23 These also are sayings of the wise: To show partiality in judging is not good: 24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. 25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them. 26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. 27 Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. 28 Do not testify against your neighbour without cause– would you use your lips to mislead? 29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.” 30 I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; 31 thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. 32 I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest– 34 and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Prov. 24: 23-34 NIV)
23 These also are sayings of the wise:
This first line serves as a heading for verses 23b-34.
To show partiality in judging is not good:
As Christians we are required to treat everyone the same. We are to act justly and not show favour or disfavour to any. This is particularly true when it comes to making judgements about people. We often show partiality to ourselves, excusing our own behaviour and judging others for the same behaviour. We’re thankful that the Lord looks upon us with grace and mercy, but we are not naturally inclined to look upon others with grace and mercy.
24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
To let people away with crime and calling the guilty innocent is something that is cursed by people and denounced by nations. If the rule of law is not upheld by a nation how can any nation trust any agreement that they might enter into. If justice is not upheld a society cannot function.
25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
and rich blessing will come on them.
The rule of law is given by God into the hands of the nation authority. If you break the laws of the land you are breaking God’s law. We cannot dismiss the law as manmade, because that authority has been handed down to men by God for the proper ruling of the nation. When a nation upholds the law and convicts the guilty of their crimes then law and order will exist, and this is a blessing of orderly living. A nation’s citizens are safe when the law is upheld.
26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.
A kiss on the lips is a more affectionate gesture than a kiss on the cheek. The kiss on the lips is a heightened expression of loyalty. It is this heightened gesture that is used as a metaphor to describe the appreciation of an honest answer. When we speak, we should be honest in what we say. However, we need to be sensitive to others’ feelings when we speak honestly. It is not always necessary to tell all that we know and all that we feel. In the fellowship of the Lord’s people we are to seek the peace of the congregation. Many times, that requires us to be silent and not speak. Saying hurtful and harmful things is not excused by saying that we like to be honest, or we like to tell it as it is. We should develop our emotional intelligence and reflect on how our little speech will be received. We should learn to care about how the other person will feel and adjust what we say accordingly.
27 Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready;
after that, build your house.
The outdoor work in the fields is the work that earns the bread. That should be done before we start thinking about making ourselves comfortable in the new house that we might plan to build.
28 Do not testify against your neighbour without cause—
would you use your lips to mislead?
The Teacher here is referring to informing the authorities about your neighbour when they haven’t committed the offence that you are accusing them of. This is a spiteful act of trying to get your neighbour into trouble by telling lies and attempting to mislead people by your words.
29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
Extracting revenge on someone is as old as life on earth. It’s unlikely that we Christians would use physical violence to extract revenge. We use more subtle methods of rumour and telling partial truths. When we feel that someone has not treated us with the respect we feel we are due, we try and find a way to get one over on them. This is an ugly attitude, and we need to war against that in our lives because we sometimes aren’t even aware that we are being spiteful.
30 I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
The lazy person had allowed the weeds and thorns to takeover their fields and vineyard. The boundary walls were in a state of disrepair.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
The Teacher thought about the lazy person to see what lesson could be learned. It is important to reflect on our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. When we have carried out an activity in the church it is important to have a discussion about what we did, what went well, what we would change or what we would not try again. We should avoid the blame culture of society. Many people in society are calling for a public enquiry into how the pandemic was dealt with. If this was solely to learn lessons so that we would be better prepared if this were to happen again then it would be positive and constructive, but sadly it will be about apportioning blame. It is sad when the church behaves like the world.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
The outcome of the Teacher’s reflection is that that a lazy lifestyle as seen in taking some extra sleep, having some extra downtime, a folding of the arms to rest and before one knows it poverty sets in. The field has not been worked, the vine has not been kept and poverty surprises us like a thief or an armed intruder. This can happen to us spiritually. We fail to apply ourselves to walking with the Lord. A little break, a little time to oneself and after neglecting our spiritual duties we find ourselves spiritually barren.
Lord help us not to be lazy in spiritual things. Give us a greater desire to apply ourselves in our walk with You. Help us to serve You by serving others. Lord help us to have more of the compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ, because we ask this in our Saviour’s name. Amen.