19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. 20 If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. 21 An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end. 22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you. 23 The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him. 24 A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? (Prov. 20:19-24 NIV)
19 A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid anyone who talks too much.
For a gossiper to be able to function they require an audience. The Teacher requires us to avoid a gossip. In order to make their gossip more salacious they will stoop to betraying confidences. Listening to gossip is equally as wrong as gossiping. If you rob the gossiper of their audience, the gossip stops. We should also realise that we should never share confidential information with a gossiper. If they are sharing confidential information with you about someone else, then you have to ask the question, ‘what are they sharing about me?’
20 If someone curses their father or mother,
their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.
Cursing your father and mother does not just mean using foul language against them but rather showing contempt to your parents when they are due respect. This is a breach of the fifth commandment. Breaking the fifth commandment was punishable by death. (Ex 21:17) Death is described here as the being snuffed out in pitch darkness. This shows how seriously God viewed the relationship between children and parents. Many of the proverbs relate to the commandments.
21 An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end.
The inheritance could be land or money. The message here is that if the inheritance is transferred in haste and at the wrong time, it could lead to the ruination of the person receiving it. It is for this reason that some bequeath their inheritance into a trust until the child reaches a certain age when they will be able to use the inheritance in a wise way rather than squander it away through foolish purchases.
22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.
It is in our human nature to want to get even, to pay someone back for what they have done to us or said about us. There is often an expression of justice and high mindedness about the person who is seeking revenge. It is difficult to leave the matter with the Lord and wait on God’s time to deal with the matter. It is especially difficult if the wrong against us continues, so we are tempted to take matters into our own hands, rather than trusting the Lord and His timing. However hard this is to obey we really must be prepared to leave dealing with personal injustices to the Lord. It is possible that by seeking revenge we are more guilty before the Lord than the person who wronged us.
23 The LORD detests differing weights,
and dishonest scales do not please him.
The Teacher has told us before about how the Lord detests dishonest business practices. Specific mention of dishonest scales is an example of dishonest practice. The Lord detests any kind of dishonest practice.
24 A person’s steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand their own way?
This proverb reminds us that we are not in charge of our lives. God is sovereign but we are not absolved from the responsibility of choosing to live the Lord’s way. The mystery of human responsibility and God’s sovereignty are two truths that cannot be reduced to our understanding. Many have claimed to have resolved this tension but upon investigation they will have gone wrong in either human responsibility or God’s sovereignty or both. We are curious beings, always wanting to know God’s will for us, what God is doing in our lives, and what God is trying to teach us. Almost every time we don’t know, and cannot know, what God is doing. What God expects is that we trust that God is doing. How could we possibly understand everything that God is doing in us, or through us?
Lord forgive me for the insatiable desire to want to know what You are doing in my life. Teach me to trust You and to be content to know that You are doing, even when I don’t know exactly what You are doing. You are Sovereign in my life, not because I grant You that, but You are Sovereign because You are Almighty God. Help me to see and grasp that You are God, and I am not, because I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.