the Lord. The unit (vv.25-32) has two halves each with two pairs, at the center of the halves is encased a note of the trustworthiness of rulers: character has national implicatio
ns.
The poet begins on the individual level showing how ones honesty or dishonesty in a legal setting has life protecting power – a truthful witness delivers lives (v.25). This protective security extends to a family when the fear of the Lord is the one we flee to for security and refuge, even life instead of self-preservation by falsehood (vv.26-27). Remember the fear of the Lord is real terror, reverential trust and radical obedience to the Lord.
This is very important for rulers whose care and trust in the Lord is the only sure basis for care and competence that enable their subjects to follow them. Oh that our leaders understood this (v.28). May God bless us with servant leaders whose character is worthy of our trust and our following of them. When we know they care, are competent and have inner character – they have the glory and splendor of being trusted. Character counts!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 23-B:
Prov.14:28-32 Character Has Consequences – Part 2 
Now the second half of the unit also has two pairs (vv.29,30 and vv.31,32) of contrasts in consequences of chosen character. Both pairs end with verses showing the consequences are live and death issues (vv.30,31). Thus drawing attention to the traits of character that are contrasted.
The first pair (vv.29) contrast with external, visible actions – patience (a long, relaxed face) in stead of a quick temper (short spirit). The contrasting consequences are the pragmatic understanding that patience grows instead of the exalting of folly by anger. The internal side (v.30) of these two outward displays are a calm, tranquil heart instead of hot passion or envy. The physical, bodily impact of these two internal dispositions are life or bone rot. Serious impact, dangerous consequences.
The second pair of verses (vv.31,32) focus upon the Godward impact and the personal impact of one’s character. The way one treats the poor or needy (v.31) has direct implications upon God. To oppress them is to scoff or thumb one’s nose at our Maker. But to be gracious to them publicly honors God, by treating His creatures with respect. Not only is God’s reputation at stake, but also one receives directly from His own chosen character. The wicked person’s own evil will throw him down. But the righteous finds or takes refuge in the Lord in his dying (v.32). Again there are direct consequences from our chosen character.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 23-C:
Prov.14:33 – 15:4 Wisdom, The Tongue & Political Power 
This unit in Proverbs is greatly needed in this week of national and international dialogue and turmoil. A wise ruler understands and accepts the power of wisdom to guide the tongue in making peaceful, less volatile relationships: in the family, nation or between nations. May God grant our leaders hearts inclined to accept and use His wisdom to guide their tongues! Read this and pray for the U.S.’s dialogue with Korea and all other tense relations, or perhaps your own family or work tensions.
The power of the tongue again comes into focus. The benefit of wisdom to enable ones speech have positive impact (personally or as a ruler over others) is the target of the focus. But it begins with a heart (v.33) which is willing to allow Lady Wisdom to reside and rest in it. It is available, even to fools – but humble, submissive acceptance is necessary to have her impact. Her ability to exalt a nation or condemn a people by the ethics of the nation is a reality (v.34). So a wise ruler and wise servant leaders use wisdom promote favor instead of turmoil (v.35), knowing the power of a word to incite calm or outburst of anger (15:1). And a wise leader knows that Wisdom can enable them to shape and fashion their words to make knowledge acceptable, beautiful and attractive; instead of gushing, unrestrained folly (v.2).
This power of Wisdom is of course rooted in and rests upon the Lord’s presence in every place (v.3) – our tongue is never apart from His vigilant eyes and He has the knowledge to guide our tongues (v.4) to be calm, healing, and therapeutic instead of fracturing, breaking of spirits of people. Wisdom is necessary in all relationships – especially in tense ones! Lord, please give us and our leaders lips submitted to Your wisdom!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 24-A:
Prov.15:5-12 All Paths Do NOT Lead To God 
A father’s wise instruction, and a son’s response to it, is again the touchstone that makes the difference in one’s character and destiny. As in chapter 1 instruction, especially correction of one’s perspectives and actions, is viewed as necessary and as the only path to wisdom. This unit is framed with the focus on correction in vv.5,12. A fool is identified as spurning instruction (v.5) and thus growing hardened into one who openly mocks being corrected, thus not seeking our wise people (v.12). But the wise openly listens to correction and grows more shrewd.
Three following pairs (vv.6,7; vv.8,9; vv.10,11) then develop this sad process of the closed heart of the fool, showing first the economic consequences, then the Lord’s emotional response to such an attitude and finally the ultimate consequence to those whose heart arrogantly abandons the way or path of wisdom.
The economic differences between the righteous and the wicked is rooted in the heart (v.7). A heart open, confident, and generous gains wealth and scatters wisdom (v.6) while the fearful heart closed to correction faces ruin. The source of these differing consequences are then linked directly to the Lord’s own emotional response to the differing hearts. This center core reminds us that the Lord has a personal response to our heart responses manipulative, selfish ‘use’ of religion is abhorred. But He gives favor and loves those who diligently, openly, persistently seek and pursue righteousness (vv.8,9). Finally the ultimate destinies in life and death are based upon hearts whose attitudes and responsiveness are completely known by the Lord. Only the path of wisdom chosen by a heart open to correction leads to the open arms of a merciful God. Abandoning the Lord’s path leads to eternal death.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 24-B:
Prov.15:13-19 A Good HEART: Key To Good Living The last unit reminded us that the heart and its responses are totally open, in full view of the Lord (v.11). This unit (vv.13-19) continues this HEART focus, showing that a good heart is able to overcome to all the circumstances of life in a healthy manner. More importantly it directs us to the KEY to a healthy heart – a healthy fear of the Lord and love for others. 
The first section (vv.13-17) displays by stark contrasts the blessing of a good heart. Heart is referred to four times in three verses to emphasize that our disposition of inner heart is crucial to our responses in life. A joyful (v.13), discerning (v.14), good (v.15) heart has a better physical appearance, appetite for knowledge and a continual feasting on life. This is contrasted to a broken spirit, foolishness and wretched days.
But if a good heart is so crucial, how does one develop this? One’s inner attitude is fashioned by one’s response to God and others. A healthy fear of the Lord enables joyful contentment where even great treasure may be turmoil (v.16). A love for others makes even a small meal of vegetables more satisfying that a big steak dinner (v.17). These two traits fashion a good heart that is able to overcome any circumstances.
Two examples (vv.18,19) are then fleshed out to show how a heart at peace and upright overcomes tense relationships and difficult paths. A patient heart is able to trust the Lord and have a calming impact on others while the agitated heart can only stir up strife (v.18). Likewise a heart right with the Lord finds his path like a smooth, open interstate highway – able to go where he desires. But the lazy heart finds his path prickly and difficult like a hedge – hard to make progress. A good, healthy HEART yields a live that overcomes!

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 24-C:
Prov.15:20-24 What Gives You Joy Reflects Your Heart This unit is the first of two that bring Solomon’s first collection to a close. Not surprisingly it observes that were one finds their joy indicates a lot about their heart. The contrast is still present between the wise and the foolish, but the contrast is not just in consequences but in what one enjoys. Both have joy, but the contrast reflects their differing heart charact
er.
