“No one who conceals transgressions will prosper,
but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
~Proverbs 28:13 (NRSV).
Contracts and caveats are full of legal-speak and they spell out blow by blow for proponents the ‘lay of the land’ and all sense of permeations regarding default. In much the same way, Proverbs 28 gets into some of the pertinent items of note regarding riches, justice, and ultimately God’s judgment through Wisdom—which is the way life generally always works out.
This chapter also sees the return of the contrastive proverb, and with much fanfare. In fact, eighteen of the 28 proverbs are “but” proverbs showing us the sweeping differences in life that are accorded of our various acts.
Approaches to Wealth
Riches and all manner of ways of getting there or not are a commanding theme here. Firstly, it’s better to be poor but blameless than to be rich and perverse (verse 6). Getting rich at the expense of others is a slippery wealth—it will not be retained (verse 8). Some rich people attempt to put over ‘their wisdom’ on others, but even a poor person with insight sees through the ruse (verse 11).
An eagerness to grow rich in life without the willingness to collect that spoil of hard knocks is faithlessness; it will not be rewarded in the end (verse 20). The blameworthy person who brandishes perversity will fall ultimately (verse 18).
It really doesn’t pay to greedily hoard material wealth, doing so irresponsibly.
Opposite Sides of Justice
Greedy people cannot live at harmony, for peace is always somewhere ‘over there,’ in places called “envy” and “comparison” (verse 25). These live at odds with even themselves, as they’re constantly peering over the fence into others’ worlds.
Those eager to get ahead financially, and certainly against the needs of the needy, will not go without punishment in the end (verses 20 and 27). Heaven only help a nation ruled by a wicked person; they will leave nothing behind and people will scurry for cover (verses 3, 12 and 28).
The alternative route, which is one relatively few take, is the right-sized life so far as balance and equity is concerned. The wiser person is not trusting in their own resources, but in Wisdom’s (verse 26; cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). They receive for their faith a good and fair inheritance (verse 10).
It is important to note that Wisdom speaks kindly to the latter person but tersely to the former; justice abides to both according to the fruit of their attitudes and actions.
The Law and Judgment
Like many chapters and subsections in Proverbs there are catch-words and word-plays everywhere. The one of note here is the word “law,” but it is used in different ways than we’d typically find in say Psalm 119.
Continuing the theme of just and wicked rulership, the “law” proverbs give some insight into God’s justice via the hand of Wisdom—which is the way life works out, generally.
The just will resist the hand of the wicked, for they uphold the law at any cost (verse 4). A country with frail leadership will, in fact, have many leaders and they’ll pull against each other (verse 2). Those flailing the law or compromising justice will be shameful to their parents (verse 7). Further, God despises the prayers of those who are deaf to the needs and requirements of the law (verse 9).
An Overall Message
The key theme to this chapter, and it probably fits with the entire Bible, is sewn up in verse 13, which is profiled at top. Whoever is honest in life will thrive. The dishonest will fall. Seeing that we’re all found dishonest, or at least mistaken, so great is God that we have the item of penitence to fall back on.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
~Matthew 4:17b (NRSV).
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.