The Anatomy of a Bad Person (Proverbs 6:12-15)


 
Proverbs 6:12-15 outlines the anatomy of a bad person.
 
It begins with a general description of him:
 
A scoundrel and villain…
 
The Hebrew words underlying scoundrel and villain are beliya‘al and ’aven, respectively. (If you have a Strong’s concordance of the Bible, look up Hebrew entries 1100 and 205.) The first word connotes something that has no value, something that is worthless. The second word connotes something that is done in vain. And that’s a pretty good description of bad people. Their actions don’t add value to themselves or others. In the long run, they amount to nothing.
 
Proverbs goes on to talk about the body parts of the bad person:
 
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
who winks with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers…
 
Obviously, bad people don’t look any different than other people. Their mouths aren’t crooked, their eyes aren’t shifty, their feet aren’t cloven, and their hands aren’t twitchy. Bad people look like everyone else. You can’t pick them out of a crowd on the basis of their physiology.
 
But have you ever noticed how a man who’s lying to you can’t look you in the eye? How two women gossiping about yet another woman will point and nod in her direction at a party? People’s bodies don’t tell us whether they’re bad, but they’re body language often does.
 
More important than body language, however, is heart reality. A bad person
 
plots evil with deceit in his heart
 
In Luke 6:45, Jesus taught that the heart is the ultimate source of our actions, whether good or bad. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” No wonder, then, that Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
 
What are the effects of a bad person’s actions?
 
he always stirs up dissension.
A bad person sows the seeds of broken relationships. He destroys families, friendships, churches, businesses, and even nations. If good people are uniters, bad people are dividers.
 
Thankfully, bad people won’t be around forever. In Proverbs, bad people ultimately come to a bad end.
 
Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed — without remedy.
 
This verse articulates an important, though often neglected, biblical theme: the judgment of sinners. If God is a just God, he cannot allow bad people to divide and destroy with impunity. At some point, he must intervene and stop the madness. And when he does, there will be no remedy.
 
But the Bible says there is a remedy now. In Proverbs, the remedy is wisdom. In the New Testament, the remedy is Jesus Christ “has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
 
Only a fool rejects the remedy of grace.
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Of Ants and Sluggards (Proverbs 6:6-11)


 
My dad is the hardest working man I know. He’s 66 years old, but he can work men half his age under the table. Like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going and going and going from dawn till dusk. Some people work hard, others work smart; my dad does both. I get tired just watching him.
 
I’ve never asked dad why he’s so hard working, but I think it has to do with his childhood. My grandparents were godly people. They labored hard in the fields of the Lord as missionaries and pastors of small churches. But they never rose above a lower-middle-class income status. From an early age, my dad had to work. He put himself through college, graduate school, and law school to boot. He had to; there was no alternative.
 
In the biblical world, there was no alternative to hard work either, unless you were rich, which most people weren’t. People eked out their living from the land. If they worked hard and smart, they might produce enough grain and produce for the coming year, together with enough seeds for the next planting season. If they slacked off, however, they would be sure to suffer deprivation through the winter, if they survived it at all.
 
This is the real-life background to Proverbs 6:6-11:
 
Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
 
According to the Proverbist, ants are model workers for two reasons: First, they are self-motivated. They don’t need leaders and managers (or moms and dads) to motivate them to work. They are self-led. They do what they do because of an internal commitment to excellence, rather than an external conformity to pressure.
 
Second, ants are model workers because they make provision for the future. Some people work hard and spend harder. They throw all their earnings away on immediate gratifications. Ants, by contrast, store summer harvests for winter meals.
 
If ants model how we should work, sluggards model how we shouldn’t. While ants are self-motivated providers, sluggards are unmotivated nappers.
 
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest — 
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man. 
 
Those last two lines let us know why hard work is so necessary: If you don’t work hard, you will be poor, and your resources will be scarce. This is true even in modern welfare states. Government relief programs dull the hard edge of poverty, but they don’t eliminate it entirely. And do you really want your financial well-being to be determined by politicians?
 
Growing up, my dad knew poverty. (So did my mom, who is another hard worker). My sister and I never did, however. Our parents worked hard to fill our house with things and our home with love. We strive to follow their (and the ants’) example.

