“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.”
— Proverbs 27:1 (NRSV)
Honesty is the undercurrent of Proverbs 27. Being that Wisdom is highly relatable in the realm of morality, it is no short assumption to conclude the enormous weight that honesty and truth have as veins throughout it.
The following sub-themes are notable:
1. We Cannot Hide Our Hearts
As verses 2 and 17-21 commend, we really cannot hide who we are. Although we will often try to cover our real motives, these are quite easily discernible to the wise, and certainly to those over us in life, “winnowing” the measures of our hopes, dreams and plans.
Why would we let our own lips praise our efforts when we know such self-regarded ‘praise’ is either false, or at least worthless? Not to mention our credibility lies in tatters after we brag. Yet, we’re all given to do it from time to time, especially, as life would have it, when our hearts detect we’re not getting the recognition we perhaps feel we deserve. It’s also an issue, ironically, when we’re lowly about ourselves and insecure. Still, we are tested most by how we “receive” the praise we get (verse 21). That is a true test of our burgeoning humility.
Fellowship exists not just for this purpose, but the value of a true friend is their honest feedback (verses 5-6 and 17). Good friends, family and partners detect deceit from within us and they become our better consciences at times.
As we peer directly into a still pool of water we see very accurately our reflection—like Narcissus did; so it is with our hearts... our actions are the direct representation of the image of our intentions deep beneath (verse 19). From out of mouth is the overflow of the heart (Matthew 12:34).
2. The Imbalances of Folly – Against Truth
The notion of imbalance is catapulted before our eyes in verses 13-14. These cast forth the truth that imbalance is failing to live honestly, to achieve a balance; one that is visible as truth.
Putting up our own security as a “pledge” for the unreliable person is showing an unreasonable (and perhaps a nonsensical) amount of compassion—it usually will not end well for us who do it. The unreliable will usually be expected to default on their payments, leaving us to hang out to dry. It happens every day in this world.
Similarly, those given to ‘blessing’ people at inappropriate times will wind up with egg on their faces (verse 14).
The form of imbalance continues in the quatrain that is verses 15-16. Only heaven might help the spouse of the quarrelsome wife or stubborn husband. These, as people, are not, for us, easily ‘resolvable’ (verse 22). Their folly clings like a hard-worn curse.
Folly is stubborn, and, in refusing to consider or handle the truth, it becomes despicable, and via provocation and jealousy excesses against honesty are untenable (verses 3-4).
3. Blessed Are They Who Hunger for the Truth
The bracket that is bookended by verses 5 and 12 comprise a loose but tangible theme relating to both hunger and eating, and images of proximity and distance.
It is the wound from a friend, dealing with us in truth, which can be trusted. Only the untrustworthy flatter us when we would rather need the rebuke (verses 5-6).
When we’re full of our own wisdom, honey (which is cloaked as “truth”) is not so sweet, but to the hungry—those seeking growth via honesty with themselves—this honey is live-giving (verse 7). Further, truth is close to home and we’re blessed when we stay there (verse 8).
Honest feedback is as close as the friend; their words should be like incense to us; beautifully fragrant (verse 9). In this way, a warning is heeded and no suffering is added to the wise adhering to advice which is freely given and received in trust (verse 12).
4. Diligent Management of our Responsibilities
Wisdom is diligence as diligence is Wisdom. These could hardly be separated. Diligence is a virtue that is a practical, grounded thing. Wisdom such as this is shepherding with care and concern, all of life we’re personally accountable for.
Diligence, at root, is the practice of the character of honesty—of sight and mind, and congruence between, in going about the affairs of life with sound judgment and a worthy discipline.
Verses 23-27 provide us a mini-portrait of our honest diligence in the setting of the farm. These speak very much of remaining in the day’s priorities. Dealing in these is commendable as today looks after tomorrow.
The honest person, home most of all to the truth, despite the occasional cost, is trustworthy, and whose actions reflect the virtuous heart beneath. Proverbs 27 talks about this sort of person—and their opposite number.
© 2010, 2012 S. J. Wickham.
This article is an excerpt of my eBook, Grow In GOD (2011). 100% of Author Proceeds from the eBook go to Compassion Australia.