The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous (Proverbs 14:19, ESV). Many interpret this proverb in a physical, literal sort of way. I suppose this is possible (perhaps likely). I would like to suggest another application. When one thinks about those who are evil or those who are wicked (one in the same really), just how do they respond to those who are righteous? With fear! They fear what they don’t understand; they fear that life which judges them; since they can’t overcome it, though they try with a good deal of vigor, in a strange way, they bow before the righteous by recognizing the righteous life lived is right. They have, in effect, come to recognize that righteousness is powerful and a threat to them who are evil and wicked. What did the Lord say, but that every knee will bow and every voice will confess (Philippians 2:8-11). So, in one way or another, they will bow!
The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge (Proverbs 14:18, ESV). The simple in this profound saying is the naïve. Those who are naïve may be those of youth or it may be those who choose not to become wise. For those of youth, it’s a matter of experience, and the education gained from that. Those who choose not to become wise, on the other hand, it is not a matter of education, but the rejection of it. This kind of man is foolish. The Lord looks upon the wise man as one crowned with the Lord’s wisdom; this moves him through the crowed mass of ignorance.
The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps (Proverbs 14:15, ESV). The word “simple” is given a better translation “naïve” in the NET. The Contemporary English Version reads, “Don’t be stupid and believe all you hear.” This is the idea, but lest one think more than should be thought, take note of the Lord’s word elsewhere. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18, ESV). Critical thinking is to be an identifying marker of the saints (cf. 1 John 4:1). The saints in Berea challenged Paul by critical thing, and saints should do the same today. Thus, it is not wrong to challenge the integrity and veracity of the Scriptures, but it is wrong when one sees that they do stand the test of critical thinking and then fails to obey the Lord’s New Testament will revealed therein. The apostle Paul went into the Jewish synagogue each Sabbath day to “reason” with the Jew from the Scripture concerning Jesus, and New Testament saints today will reason with another concerning the same.
The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways (Proverbs 14:14, ESV). This is another way of saying one will reap what he sows. The backslider is not one that sins on occasion, for we all do, but sliding back away from the Lord is not our intention. On the other hand, those who sin have put themselves in position to slide down that slippery slope where no traction can be gained. Before long, one’s thinking and life swirls out of control. A good man, however, has the path of righteousness plainly laid before him, and all obstacles are easily seen. Thus, he avoids the slippage. When he does sin – for all sin – then he goes straight to the Lord in penitence because the Lord has not allowed the traction of his feet to be worn away. The Lord’s fruit is sweet.
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief (Proverbs 14:13, NKJV). There is an old proverb that says laughter is the best medicine. Surely we can see value in this, but is that always the case? Others have said they had to laugh at something because if they didn’t they would cry. In both cases, laughter has associated with it some unfortunate circumstance in life that receives attention. Some, unfortunately, laugh at sin. These people think their sinful action will go unchecked by the Lord. They fail to understand that the Lord has a mind like a “steel trap.” Nothing escapes. One can be sure their sin will find them out.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). One of the great things about life is the fact the Lord gave to each of us a mind; a mind wherein we can think whatever it is that we want. Many have used their minds to think of great and inventive ideas, while some have had destructive thoughts. Whatever it is that is thought by man, that which is the most important is his standing before the Almighty. It may be that man does not think this is important, but in time, his thoughtless thought will reveal itself in a particular action. This is destructive (of course). The unfortunate thing about those destructive thoughts is just how unaware people are about this way of thinking. One can find the truth, however, if he looks outside himself. Until he does, all that will be found (or thought) is a way that seems right. Not much to hang one’s thinking cap on!
The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish (Proverbs 14:11, NKJV). The house of the wicked is destroyed on two levels. First, the Scriptures are clear that one’s sins will be found out (Numbers 32:23). Second, the house of the wicked is destroyed because the moral compass one lives by can’t hold its own weight; it will surely come crashing down. As the house of the wicked is, so on two levels the “tent of the upright” flourishes. First, in the immediate, those who live by the righteous standard of the Lord can’t do anything but benefit one’s neighbor. Doubt this? Consider what loves does: it will always seek that which is beneficial to the other (Phil. 2:3-4). Second, the Lord rewards those who love and obey Him. Now that is flourishing!
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!