Don’t Cosign Your Neighbor’s Loan! (Proverbs 6:1-5)


 
The Book of Proverbs is a diagnostician’s manual for wisdom and folly. It covers every topic from alcohol to women. So, if you want to live wisely, read Proverbs! And if you want to avoid foolishness, read Proverbs!
 
One of the topics Proverbs considers in depth is wealth, specifically, how to gain and use it. Proverbs 6:1-5 offers this nugget of advice for people who want to be money-wise: Don’t cosign your neighbor’s loan! And if you already have, get out of your responsibility as soon as possible!
 
Consider verses 1-2:
 
My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have struck hands in pledge for another,
if you have been trapped by what you said,
ensnared by the words of your mouth,
 
Notice that these verses represent the advice of a father to a son. We learn how to manage our money from our parents. And we teach these management techniques to our children. The wise person both learns and teaches good money management, while avoiding bad money management.
 
Why is cosigning your neighbor’s loan such a bad idea? Why is it a trap and a snare? These five verses don’t say why explicitly, but it’s fairly easy to discern the reason. If the neighbor defaults on his loan, you’re on the hook for the payments. Do you really want your financial well-being to be determined by the actions of the guy who forgets to return the tools he borrowed from you?
 
Verse 3 offers a bit of sage advice about what to do if you’ve been unwise enough to cosign your neighbor’s loan.
 
then do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go and humble yourself;
press your plea with your neighbor!
 
Obviously, if you’ve cosigned someone’s loan, you can’t simply refuse to honor the terms of the agreement. You have to amend it. You have to get all parties involved in releasing you from your obligation. And that takes a lot of effort and even more humility. But eating humble pie is a small price to pay for regaining your financial independence.
 
How important should financial independence be to you? Enough to lose sleep over, according to verses 4-5:
 
Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
 
Notice, again, how negatively Proverbs portrays cosigning your neighbor’s loan! It’s a hunter’s trap and a fowler’s snare. Hunters and fowlers don’t catch animals to help them. They catch them to eat them. If you don’t want to mortgage your financial independence to your neighbor, don’t sign his mortgage papers.
 
Now, I admit that these five verses take a pretty dim view of your neighbor. And they seem to be a little heartless. Shouldn’t we help those in financial need? Absolutely! But wisdom is shown in how we help others. You shouldn’t cosign your neighbor’s loan, but nothing here prohibits you from simply giving him money. Generosity kills two birds with one stone: It helps him, and it frees you.

Embrace Your Wife! (Proverbs 5:15-23)


 
Just as the best defense is a good offense, so the best way to avoid adultery is to cultivate a healthy relationship with your spouse.
 
A healthy marriage is multidimensional. It is a “union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind,” in the words of the marriage service of The Book of Common Prayer. While other passages in Scripture address the union of heart and mind, Proverbs 5:15-23 addresses the union of bodies. It encourages husbands and wives to have an active sex life.
 
Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
 
Cistern and springs are metaphors for—how to put this delicately—a sexually excited woman and man, respectively. (You never thought you’d find racy stuff like this in the Bible, did you?) The repeated stress on the possessive pronoun your indicates that the wife’s body belongs to her husband. In 1 Corinthians 7:4, the Apostle Paul provides the balancing statement that the husband’s body also belongs to the wife. Marriage is thus a matter of mutual possession. And it is exclusive. Sexual intimacy between spouses is “never to be shared with strangers.”
 
Sexual mutuality and exclusivity are not the only aspects of married sex life. So is pleasure.
 
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer —
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.
 
Some commentators detect an allusion to procreation in the phrase, “may your fountain be blessed.” That may be the case, but the overall emphasis of these verses is on the erotic dimensions of married sexuality, not on procreation. Marital sexuality is supposed to be a matter of blessedness, joy, satisfaction, and captivation to both partners. And that blessedness is supposed to increase with age. While many men in our day and age divorce their wives to marry younger women, Proverbs encourages men to seek joy “in the wife of your youth.”
 
The proverbist wraps up his advice with a warning regarding divine judgment.
 
Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?
For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all his paths.
The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast.
He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.
 
While the negative tone of verses 21-23 sits uncomfortably with the positive tone of verses 15-20, those words are nonetheless an apt conclusion to the entire chapter, which began with an extended warning against adultery (verses 1-14). Sexuality can be either a source of great blessing in marriage, or of great judgment in adultery. Your choices have consequences, which God guarantees. So when it comes to sex, choose wisely.

