Righteousness Versus Wickedness
Text: Proverbs 10:1-32
Wise or Foolish Son
Chapter 10 begins the second section of Proverbs. You will notice that the writing style changes dramatically. In this section we are presented with a series of two line proverbs to consider. Each proverb is independent, yet they are interrelated through the topics addressed. The proverbs from chapters 10 to 15 are mostly contrasts.
The earliest relationship each of us have is with our parents. How a person behaves in life impacts his parents because the person’s behavior is a reflection on his parents’ ability to train him. How a parent raises a child cannot be treated lightly because it impact the parent later in life.
Wealth gained through wickedness is not beneficial because wealth cannot bring true security. Why this is true is not directly addressed, but we do know that righteousness brings about eternal security (Psalms 49).
But righteousness isn’t just about our eternal reward. God watches over the righteous (Psalms 37:25). Notice that God feeds the soul of the righteous. God sees that righteous are satisfied spiritually (Psalms 23; James 1:17) – He answers their prayers (I Peter 3:12). But God ignores what the wicked wants (Psalms 34:16; John 9:31).
Yet the difference between the righteous and the wicked extend beyond God’s aid. Their attitude toward work distinguishes them. The wicked tend to be lazy. They want to gain wealth quickly and without much effort; yet, that same laziness keeps them from gaining much. Their expenses tend to exceed their income. In contrast, a righteous person understands the value of hard word and it is the steadiness of effort that wins over time. You can make more at a seemingly low paying job by steady hard work than by a job that pays well, but erratically.Effort has to be given steadily, even in seasons when it seems too hot to work or when you would rather play. Worse though are those who are lazy even during the times when effort is necessary in order to gain.
- Can Proverbs 10:4-5 be applied to non-agricultural situations? Give a few examples.
- Can these same verses be used regarding spiritual matters? How?
Interaction with Others
Blessings, or happiness, come to the righteous. Whether we talk about the blessings from God or from men whom the righteous deals with, the result is the same. With the wicked the interaction is going in the opposite direction. The wicked speak words that conceal his desire for violence. Thus, the wicked causes problems for those around him.
How we act has greater impact than we might suspect. Even after we are dead our behavior is remembered. The memory of the righteous brings happiness or blessings to people (Psalms 112:3,6,9). The reputation of the wicked gets worse and decays over time (Ecclesiastes 8:10).
Wise people obey commands. They know that they need to learn from others to become wiser. However, fools babble or prat. They are too busy talking and questioning to listen to what they are being told (II John 10). The end result is that they will be ruined.
There is security in integrity. The Hebrew word tom refers to having a sincere, honest, and moral character that is innocent of purposeful wrongdoing. This is a person with a clear conscience (Isaiah 32:17; 33:15-16). In contrast, the person who twists or perverts his way can’t keep it hidden. There is no security because his perversion will be discovered.
You see a person tell another a tall tale, suddenly he winks at you, signaling that he wants you to not say anything or go along with the gag. Winking then becomes a part of deception and the person who does this is a trouble maker. Again it is repeated that the fool who talks too much will come to ruin. The combination leads to the question: Which is worse a person who slyly causes problems for many people or the person who destroys himself with his own words?
Since we are talking about words, Solomon notes that words from the mouth of a righteous person are like a spring bringing life to many. But the wicked’s mouth brings forth words concealing violence leading to the harm of many. It might not be easily noticeable, but it is there. Where Proverbs 10:6 focused on the response to a person’s words, this verse focuses on how word affect others.
Related to this is the attitude within a person. Hatred for others causes people stir up trouble. Love for others leads to a desire to cover or forgive sins. This should not be taken as acceptance of people in their sins, but wanting to put sins behind you so the relationship can move forward after the sins are forgiven. It is a refusal to speak ill of people you love. Love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (I Corinthians 13:5 NASB) or “keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). Love, therefore, is a peace maker while hatred is a trouble maker (Proverbs 12:16; 17:9; Luke 17:3-4; James 5:19-20; I Peter 4:8).
A person of understanding (reasoning, logic) has words of wisdom to tell others. They aren’t always imposed on you. You have to find them by talking with him. The person without reason receives punishment.
- Why would integrity give a person security?
- Which is worse a person who slyly causes problems for many people or the person who destroys himself with his own words?
