In today’s culture we’re not that adept at discussing the character of the ‘fool’ although we see him or her everywhere, as the scribes of Proverbs did in their days. In Proverbs 19 we get another resonant glimpse of the type of behaviour the foolish engage in, the behaviour we’re to avoid like the plague.

I found the following highlights and themes when recently musing over Proverbs 19:

Remain Even-tempered… Patience!

We seem to get angry at life a lot when mostly the issues we’re angry about are self-inflicted (v. 3), even to the wrong motives for engagement e.g. getting frustrated at the prospect of going to work.
We see in verse 19 that if we bail out the hot-tempered person for the actions that their anger produced they’ll never learn. If we never deal with the consequences of our actions we’ll never be motivated to behave differently.

But, “those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is to their [own] glory to overlook an offense” -Proverbs 19:11 (NRSV). Imagine patience being the elixir for life, peace, relationships! A whole virtuous life can be built around patience. See any parallels here with the character of God…? i.e. ‘Slow to anger.’

Show Compassion to the Poor

Proverbs deals in salient realities; so rich is the imagery it strikes us poignantly. We know that wealth not only brings friends (v. 4) but it brings all sorts of favour in this life. The poor, on the other hand, seem almost friendless.

The poor, of all people, know a faithful friend when they see them (v. 7) but the proverb leads us to think they have no faithful friends–this is the purpose of the Church is it not?–to be a faithful friend to the poor.

The poor are closer to home than we realize; not only is poverty but a moment away, but we see Jesus in the pauper (Matthew 25:40, 45). When we’re kind and give freely to the poor, it is really the LORD we’re lending to (v. 17). We should hence look for opportunities to do same. When we do this friends abound (v. 6).

What Laziness Looks Like and Its Results

The sign of the lazy person is someone who can’t help themselves (v. 24). Neither can they see the folly of their laziness nor can they motivate themselves to actually do the things required to rectify the situation. The result is they’ll suffer hunger (v. 15) in both direct and indirect ways, leading to an unchallenged life. Teaching our children not to be lazy is therefore an imperative.

Proverbs profiles diligence as the opposite of laziness, the virtue of the morally industrious. The diligent become rich (10:4, 21:5), end up ruling (12:24), look after all their acquisitions (12:27), and become fully satisfied for their labours (13:4). The opposite of these outcomes is for the sluggard (the lazy person).

More Allusions for Parents in Parenting

Verse 27 (a parent’s prayer for the child to avoid folly by heeding instruction) is odd here in a collection of standalone proverbs. It fits better in the Proverbs 1-9 genre. But, looking closer it hinges the two proverbs either side of it in the negative sense. If the child doesn’t heed “the words of knowledge” they’ll risk becoming a proverbial ‘scoffer’ and the outcomes in verses 25, 26, 28 and 29 become a distinct possibility.

Moreover, if the parent cannot issue the appropriate instruction, discipline and punishment for their children they might ironically be party to their destruction (v. 18).

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

SteveWickham is a Registered Safety Practitioner (BSc, MSIA, RSP) and a qualified, unordained Christian minister (GradDipBib&Min).

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