Self-Protective and Self-Destructive Behavior (14:1–3)
Verse 1 speaks of how wise women build their homes and the foolish one destroys hers; v. 3 describes how the foolish man brings punishment on himself by his words and wise men by the same means increase their security. Between these two proverbs is an assertion that you can recognize genuine goodness in the behavior of those who possess it (v. 2). Good people benefit themselves and bad people bring trouble on their own heads, but you’re attitude toward God fundamentally determines whether you is good or bad.
A Worthwhile Investment (14:4)
If there are no oxen, you do not need to refill the feed-trough so often (the smaller livestock do not eat as much), but it is the ox that enables the farmer to bring in a good harvest. The point is that one must make an investment (obtain and feed the oxen) to get a large return.
Look Who’s Talking (14:5–7)
We should evaluate what a person says on the basis of his or her overall credibility (v. 5). Similarly, we should not expect to get sound advice from a person who shows no respect for the precepts of wisdom (vv. 6–7 ). In short, the character of the speaker serves as a warning about whether his or her words are true or wise.
*Notice the mocker. We all know mockers, people who scoff at every word of instruction or advice. They never find wisdom because they don’t seek it seriously. Wisdom comes easily to those who pay attention to experienced people and to God. If the wisdom we need does not come easily, perhaps our attitude is the barrier.
Appearance and Reality (14:8–15)
Life is often deceptive, and these verses show us that we should not be fooled by appearances. Don’t be too quick to ascribe happiness to others since you can’t be sure of the true condition of another’s heart, regardless of appearances. Above all, you should not be fooled by the apparent freedom from grief that you see in those who do not concern themselves with God or his ways. In the end the righteous will be vindicated. Fools, however, are quickly taken in by what they see and they think they can sin without penalty.
Verse 9 – “good will” (NIV) How rarely we find goodwill around us today. Angry drivers scowl at each other in the streets. People fight to be first in line. Disgruntled employers and employees both demand their rights. But the common bond of God’s people should be goodwill. Those with goodwill think the best of others and assume that others have good motives and intend to do what is right. When someone crosses you, and you feel your blood pressure rising, ask yourself, “How can I show goodwill to this person?”
(v. 12) The “way that seems right” may offer many options and require few sacrifices. Easy choices, however, should make us take a second look. Is this solution attractive because it allows me to be lazy? Because it doesn’t ask me to change my life-style? Because it requires no moral restraints? The right choice often requires hard work and self-sacrifice. Don’t be enticed by apparent shortcuts that seem right but end in death.
A Patient Spirit (14:16–17)
Patient consideration before acting or speaking, even in the face of provocation, averts disaster.
A Crown of Wisdom, a Wreath of Folly (14:18–24)
Verse 18 – sin is the shame of the foolish, but wisdom is the honor of the wise. Verse 19 – Even bad men acknowledge good qualities of God’s people. Verse 20 – Friendship in the world is based on self-interest. It is good to have God our Friend; he will not desert us.
(v. 21) If we despise a person because of their economic status or appearance it’s not right in God’s eyes. How do you feel toward those who can do nothing for you in return? Do you do something for them? (v. 22) If you plan evil you will go astray, plan good and end up with love and faithfulness. (v. 23) Some people just talk; they don’t do. People can almost be classified as either talking people or doing people. (v. 24) The wealth here is not just financial riches, but spiritual, emotional and relational wealth too.
An Honest Witness (14:25)
This proverb also has legal proceedings in mind. Honesty in court is not just a point of law; people’s lives depend upon it.
The Fear of the Lord (14:26–27)
Those who fear the Lord so as to obey and serve him, have a strong foundation to stand on, a protective covering around and will be safer. Let us seek to follow God’s ways and escape the traps of death.
National Security (14:28–35)
The health and well-being of a nation depends upon both the ruler and the governed. A ruler must be fair and above all must respect the rights of his people. The people, on the other hand, must have virtue in their lives or they will bring society into chaos. No government can succeed without the people, and no people can thrive if corruption and evil abound.
Verse 28 describes a king’s need for a sizable populace. Verse 29 stresses the importance of patience. In this context an impatient king may lose his following but there are things we can learn too:
*A quick temper can be like a fire out of control. It can burn us and everyone else in its path. Anger divides people. It pushes us into hasty decisions that only cause bitterness and guilt. Yet anger, in itself, is not wrong. Anger can be a legitimate reaction to injustice and sin. When you feel yourself getting angry, look for the cause. Are you reacting to an evil situation that you are going to set right? Or are you responding selfishly to a personal insult? Pray that God will help you control your quick temper, channeling your feelings into effective action and conquering selfish anger through humility and repentance.
Verse 30 looks at patience from a different perspective: it is essential for a healthy life. Verse 31 is warning rulers not to trample upon the rights of the poor; the king who ignores this advice will soon find himself without a nation.
*God has a special concern for the poor. He insists that people who have material goods should be generous with those who are needy. Providing for the poor is not just a suggestion in the Bible; it is a command that may require a change of attitude (see Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 15:7,8; Psalms 113:5-9; 146:5-9; Isaiah 58:7; 2Corinthians 9:9; James 2:1-9).
Verse 32 describes the hope of eternal life for the righteous. Verse 33 means that the ruler should choose counselors carefully.
Verse 34 is a general statement that a nation’s political health depends to a great degree on the moral integrity of its people.
*It would be better if this verse were inscribed over the United Nations instead of the verse about beating their swords into plowshares, which will not happen until Christ lives in people’s hearts. Today the nations do not believe that righteousness exalts them, but history tells the real story. The pathway of history is littered with the wrecks and the ruins of nations that didn’t follow this principle. “Sin is a disgrace to any people.” (NIV) Verse 35 compares the inept and the capable public servants.
Until tomorrow, you’re almost halfway through Proverbs! Darrell
Classic Bible Commentary
J Vernon McGee’s Through the Bible
Life Application Bible Notes
Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary
New American Commentary