Avoid Adultery’s Seductive Ways! (Proverbs 5:7-14)


 
Proverbs 5:7-14 warns us to avoid adultery’s seductive ways.
 
Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house…
 
If you think about, adultery is an issue of geography. An adulterous liaison always takes place somewhere—a house or a hotel room, for example. That’s what you might call the physical geography of adultery. But there’s an emotional and spiritual geography too. Emotionally speaking, the closer a man comes to his adulterous partner, the farther away he goes from his wife. And spiritually speaking, the closer a man comes to violating his marriage vows, the farther away he goes from God.
 
That’s why the proverbial father counsels his sons to “keep to a path far from her, [and] do not go near to the door of her house.” The farther you are from her, he is saying, the nearer you can be to your wife and to God. The nearer you are to her, the farther you are from your wife and from God.
 
Adultery is also an issue of cost-benefit analysis. Too often, the adulterous partners consider only the immediate benefits of their illicit couplings. But short-term gain—if you can call it that—gives way to long-term pain. Avoid adultery, the father says,
 
lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man’s house.
 
Adultery, you might say, is an expensive proposition. It takes a toll on your emotional well-being. It’s difficult to live a lie and be healthy, after all. It also takes a toll on your financial well-being. If you think romantic dinners and hotel rooms are costly, wait until you get the bill from your divorce lawyer!
 
Finally, adultery is an issue of public record.
 
At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!
I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.
I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly.”
 
Over the past three years, two nationally known politicians and one preacher publicly admitted to engaging in adulterous affairs: Gov. Jim McGreevey of New Jersey, Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco, and Rev. Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs, Colorado. These men’s moral failures played out in full view of the public eye. Two of their marriages ended in divorce. Another two of their careers came to an end. I cannot imagine what shame these men must have experienced as they stood in front of reporters, admitting their sins to a national office. (Or, more importantly, what shame they put their wives through.)
 
How can we avoid their shame? By putting distance between ourselves and the adulterer. And more importantly, by narrowing the distance between ourselves and our spouses. But more on that tomorrow!

Avoid Adultery’s Seductive Words! (Proverbs 5:1-6)


  
Parents want the best for their children, especially when it comes choosing a spouse. I know this from personal experience. My mom and dad liked the women I dated over the years, but they never loved any of them, until they met Tiffany. After meeting her for the first time, my mom took one look at me and said, “Don’t mess this one up!” I didn’t, and I’ve been happily married ever since.
 
In Proverbs 5:1-23, a father offers his newly married son some sage words of advice about fostering a happy marriage. If I had to outline the passage, I’d do it this way:
 
 
Notice that nearly two-thirds of this chapter concerns what not to do, while only one-third concerns what to do. The don’ts are like a fence around your marriage that keeps out trespassers on your vows. According to verses 1-14, the biggest trespasser is the adulteress, and her first step over the boundary line involves seductive words (verses 1-6).
 
Since parents are concerned about their child’s marriage, they want their child to pay attention to their advice.
 
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
 
Parental advice, while wise, isn’t sexy, but the words of the adulteress are.
 
For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil…
 
In his commentary on this verse, Tremper Longman suggests that the adulteress’s honey lips are meant for more than speech. They are meant for kissing. And that got me to thinking about the progressive nature of infidelity. First, there are seductive words: men and women flirting with people who are not their spouses. Then there are small infidelities: romantic hugs and kisses between people who aren’t married to one another. Then, one thing leading to another, full-blown infidelity. The road to adultery is slippery, “smoother than oil.”
 
And just like a slippery, downward slope, adultery ends in disaster.
 
In the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave. 
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.
 
Honey lips become wormwood-bitter. Smooth words cut like a knife. The romantic dreams of forbidden love become an all-too-real nightmare. Breaking one’s marriage vows leads to death.
 
When a person begins an affair, he (or she) rarely thinks of the consequences. They are too thrilled by the flattering words, stolen kisses, and prohibited intercourse. And that’s the problem: their emotions are guiding them, not their minds. The key to a healthy marriage, and to the avoidance of a disastrous affair, is to think right and act accordingly.
 
Smart people, people who are governed by wisdom, don’t let themselves be tempted by adultery’s seductive words.

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