Wise children choosing straight paths are the joy of parents, but the foolish finds joy in foolishness, has no good sense and thus despises the parents’ wisdom (vv.20,21). This self-centered arrogance grows up into an adult who foolish thinks he has no need of guidance or counsel. This contrast one who knows he has weaknesses, limitations and ignorance and thus plans by using many counselors which give the enjoyment of apt answers and good words at the correct time (vv.22-23).
A linking verse turns to the consequences of the two differing joys. Those finding joy in prudence have an upward path of life and thus are turned aside from the grave. Our joys have eternal differences (v.24).

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 25-a:
Prov.15:24-29 Wisdom – Personal/Relational Justice The universe is a personal/relational universe and it is actively governed by the personal Lord Himself. Thus the principles being expounded are not merely fate or Karma of an impersonal world order. Instead good and evil, and thus wisdom and foolishness, are spiritual issues connected to one’s relationship with the Creator Lord. Our last verse (v.24) was a transition bringing
 forth the consequences flowing forth from the heart’s joy and its choices of wise or foolish actions. It said the choices either lead upward (indicating relationship to the Lord and life) or downward to the grave.
This next unit shows that these consequences are not mere fickle chance or nature at work, but it is personal, relational justice of Yahweh, Who Himself gives these consequences. The unit is framed by reference to Yahweh’s actions (v.25) and to His relationship (v.29) with the wise and foolish. He protects the widow and responds to the prayers of the righteous by tearing away the economic advantage of the proud, evil planners who oppress the vulnerable (v.25) and keeps them far away from His blessings (v.29)
The inner three verses shows how this works out as the Lord’s disdain and hatred for the evils of greed and bribery, which perverts pleasant and pure words of truth. Their mouth blurts evil while the heart of the wise ponders before speaking pleasant, pure words (vv.26-28). This oppression of the vulnerable is a personal affront to God Himself as every human bears His image and should be treated with respect, integrity and care instead of being used and abused. The personal LORD will insure that personal, relational justice will prevail.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 25-B:
Prov.15:30-33 Wisdom – Key To The Dance Of Life Bruce Waltke thinks we here make a transition to a new section (15:30 – 22:16) with a beginning prologue in 15:30-33, followed by an introduction, 16:1-15. In this section we will see fewer contrast between the righteous and the wicked. The focus shifts a bit to the Lord’s sovereign dance (rule and involvement) with humanity as mediated through His kings. The introduction first s
hines on the Lord’s rule (vv.1-9) and then upon His rule through His kings (vv.10-15). Today we look at the prologue, which prepares us for this focus upon the Lord’s relational involvement (dance) with us, by reminding us of how the fear of the Lord schools us for appropriate, humble responsiveness and receptivity to the Lord (15:30-33).
To dance joyfully the whole person must be able to respond to the music and to the leader. So humanity with our whole selves must respond with wisdom to the Lord to flourish in life. Two pairs of verses introduce us to learn to dance well with our Maker. Gleaming eyes, a glad heart and healthy bones are products of good news (v.30) that is welcomed and responded to with wisdom (v.31). That joy generating good news is correction, and it is only found and listened to by those staying close to, abiding with wise friends (v.31).
Instruction or correction is at the core of the next pair, emphasizing that listening to correction is a heart issue. The first verse (v.32) contrasts the results of either being ready to hear or flouting (ignore, refuse, neglect) correction: it is in short either suicidal hating of oneself or a glad/sensible heart. To a heart that fears the Lord and humbles oneself before Him and His instruction/correction belongs wisdom and social honor (v.33). Turning away from one’s personal sufficiency for life and humbly submitting to the fear of the Lord (letting Him lead) is the way to dance well and have gleaming eyes, a glad heart and healthy bones.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 25-C:
Prov.16:1-9 The Lord’s Wonderful Providential Rule This unit (vv.1-9) about the Lord’s rule through human participation is marked off by the reference to the working of the human heart at the beginning (v.1) and the end (v.9). The emphasis is made by the use of Yahweh’s personal name in 8 of the 9 verses. Man acts, but Yahweh rules and reigns. A person’s ‘ways’ are open before Him and He is the one who ‘establishes man’s thou
ghts and steps.
A hinge is found in verse 4 where the first half of this verse summarizes vv.1-3 as the Lord working everything to His appointed purpose or appropriate answer. The Lord rules over human initiative: in speech, answers (v.1) and work (v.3). As Waltke notes: “Human beings form, the Lord performs; they devise, he verifies; they formulate, he validates; they propose, he disposes. They design what they will say and do, but the Lord decrees what will endure and form part of his eternal purposes.”
The second half of verse 4 shows that this providence of the Lord shows that His morality holds humans responsible and accountable. His sovereign justice does respond to human morality as vv.5-9 demonstrates. The Lord’s own abomination (v.5) or pleasure (v.7) over justice issues shows that the fear of the Lord moves one to depart from evil (v.6) and injustice (v.8), which arise from a heart of love and faithfulness (v.8). Thus man’s heart plans, knowing the good Lord is the only one who can ultimately establish his steps.

LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 26-A:
Prov.16:10-15 The Lord’s Mediated Rule This unit continues the focus upon God’s providential rule over His people. But now the focus is upon His rule mediated through kings. Proverbs is trying to show the wise and best way of life; here is the best way the royal government should function under the Lord. With three pairs of verses it touches upon the decisions and verdicts (vv.10,11), the moral reactions (v.12,13) and the powe
r to effect just sentences (vv.14,15) by the wise king. Remember eventually our Lord Jesus will perfectly fulfill this role as King of Kings. Meanwhile we pray for wise governing authorities.
A good king’s mouth and lips give just, fair and faithful verdicts or decisions (v.10) because he knows and depends upon God’s established scale and weights (v.11) and looks to the Lord to inspire his decisions. Like the Lord Himself (vv.5,7), the kings moral sensibilities and emotional reactions are an abomination of wickedness, pleasure at righteousness, and love of those who practice the latter (vv.12,13).
As Paul reminds us the governing authorities, “do not bear the sword in vain,” but has the power to use it. So here the power of wrath/death and favor/life are the king’s rightful prerogative (vv.14,15). Thus a wise person knows how to respond to the good king. Even so, come King Jesus!


LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 26-B:
Prov.16:16-19 Humility – Always Better Off Than Pride That Stumbles
Again a new segment (16:16-30) is introduced by the poet showing the benefit of wisdom. By two, two-verse pairs (vv.16-19) the poet shows that humility is the key to wisdom. Lowliness in one’s spirit understands the superior value of the Lord’s upright way, and thus avoids the stumbling and shattering that pride and its evil choices, to which arrogance inevitably leads.
The first pair (vv.16,17) asserts the superior value of insight and wisdom as it enables actions which guard one’s way – thus protecting one’s life from evil. Financial security is of little value when compared to wisdom and insight. The wise pursues insight and guards his paths by upright conduct, thus protecting his life as he turns aside from evil ways and is therefore enduringly secure. These ethical choices of the upright are rooted in a mindset of humility.
