19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. 20 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. 21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course. 22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. 23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word! 24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead. 25 The LORD tears down the house of the proud, but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place. (Prov. 15:19-25 NIV)
19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway.
Folly and laziness go together in the mind of the Teacher. The sluggard is lazy and has failed to cut his hedge. The thorns have grown across the path and the lazy person now finds their way is blocked. It is a metaphor that teaches so much more than garden management. The lazy person has not attended to things in his life, and they have now caught up with him. In contrast the upright has been diligent in life and has attended wisely to his life and his way opens up before him like a highway.
20 A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
It is a pleasant thing to see your children prosper spiritually. Whatever successes might either come their way or escape them it brings joy to the parents that they have responded to the teaching of biblical wisdom. However when a child despises the advice and the people who gave the advice it leaves a lasting sadness. To have been taught the Gospel and biblical wisdom and then to reject is a serious folly.
21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.
The fool who likes wisdom, mindlessly enjoys his folly. An example is Lamech in Genesis who murdered people and wrote songs to celebrate his behaviour. Many songs are written today celebrating and promoting the mindless lifestyle that the singers have adopted. They are devoid of understanding and have a certain relish in their triumphalism about their sinful behaviour. The person of understanding takes a straight course. It is a wise path to follow.
22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
The Teacher praises the benefits of the wise community. Many plans never get off the drawing board because they were not sufficiently thought through. People fail to consult others. Many people with good proven experience are able to provide wise counsel that would enable the plans to succeed. It is also wise to consult widely because others can add new perspectives to any set of plans. Of course, there is danger in consulting the wrong people. People can crush enthusiasm for a plan by their negative response. People who have no enterprise don’t like to see enterprise in others, and they can destroy plans by being negative about any effort that a person wants to make to improve or change things. These people have plenty of counsel to give only it is the wrong counsel.
23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!
There is joy in encouraging others. The person who gives the appropriate word receives joy as they witness the benefit that this brings to the person they have spoken to. The person who is spoken to has their life improved and they have joy because of the use of wise speech. A timely word is a delightful thing. I have found that sometimes something really good has happened and I only find out about it, months or years later. The good news reaches me when I am in need of being encouraged by some good news.
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent
to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.
The path of life for the wise is a path that leads to a great destiny. It is upward, speaking of growth, life and improvement. It is wisdom along the way of this path that keeps that path straight and heading upwards. Wisdom guards the heart and keeps the wise from descending into death. A sinful lifestyle is not a wise or healthy way to live. It is bad for us now and it will lead to death and destruction.
25 The LORD tears down the house of the proud,
but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.
The land was a gift that the Lord had given to the people. The law of God prohibited the movement of boundary stones. The people could build on their land and grow crops on their land. The land was an inheritance that you would pass on to the next generation. To lose the land was a great tragedy in life. When the Lord steps in to tear down the house of the proud it is a great act of judgement. A widow was often exploited in OT times and robbed of her property. The Lord watches over the widow and knows where the boundary stones are set, and any who defraud her of land or property will be held accountable by the Lord.
Father, help us to be the kind of people who will endeavour to speak a timely word of encouragement to others. Help us to be wise in our speech, to have joy in our speech and to bring joy to others, because we ask this in the Saviour’s name. Amen.