January 14th, 2009
Focus Text: Proverbs 11: 9-13 (NLT)
9 With their words, the godless destroy their friends,
but knowledge will rescue the righteous.
10 The whole city celebrates when the godly succeed;
they shout for joy when the wicked die.
11 Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper,
but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.
12 It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor;
a sensible person keeps quiet.
13 A gossip goes around telling secrets,
but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.
Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead
There are many things in life over which we have no choice. Skin color. Height. Receding hairlines. . . a single tear just fell onto my keyboard. Anyhoo, life is filled with these uncontrollable facets that shape the contours of our daily existence. Climate. Global economics (well, unless you’re Warren Buffett.) The rise and fall of your favorite NFL team . . . perhaps one that barrels their way to the best regular-season record in the league only to throw it all away in their first playoff game because apparently fumbling is just more fun. I digress.
Because of the plethora of non-controllable aspects of life, the members of humanity are left to figure out what things in life they can choose or control. This becomes our life’s purpose– the goal for which we exist. We each must make the choices that are possible in order to shape what parts of life are shapable. And so we choose. Hobbies. Interests. Sports. Colleges. Careers. Spouses. Cities in which to live. Hair-loss treatments . . . you get the point. We are confined to those things over which we have control; we can only deal with the things in which we have choices.
Passages like these expound upon the simplest choices that each of us have to make. These particular choices are not only the most frequent ones we make, but also the most fundamental indicators of the directions our lives will take. Those choices are our words.
With our words, we choose what breakfast we will eat. What channel we want our spouse to turn the television to. What greeting or snub we will introduce into our workplace upon arrival. What impression we will leave on our customers or coworkers. As infinite as the words are, so are the choices. One’s life story could be traced back through the ups and downs by examining the words spoken. “Yes, I’ll take the job.” ”Will you marry me?” ”No, I won’t forgive you!” ”Yes, I’ll have the veal” . . . some are more important than others.
Thus we can walk through these verses and see how word choices affect the lives of those who follow God and those who refuse His grace. The difference is astounding.
First we see that the words of the “godless destroy their friends.” That’s heavy. We’re not talking about enemies here; we’re talking about friends. A life devoid of God will produce words that will eventually be destructive to everyone. Ouch.
Secondly, the words of others give evidence to the legacies of the godly and the wicked as demonstrated by the “celebration” of the godly person’s success versus the “shouts of joy” over the death of the wicked. I think of Hitler’s suicide or Saddam Hussein’s execution. The reaction of the culture at large is one indicator of their lives’ legacies.
Thirdly, this passage expounds upon the influence of the godly in a community– bringing it “good” and “prosperous” things. But notice what “tears it apart”: the “talk of the wicked.” It would seem that the words of the wicked are the direct dagger to a community’s health.
Next, we learn that “it is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.” Again, two diametrically opposed categories of words . . . belittlement versus quietness. In other words, the negative information about the person may in fact be true; it’s just wiser not to mention it. I could write volumes on this point: the wisdom of discretion. The wisest person doesn’t have to say everything he or she knows. That’s what makes them wise.
Finally, we find the differences between the words of “gossips” and the words of the “trustworthy.” This clearly displays the truth that what is inside someone will come out through their words. Words are the evidence of one’s heart . . . the spiritual broth where within one’s soul-consistency is stewed. Those with the right consistency inside will be able to keep confidences and secrets. In this case, a lack of words is the emphasis.
All in all, words are our greatest choices . . . our best chance at leaving our imprint on the world, whether positively or negatively.