The second pair (vv.18-19) drives this home by contrasting the lowly in spirit or humble with the proud or haughty. Pride exalts one’s on insight and way of thinking above other people, thus may lead to advantage (plunder of others), but at the expense of oppressing them. But holding one’s nose in the air, or one’s eyes lifted up, leads to a stumbling over the unseen rocks in the path and a humiliating, shattering destruction. Thus the conclusion is that it will be better to be lowly with the oppressed, who though perhaps are not financially secure, do not stumble and self-destruct. Humility, lowliness of thinking – follows God’s way of upright conduct and is truly secure!


LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 26-C:
Prov.16:20-30 Humble Heart = Healing Speech Two units (vv.20-24; vv.25-30) both focus upon speech. They contrast the social impact between the wise and foolish people’s use of words. The humble trust in the Lord’s revealed way and guides his speech to be a blessing in the community. The arrogant thinks his own way is right (v.25) and thus using his words to exploit others, forgets that toil, not talk, is God’s appointed means of provision. This using of words to exploit others he wrecks havoc in the community.
Such humility (vv.16-19) enables one to develop a heart (vv.21,23) that enables one to use his speech to be a blessing to himself and others (vv.20-24). The self-guided (v.25) seems to ignore the need of labor and tries to use speech to exploit others for his own benefit, thus creating havoc and evil in the community (vv.26-30).
Wise people are recognized by their speech as insightful and persuasive (v.21), as a source of life (v.22) and as one whose speech is not only pleasant, but also healing to soul and body (v.24). The self-managed person discover to late that their own way was not right, but leads to death. They are disruptive to community: spreading trouble like fire (v.27), unleashing conflict and alienation by slander (v.28), and doing violence by perverted use of eyes and lips works evil (vv.39,20). Humility allows the Lord’s way to bless others by good speech, not selfish speech doing harm others!


LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 27-A:
Prov.16:31-17:6 The Glorious Crown – The Gray Hair of the Righteous
This unit is framed at the beginning (16:31) and end (17:6) by calling attention to the social honor and enduring impact (splendid crown) of one whose long life has wisely followed the Lord’s ways – the way of righteousness. In between is a collection of proverbs showing the surpassing value of the way of righteousness. This way grows the social glory, impact or honor of one who walks in it.
Patience, which controls one’s own spirit, is more powerful than a military hero conquering a city (v.32). We older ones know that the battle of patience is a life long battle, while one battle can make a military hero. Part of what enables such self-restraint is the strong conviction that the Lord is sovereign over all decisions in our lives, even the casting of lot to make decisions (v.33) – all things are under His rule, we can wait patiently! The emptiness of strife accompanying the pursuit of abundance does not compare with the joy of peaceful and calm relationships, even if we don’t have much wealth – some wonderful things cannot be bought (17:1)!
The wise prudence of even a servant gains privilege over a son who acts shamefully (v.2) because we understand that the Lord is One who tests all hearts, refining our lives like silver and gold (v.3). As we walk in His ways we see that evildoers do what they listen to – the lies of those who destroy or to those who mock the poor, now realizing they are insulting the Creator of us and will not escape His punishment (vv.4,5). Oh the blessedness, the splendid crown of a family whose heritage of following the Lord (v.6) and His good ways goes from one generation to the next – indeed there God’s blessings abide!


LESS IS MORE - SLOWLY READING PROVERBS Week 27-A:
Prov.17:7-9 Three Destroyers Of Relationships A new collection of sayings (17:7-28) focuses upon the foolishness and relational destructiveness of fools. The introduction (vv.7-9) touches on three common missteps that characterize this catalogue: lying, bribery and gossip. The noble person who seeks to serve others faithfully and to prosper relationally will avoid such snares as these.
One’s use (or non-use) of words is central in this introduction. A noble/wise person knows the power of the tongue for life or death. First (v.7), we are reminded that lying lips are not appropriate, fitting or beautifying to the wise, Much more inappropriate than a godless fool using eloquent, fine speech is a noble person lying. Deceiving others is never the path of serving others!
Another method, much used in governing and business, is the well-placed bribe (v.8). The giver thinks (“in his eyes”) that by it he will succeed. But the implied rebuke is that bribery is self-deceptive. Our lobby-laden government and governors need to be weary of those promoters who come bearing gifts. And we need to be careful that we don’t trust our giving of gifts to actually ‘buy us influence.’
Finally, the noble person recognizes that to repeat, even one time, the fault or failing of a friend can destroy trust and relationships (v.9). The power of love is the power over the tongue to not blab about, but rather draw a veil over other’s transgressions. To hide one another’s sin, and to confess our own sins, is always the best way to build trust and grow a good marriage, family, community or nation!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 27-C:
Prov.17:10-15 THE HARD PUNISHMENTS AWAITING THE FOOL
The survey of the ways of fools (vv.7-28) continues in this subunit (vv.10-15) by highlighting the obstinate hard-headedness of a fool and the resulting severity of punishments that come his way. A person open to rebuke can be moved by a mere word. But when one turns a deaf ear to good, the stick or rod of severe consequences may be the only thing that penetrates the hardened heart. Here three pairs of verses set forth admonitions as to how to respond to the fool, each followed by a verse that warns the fool of retribution.
The first pair (vv.10,11) compares the effective penetration of a verbal rebuke of a discerning person to the ineffectiveness of multiple floggings of a fool. This implies that our attempts to correct a fool are best left to the Lord’s sending of cruel messengers to counter the rebellious the evil of the fool (v.11). The idea is that the fool’s evil will recoil against his own rebellion.
The second pair (vv.12,13) encourages avoidance of the fool and his evil recriminations as being better than experiencing his ferocious and dangerous folly. The picture of this danger is highlighted as the severity and fierceness of a mother bear protecting her cubs – certainly a situation to avoid. Again the consequences of the fool’s evil are that he will not be able to rid his own house of such evil – a severe discipline indeed.
The final pair (vv.14,15) counsels that not merely avoiding, but making efforts not to incite a fool’s folly is the best path. The reasoning is that a even little leak in the dike will eventually burst forth into a overwhelming flood. So it is always best to walk a way from a quarrel or argument. Yet this avoidance by silence must never pervert justice for others. The Lord hates injustice – be it perverted by not punishing the guilty or by wrongly punishing the righteous. The Lord loves justice and wills the fool face his evil and its consequences.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 28-A:
Prov.17:16-20 THE HEARTLESS – CAN’T EVEN BUY WISDOM
The collection of proverbs about fools now comes to the heart of the issue. Though the translations do not reflect it, the word “heart” is at the beginning (v.16), middle (v.18) and end (v.20) of this five-verse unit. The fools ‘heartlessness’ is contrasted to a consistent friend or a good relative who at all times, even in times of adversity, faithfully loves and does good to the friend in need (v.17). The heart of the fool also loves, but it is bent inward – loving of strife and relational rebellion (v.19a) rooted in a self-exalting pride that seeks to exalt one’s on position (v.19b).
