“Become wise by walking with the wise, hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” ~Proverbs 13:20 (Msg)
[Suggestion: Read along with your Bible opened to Proverbs 13.]
There are few patterns to be discerned from this chapter of Proverbs, unlike those we’ve covered previously; with Proverbs 13 we begin to plunge through uncharted waters as we breach the ocean of antithetical wisdom (proverbs featuring “but” contrasts).
These seem to be a smattering of all the various themes of the Wisdom of Solomon.
Verse by Verse Themes
Verse 1 speaks like first verses often do; indeed chapter 12 features an almost identical proverb: the wise love discipline.
Mouths, speech and eating dominate the next three verses. It appears the fruitfulness of our speech and the food we eat have much more in common than we could’ve previously connected. The appetite of the diligent is satisfied.
Both the righteous and righteousness uphold each other in verses 5-6. Those with integrity hate falsehood and integrity guards the upright.
Verses 7-8 call us home to the wealth that must serve us and not we it. We cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). Those with truly great wealth rarely have much materially. Material wealth has the habit of attracting the worst situations and temptations known to life; it can be a bane.
The lamp of those taking advice grows ever brighter (verses 9-10).
Diligence makes a return in verse 11. Those saving diligently will keep their growing fortune.
One of the brightest proverbs in this set comes next:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
~Proverbs 13:12 (NRSV)
A proverb like this stands out for those whose hope is in God. When our hopes are in God, and solely in God (per Matthew 6:33) our desire is fulfilled—God has become our tree of life.
Respect for the commandments of the Lord is blessed with handsome reward (verse 13).
Linking perhaps with verse 12, the fourteenth portent hearkens us to accept good teaching—which is a fountain of life—to avoid the snares known to an ignorant life.
God will bless the faithful in verse 15, and they’re quick to adhere to life intelligently (verse 16). The faithful envoy brings sound and reliable news which can be trusted (verse 17).
Keeping to advice and good teaching in verse 18 resound with earlier advice to caution us against ignoring trustworthy instruction.
As we learned in verse 12, verse 19 now concurs, we know that the soul thrives when its true desire is realised. How foolish, then, to choose an unsatisfiable desire.
Wise companionship is crucial for the acquisition of Wisdom in the foremost verse, profiled at top.
The wise have a wealth of Wisdom and this is prosperity for them in verse 21. The rewards of the wise also extend beyond their lifetimes; they leave a significant legacy (verse 22). While the wanton sinner leaves nothing of note.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes injustice sweeps the poor from the land they’ve tilled all their lives (verse 23). No one can understand how life can be grossly unfair.
Loving parents discipline their children, but they don’t love them—as a matter of acting—in their anger (verse 24).
Desires fulfilled or never satisfied return in verse 25. Those living with integrity are happy.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
This article is an excerpt from my book, Grow In GOD. All author proceeds from this book go to Compassion