13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. 14 For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. 15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe. 16 A kindhearted woman gains honour, but ruthless men gain only wealth. 17 Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves. 18 A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward. (Prov. 11:13-18 NIV)
13 A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
A gossip delights to have new information to pass on and delights even more if they can say how confidential the information is. The best way to keep a confidence is to not even disclose that you have confidential information. Some people delight in letting others know that they possess confidential information about a person, but they are not prepared to share because of confidentiality. That is virtue signalling, saying that you are the kind of person who keeps a confidence. It is better that no one knows that you even have information – that is the best way to keep a confidence.
14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.
It is important to listen to the voices of wise counsellors. The word translated here as guidance is rarely used. It comes from a word that relates to the rudder of a ship. We need help in order to be able to steer a safe course through life. The lack of guidance doesn’t mean that the wise counsellors do not exist, it means that they are not listened to. Because of a lack of guidance, the nation or the person falls.
Success or victory is more likely when we take advice. It is important to be selective about one’s advisors because not all advice is good advice. Some will give advice simply so that they can steer you the way that they want you to go. Some advisors hand out advice so that they can maintain control. It is best to have a variety of advisors so that advice can be tested.
15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer,
but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.
The Teacher has dealt with this before in ch 6. He warns about the danger of offering to pay the debt of another should they fail to pay. This is particularly to be heeded if you are thinking of putting up security for a stranger. There are a number of observations. If a lender is asking for a guarantor it is because they have doubts about the ability to the borrower to repay. The lender is not prepared to accept the risk, so they insist that someone else should accept the risk. The lender wants to earn the interest on the loan without accepting any risk. The person who refuses to enter into an arrangement is safe because they haven’t put their capital or income at risk.
16 A kindhearted woman gains honour,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.
I heard a story on Sunday about a kindness done by a stranger for a member of our family. It made me feel so thankful that there are many people out there in society prepared to be kind. I’ve heard stories from people in the church about the kindness of neighbours and the kindness of other church members. It is good to have in your thoughts how you can do an act of kindness for someone else. There is an honour that goes with kindness. Opposed to this is the act of a ruthless person. They may gain wealth but they have that wealth without honour.
17 Those who are kind benefit themselves,
but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.
The teacher continues the theme of kindness. The point of the proverb is that we often create our own rewards and punishments by how we treat other people. Kindness brings its own reward because people are more likely to want to repay your act of kindness by some act of kindness that they can do for you. This is never the motivating factor for doing an act of kindness. We should endeavour to be kind even when there is prospect of the kindness being returned. Those who are cruel are likely to have cruelty returned on them.
18 A wicked person earns deceptive wages,
but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
This proverb contrasts the empty promises of ill-gotten gain and the enduring benefit of a life of righteousness. The deceptive wages are deceptive in the sense that they do not deliver what they promise. Any benefit soon disappears, possibly in this life but most certainly in the next. The true reward awaits the one who sows righteously.
Lord help us to be thoughtful about others and to go out of our way to do acts of kindness for others. We thank you for all those who have shown us acts of kindness. We thank You for the daily kindness from Your hand. Help us to remove all wickedness from our lives and to sow righteousness every day to the glory of our Saviour, because we ask this in His name. Amen.