The poet begins (v.16) with a rhetorical question highlighting the absurdity of such a fool seeking wisdom, when his heartlessness prevents him from even being able to learn. This senseless, heartlessness is also shown to be stupid by the one who would violate common sense and go surety or give his own things in pledge for another (v.18). The poet ends (v.20) with a direct, blunt statement of the impossibility of a fool, with a twisted heart and crooked tongue, ever finding good when instead he will surely his own evil will recoil back on him.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 28-B:
Prov.17:21-28 PAIN CAUSED BY FOOLISHNESS OF FOOLS
We wish and we ‘fool’ ourselves too often to think that our foolishness doesn’t hurt anyone but ourselves. But this unit reminds us that it often causes both emotional and physical damage to those around us. Here it is those who are directly impacted by the bad choices and those related by family ties. The parents are highlighted as especially impacted in v.21 and v.25: grief, loss of joy, vexation and bitterness are real for parents when the child takes the path away from wisdom.
Part of what is painful is the abuse of others by the strategy which the fools uses thinking to gain his desires. By secret or hidden (“from the bosom,” v.23) reception of bribes he seeks to satisfy his greed, but it also perverts the justices to others. Turning away from the every present and available wisdom (v.24) the fool’s eyes are ambitiously focused on unattainable, far away schemes. Then the fool’s misuse of power and position is destructive of social order. The comparison of v.26 is used to show how much more awful it is to punish (flog) a noble, innocent person, that even fining an innocent person. People’s rights are not respected, others are wronged.
This pain emotionally has its physical drain as well (v.22). Joy is drained away and with it health. The pain seeps into the spirit and dry us our inner most being and strength (our bones). The suggested response in face of such emotional pain is the restraining of words and a cool spirit. Left to ourselves these pains lead to explosive verbal barrages of destructive portions. So knowledge and understanding (of the Lord and the fools) helps restrain verbal assaults which are not constructive (v.27). If even a fool is thought to be wise and discerning for his silence – how much more appropriate is it when the upright are vexed and embittered to simply keep quite and talk to God (v.28).


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 28-C:
Prov.18:1-3 FOOL’S SELFFISHNESS YIELDS SOCIAL SHAME
The folly of fools is self-destructive, which is poetic justice as their foolishness stems from self-serving desires. The section on fools opens a new section (18:1-21) where the antisocial speech of the fool (vv.1-11) is contrasted to the reconciling speech of the wise (vv.12-21). The poet begins with an introduction (vv.1-3) that shows this self-shaming antisocial behavior of the fool is rooted in his self-centered arrogance. The fool is characterized in the three verses with escalating severity as first a separatist, then fool, then a wicked person.
The tendency to separate is rooted in his seeking his own desire and this naturally counters the interdependence and openness to the sound judgment of others. This self- centeredness quarrels or fights against wisdom rooted in humility regarding one’s perspective. This is reinforced in v.2 where, now labeled a ‘fool,’ it contrasts his selfish desire above as not delighting in understanding. He is not seeking reality or truth but his own desires, and thus feeling it more important strives to make his opinion, his heart exposed or known (v.2b). Arrogance and self-gratification blinds us against wisdom by our own babbling.
Now the label is heightened to ‘wicked person.’ This person not only has negative social impact (vv.1,2) but experiences the social consequences of his own anti-social behavior. He is held in contempt, experiences open public shame and is reproached by others. Seeking his own way, he receives it and finds it filled with guilt, dishonor, scorn and disgrace. Self-seeking yields self-destructive consequences!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 29-A:
Prov.18:4-11 FOOL’S WORDS – DESTROYING SELF & OTHERS
The destructive nature of a fool's use of words is displayed in this section. It begins with a contrast of the deep (implying stagnant, dangerous) words of the fool to the refreshing, moving waters of gushing forth from wisdom (v.4). The deep and dangerous nature of the fool’s speech is then given specifics (vv.5-8) of favoritism, strife/controversy and slanderous gossip – showing the destructiveness of each.
Favoritism or partiality (saying the guilty are innocent) perverts justice and is not good (v.5). This escalates when the lips and mouth (note repetition in vv.6,7) create strife or controversy, frequently creating or requiring floggings. Such speech boomerangs back on the fool causing him terror at the trap his own lips have created that threaten his very life. But more insidious because so appetizing are words of gossip and slander. They are so delectable we tend to feed on them entering into the depths of our being, clouding our judgments of others.
The ruin and destruction of a fool’s words are highlighted by a comparison that follows in v.9. It begin with a word in Hebrew not translated by many translations meaning, “also” or “even” Also – the fool and his speech above – is even like a seemingly passive, harmless slacker or lazy person who is in reality a brother (having the same impact) of one who actively destroys or ruins people. As we will see later (v.21) death is in the power of the tongue.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 29-B:
Prov.18:10-12 SECURITY: REAL OR IMAGINED?
To whom or to what one looks to come through for them, to give them provisions, protection and significance is at the heart of the difference between the wise and the fool. To whom one flees when facing insecure situations shows where his confidence resides. This transitional unit reveals the reason behind the difference in speech patterns of the fool and the wise. The heart and thinking of the foolish imagines his security resides in things, like wealth or possessions. The heart and thinking of the righteous runs, galloping to the Lord with his needs and finds protection and honor.
The first verse (v.10) begins with the most important reality – the Name of Yahweh, declaring Him and His character to be the real place of sure protection and defense. The righteous person, knowing Him and this reality about Him runs, not ambles to Him and finds the protection he knows he needs. In sharp contrast (v.11) the first thing in the mind of the wealthy is his wealth and he considers it as his security. He imagines, thinks with delusion that it is a high wall city that will guard him.
The poet draws the conclusion regarding ultimate security and shows it is an issue of the heart attitudes. The fool’s heart is closed. He views his opinion, his imaginings as as higher than others and is thus haughty. This, the poet says is the harbinger of his destruction. He feels securely on high, but will fall to destruction. In contrast it is the humble person who does not look to his own insights, his own abilities or his own possessions for significance. Instead as v.10 showed he runs into the open arms of Yahweh and in doing so finds the honor and significance for which we were made. We are honored, as being who we were made to be, when we depend and look to Yahweh to come through for us in all things!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 29-C:
Prov.18:11-21 EATING ONE’S OWN WORDS
Now the corner is turned and we look at the social power of the teachable wise and their speech. Because of their humility (vv.12-15) they have the capacity to resolve conflicts (vv.16-19) and their words can give life to others as well as them selves. The wise realize that in a true sense we feed on our own words. What we say can be powerful – for good or bad.
Humility of heart reaps honor because one has learned to carefully and fully listen before one replies (vv.12,13). In contrast, the arrogant replies without listening. The more we think we know and the longer we know a person and think we know what they are going to say – the harder it is to truly listen before we respond.
Disputes and conflicts are inevitable in life. Wisdom knows that bribes may initially work, but eventually backfire (vv.16,17) when all is known. And sometimes a conflict can be spared from escalating into violence by simply flipping a coin and leaving the decision to the Lord’s sovereignty over all things (v.17). This wise person knows that a simple, unprejudiced method of deciding can protect us from powerful conflicts that divide and separate into warring sides (v.19).
