16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die. 17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. 18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. 19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again. 20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. 21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. 22 What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. 23 The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Prov. 19:16-23 NIV)
16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life,
but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.
The wise way to live is by keeping the commandments of the Lord. Keeping of commandments should not be thought of as a negative thing as if it merely means sticking by the rules. Honouring our parents shows respect for the older generation and that is good for both generations, it makes lives better. The prohibition on murder means that lives are protected. In a society where this is observed, one can feel safe. When adultery is prohibited, this means that the marriage relationship is honoured and respected. That provides security for both husband and wife. Forbidding stealing means that you have a right to possess your own property without anyone taking it from you. When only truth is told it makes for a more just society. Not coveting means that there is less tension between you and your neighbour. These are life promoting, life affirming commandments and we can see around us today the mess that society gets into by thinking that it is wiser than the wisdom of God. The second line means more than breaking these commandments, it means showing contempt for their very existence. There is a judgement day and those who have despised what God has said will surely die. People have opportunity in this life to reject the idea of God and the relevance of His commandments, but this will not be an option available to anyone when we come before God.
17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward them for what they have done.
The Teacher encourages generosity towards the poor. Anything given to the poor is considered as having been lent to the Lord. That means that the Lord will repay. Jesus said that even a glass of water given in His name will be rewarded. (Mark 9:41). The poor are not in a position to repay any gift that they receive, but the Lord is the guardian of the poor and He will repay. The motivation should not be the reward but rather all should be done as an act of kindness.
18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.
It is necessary to discipline a child so that they know what appropriate behaviour is. The means of discipline have changed over the years. The type of discipline that I would have received as a child differed from the type of discipline that we used with our children, and that has changed again as we see how our children discipline their children. The overuse of discipline of any type can be as harmful as the neglect of discipline. Discipline should be done in a context of love, so that the child is not made to feel rejected or unloved. We should give a very clear explanation of why the discipline is necessary and the child reassured that they are loved. The parent disciplines the child because they have hope that this will direct the child and allow them to grow into a wise adult. Harsh discipline or no discipline may cause the child to grow up and reject the ways of the parent and follow a foolish path that leads to death. A wise parent may do their best and still the child can be wayward. We pray that God will look in mercy and bring all our children to faith in Christ.
19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
rescue them, and you will have to do it again.
A hot-tempered person is constantly getting into trouble. If we always rescue them from trouble and we find we have to keep rescuing them. There are occasions when it is better to allow the person to suffer the consequences of the trouble they get themselves into. That of course requires great wisdom to know when to stand back and when to step in and help. It is best not to form rigid rules and always reassess as we watch things transpire.
20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
There are frequent appeals for us to listen. The repetition of this advice convinces me that listening and paying heed to discipline is not something that we are naturally inclined to do. The goal that the Teacher has in mind is wisdom; the means of achieving that goal are counsel and discipline, but we need to respond to the means. In the end if we respond then we will be numbered with the wise.
21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
In the course of a lifetime, we are likely to have many plans, but the Lord is Sovereign, and His purpose will prevail. Many of our plans will not come to fruition. In the case of man his plans are many, but the Lord has one purpose. We quite often have to have contingency plans to change to when our main plan does not work out.
22 What a person desires is unfailing love;
better to be poor than a liar.
A person desires to find in others unfailing love. The person who desires unfailing love is impoverished and needs help. It is better to be poor and tell the impoverished person that you have no means to help him rather than have the means to help but lie and say that you do not have the means to help.
23 The fear of the LORD leads to life;
then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
The beginning of knowledge and wisdom is the fear of the Lord which leads to life. Knowing that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us, we can rest content. Evil will not overtake us because the Lord is on our side.
Lord help us to submit our plans to You. Help us to apply godly wisdom to guide us so that we will fulfil Your purpose for our lives, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.