13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare. 14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer— then goes off and boasts about the purchase. 15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel. 16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider. 17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel. 18 Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. (Prov 20: `3-18 NIV)
13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare.
Laziness is seen as a sin by the Teacher. The ability to sleep is a great gift. For those who find it difficult to sleep, they realise how precious sleep is. The problem addressed in this proverb is with the person who sleeps when they should be working. The person who sleeps when they should be working soon loses their employment and the result is poverty. The second line confirms the truth of the first line. The person who stays awake and engages with their work will secure their employment and will have adequate funds to ensure that they are able to provide food for themselves and their family.
14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
then goes off and boasts about the purchase.
The Teacher has already commented on the shady dealings of sellers, he now turns to comment on the deceitful ways of a buyer. The buyer decries the quality of the product in order to negotiate a lower price. The buyer is claiming that the product is in some way inferior. After a lower price has been agreed, the buyer goes to his friends to boast about the good price that he achieved for a perfectly good product. The Teacher is not denouncing the practice of trying to get a discount but he is encouraging us to pay a fair price for a product.
15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.
An abundant amount of gold and jewels exist, and they are highly valued and sought after. In contrast to the vast quantities of precious metals and jewels is the scarcity of wisdom. There is little wisdom to be found spoken because many have not sought after wisdom. Spoken wisdom is a rare commodity.
16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.
There are three parties referred to in this proverb, the one giving the loan, the one taking the loan and the one who is guaranteeing the loan. The principle of taking a garment as collateral (in this case from the one guaranteeing the loan) is what we find in a pawnbroker’s shop. Something of value is pawned in order to borrow some money. When the money is repaid then the item of value if returned. If the loan is not paid then the pawnbroker can sell the item to recover his money. The Teacher extols the wisdom of ensuring that an item is taken to guarantee that the lender has the money paid back.
17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.
The first line acknowledges the immediate pleasure that can be derived from sin. However, the long term consequences of sin is like a mouthful of gravel. The reason that we are drawn into sin is that it looks sweet and pleasurable but in the end it leads to death. We should weigh carefully our choices and actions because what appears desirable will lead to our ruin.
18 Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance.
The Teacher encourages us to plan carefully by taking advice. The Teacher uses the example of what is the most serious decision that a leader might have to take and that is the decision to take his nation into war. But the teaching applies to any decision that we need to take. We should seek advice from wise counsellors.
Lord God, in all the decisions that we need to take help us to take the guidance of Your word into account. Help us to find people of wisdom and not just go to people who will tell us what we want to hear. Lord lead us along the path of righteousness, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.