One's own words have a way of coming back to feed us with their own kind of fruit (note ‘fruit’ in v.20 and v.21). The manner and content of what and how we speak are often the determination of how we are responded to by others. If we speak and give life giving words, we receive them back. But if our speech is filled with death bearing bombs, don’t be surprised if we have them come back upon us.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 30-A:
Prov.18:22-19:7 MONEY AND SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
An abrupt change of subjects again marks a fresh topic. The focus shifts to social relationship and begins with the most intimate of these in marriage (v.22) to introduce this section on the moral instabilities of wealth and poverty among our social relationships. The Lord bestows both His good and His favor on those who find a wife – the basic unit of social stability is marriage and the partnership it establishes.
The stability of our social life also is related to the nature of friendship or companionship. Riches or poverty impact the nature of our communication styles. Humility is inviting and open, while security of money can make us indifferent and calloused (v.23). And the quantity of friends never indicates nor surpasses the quality of one good, close, faithful friend (v.24). Jesus Himself is the ultimate friend, John 15:12-15.
The next subunit (19:1-3) shows that ultimate social benefit of such humble integrity instead of riches is rooted in the self-defeating nature of misguided desire to get rich. The poor by his integrity walks a stable path. But the desire to get rich urges quick, hasty choices (v.2) and twisted, perverse speech (v.1) which are not rooted in knowledge and such folly trips up (v.3) the fool. And yet this one is not able to see the self-induced trouble, but instead rages in anger again the Lord (v.3).
The final subunit carries the warning about the fickleness of wealthy friends into the ultimate social setting of court or judicial proceedings. The poor need to realize that while wealth does attract relationships, that even close companions of the poor are tempted to flee their needs, much more will those wealthy friends (v.4). If even a blood relative feels the urge to flee the needs of his relative (v.7), so much more we should not be surprised that even friends my take flight from our petitions. Money may buy a false testimony, but it cannot escape justice for himself, or his so called friends (vv.5-6). Money is NO basis for good relationships!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 30-B:
Prov.19:8-12 WISDOM AMIDST THE GOVERNING SECTOR
Wisdom and her benefits are not merely private issues but they equip one to effectively navigate the arena of courts and halls of government. These ten lines in five verses are equally balanced between five negative and five positive lines contrasting wisdom and folly. The introductory verse (v.8) gives the general principle that sense and understanding are well worth the time, money and effort to pursue them as they yield life and good. This implies that the public life is maneuvered successfully only by wisdom.
Next, four negative lines show what is not a fitting way for the courts or governing sectors. First (v.9), is the assurance that perjury and lying are never in one’s best interest in legal contexts. It not only will be found out, but it will result in severe punishments for the one using them. Secondly (,v10), is highlighted the unfitting, inappropriate, unproductive nature of having untrained, ill-prepared persons ruling over those who are better equipped. Any social unity that is governed by the uneducated, unequipped cannot be beneficial and useful in the long run.
Finally, given the fact that we live in a fallen world and that our governing structures are not always fitting, one is advised that wisdom can here too help walk amidst the difficulties. First, the virtues of patience and forgiveness (v.11) will prove to be one’s glory. The gift of prudence and reality of sin call upon patience and forgiveness often. Especially when we know the dangerous and deadly consequences of ruling king’s wrath. The patience and forgiveness are ways to secure the dew-like freshness and vitality of the king’s favor. Indeed it is in the public sector, as well as the private, that wisdom guides us to life.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 30-C:
Prov.19:13-15 FOLLY OR FORTUNE IN THE HOME
This unit on the impact of our relationships on wealth and wisdom now moves inside the family unit and shows that here also looking to the Lord is the key to experiencing blessing. Three brief verses show that those relationship most close (spouse and children) can be the making or unmaking of a legacy.
The destructiveness of a foolish son and the distress of a continuously quarrelsome wife are warned against first (v.13). The potential for ruin and the discomfort is perpetual. This highlights the counsel to seek the way of wisdom in our closest relationship. Seeking the Lord as the fount and source and guide to good relating to wife and children are the key to having, preserving and leaving an inheritance that will be a blessing and legacy.
One particular kind of dangerous, foolish family member is the lazy one. The lethargy is a downward cycle that deepens into unconsciousness regarding life’s realities. The result is the inability of the slacker to be motivated by his own hunger to meet his own needs. The discontent of a wife complains instead of prudently managing the existing resources. Of course many women and children know that this is not just a father’s problem. Unfortunately our society is learning that the foolish, lazy, contentious male can also destroy the family unit. May our good, generous, wise Lord give us wisdom to seek Him and His ways in all our relationships!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 31-A:
Prov.19:16-19 KINDNESS – NOT LEARNED EASILY
It is hard to learn that wealth and resources are for our stewardship, not for our security, Thus being enabled to be generous with our resources, is not an easy lesson to learn, nor easy to teach to our kids. We all tend to have a fearful, scarcity mentality that thinks sharing means depriving oneself of what will be needed, forgetting that the Lord is the provider of all we need. This lesson is so hard to learn that either diligent parental discipline or unimpeded hard consequences, or both, must be utilized/permitted to educate us to the unnatural art of generosity and care for the poor. The lessons on wealth and wisdom (18:22-19:23), continue with this exhortation to parents training children in kindness and generosity to the poor (vv.16-23). The first verses (vv.16-19) encourage persistence in both generosity and in teaching generosity to our kids.
The wise know that life is lived under the Lord and His designed world. So His commandments are the way of life and giving these little regard or despising His ways ends in death (v.16). Thus the one who is generous understands that the Lord is the one we are depending upon when we generously help the poor and HE will repay our kindness (v.17).
However such wisdom is not natural – it must be inculcated. Thus this book has repeated encouragement to parents to be diligent to discipline their children. So here, the parent seeing the repeated selfishness and fear of the child must persistently, repeatedly discipline in generosity and sharing (v.18a), knowing that the alternative to learning such generosity is, as the NIV translated, to be “an unwilling party to his death.”
With some children the best discipline is the suffering of the natural consequences of their actions (v.19). Parents need to be careful not to continually rescue the child from the negative consequences of their choices or not let them make choices. A hothead who is ungovernable in his reactions will incur a penalty/punishment – but if we ‘rescue’ them, we will only do so repeatedly as they are not learning from the consequences.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 31-B:
Prov.19:20-23 THE ROOT & BLESSING OF GENEROSITY
The last unit showed us that the parents must use discipline to teach kids the mindset of stewardship and blessing of generosity, especially to the poor. This follow-up unit addresses directly the kids and urges them to pay attention to this counsel from the parents and tells them why to do so.
Such counsel from parents is to be listened to and received as good guidance because it will ultimately lead to oneself being counted among the wise (v.20). It may not occur overnight, but in our final destiny hearing and absorbing counsel gives wisdom. This is then contrasted to our natural tendency of making and depending on our own plans. Our natural tendency to think scarcity, shrinks our will to be generous due to fear – so our minds multiplies the schemes to protect ourselves. Yet the warning (V.21a) is that these plans are futile, unless they are rooted in the counsel of the Lord (through the parents). Only His counsel will surely take place. So an abundance mentality is rooted in His counsel for our planning (v.21b).
