1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. 2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. 3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. 4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. 5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves. 6 Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner. (Prov. 13:1-6 NIV)
1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.
In Hebrew the verb is missing, and it reads, ‘A wise son, his father’s instruction.’ The verb is implied but for the benefit of English readers the translators provide the verb. Perhaps the point is made more vivid by the absence of the verb. This takes us back to the theme of the first nine chapters of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is quite repetitive. This should teach us how important it is to get and heed the message. It is so easy to go from reading the Proverbs to find yourself doing the very thing that the Proverbs told us we shouldn’t do. We need to get the wisdom into our heads, down into our hearts so that it almost becomes part of our muscle memory. This requires repetition and meditation. A wise person pays attention and obeys their parents’ instruction. They are passing on the wisdom that they have been taught by their parents. The mocker of wisdom, and wisdom teachers does not respond to instruction, to reproof or even encouragement. They feel they know all that needs to be known.
2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things,
but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.
The fruit of the lips means the words that we speak. To think that people can get enjoyment from the words that we speak is a great challenge to us to fashion our words in a way that will have this effect. Our words are perhaps the single most influential determiner of the impact that we can have on others and ourselves. If you add up the number of Proverbs that say something about our words we can see how important wisdom is in shaping the words that we say. The wise use of words is an important and recurring theme in Proverbs. A person who is measured and gracious with their words will do good to others and find that good returning to them. The unfaithful have an appetite for angry words. They always have something to complain about, some bone of contention to raise with another or somebody to put right, and they make this a lifetime’s habit. Their appetite for violence sees them trying to provoke people into anger. They ask questions, not really interested in the answer but just to make life difficult for others. They feign interest in a topic or issue merely to create trouble. We need to be careful to avoid using our words in manipulating ways.
3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.
When we appreciate the damage that words can do, we need to be careful to guard our lips. The more outspoken or talkative you are, the more likely you are to blunder with your words. A certain politician who uses very expressive language and is a master in the use of the hyperbole often finds himself in trouble as his phrases are taken out of their context and made to appear very crass. The use of metaphors is very helpful in illustrating the points we are trying to make but they can easily catch us out. Even in every day simple conversation we need to keep a guard on our tongue because of the damage that words can do. How often we find ourselves asking the question, ‘why did I say that?’ A careful guard on our tongue could shield us from these personal recriminations. When we speak rashly we say things that we haven’t examined in our own hearts. We can say rash things because we are angry, we are frustrated or just tired of the relentless bombardment from others. The greater the emotion the more extreme the words that we say are likely to be.
4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
A sluggard is an habitually lazy person. The lazy person never applies themselves to tasks or jobs and so there is never any reward, and the desires that they have are never met. In contrast the desires of the diligent can be met because they apply themselves to the task and their labour brings its own reward.
5 The righteous hate what is false,
but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
Loving God causes the righteous to hate what God hates. That which is false includes lies but also extends to include anything that is designed to deceive. Even a true story told in such a way that it creates a false impression would be a falsehood. Integrity, honesty and transparency is what is needed in our behaviour and talk. The wicked are not revulsed by falsehood. It is fashionable today to talk about ‘my truth.’ ‘My truth’ is made up of opinion and experience and no one can argue or challenge it because it is ‘my truth’. Here falsehood can hide as the truth becomes distorted with personal bias. Those who engage in half-truths and deception bring shame upon themselves. The rather emotive phrase, ‘make themselves a stench’ adequately describes the disgusting nature of the activity. One commentator describes this quite bluntly, ‘As far as the righteous are concerned, deception stinks. As for the wicked, the stench of their sin has attached itself to them, and everyone (but them) can smell it – what a shame!’
6 Righteousness guards the person of integrity,
but wickedness overthrows the sinner.
Obeying God’s word, listening to wisdom and living in the fear of the Lord is the righteous way to live. When we live this way, it guards our lives. God watches over the path of the way of the wise. A person of integrity is free from the falsehood previously described. This is the way that God wants us to live, this is the kind of people that God wants us to be. The way of wickedness is a self-defeating path. The way of the wicked is subverted by the very wickedness that they choose. Because sin itself is twisted and perverted the outcomes are twisted and perverted.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:23-24 NIV) Lord there is a great need for the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and help us to see any hidden false ways or attitudes. Lord we are so prone to see what we want to see, and persuade ourselves in what we think is our own best interest that we could allow falsehood to lie in our hearts. Forgive us Lord for the sins that we are even unaware of and help us become people of integrity, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.