Justice

Justice

Text: Proverbs 29:2-27

Benefits of Wisdom

(Proverbs 29:2-11)

When righteousness is generally prevalent in a society, people are happier as a whole. Some translations say “when the righteous are in authority” but the Hebrew word birovoth means “when being abundant.” In contrast, it only takes a single wicked ruler to make people miserable (Proverbs 11:10; 28:12, 15-16, 28).

Parents love it when their children have a love for wisdom. However, a person who wastes his money on prostitutes is definitely showing a lack of wisdom. Such a person would be a grief to his parents (Proverbs 5:9-10; 10:1; 28:7). An example of this would be the prodigal son (Luke 15:13, 30).

A king who rules justly gives stability to his kingdom (Psalm 89:14; 99:4). People know what is expected of them and know that wrong doers will be punished. But bribes overthrow justice. Judgments are no longer a matter of what is right or wrong but who can pay the most (Proverbs 28:21). An example is what happened to Israel (Micah 7:3-4).

A person who is flattering others is most likely planning a trap (Proverbs 26:23-26). Flattery is dangerous because it tells a person things they want to hear, so they are distracted and do not check why they are being flattered. An example would be a false teacher (Romans 16:18) or how the Pharisees flattered Jesus while laying a trap for him (Luke 20:20-21). Notice that after a series of contrasts, this verse stands out by its lack of contrast. This puts extra emphasis on its message. Interestingly, the trap is laid out for “his steps” but it is left ambiguous whether “his” is the flatterer or the one being flattered. It is likely purposely ambiguous because both can be true. The flatterer can also be unintentionally trapping himself by his own words (Proverbs 10:9).

An evil person’s sins becomes a trap for him (Proverbs 1:18; 5:22; 12:13; 26:27). A righteous person has freedom shown in his songs and cheerful attitude.

A righteous person thinks about other people’s rights, including those often overlooked (Psalms 41:1). This is particularly needful in a court. The wicked doesn’t even understand why it should be a concern, but that is because he thinks only about himself.

Scoffers, who mock anyone who doesn’t agree with them, stir up strife. The Hebrew literally says they fan a city. The imagery is that of fanning coals to get a fire started (James 3:5-6). They take existing disagreements and make them breakout in full riot (Proverbs 11:11). The wise, in contrast, deflect anger so that peace can reign (Proverbs 15:1).

It is a waste of time to argue with a fool. Whether the fool laughs at you or rages in anger, you won’t gain a peaceful settlement. This is because a fool won’t listen to reason (Proverbs 18:2). Either reaction is a rejection of your reasoning (Matthew 7:6; 11:17-19).

Violent people have no concern regarding another person’s well-being. They hate those who live with integrity, likely because their lives make them look bad. The second half of this verse is debated because in the phrase “they will seek his life” the question is whether “they” refers to the upright, which is in plural, or the men of bloodshed. If it refers to the violent, then it is saying they attack both those with integrity and those who are upright. An example would be Cain’s attitude toward his brother (I John 3:12-13) or the warning Jesus gave his disciples (John 15:18-19). If it refers to the upright, then it is a contrast where the upright seek to protect the life of those with integrity.

A fool has no self-control so he expresses all his feelings. But a wise man knows that feelings are unreliable, so he suppresses them and speaks only what is needful (Proverbs 12:16; 14:33; 15:28; 17:27-28).

Just Judgments

(Proverbs 29:12-14)

When a ruler gives heed to lies, his servants become evil. If one type of evil is encouraged, all sorts of evil breaks out (Psalms 52:2-4). The opposite is taught in Proverbs 20:8 and Psalms 101:5-7.

God gives blessings to both the poor and the one who oppresses the poor (Job 12:16; Matthew 5:45). Both groups are alive because of God, so there should be actions chosen in accordance with God’s will.

Honest, just judgments for the poor stabilizes a kingdom. There should be no bias for the poor or a bias against the poor (Exodus 23:3; Psalms 72:2, 4, 13-14; Isaiah 11:4). The rich are not always oppressors, and the poor are not always victims.

For discussion:

  1. Why would a ruler want to listen to lies?
  2. Why should God give benefits to the wicked?
  3. Now, consider: Why should we love our enemies?
  4. If a group has been downtrodden in the past, should they be given special privileges or held to a lesser standard?

