1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. 2 A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives. 3 It is to one’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. 4 Sluggards do not plough in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. 5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. 6 Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? (Prov. 20:1-6 NIV)
1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
The literal wine is not a mocker, and the literal beer is not a brawler, but these drinks are referred to by the actions that they produce. The intoxicated person is not in control of what they say or what they do. There is a particular beer that has a high alcohol content, and it is referred to in the trade as ‘wife beater’. Many children grow up in homes where the father abuses his wife after he has become intoxicated. This is not a wise way to live.
2 A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
those who anger him forfeit their lives.
The king is God’s appointed ruler and is due the respect that should be afforded to that office. When someone shows disrespect or disobedience to the king, they will provoke him to anger. Because the king has authority, winning his favour or provoking him to anger are significant actions and foolish people can put their lives at risk. With the king reward or punishment can be immediate. The foolish person’s behaviour angers God, but since God is longsuffering the foolish person usually does not bear the results of God’s wrath immediately. The foolish person does not take to heart the fact that they will one day have to give an account to God for their behaviour.
3 It is to one’s honour to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.
We should go out of our way to avoid strife. Some people seem to thrive on strife. They will spot opportunities to rebuke someone for not adhering to the rules. Society today is angry and is poised to protest about almost anything that is said or done. The fool is quick to quarrel. Virtue signalling is the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue. It is noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying how much you hate things, resulting in a quarrel being started.
4 Sluggards do not plough in season;
so at harvest time they look but find nothing.
Lazy people do not put in the effort of preparing, in this case the example is of ploughing the field and planting the seed. However, come harvest time they still look to harvest a crop but there is nothing there to reap. This principle can be seen in many areas of our lives. We can neglect to foster good relationships with people and then after a period we wonder why we have so few friends. We need to invest time and energy in many areas of our lives if we expect to reap a harvest.
5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out.
This proverb considers the motivations of the heart. It is difficult at times to discern what motivates us to do certain things. Are we doing something to honour God, to serve others or is the motivation self-serving? As we try to search our own hearts to find the honest answer it can be difficult because the intentions of our hearts are indeed deep waters. A good friend who is wise can help us explore our hearts and is able to draw out what it is that inspires us to perform certain tasks.
6 Many claim to have unfailing love,
but a faithful person who can find?
Many people will claim to have unfailing love (hesed). Words can be cheap when they are not backed up with actions. We can claim to care or to love but are we genuine? The proverb warns us that it is difficult to find a person who is faithful in the claim to love or care.
Lord, help us to have unfailing love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to share our love in words but also in deeds. Help us to be faithful and honest so that there is no difference in what we say and what we do, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.