Fortress

Proverbs 10:15-16

Long-term growth is better than quick gain. Investing in things that last a long time is better than buying disposable items. These statements smash into the values that arose after WWII. The suburbs were grown out of nothing. The automobile allowed people to spread out across a vast area and still get to work. And advertising pushed the lust for the newest and the greatest. “Keeping up with the Jones” became a way of life.

In ancient times the home security system didn’t dial an emergency call center. Security came when your house was inside a walled town, or you could retreat inside the walls of your town. The only way to afford to build such a town was to have extra at the end of the year for many years. Crops had to have sufficient water at the right time. Livestock needed pasture and water. Protection from raiding parties had to be successful. Disputes had to be settled in a satisfactory way for all the people involved.

So when our text says that the fortified city is a symbol of wealth, we can understand why. There were no ‘get rich quick’ schemes. If you look at the source of the richest people in America, most of it originally came from a questionable source. Because they were at the right place at the right time with a healthy dose of hard work, they were able to cash in on life. But their wealth came at the expense of others. The wealth didn’t grow out of nothing. Other people made them rich. Wealth was voluntarily transferred.

In contrast to earthly wealth, the righteous receive life. Unlike a fortified city, life continues with us after the grave. When we die everything stays here. “You can’t take it with you when you die.” This is the reason righteousness is a much better pursuit. Righteousness and life go hand in hand.

Now I don’t want you to think that I haven’t dreamed about being rich, or at least richer than I am. Riches help take away some of the stress of life. It can be very difficult to live on the edge, paycheck to paycheck. STRESS! So enough to make ends meet is nice.

I am getting ready to live on less than half of what I am used to. It will be interesting to see how I handle it. I could easily get stressed if I don’t make the immediate adjustment to my wants and desires. I won’t have disposable income. What I make will be accounted for in some category of “necessary items.”

But I am investing in righteousness. Its value will not diminish when I retire. In fact, I will have more free time to pursue it in greater ways. I won’t feel rushed when I hit a sweet spot in my devotions. I can sit and linger.

Ruin’s Invitation

Proverbs 10:13-14

These two verses give us a simple picture of the results of wisdom and folly. We can take them together because there is a parallel between the first and forth lines, and the middle two lines. The outside lines deal with what each says, and the middle lines deal with what each gains. So let’s look at each.

What wise people say is contrasted with what fools say. What we are on the inside comes out of our mouths. Our true character spills out. The fool “is asking for it.”

The text says that the fool “invites” ruin. Why would someone invite ruin into their lives? I can think of many people who make choices, dumb choices, and then try to talk their way out of the consequences. They justify their actions, often by blaming another person. Someone who drinks too much alcohol is inviting ruin. If you spend more than you earn, you are inviting ruin. Eating too much of the wrong things invites ruin. Neglecting the important relationships in your life invites ruin. With each of these, and many more, the fool will excuse their behavior and they do so with their words.

The wise person gives out wisdom by the very words spoken. Their lives match their words. It is not that the wise person is pretending or being fake, it is that what they have put into their lives spills out. They have taken the time to discipline themselves and fill up on God’s wisdom. What they have put is comes out. Of course it takes effort to fill up on wisdom. The pursuit of wisdom is a long term project. It doesn’t happen overnight. And it is a process that is never finished. The wise continue to learn.

The fool ends up getting disciplined for his actions. The rod is a symbol and sometimes an instrument of discipline. We tend to not use physical punishment in this country. People go to jail rather than getting a public beating. But we tend to punish and not discipline. Discipline is intended and designed to bring about a change of heart. Jail is about making the public feel safer. We put the “bad guys” behind bars. But little is done to change the heart.

In the end the wise person has something to show for the path he has chosen. He has stored up knowledge. I remember a professor at college who exemplified this concept. When you were around him he just overflowed with a joy that was contagious. Without even trying he gave out wisdom. And his life matched his words.

Are you storing up knowledge or inviting ruin?

Hospital Gown

Proverbs 10:12

One of the hardest things for a new couple is their first fight. How they move toward each during and following the fight makes a big difference. When we are able to move toward the other person, hear and understand their position, their hurt and pain, the better our relationship becomes. If we end up feeling alone, we can be headed for trouble.

We all know people who love stirring up trouble. At the root of that stirring is hatred. They would probably not state it this way, but that is the reality. Hate puts us in the lashing out mood. We want to strike at anything that seems to get in our way. Hate is often indiscriminate about where and when it strikes. It doesn’t need justice to step over the line, it isn’t in charge at that point. And as a result, hate often strikes the innocent.

Hate is like a stick poking at the embers in a campfire, hoping to get a bit more flame to rise. Hate doesn’t even need to be in the fire. It is often content to get other people fighting. So if you see conflict, take a look at the sidelines. Perhaps the hate is throwing the punches, but poking the embers.