Not only does such responsiveness to discipline give us security but it also gives us friends. All people desire one another to treat them with unfailing kindness or loyal love (v.221). So the integrity of generosity and being poor in this life is better than hoarding and lying about our ability to help another in need (v.22b). Here again – the fear of the Lord is the way of wisdom and the security of life. If we obey Him and be generous we have both safety and satisfaction (v.23). That which we were fearing is actually the result of a scarcity mentality. Paradoxically it is by generosity – giving – that security and satisfaction become our received gift. The fear of the Lord is the root of generosity and of our blessing!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 31-C:
Prov.19:23-20:1 THE HARD PATHWAY DOWNWARD
In the Lord’s good universe it gets ever increasingly more difficult when one goes against the grain of His way, and one thus grows more and more insensitive to wisdom. Insensitivity and the increase of pain go together. In God’s good grace the downward path of folly becomes increasingly hard and painful – hoping all along to arouse a response of attentiveness and repentance. 
The last verse of the prior unit (v.23) spoke of the full satisfaction and security that come from the fear of the Lord. It also serves as a contrast which transitions to this new unit (19:24-20:1), that highlights the growing unresponsiveness of those on the pathway of folly and the increasing pain they reap. The downward path of unresponsiveness begins with the apathetic sluggard, then a scoffing mocker, to a disruptive son, a corrupt witness, then a wicked mocker of truth. The resulting pain of foolishness grows from unsatisfied hunger, to physical discipline, to public shame and disgrace, to penal punishment and beatings, ending in drunken staggering.
Beginning and ending with readily available food (v.24) and stupefying drink (v.1) the poet warns that to ignore the call of wisdom and choose one’s own way is increasingly hard and intensifying in pain. A subtheme of the ready availability of wisdom is seen in the fact that the pan has enough food to ‘bury’ the hand that refuses to partake of it (v.24). Also a gullible simpleton can gain prudent insight by simply 'seeing' the flogging of the mocker (v.25). All one has to do to stray from wisdom is to stop attentively listening to the instructions that are there (v.27). Eventually the pain is no longer discipline attempting to remedy the fool, but become penal punishments to satisfy justice (v.29). It is hard and painful to go against the wisdom of God’s way!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 32-A:
Prov.20:2-8 A PROTECTOR FROM EVIL
Remember, the Proverbs were partially designed to train people to become a king or a civil servant. And the role of the king, as God’s representative, is to insure a rule of good over his subjects. So it is not surprising that in a section dealing with the punishment of fools (19:23-20:11) that the king’s role of protecting the culture from fools by just punishment is addressed. This subunit begins and ends with a king’s power and role in upholding justice. Sandwiched in between (vv.3-7) is a catalogue of different kinds of fools that the king must deal with, contrasted with the wise who are a blessing to any culture.
Let’s first notice the fools cited: a contentious inciter of quarrels (v.3), a lazy sluggard (v.4), a conniving schemer (v.5), a self-boasting, unfaithful, hypocrite (v.6). All of these have quite negative social impact: sewing disturbance, poverty, dangerous deceit and infidelity. In short they are uprooting any solid basis for sound social relationships and stability.
Interspersed is the contrast of the blessings that wise bring to a people. The one who avoids and abstains from strife carries social esteem of people (glory) and has impact (v.3). The diligent provide food for a land, even for the lazy who ends up begging (v.4). An understanding person sees through and exposes the ‘deep, dark waters’ of schemes (v.5). And one conscientious, faithful person does more benefit than the ‘many’ self-professed but in practice unkind people (v.6). In summary, (v.7) a blameless, righteous wise person leaves a legacy to the future generation!
So the good king serves God and his people by using his positional strength to both threaten (roaring) and enforce (forfeits life) justice (v.2). He is positioned on a throne of judgment with the express role and task of winnowing all evil *v.8). Notice clearly that the true nature of foolishness is here labeled as ‘evil’, not just unfortunate, or sad. The king’s eyes are to discern and punish ALL evil. That is the task of his position – and of course Paul clearly agrees, review Romans 13:1-7. Lord God, please give us wise rulers to protect us from evil!


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 32-B:
Prov.20:8-13 LIMITS OF HUMAN JUSTICE
Romans 12:17-21 tells us that we should never take personal vengeance, as that is the prerogative of the Lord. This subunit helps us see why even the king’s winnowing of evil is limited in the face of our creaturely limitations and the pervasiveness of sinful tendencies of our hearts. It ends with an exhortation to responsibly use our God designed, though limited, receptors (eyes), to find God’s provision in a life requiring work.
Verse 8 reminded us of the task of civil authorities (king) to use his role (throne) to combat all evil. It ended noting that he does this with his eyes. The next verse (v.9) then questions the capacity/ability for anyone (including the king) to have a heart free from sin and expects a negative answer. The eyes cannot see all, it only can see things external actions. Yet the Lord knows the heart and the weights and measures of trade and evaluation people use (v.10) and HE hates injustice or cheating in their use. HE sees and knows. This limitation to only observe the external and evaluate by deeds or conduct is lifelong – from youth onwards it is the external actions we can assess, not the heart. We (and kings) can only judge actions, not motives and hearts.
Yet the Lord, who can judge hearts, made both our two ears and out two eyes. He has given us two pairs of receptors. So the wise person uses them to be receptive and discerning. A wise person does not succumb to laziness in the use of them and avoids the poverty of inactivity (v.13a), but opens and uses these good receptors and finds what is needed to sustain himself and others (v.13b). Our lives and our judgments are limited, but they are not blinded, nor deaf. The Lord has given us two sets of receptors and we are responsible to use them. But we must use them judiciously, compassionately knowing that we are all sinners and that we cannot know the heart of another, but we can discern their words and actions, and are responsible to do so.


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 32-C:
Prov.20:14-19 Waging Life With Sound Speech
Speech is one of the most powerful tool in living. This unit again focuses upon the eventual and ultimate consequences of the tongue used in the wrong way. By highlighting its negative use, the poet urges us to pursue knowledgeable speaking and planning (v.15b). All of us need to buy goods (v.14), have garments (v.16), obtain food (v.17) and seek counsel (v.18) – but the use of themouth in doing securing these things is the difference between the wise and the fool.
In three sets of pairs we view obtaining goods (vv.14,15), personal necessities (vv.16,17), and life planning. We are reminded of the improper way by which speech can impact these common life practices (vv.18,19). First, the common practice of haggling over prices is compared to the value of lips that speak knowledge or truth. The pictures of a buyer ‘lying’ to the seller about the value (in the true estimation of the buyer) of something is portrayed as his boasting of getting a ‘steal’ on a product. He got it at such a ‘steal’ that he boasts about his good buy (v.15). But the preciousness or value of this, be they gold or many corals, is really quite small compared to the value or preciousness of integrity and truthful speech. Eventually this true value of integrity over goods ‘stolen’ by ‘deceit’ will come to light.
