13 To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. 14 The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? 15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. 16 A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great. 17 In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. 18 Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart. (Prov. 18:13-18 NIV)
13 To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.
Being a good listener is a rare skill. Too often we make snap judgements about what a person is saying, and we answer the wrong question. It is good to listen hard and long. To answer without listening demeans the person speaking and may even prevent them from sharing what they felt they really needed to say. Answering without listening also reveals something about us as well. We may think we have great insights into people and that we are able to offer up a clever reply in quick time. Most of our general notions about people are wrong. People are much too complex for us to be able to assess. It is arrogant to think we can and this is described as our shame and folly.
14 The human spirit can endure in sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
I’m not a very good patient and I think men seldom are. However, when we are comparing physical ailments to a broken inner spirit then the physical ailments are bearable while the crushed spirit takes away the inner resolve to endure. The apostle Paul had an ailment which he asked God three times to take away. The Lord said no, but that He would give Paul the grace to endure it. A crushed spirit comes when we have lost all hope. It is then that we need to run for safety and shelter in the Lord, our fortified tower.
15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
for the ears of the wise seek it out.
We will never arrive at a point in our lives when we can say that we have acquired all wisdom. We need to keep learning and searching the word of God. We won’t just casually pick wisdom up, we need to earnestly seek it.
16 A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.
There is a difference between a gift and a bribe. A gift should be freely given without any expectation of it winning you favour, or it ever being reciprocated. However, the recipient of the gift may feel more disposed to you as a result of receiving the gift and in the example in this proverb offer an audience with them.
17 In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
The first evidence offered often seems compelling until you hear the evidence cross-examined. This ought to teach us not to be too hasty in reaching a judgement. We should make sure we listen to all sides of the story. Also when we are reading articles, especially on the Internet, we need to be aware that most material is not peer reviewed. One example is health diets. I have read reports on high protein, low carbohydrate diets and reports on plant-based diets just to mention two and they equally make the case for the healthy and successful use of the diet. They will reference some research that some largely unknown professor has carried out that verifies the exclusive success of the particular approach being carried out. Health and diet is only one area of many. It is wise to be cautious because websites usually only present one side to the story.
18 Casting the lot settles disputes
and keeps strong opponents apart.
When two opponents have reached an impasse and no way forward can be agreed it may come down to the tossing of a coin to decide. However, there is a lesson here. When we have to resort to the toss of a coin it is because the two sides have failed to compromise to reach an agreement. Workable solutions can usually be found. It is seldom the strength of the arguments that keep opponents apart, it is more likely to be the strength of their pride.
Lord, we thank You for the measure of health that we have. Help us to cope with any physical ailments. Help us as we grow older and find ourselves less able to cope with everyday tasks. Help us when we feel that our memory is longer as good as it used to be. Lord place a guard over our mind and heart and keep us on the path of righteousness, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.