By contrast, love works to resolve conflicts. It does so through forgiveness and reconciliation. Love brings people together rather than pushing them apart. Love is always seeing the best in other people, perhaps deeply buried best.

Love isn’t about pacifying people. Love doesn’t bury wrongs, it covers them.

I remember being in the hospital for an operation. You know those hospital gowns that let the world see your backside, well I had one of them on. I had to walk down the hallway for a test. I covered my backside to hide my private parts. I didn’t want others to feel shame at seeing me exposed. My private parts were still there, just covered. It was not that I was trying to say they didn’t exist, but that I didn’t want other people having to divert their eyes to keep from shaming me. I didn’t want my nakedness to distract people’s attention away from other important things.

Love covers the wrongs so that they don’t get in the way of relationship. If we hold onto wrongs, soon our arms are filled with them, and we can’t experience the world without the wrongs overtaking it. We cover them so that our gaze can look beyond them to a better future, in hopes that someday the wrongs can be made right.

Fountains

Proverbs 10:10-11

Sneaky! This is one of those traits that you love to hate. You love it when someone else gets the brunt of the joke, but when you get the bucket of water on your head, it becomes a different story. These subtle deceptions, lies that seem harmless, are the high end of a category of actions condemned by God. We are supposed to be exuding life.

We are living in an age when deception makes some filthy rich, and leaves the rest of us just getting by. I think of a former Vice President who touts a “Green” agenda because of his “concern” for the warming of the earth, and yet flies around in a private jet. His life betrays his real beliefs. He becomes filthy rich when he sells his largest asset to the very people who profit from destroying his “Green” agenda. He is “Green”, alright (wink, wink).

Or the members of Congress who voted to change the law to encourage sub-prime mortgages now pointing fingers at the banking industry for getting us into a mess. “It’s their fault.” (Wink, wink) We will fix it this time. (Wink, wink) All the while there are backroom deals that create millionaires who represent us. (Wink, wink)

How about the dad who says, “I’ll be at your ball game,” and then doesn’t show up. Or the mom who is “meeting with the girls” to carry on an affair. Or the child who says, “I clean up my room” and then does nothing.

When we set ourselves on the path of deceit we are set up for failure. Our speech will betray us over time. People can’t help but tell their story. Just give them time and they will tip their hand. They will show you what is on the inside.

For the righteous, life is about sharing the life we have in Christ. Life flows from someone who obeys the LORD. They become a fountain. When we were traveling in Italy we were drawn, like so many before us, to the many fountains that flow. There is just something refreshing about sitting beside a fountain, listening to the splashing water and feeling the gentle mist touching your skin. And on a hot day it is like air conditioning.

So it is with someone who lives a life of obedience. When people are around us, the sense the Life we participate in living. They can be refreshed just by being in our presence.

Are we a chattering fool or a refreshing fountain?

Swiss Cheese

Proverbs 10:9

Living on the edge! Risk-taking! Rush! We certainly live in a world where thrill-seeking has become the new Olympic-sized sport. It is almost as if the brain gets stuck in high gear and nothing at normal pace ever feels normal.

I am a very different type of person. I like not falling off cliffs. I like staying in the middle of the road. I don’t like the possibility of pain. I think pain is God’s way of saying, “Cut that out!” It is a warning system that keeps us from hurting ourselves. I don’t believe the saying, “No pain, no gain.” But then again, I am a little odd. I like walking on steady grown.

When we lack integrity we walk on uncertain ground every day. Walking without integrity is like walking around in an abandoned, unfamiliar building at night. You never know when the floor is going to give out. Will this step be the one that gives out? Will I be caught this time?

I love to see people slow down below the speed limit when they see a highway patrol on the interstate. We are allowed to go the speed limit! They slow down because of their guilt. They hope they weren’t caught.

But the person who is consistent in every area of their life doesn’t have to worry about their day to day decisions. He knows what to expect and how to react. He has been on that path before. He won’t be caught doing something that doesn’t fit with his internal character.

Someone who lacks integrity is often called two-faced. You see different actions in different circumstances. You never know exactly who is going to show up and any given moment. In fact, often, they don’t know who will show up either. They live in fear of being discovered.

Someone with integrity has thought through what they will do and why. They have put the pieces of life together into an integrated whole. They are not like Swiss cheese. There are no potholes just around the corner.

Unfortunately, none of us has complete integrity. We all have some holes in our lives, places that we don’t want other people looking into. But the more we walk according to God’s Word, the more integrity we will have.

So when you notice those holes in your life, fill them with God’s Word. Allow Him to bridge the gap in your integrity.