Everyone needs garments and food. But the way one uses one’s words to obtain them needs to be wise. If we foolishly ‘pledge’ (assuming with one’s words) our garment for someone we do not know, a stranger, we might as well give over our garment to the lender. It is foolish to give commitments with our words (spoken or written) for someone we do not know (v.16). To be imprudent is one thing, likewise it is even more wrong to use deceit or dishonesty to obtain food. The ‘sweet’ deal may taste good at first, but it ends up not only distasteful, but damaging. It not only tastes dirty but the gravel breaks our teeth (v.17).
Finally we all face challenges or conflicts (‘wars’) in life. Thus our planning must be done with faithful, true friends. The wise indeed seek counsel of others (v.18). But here we are counseled to know well the speech patterns of those from whom we seek counsel. To take counsel from a slander, a gossip, or a babbler does not only lead to poor plans, but will result in self-destruction as secrets and confidences are made public (v.19).


Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 33-A:
Prov.20:20-25 RASH WORDS OR REAL TRUST
Words need to be used carefully, especially when there is strong emotion behind them. Emotions, on either side of the good/bad continuum, can prompt us to say more than we can actually handle. This section warns us against these rash words in some specific situations and gives us the alternative action and reasons why we should choose the alternative approach. All of life is lived in the Lord’s presence, even our speaking.
The first pair (vv.20,21) seems to view the family relationship and inheritance issues. Harsh words belittling (cursing) our parents may lead to quicker inheritance settlements, but curses always boomerang and instead of receiving a blessing (v.21b) our own lamp is snuffed out (v.20b). Bitterness and impatience are occasions always requiring guarded speech.
Equally dangerous are times when we are wronged and are tempted to blurt out, “You’ll pay for this, I’ll repay you!,” threatening personal vengeance (v.22a). The alternative is to remember Who the Lord is and look to Him and wait for His intervention to both repay us and punish the one wronging us. The reasons for such patient waiting on the Lord are set forth in vv.23,24. We can be assured that our Lord Himself has an emotional reaction to unjust wrongs like we do – He hates cheating, He knows it is not good! Furthermore He is sovereign over our mysterious lives. He ordains our steps and we being limited cannot understand our own ways, much less the ways of those wronging us. So, we can trust and wait for the Lord to work true justice for all of us in His timing. This assurance enables us to be more calm and patient in our speech.
Even spiritual/religious emotions can prompt us to speak without wisdom (v.25). Our zeal can sometime be a trap that prompts us to promise more than we in our limitations can deliver. The poet reminds us it is rash to make a vow to the Lord and then afterwards to do the examination and study to see if we can perform it. As Bruce Waltke says, “Rash religious excitement that leads to hasty vows is no substitute for a solid character that thinks soberly with well-balanced judgment.” Real trust in Who our Lord is protects us from rash words!

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 33-B:
Prov.20:26-21:2 THE LORD’S RULE BY KING
The section on the role of the king as the Lord’s servant to establish a just and thus a healthy society (20:20-28) is here brought to a conclusion with another assurance of the Lord’s character and ability. We were just encouraged to leave vengeance to the Lord, as He is both the moral and sovereign One (vv.22-24). Now we can trust Him to use the wise king to administer such just punishment to the wicked (v.26) and protect and care for the needy (v.28). The king is able to do this because the Lord is all knowing, about all people’s innermost being (v.27), and can guide His king to be kind and faithful. By an agricultural picture of threshing a grain harvest, the role of a wise king is extolled as thoroughly punishing wickedness (see also Rom.13:4). The assurance that a wise king can do this is not rooted in the king himself, but in the all knowing Lord Who knows the spirit of all men and sheds light on the innermost hearts (v.27). Also the wise king promotes kindness or loyal faithfulness by his being kind and faithful (v.28). It is not only the punishment of evil but also the honoring, promoting of good that is the duty of the wise civil servants (Rom.13:3) who which to establish a just and good administration. Instead of personal vengeance we can trust the Lord and His established, good civil rulers to bring forth the justice we need.
A new unit continues the connection between the Lord and His king by focusing upon the doing of righteousness and justice (20:29-21:31). It is introduced with another education proverb reminding us of the necessary interconnection of the generations (vv.29-30). Both generations have splendor and majesty – they differ and need each other. The young have strength and energy, the aged have wisdom and gray hair to help guide and correct the youth. Thus v.30 reminds us that part of the necessity of governing is for the wise to train and polish the younger generation – using if necessary physical punishment. Note the assumption between the physical pain and its ability to clean or polish the innermost parts.
Again the Lord is ultimately the source of this just governing and his sovereign providence and omniscience are the basis for us having confidence in a wise kings governing. God is the ultimate source of watering with blessings (21:1). And the king who is the channel of this is firmly controlled by His hand and His pleasure – thus we can trust Him for the king’s rule. Also the Lord knowing all about all people, even the ‘know it all’ types, is the basis of confidence that HE is not fooled and knows the true motives of hearts (21:2). HE can guide the kind and we can trust Him to do so justly.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 33-C:
Prov.21:3-8 THE SHOCKING RESULTS OF UNJUST MEANS
We all want the same thing – acceptance, adequate provisions and security. The crucial difference comes in the ‘means’ we use to secure them. This is true even for worshipers of the Lord. Thus this collection focuses upon doing righteousness and justice in our pursuit of life. The introduction (v.3) notes that worship and moral ethics are both important in our relationship with the Lord. But is reminds us that for our worship to be genuine and pleasing to the Lord, our righteousness and justice in behavior must accompany our sacrifice. The Lord seeks those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). This is the base line for the warnings that follow where those who forget that the ‘way’ we pursue our needs is important, and if we choose unjust ‘means’ we will be sadly shocked to discover the ‘results’ are the opposite of what we seek.
Four verses show the unjust means too often used to pursue our needs and highlights how they reap the opposite of what we sought. The wicked are surprised that their arrogance and haughty outlook and their ambitious, unrestrained heart plans and desires produce sin instead of gain (v.4). They expect advancement and find trouble and conflict instead. They are hasty and quick to pursue the best deals but are shocked to see the slower calculations of the diligent pay dividends long after they are facing lack (v.5).
If haste doesn’t work and the lack is intense, then deceit is the means often used (v.6). But with one swift gust of wind or breath they find lies only lead to death – death of at least the ‘great deal,’ if not of themselves. Now even more desperate, they resort to violence and abuse – yet refusing to do things justly they are still shocked to see they the nets they lay for others end up brutally dragging themselves away. Injustice always boomerangs – especially when violence is the choice of means.
Conclusion (v.8), the way of a guilty person is crooked, hard, and deceiving as they can’t see around the bend the ambush they set for themselves. In contrast the pure use straight deeds with good, though often slow developing, benefits.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 34-B:
Prov.21:19-23 WISDOM BLESSES WITH TRIUMPHANT PEACE
Again the painful chaos of the Contentious Woman introduces a contrasting atmosphere to the triumphant wise. Foolishness is like the strife and provocation of a foolish woman: better to live in the isolation and privations of a desert than with the disruption of her presence (v.19). This painful, bleak background heightens the blessedness of the way of the wise in vv.20-24 describing the sufficient blessings, life and triumph of the wise.
