Proverbs 12:23-28

Proverbs 12:23‑28  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
In this group of moral maxims we have the value of prudence, and of diligence; depression compared with even a good word; the righteous contrasted with the wicked, the slothful with diligence; and the way of righteousness all through.
“A prudent man concealeth knowledge; but the heart of the foolish proclaimeth folly.
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule; but the slothful [hand] shall be under tribute.
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop; but a good word maketh it glad.
The righteous guideth his neighbor; but the way of the wicked misleadeth them.
The slothful roasteth not what he took in hunting; but man's precious substance [is] diligence.
In the path of righteousness [is] life; and in its pathway is no death” (vers. 23-28).
Few things betray the lack of common sense more than the habit of displaying any bit of knowledge one may have. But it meets just as habitually with a sharp and disagreeable corrective; for those who know more fully are apt to expose its shallowness and vanity. Ostentation characterizes such as have a smattering which often lets out how little is really known. The fault is more serious in a Christian, whose standard is, and ought to be, Christ the Truth.
The attention that takes pains is far more important and reliable than any ability where that is lacking. Ruling is the consequence without being sought. But the slothful neglect their duty and alienate their friends, gaining contempt and distrust on all sides, while sinking ever lower and lower. Who can wonder?
Heaviness in the heart renders the hand powerless, and hinders the eye from seeing the opportunities which God takes care to present. A good word gladdens the heart in the midst of manifold trials; and what an unfailing supply does scripture afford! If it be so with the O. T. characterized as it is by the law, how much is it with the N. T. where the gospel gives the tone! The very word means glad-tidings; and this it is truly beyond question, save to such as, believing in their wretched and guilty selves, have no faith in God. Its blessedness is, not only that it comes forth from the infinite love of God, giving His Only-begotten Son and in Him life eternal, but that He as Son of man meets all that could hinder or disable, in the cross where God made the Sinless One sin for us. It is therefore directly and expressly for those who have neither goodness nor strength, but are sinners and enemies, breaking their hard hearts with grace, to fill them with His light and love. As He said Who told it out with matchless simplicity and fullness, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Righteousness has great weight to man's conscience, aware if honest of his Own failure, and keenly alive to its absence where he fondly expected it. For moral consistency is rare. Hence the righteous, not the bright, still less the crafty, guides his neighbor. It inspires confidence when a dilemma arrives or a danger threatens. But the way of the wicked does not impose on those who discern it. They may seek to flatter themselves, because it is easy, that it will pass and give them their desired ends. It misleads themselves, who often wake up to their own deceitful folly and sin too late.
Another trait of the slothful man is here pointed out. He may be active in the pursuit of his pleasure; but his sloth prevents his turning what he may have gained to any good account. He roasts not what he took in hunting, and has to sponge on others; whereas the precious substance of men is diligence. This is what avails in the long run, where the means and the opportunities may be ever so small.
But industrious diligence, though it may go with righteousness, is not always righteous, and often misses what is still better. “In the way of righteousness is life.” Therefore said the Lord, Take heed and keep yourselves from all covetousness; for not because a man is in abundance is his life in the things which he possesses. We cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore He bade us not be anxious about our life, what to eat, and what to drink, or what to put on. The very birds of the sky and the lilies of the field teach men a weighty lesson; yet the birds have no consciousness of God, though beholden to His continual care, and not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him.
Hence there must be total deadness toward God and His word, heart-indifference to Him Whom God has sent, if there be not a life beyond the creaturely existence of the day and the earth; and it is in the way of righteousness, not merely at its end, though it will have a glorious character above the present shifting scenes. Its pathway has no death. We cannot talk of its end; or if we do, we can say it is life eternal. The end of unrighteousness is death; and its pathway is strewn every step with those things whereof men who take note must be thoroughly ashamed. And how many souls has grace led by their sorrows to think of their sins, and to find in the Lord Jesus their Deliverer and joy, whilst awaiting another and enduring scene which has nothing to darken it!