Thursday, October 28, 2021

Good Medicine

 Read Proverbs 17

I am tempted to just skip everything in this chapter and spend all of my time on the last verse.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,

    and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Try it in the King James Version.

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

I could just have some fun with this verse and all the modern-day examples that prove it true. The things that people try to pass off as truth or wisdom or even just fact belie their status and education.

I was thinking that this might be the Sunday to run some video clips of people who we thought might be wise until they opened their mouths.  The problem is that Solomon did not write this proverb with the fool as his intended target audience.

He has written this piece of wisdom to us.  The fool doesn’t care what Solomon has to say, what wisdom has to say, or for that matter what God himself has to say; but we do.

The fool declares in his heart there is no God.  We declare with our lips that Jesus is Lord.  We believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead.  We desire to please God, fulfil his directives, and be known as disciples of our Lord by our love.

The fulfillment of our lives should be in loving one another and in so doing we bring glory to God. We bring glory to God and fulfill his commands by living a life governed by love!

There should be some amens, hallelujahs, and praise the Lords somewhere in there. Our lives are to be given fully in response to the great love of God that we know in Jesus Christ.

What could possibly mess that up?

We might open our mouths.  We might post something online.  We might let our sinful human nature have a say when we should have been silent.

You can have a slip of the tongue and still be saved.  You can say something ridiculous and still live within the favor and grace of God, but why would we want to transgress if we knew better.

Think to the New Testament wisdom that we learned from James.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. 

I spent considerable time talking about meeting the basic human need to be understood.  We should be predisposed to listen first.  Let’s meet the needs of others before we take our turn to be heard.

I spent as much time talking about how human anger can not bring about the right living that God desires.  Getting angry feels good for the moment.  It’s a drug with a cheap high.  When you come down from that high, you feel sick.

I spent less time talking about being slow to speak, mostly noting that you can’t be quick to listen if you are quick to speak.  But there is more to being slow to speak.

We get credit for being silent.  We get credit for taking time to think before we speak.  We get credit for deciding not to engage every discussion, conversation, or argument that comes along.

Note Solomon’s syntax as it survives in translation.  Even a fool is thought wise…

He doesn’t say silence makes a fool wise.  He doesn’t say that a fool becomes wise by being silent.  He says even a fool…  This is comparison for our benefit—for the benefit of the wise person who may be tempted to jump into the fray more often than he or she should.

Even the people living in the everything else are given the benefit of the doubt if they just shut up.  We who desire to be wise and practice wisdom should set the bar higher for ourselves.

We should be deliberate in our speech.  If we have something to say it has come after study, prayer, meditation, deliberation, and doing our best to keep in accord with the heart of God before it crosses our lips.

Silence is not sin when it is invested in using the sound mind that God gave us and for consulting the Spirit that lives within us.

The world says you had better speak first, loudest, and longest if you want to get ahead.  Wisdom says to stop and think, consult the Spirit of the living God that resides within you, and when needed seek the counsel of the body of Christ within which you live.

Solomon is speaking to the wise, not to fools.  Knowing this, we will touch on a few of Solomon’s quips of wisdom instead of running video clips of people documenting their foolishness.

Imagine that the only thing you and your family had to eat was the crust of two-day-old bread.  It’s no feast by any means.  When you think of living an abundant life, the crust of day-old bread is not what most of us envision.

But if you had peace in your household—the peace that says I am content in this moment because I belong to the Lord and he has favored my family in such a way that we can enjoy each other—is that not something to be coveted.

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet

    than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Most of the time when I am thinking about abundant life and food in the same thought, there is a ribeye steak involved.  It’s cooked medium, loaded baked potato, ice tea, and go ahead and throw in a salad with ranch dressing just to satisfy those who want me to check more boxes on the food pyramid.

But do I still want my steak dinner if it is at a table marked by acrimony in a house of vitriol and a day that knows no peace?  It’s like being a hungry dog fighting for a scrap of meat with all of the other neighborhood mutts trying to get it instead.  There’s snapping and growling and maybe a scrap of something that would have been enjoyable if you could take a breath before you gulped it down.

Do not discount the power of peace.  Does not the psalmist remind us to be still and know that I am God?

