“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”
A few years back, when we were looking to purchase a home, my wife and I spent our days off going to open houses and visiting model homes. It was easy to tell the difference between the two. The model homes were immaculate. The decor was thematic, the furniture and carpets unstained, and the walls were noticeably unmarked by crayon, ink pen or dirty hand prints. At first glance, I would feel envious. Our house looked nothing like that. Our carpets showed evidence of four boys who were incapable of wiping the mud off their feet before entering the house. The walls bore the evidence that they had not, in fact, washed their hands before or after dinner, and the couches proved that cups with lids are no guarantee against things being spilled. I would look at the model and think to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep our house looking like this.” However, after a little consideration, I realized, there was an explanation as to why the model home was so clean and our house, well, not so much. No one lived in the model. It was a shell, four walls that contained furnishings, but no life.
Solomon is expressing that same thought in another way. Simply put, he is declaring that at times, life is messy. If we try to avoid the mess, we may, in turn, miss out on living. Many of us work very hard to be comfortable, and we avoid anything that disturbs that comfort. We neglect getting more involved in church, because it may mess up the kids schedule, or we fail to commit to serving the Lord, because it will conflict with our comforts. Our goal should not be living in comfort, but living to please the Lord. There are times when God will ask us to do things which will disturb our routine, or force us outside of our comfort zone. Part of His reasoning for doing this, is our personal growth. It is in those times when we are most uncomfortable, that we look to the Lord the most. When we feel like we can handle things, we press on in our own capacities. It is when we realize we have no experience to lean on, that we find ourselves crying out to the Lord.
Keep in mind, that while stepping out and serving Christ may make life a bit messy, there is great, even eternal value in everything that is done faithfully unto the Lord.
Questions for Proverbs 14
1. Verse 2 is a contrast between those who fear the Lord and those who despise him. The difference is in the conduct. Reverence for God motivates and characterizes a walk well pleasing to God. On the other hand, perverse ways are sinful ways. Those who neither fear nor love the Lord make no effort to exercise and demonstrate self-control. Is your walk characterized by love and reverence for the Father? Is there sin that has to be removed from your life?
2. In verse 6 we meet the mocker. This is someone who scoffs at every word of instruction or advice. These people will never find wisdom because they don’t seek it seriously. Wisdom is found in God’s Word. Biblical wisdom is how much you have come to agree with God and His Word. Are you looking at life from God’s perspective? Wisdom comes to us when we apply God’s Word to our lives and when we seek mature Godly Christians as counselors. Are you finding yourself at times scoffing at His Word?
3. In verse 12, we have the destructive nature of worldliness. The King James Version of the second half of this proverb says, “But the end thereof are the ways of death.” The plural “ways” indicate that there are many paths that lead to death as compared to one way that leads to life everlasting. The way that seems right to a man is his own way. We need to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. He has been down the path and knows where it leads. Read John 14:6. When you look at the path you are on, where is it leading you?
4. The backslider in verse 14 has one desire and that is to live life contrary to the Word of God. He is indifferent to questions of ethics or any thought of accountability to God. The Bible says that a man will reap what he sows. On the other hand, the good man is satisfied with his ways because they are the Lord’s ways. Are you struggling with the lust of the world and not considering the recklessness of the foolish?
5. Verse 20 deals with popularity and favoritism. James tells us to beware of personal favoritism because before God we all stand on one level. It is a reality of this world that possessions determine popularity. The poor are shunned and the rich have many lovers. Are you easily impressed by status wealth or fame? Are you partial to the “haves” while ignoring the “have nots?”
6. Verse 21 tells us that we shouldn’t assume some superior status and look down upon a neighbor regardless of his destitute condition. Remember God has chosen the poor (James 2:5) and it’s a sin to despise them. The man who has mercy on them is blessed in the act. We can’t sin against a neighbor and enjoy God’s blessings. Let us never forget that our Lord Jesus came into this world as a poor man. He was penniless! How do you feel toward those who can do nothing for you in return? Do you do something for them?
7. Verse 26 teaches that security is in the fear of the Lord. If we fear the Lord we will be obedient to His Word and in that brings strong confidence. The children mentioned here are the God-fearing children. Exodus 20 tells us that the children will reap the benefits of their righteous parents if they love the Lord. If fear gives the parents security in the Lord, it will be a place of safety for their children. For you who are parents: Do you have reverent fear for the Lord? Do your children know that you are under authority to the Lord Jesus Christ? Are your children learning to trust God by your example?
8. Verse 29: Have you ever seen an out of control fire? That’s what a nasty, quick temper looks like. It can singe us and burn everyone else in its path. The Lord Jesus said, “Be angry and don’t sin.” Anger that divides causes bitterness and guilt. Anger can also be a legitimate reaction to injustice and sin. When anger rises in us we need to look for the cause. Are you reacting to an evil situation that you are going to set right? Are you responding selfishly to a personal insult?
9. Verse 31 deals with the treatment of the poor. The Lord has a special concern in His heart for them. How people treat the poor displays their faith in the creator. God insists that those who have been blessed materially should be generous with those who are needy. The Bible is clear about providing for the poor. God doesn’t make suggestions concerning their treatment. He commands us to honor them. (Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 15:7-8, Psalm 113:5-9, Isaiah 58:7, 2 Corinthians 9:9) If God has blessed you materially are you being obedient to His Word? Are you one who oppresses the poor? Do you honor the Lord by having mercy on the needy?