The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy (Proverbs 14:10, NKJV). In his prayer of dedication, Solomon appealed to the Lord to hear the prayers of all who turn toward to newly built Temple, reflecting the affliction in the land and in the hearts of those plagued with sin (1 Kings 8:38, ESV). Who has no affliction of the heart on occasion? Perhaps there are more who struggle with this than others know, but certainly the Lord knows! Those who don’t struggle in the same way, be sure to pray for those who do. The heart of a person is where the very issues of life are stored (Proverbs 4:23). Those issues are both the joys and sorrows that all carry. When the joy is overwhelming, let us praise the Lord. When the sorrows are weighty, let us turn to the Lord, for only He can relieve us of our burden (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance (Proverbs 14:9, NKJV). The NKJV is literal, but I like the way the KJV reads: “Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.” The Good News Bible reads: “Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven.” Regardless of the translation, the point is clear: foolish people regard sin as inconsequential, something that won’t condemn them. The humble one before God, and declared righteous by Him, looks upon one’s failings much differently. The foolish one is generally avoided because of callousness and the lack of wisdom, while the humble one is much more readily accepted.
Not long ago my uncle and I were visiting when I mentioned that one’s perception is not reality, but to the one who perceives it is reality. He concurred. What does that mean? It means that though one perceives, judges, and concludes concerning a situation, that which is perceived to be the case is not always so (though they believe it is). This plays well into the words of James 4:11-12, concerning brethren who render judgments against another brother concerning what they perceived to be the case. It was not only EVIL, but it placed on in position that did not belong to the “judger.” He shared with me how for years one would not talk to him and his wife because they (the perceiver, judger), in truth, misjudged badly a situation. If one can’t learn a lesson from this, I wonder if the heart is too hard!
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge (Proverbs 14:7, NKJV). Who is the fool? From the vantage point of those who think in accordance with the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), all those who belong to Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). To that degree then, let us leave those who think Christians are foolish because the real fool is the one who thinks and lives as if there is no God (cf. Psalm 14:1). The message the real fool lives by is a message that originates and perpetuates moral relativism, existence coming into being without any sufficient cause, and all sorts of ideas that speak against the very idea of God. There is no way to learn anything of eternal substance from those who are fools. While they call Christians foolish, who is really the fool?
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding (Proverbs 14:6, ESV). The scoffer is the intellectually arrogant. This is the person who is sure there is no God, sure that the killing of the righteous innocent is a mere matter of “health,” and seeks to have the community in which he resides to follow his wisdom toward a path of liberal justice and peace. He seeks wisdom, but the “wisdom” that he gains is always changing. Does not seem much like wisdom to me! On the other hand, knowledge that comes from above (James 1:17-18) is not fleeting, but firmly rooted in Him who know all and sees all.
By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom (Proverbs 13:10, NKJV). The middle letter of “pride” is the letter “i”, and with this small letter many assert themselves into areas of thinking and doing that destroys. The prideful person thinks a great deal of self and, as one man said, “They are ready to quarrel with everyone who does not value their opinions as highly as they do” (McGrath). With the letter “i” right in the middle of this word, this becomes similar to those who want to be in the middle of all engagements – it is self-validating. A wise man, on the other hand, is not interested in the “I”, but in good judgment. Whereas a wise man will gains counsel before acting, a prideful person will do nothing of the sort because his own wisdom is plenty fine! Pride and sin are kin.
The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked will be put out (Proverbs 13:9, NKJV). It is understood that Christians radiate something from their personality; it is ideal when that which is radiated is the “light of Jesus’ life.” It is not only ideal, it is something the Lord wants and expects. For many in this world all that will be known of the gospel is the person who lives the life of Christ. How great it is, don’t you think, when one who does not know Christ sees the radiant joy of life in one of His saints? On the other hand, the wicked also has a light, but that which comes forth is not as bright (not even close), and whatever “brightness” might exist it quickly fades into darkness.
The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, But the poor does not hear rebuke (Proverbs 13:8, NKJV). This is a peculiar proverb, especially in light of the previous verse (“There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches”). The point, however, is not as far from the sentiment of the previous verse as one might initially think. Some have interpreted this proverb to pertain to a discerning spiritual man who uses his money well; he is able to redeem himself in (and from) particular difficulties. While this may be true, I think the greater point is this: the wealth of a person puts him (or her) into precarious circumstance where money needs to be used to redeem, such as in kidnapping. On the other hand, the one who does not put any emphasis on money, thus not having that kind of wealth, is not susceptible to same thing.
There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches (Proverbs 13:7, NKJV). For those who have gained maturity in life (regardless of their age) this is something that can be seen a “mile away.” How often is it that we read of a person who “made it big” only to hear, read, or see later that they crashed hard? Then, when they speak of their crash we learn it is related to loneliness (emptiness), poor decisions, bad influences, and the false sense of security in material wealth. On the other hand, the one who is poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) is much more inclined to turn to Him who is wealthy beyond one’s comprehension (cf. John 10:10). Wealth to this “poor” one is not measured in material possessions, but in something that is immeasurable (cf. Ephesians 1:3; 3:20-21).
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, But wickedness overthrows the sinner (Proverbs 13:6, NKJV). How can righteousness guard a man? Righteousness is not only a state of declaration by the Lord, it is also a way of life. The psalmist said that he hid the word of God in his heart in order that he would not sin against the Lord (Psalm 119:11). This approach to life protects us. It protects us in helping us see, very plainly, the ways of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11) and it protects us because it helps us see the path of righteousness (not the plurality and singular). It is the path that those who love the Lord choose to follow (Matthew 11:28-30). The wicked person, on the other hand, is a person who refuses to hear and heed the Lord’s words of life. As one man said in regard to this contrast “saints are secured from ruin, sinner are secured for ruin” (Matthew Henry, italics added, RT). Since that is the case, what choice do you think a wise person will make?