Is there not value in the quietness of family harmony?  The food may be necessary for the meal, but not sufficient to the joy of peace and quiet that can come from something less than a feast.

Let’s touch on the value of speaking the truth in a spirit of love.

A rebuke impresses a discerning person

    more than a hundred lashes a fool.

This takes us back to the beginning of our study.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

People who seek God and his wisdom desire knowledge, wisdom, discipline, and instruction.  They want to grow.  Those who deny God and his wisdom just don’t want anything that contradicts their narrative even when it is the truth.

Again, Solomon uses the fool only for comparative purposes.  You might think that 100 lashes—if you could survive them—would make their point.  Whatever it was that prompted that severe consequence was not likely to happen again.

If you survived 100 lashes you would not repeat the behavior, whatever it was.

Wisdom says that the discerning—those seeking wisdom—welcome correction.  They welcome instruction and discipline—the very things the fool despises.

Does anyone really like to be corrected?  The answer is yes.  I have given you the example of having an editor before.  The editor is the most honest person to review your writing.  You don’t have to agree with everything the editor points out to you, but you are wise to consider it.

I have had some people ask me to edit something they wrote.  I have to precede my answer with a question.

Do you want me to look it over and tell you it’s the best thing ever written or do you want me to edit your work?

If they asked me what’s the difference, I handed them their writing back immediately and said it’s the best thing ever written

Most people don’t want to be corrected. They want to be affirmed, but when you see the value in critical, honest, and well-purposed correction, you count it as sliver or gold.  It’s hard to come by and people are not apt to offer it if you do not value it.

I love an editor but I will not seek a golf professional.  I really don’t want to know how bad my golf swing is.  I am content to take the 100 lashes that are inevitable if I hit the links again.  My lashes are figurative and usually amount to a dozen lost balls, sore muscles, and requesting a refund of my greens fees because I never found them.

But if it is something is of value to me, I value correction and instruction and those who help me learn the discipline required to produce good fruit.

A rebuke impresses a discerning person

    more than a hundred lashes a fool.

Let’s wrap up with something upbeat.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,

    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Yes, this one has a downside—a crushed spirit dries up the bones, but we are focusing on the first part.

Let’s give credit to the author.  He didn’t say everyone wants to be happy.  It didn’t say happiness is the goal of life. Solomon said that a cheerful heart is good medicine.

It’s medicine, not just the end result.  That leads us to believe that a cheerful heart is a choice.

How do we contend with the world that wants us to live in fear?  How do we contend with the things that depress so many? How do we contend with all of the trouble in the world?

Not long before going to the cross to atone of our sins, Jesus told his disciples that they would have trouble in the world.  He didn’t leave it at that though, he said:

Take heart

Take Courage

Be of good cheer

For I have overcome the world.  Jesus said to choose a countenance of cheerfulness even in adversity. 

We can choose our attitude.  We can choose one that lets us get all the life we can out of our day or we can choose one that sucks the life out of life.  It’s your choice.

You can choose a cheerful heart.  Your attitude does not belong to another person.  You can also choose the attitude that sucks the life out of you.

It used to drive me crazy—and yes, I know that is a short drive for me—to read the sign at the elementary school that read:  YOUR ALTITUDE DETERMINES YOUR ATTITUDE.

No!  Somebody would have benefited from an editor on that one. The thought to be conveyed was that your attitude determined your altitude.  Choose a good attitude and expect to obtain great heights.

Solomon tells us, this one is just as easy as God’s way and everything else.  You have to understand that you have a choice in order to take the good medicine—the medicine of a cheerful heart or not to take it. Once you understand, why would you want anything less than taking the good medicine? Why would you choose anything else?

So, of all the quips of wisdom in this chapter, what do we take away from our time together?

·       Peace is more valuable than the best feast ever.

·       Silence gives us the benefit of the doubt as far as wisdom goes.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

·       Wise people like to have others correct their errors, especially if it is done in a spirit of love.

·       A cheerful heart—our attitude—is our choice. It’s good medicine.

So, let’s think before we speak, listen to constructive criticism, and choose a good attitude each day. Let’s enjoy peace more than the trappings of this world.


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