Chatterbox

Proverbs 10:8

Do you know someone who just won’t shut up? I mean, no matter what topic or when a conversation starts, they have to be the one doing the talking. The faucet gets turned on and there is no stopping it. People even leave the room and the chatter continues. They seem to have a compulsion to fill empty auditory space with the sound of their voice.

Or perhaps the conversation always turns to them. They make it about themselves, even though the situation warrants the conversation being allowed to center somewhere else. You could be talking about just about anything and they have a story about that subject. Sometime the stories fit, but many times they are sidetracking topics.

Sometime people who are this way have a very difficult time accepting what other people have to say. It is almost as if their brains only work in one direction. They seem to be able to give it out, but they can’t take it in. They are often very poor listeners.

One of the essential lessons of childhood is learning to follow directions. Kids need to learn that they are not in charge of their world. Parents are the first teachers of this lesson. It doesn’t make us tyrants if we make rules and enforce them. In fact, it makes us a better reflection of our Creator.

Some rules are just meant to be obeyed. We can try all we want to disobey the rule of gravity, but it will win. What goes up, must come down. If we try to ignore the rule, we will just end up falling. We can temporarily experience what it feels like to be in a no gravity situation, but this only happens when the plane is falling at the same speed as we are falling. Gravity still wins.

Commands are meant to be obeyed. If we obey quickly, there are better results than if we delay obedience. Quitting smoking one day before we die of lung cancer is not as helpful as quitting after only one day of smoking.

When we really obey a command we take the truth contained in the command and make it a part of who we are. It becomes part of the fabric of our being. Then we don’t even have to think about obeying, obedience is just the way we live.

People say it takes several weeks to establish a new habit or break and old one. Is there a habit you would like to replace with another habit? Now is as good a time to start as any. Start obeying.

Pigpen

Proverbs 10:6-7

One of my most memorable cartoon characters is Pigpen from Charlie Brown. He carried his own atmosphere with him, a dust cloud. Everywhere he went the cloud went with him. It would arrive a few moments before he got somewhere and lag a few moments after he left. Some people carry their mood like they have their own weather system. They enter a room and the mood in the room changes.

Verses six and seven talk about what kind of cloud that accompanies both the righteous and the wicked. The righteous carry around blessings with them. We call this their reputation. Their reputation paves the way for blessings to come. Blessings are something that get shared. They overflow and positively affect those around us. You can’t contain a blessing. I don’t know about you, but I like being around this kind of person. I feel better about myself and about life after they have been around.

I don’t really like being around people whose mouths spew ugliness. I don’t care whether it is foul language or foul content; if I have a choice, I will leave. This kind of cloud pulls the whole crowd down. It can pull a family down as well.

Have you ever noticed that it can be very hard to pull a conversation upward, but very easy to turn it downward? Once one person starts complaining, it seems that everyone follows. It takes very little to get it started and a whole lot to get it stopped.

And the color of a person’s life does not automatically change when they die. We call this after effect someone’s legacy. Even the memory of the righteous person carries a blessing, while the wicked rots. Think about that for a moment. Have you ever left garbage in a trash can and gone on vacation. What was it like when you returned? Stink? Crawling, squirming things, flies? That is what it is like with a wicked person. Even after they are dead, it can take a while to get things cleaned up.

What kind of reputation do you have? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Now is the time to do things that create both.

Lazy During Peak Season

Proverbs 10:1-5

Raising children is like the egg and spoon race. Just when you think you have been successful, the spoon seems to get smaller and the egg less stable. Your attention shifts from the finish line to the egg and back again. Distractions abound, twists and turns, bumps and potholes.

But when you finally get them launched… your concern still does not diminish. There is one thing that makes a parent’s heart skip with joy. When a parent sees their children making wise choices; that makes it all worthwhile.

I have had that joy repeated many times over the last few years. My children continue to make wise decisions. This does not mean I am not still concerned about them, but I am much less concerned than if they were being fools.

One of the areas where we get into trouble is the area of money. As a country we spend like it is air. There is no concerted effort to face the inevitable consequences of an ever expanding debt. Lord, forgives us for placing such a great burden on our children’s children’s children. If we would just listen to the wisdom in verses like these!

Capitalism in its worst form makes winners and losers, rich and poor, haves and have nots. That is because greed is the motivating force, rather than service of others. In capitalism as is practiced in the West, there is little sense of the common good. What is important is the bottom line. What matters is the rate of growth.

If we would avoid laziness, things would be much better. But now our system rewards laziness. We pay people to do nothing, and incentivize them to continue to be unproductive.

God has called us to be productive. There are times when the burden of work will be greater, like harvest time in an agrarian society, summer time for construction, Thanksgiving to Christmas for retail.

And our productivity reflects back to our parents. It says something about our upbringing, and about our character. It is an outward sign of an inward trait.