The wise dwell with sufficient, enjoyable provisions while the fool gobbles down all his resources (v.20) with no thought beyond the immediate hunger. The wise by chasing after righteousness and kindness, surprisingly discover life, sufficiency and public honor (v.21).
The wise are invincible and able to be triumphant against seemingly impossible warriors and strongholds (v.22). One example of the way this occurs for the wise is in the careful guarding and control of the tongue. They focus upon guarding what they say and how they say things, and the surprising consequence is that they are guarding their life from multitudes of miseries and distresses

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 34-C:
Prov.21:24-30 AT THE HEART OF EVIL WAYS
With a sudden shift we are thrust back to a consideration of four wicked types and the destruction they both cause for others and will reap for themselves. At the center of the section (v.27) is the heart of the issue – a hypocritical heart, feigning worship for evil purposes. In essence he attempts to use God, instead of submit to Him and His ways. 
The scoffing mocker (v.24) is revealed by his arrogance and pride. This self-sufficient, independent dude has an exaggerated opinion of his importance and his fury is both against God and humans – as he views himself as knowing best. Pride is the source of his fury. The sluggard appears again (vv.25,26) – this time it is his cravings that are the focus. The foolishness of this evil type is that his desires occur all day long, yet he does not lift his hand to meet his hungers by work. Thus his own cravings kill him. The futility and stupidity of this is highlighted by the contrast of the righteous who gives without sparing – enough for himself and others.
Worship of the wicked is bad enough and hated by God (v.27a), but when they worship to manipulate people so as to get what they want - they involve God in their sin and are even more abominable. The essence of sin is to think and act as if we can ‘use’ God to get what we want. This is at the center of wickedness in all it forms.
The third type of sinner (v.28) is the lying witness. He consciously aims to deceive and disadvantage another. The assurance is that this one will perish, while one who listens and reports accurately will endure. It is no surprise that this deceitful wickedness deceives the sinner himself. One given to arrogance, sloth and lies will eventually become hardened, scoffing and brazenly imprudent, cheeky and shameless in their foolishness. The upright discerns wisdom and picks their path, words and actions prudently – and enjoys the benefits!
Knowing God is good and not to be ‘used’ grows a different heart.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 35-A:
Prov.21:31-22:4 WANT BLESSINGS? – ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY!
Genuine wisdom recognizes one’s total dependency upon the Lord, Who is the all ruling God. Dependency mean humility that fears the Lord for Who He is and is not deceived into self-sufficiency or independence in thought or actions. The Lord’s sovereignty over all things is the common theme in this section urging us to living in conscious dependence upon him.
Recognizing that ultimate plans and ultimate success are in the Lord’s hands means that no human wisdom, understanding or counsel is independent of Him and thus to be sound must be rooted in Him (v.30). Likewise we can have prepared horses and other instruments of waging war or business or life – but we must know and rely upon the Creator, not the creatures for success (v.31).
Likewise moral values, discernment are the path to social esteem and financial security. Knowing the Lord is maker of all and fearing Him guides our decisions and actions.
It means the integrity and honesty that give one a good name with others is always more valuable than any gain that might be achieved by unjust means (v.1). The person knows that all people are the Lord’s creatures, HE is maker of us all, so wealth does not define value (v.2).
Also the humility that fears offending the Lord is alert and sees potential evil situations and avoids it. But he independent, self-sufficient one is gullible and walks into trouble and pays the price (v.3). Thus fear of the Lord humility avoids trouble and receives honor, more wealth, in short ‘life’ (v.4). Humility recognizes we are creatures, the sovereign Creator – and acts accordingly.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 35-B:
Prov.22:5-9 Good Morals and Financial Blessings
Proverbs has collected sayings that express the way life under the Creator generally works. This larger unit (22:1-16) is showing that there is a connection between one’s moral life and one’s financial well-being. This subunit (vv.5-9) states that moral living can avoid many difficulties and parents can help launch a child on that path (vv.5,6). It then gives an example of how this works out in financial dealings (vv.7-9).
Snares that use prickly barbs hold firmly and hurt. Those who walk in perverse, crooked ways experience this too often, while those who shrewdly avoid them preserves his life (v.5). Avoidance of moral perversity is the less thorny, less dangerous path. Thus parents should initiate and consecrate their kids in this way of moral uprightness (v.7). This sets them on a path which experience will teach them as they go is a path from which they will not want to depart.
Now this moral pathway is illustrated in financial realms. The basic observation of reality is that the borrower is controlled, enslaved by the lender (v.7). The rich lender has leverage to impact the poorer borrower. Anyone who has had a mortgage knows this simple reality. The possibility that the lender can use his advantage unjustly or oppressively is also a too frequent reality (v.8). But the moral universe dictates that this supposed advantage unjustly taken is deceptive and the power or fury ultimately fails. The Lord’s moral universe does however show us that the generous who sacrifices his bounty will be blessed for caring for the less fortunate. The way to be blessed is to share blessings received, to receive we must give away to those with needs.

Less Is More - SLOWLY Reading Proverbs Week 35-C:
Prov.22:10-16 The LORD Rules! 
Collection II (10:1-22:16) is brought to an end by this subunit that again shows that the LORD is the providential ruler over His world, insuring that His moral order is retained. As he has in the second half of this collection this order is a work of His king and of His indirect consequences flowing from foolish acts. The need to understand this moral order is highlighted by the sad reality that our own hearts are inclined and bound to natural foolishness so strongly that physical discipline is sometimes required to awaken us to our need for God’s knowledge.
The wise king, as the Lord’s vice-regent, knows that one’s speech pattern determines one’s social standing and impact. Thus he befriends those whose love of purity teaches his tongue to be gracious (v.11). But the scoffer, whose speech causes strife, contention and insults, will be removed from social positions to assure peace (v.10).
The all-seeing Lord protects knowledge by allowing natural consequences to punish the foolishness of the sluggard and the gullible young man. He subverts or turns the tables on the words of treacherous unfaithful people (v.12). For example the ludicrous excuses of lazy leaves him isolated and poor (v.13), while the smooth, seductive mouth of the unfaithful wife is a deep pit or trap that brings the curse of the Lord crashing upon the gullible (v.14). Sexual immorality carries it’s own curse with it.
Folly is so pervasive and so ingrained in we fallen creatures that it is often necessary for physical pain to be used to awaken us to it both its power over us and the consequences of giving it expression. Thus moral education by discipline is both necessary and a blessing (v.15). But sometimes the consequences of foolishness are the path of discipline. We seek gain, by foolish means of either oppressing those who are poor or pandering those who are rich – but alas eventually we learn it is foolish as we come only to lack what we sought (v.16). Yes, the Lord rules His moral universe – help us learn this early and learn it well!