- Can you really cover sins that are on going?
The Value of Wealth
The wise store up a treasure of knowledge; thus, always having it readily available. However, the words from the mouth of the fool brings ruin close. There is a pun being played in this verse. The Hebrew word mechittah means both ruin and terror. Both meanings are intended here. They are brought to anguish by their poverty of knowledge.
A rich man finds security in his wealth. It protects him from many problems because he has something to draw on when needed. But the ruin and terror of the poor (same word used in Proverbs 10:14) is their lack of resources to overcome problems. As we will see later while resources are needed, putting trust in wealth is dangerous because wealth is an unstable commodity. But it doesn’t change the basic point that having wealth brings some security to life.
- Is wealth or the lack of it good or bad morally?
The Result of Behavior
The efforts of the righteous yields life. The crop produced by the wicked is sin. Both righteousness and wickedness produce results, but only one is desirable (Matthew 7:16-20; Galatians 6:7-8).
The person who heeds instruction (both the positive and the negative) is walking the path of righteousness. A person who refuses to be corrected strays off into wickedness. Thus, the goal of correction is to keep a person on the right path through life, but it only works if it is heeded.
Some people hide their hatred under lies, pretending nothing is wrong or perhaps flattering the person they hate while planning his destruction. Equally bad is a person who tries to destroy another person’s reputation through lies.
We already noted that fools tend to babble (Proverbs 10:8,10). A simple rule of thumb is that the more words you use, the more likely you are to say something that is wrong; therefore, wise people keep their words to a minimum. The less you say, the more time you have to consider your words before you speak.
What a righteous person says is valuable but even the thoughts of a wicked person has almost no value. Therefore, it matters to whom you listen. The righteous benefits other people with his words, but fools end up killing themselves because they lack understanding (literally, lacking heart).
- Is a fool mentally deficient or morally corrupt?
- Why is slander foolish (a refusal to learn)?
We noted in Proverbs 10:4 that hard work tends to lead to riches, but real riches are the blessings of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). When God blesses the gift comes without sorrows. The Hebrew word ‘etsev, translated as “sorrow,” can also be translated as “labor,” probably due to the curse on Adam (Genesis 3:17-19). We cannot increase God’s blessings on us by overworking (Psalms 127:1-2).
Fools think doing evil is a source of fun. A reasonable man sees gaining wisdom as enjoyable. Thus, what a person pursues for enjoyment reveals his inner nature. Over time, what a wicked person fears tends to happen to him. For the righteous, it is the opposite. What a righteous person desires tends to happen to him (Psalms 37:4). A big difference between the righteous and the wicked becomes apparent in times of hardship. The wicked have no foundation and so disasters tend to destroy them (Psalms 37:9-10; Job 27:19-21). The righteous have God to lean on, so they survive.
People who are dependent on a lazy person will quickly find him to be irritating, just as like tasting vinegar or getting smoke in your eyes.
When a person fears God, he tries to do as God directs. God’s laws tend to keep people safe from harm and so the follower of God tends to live longer. Sin tends to cause a person harm, so they tend to have shorter lives.
There is also a difference in outlook. Righteous people expect things to get better in the future – if not in this world, then definitely in the next. But what the wicked people expect in the future is rarely achieved. They don’t have God’s help in gaining things and they don’t survive (Psalms 112:10). (Look back at Proverbs 10:3.)
God’s way through life strengthens and encourages those following Him. There is security in following God. Those who reject God’s authority end up ruined and in terror (the Hebrew word umechittah means both). Proverbs 1:27 is a repeat of the same theme of Proverbs 1:25 in reverse order. The righteous last and the wicked disappear (Psalm 37:22; Matthew 5:5).
- Are the riches in Proverbs 10:22 physical or spiritual wealth?
- Why are lazy people irritating?
The righteous teach wisdom to others (Psalms 37:30). The verb yanuv literally means to be fruitful, thriving, or yielding produce. The wicked use twisted words which are rejected. Using the agricultural metaphor, they are weeds that are cut off. See Isaiah 5:1-6.
The righteous also considers what others are willing to hear to further their teaching. The wicked uses twisted words to make evil appear acceptable. Thus, the words of a person reveals their inner character (Matthew 12:37).