Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Proverbs 12 – Speaking Truth is Freedom

“Anxiety weighs down the human heart,

but a good word cheers it up.”

~Proverbs 12:25 (NRSV).

The giving and taking of advice, honest speech, diligence, and blessings for truth and curses for falsehood all come together under the banner of learning for living integrity and freedom in Proverbs 12. It can be hard to find themes out of such an apparent disparate mix of proverbs, but these groupings are visible:

On Taking and Giving Advice

Those on the search for wisdom in life and the right way will listen to advice (verse 15). They don’t mind learning the hard way which is sometimes humiliating for they see that learning is a second chance at success (verse 1). Unlike the wicked, the righteous are just in giving the appropriate advice (verse 5). Their thoughts can be trusted for they know they’re bound by an unsaid code of responsible care.

How are we supposed to learn how to really live life without taking good advice? Likewise, when we are finally in a position to give advice it’s a weighty responsibility that we don’t take flippantly. Who really wants to lead people astray?

Honesty in Speech

Verses 6 and 13 tell us that the words of the wicked will ambush them, but the words of those trying to live uprightly will actually deliver them from trouble. Their honesty will save them, for we’re never condemned for being straight about things.

When people are asked from authority figures what they know about events of interest, we can quickly tell those who are going the right way. Verse 17 states it in very obvious fashion. It doesn’t pay to lie in court or in any sort of legal dispute or any time that the truth is being relied upon punitively for that matter. Truthful lips won’t be betrayed like lying lips (verse 19). God hates the latter but delights in the former (verse 22).

We all know, of course, when we have lied, that even our consciences condemn us, and if they don’t it won’t be long before we really will be found out!

Diligence Pays in Big Ways

There are at least three proverbs in this set that speak to one of the great refrains of Proverbs: diligence. Verse 11 tells us those making the most of their opportunities will have plenty to eat. The diligent, we learn, are destined to rule (in some way), whilst the lazy will always be the vassal (verse 24). Further, the diligent value their possessions, making the most from them (verse 26).

Blessing and Cursing

As with the majority of the proverbs in chapters 10–15 the contrastive quality (characterised in the use of the word “but”) makes it easier to see both blessing and cursing in the same proverb.

Those with integrity are assured of a sound position in life—ground that doesn’t easily move, that’s good to trust (verses 3 and 7). Simple blessings accepted are good for life; the pretentious life is folly (verse 9). The fruit of those on the right path is multiplied (verse 12). There is no harm for these, but trouble follows those who are off track (verse 21).

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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