Friday, June 3, 2011

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, blessings for truth and curses for falsehood, all come together under the banner of learning for living in 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 in search of Wisdom in life and the right way will listen to advice (verse 15). They don’t mind learning the hard way even though it’s 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 unspoken code of responsible care.

How are we supposed to learn how to live life if we don’t take good advice? Likewise, when we are finally in a position to give advice it’s a weighty responsibility that we must not take flippantly. After all, 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 deliver the speaker from trouble. Our honesty will save us, for we’re never condemned for being truthful about things.

When people are asked by 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 an obvious fashion. It doesn’t pay to lie in court, in any sort of legal dispute or any time that the truth is being relied upon punitively. 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 that on occasions when we have lied, our consciences condemned us. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be long before we would be revealed as liars!

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 how 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 underling (verse 24). Further, the diligent value their possessions, and make the most of them (verse 26).

Blessing and Cursing

As with the majority of the proverbs in chapters 10–15, the contrastive quality (characterised by 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 — on 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), and there’s no harm for these, but trouble follows those who are off track (verse 21).

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

This article is an excerpt from my book, Grow In GOD. All author proceeds from this book go to Compassion Australia to help some of the world’s neediest children and families. It sells for $2.99USD.

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