Correction

(Proverbs 29:15-19)

Without corrections and a willingness to punish, a child on his own will tend toward evil (Hebrews 12:10-11). While we tend to get wiser as we get older, experience alone is not sufficient (Proverbs 23:13-14). It must be guided – including both physical punishment and verbal scoldings. Notice that both are required. Physical punishment alone leaves a child clueless as to what he did wrong. Scoldings alone encourages a child to tune out authority. An example is King David’s son (I Kings 1:6).

Evil deeds increases with the number of evil people, because evil people encourage each other to do more evil. However, the righteous will outlast them all (Psalms 37:34-38; 58:10-11). Wickedness may be more popular and temporarily stronger, but righteousness is more enduring because the wicked will fall. The “fall” in this verse is one that is frequently used to describe God coming in judgment (Ezekiel 26:15,18; 27:27; 31:13,16; 32:10). Similar proverbs are Proverbs 10:25; 28:28; 29:2.

Correct (chastise, literally or figuratively with blows) a child and you will change his behavior. Stern parenting pays off in the long run. Proverbs 29:15 focused on how discipline benefits the child. This verse focuses on how discipline benefits the parent. It seems paradoxical that physical punishment, which is not pleasant, will in the end bring peace.

When there are no rules, people are unrestrained in their behavior, but it leaves them unhappy (Judges 17:6; 21:25; Psalms 12:4-5; Hosea 4:6). The reign of Ahaz is an example of this (II Chronicles 28:19). When laws are followed, then people find happiness (Psalms 19:11; John 13:17; James 1:25). However, this proverbs goes even deeper. There are people who look for special divine guidance (visions) before doing anything. Since such visions were rare, even in Solomon’s day, people did as they pleased thinking God didn’t care or supported what they were doing. An example of this is what happened with the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain (Exodus 32:25). Or consider what happened with Eli’s sons (I Samuel 3:1, 11-14). This is contrasted with people who follow what God has already stated and don’t require extra messages to know what they need to do. Consider Josiah’s reaction when the scrolls of the law were found (II Kings 22:11-13).

Words alone are insufficient to cause a change in behavior. Even a slave, who is required to obey his master, may understand what his master says, but when there is no consequence to ignoring what he is being told, he won’t change. A similar proverb is Proverbs 19:29.

For discussion:

  1. Aren’t people happier when there are no rules? How can restrictions bring happiness?
  2. How can Proverbs 29:19 be applied in raising a child? How about in a legal situation?

Forethought

(Proverbs 29:20-21)

A person who talks without first thinking is worse than a fool (a person who doesn’t know what he is talking about) (James 1:19; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Proverbs 17:27-28; 26:12). Recall that in Proverbs 27:22 we learned that you can’t remove foolishness from a fool.

When a servant is pampered, eventually he stops serving and is treated like an heir. This can be viewed as a promotion for the slave (Proverbs 17:2). There is a debate on the last word, manon – translated as son or offspring by the NASB and NKJV. This is the only place it is found and it depends on how the translators think the word is derived. The NIV and NRSV translators thought the word has a meaning of grief or sorrow (based on the Septuagint). Thus, they see pampering a slave would eventually lead to heartache for the master, or the slave, because he will see himself as someone he is not.

Results of Sins

(Proverbs 29:22-25)

Anger spreads to cause strife among people (Proverbs 28:25). A quick tempered man will cause many sins (James 1:19-20; Proverbs 15:18; 19:19). See also Proverbs 22:24-25

Ironically a man’s pride, where he thinks he is greater than others, will ultimately lead to him being brought low; while a humble man will gain honor (Proverbs 15:33; 16:18; 18:12).

 When you tie yourself to a wicked person, you don’t value your own life (Psalms 50:18-22). If a matter comes to court, you place yourself in a no-win situation. Refusing to testify was a punishable sin (Leviticus 5:1). But testifying might lead you to be charged as an accessory to a crime or facing vengeance from the one who committed the actual crime. In other words, you can’t escape by saying “I didn’t actually commit the crime.”

Being fearful of other men becomes a trap. You can be pressured into doing things you should not do. You make poor decisions because you are afraid of what other people might think. But having a fear of God and trusting Him will improve your situation (Matthew 10:28; Psalms 118:6; Isaiah 51:12). An example of this was Peter’s denial of Jesus in Matthew 26:69-74.

Justice

(Proverbs 29:26-27)

Many people want a ruler’s favor because of what that ruler might do. But true justice comes from God, so He is the one we should be seeking. In the end justice is not a human commodity and no man is in full control (Job 34:29).

It is a plain fact that righteous people find the wicked disgusting, while at the same time the wicked find the righteous disgusting. They have different approaches to life and make decisions based on different standards – and these differences are at odds to each other (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).