27 A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire. 28 A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. 29 A violent person entices their neighbour and leads them down a path that is not good. 30 Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity; whoever purses their lips is bent on evil. 31 Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness. 32 Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. 33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:27-33 NIV)
27 A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
The scoundrel is a perverse person plotting evil. The evil is plotted in the heart and the effect of the words are that of a scorching fire. James has a similar theme in James 3:5-6:
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (Jas. 3:5-6 NIV)
THE OT and NT are united in warning of the danger that our words can cause. One translation is that the scoundrel digs up evil. There are so many examples of this today where people delight in digging up something that somebody said in their past and they use that to ruin the career of the person they accuse.
28 A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
A troublemaker loves to stir up trouble. They love to share some malicious gossip and delight in the reaction. Some people are jealous of the close friendship that they see that others having and they will spread gossip with the sole purpose of splitting up the friendship. A great deal of planning goes into the gossip because while it is malicious it has to be planned to ensure that the story is plausible.
29 A violent person entices their neighbour and leads them down a path that is not good.
The troublemaker in the previous proverb plotted to harm people by using gossip, here he damages people by enticing them. He entices his neighbour by clever arguments. The neighbour is seduced into sin and is led down a path that is not good. Enticements can take many forms. It can come in the form of flattery where the neighbour could be persuaded that they would be good at the crime or that they were just a natural and could pull the crime off so easily. The neighbour could be persuaded that his standing in the community could be changed overnight when he was successful in whatever the plot was. The crime of the plot could be made to appear as not really doing anyone any harm. We need to guard ourselves against being used or enticed by people.
30 Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity; whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.
There are three parties involved here, the one who winks, the one he winks at and the intended victim. The person who winks shows that he intends harm but what he actually says might sound good. The plot may be to use an audience before whom the victim is asked what seems an innocent question. The intention is not innocent. The intention is to embarrass or trip up the victim who has the question put to them. The winking of the eye and the pursing up the lips are both forms of non-verbal communication. Without speaking a word a person can do harm by the clever use of non-verbal signs. Of course afterwards when the harm is done they can claim that they never spoke a word.
31 Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness.
Grey hair is a sign of long life. The general rule set out in Proverbs is that the wise are rewarded with long life. There is nothing inherently wise in grey hair, the point is that it is a sign of age and that age is crowned with the splendour of grey hair. We need to show respect for those who have achieved old age. They have accumulated experience that has been attained by the way of righteousness. Not all experience is good experience, we should remember that the experience of value is that attained in the way of righteousness.
32 Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.
The patient person is better than a mighty warrior. Some people like to show their assertiveness in any company in order to demonstrate that they are in control. Patience and self-control are by far the best way to live. Wisdom may be gained by studying the word of God, but we always need time to assess matters rather than storming in like a warrior.
33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
Our instant reaction to this proverb is to be cautious about the use of taking lots. But there are bad and good uses of lots. We innocently toss a coin to decide which team kicks off, or who serves first. I have used the toss of a coin with my grandchildren when there was a difference of opinion about which DVD should be watched first. Whether it is a good or bad use of the lot, the lot never determines the important decisions in life. God is sovereign and every decision is determined by the sovereign God.
Lord help us to be patient and exercise self-control in what we say and do. Help us to change the course of our thinking in order that we might plan how we can do good to others. Lord teach us to guard our hearts and tongues, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.