Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11
by Pastor Mark Hudson

One of the best commentaries on Proverbs is written by Bruce Waltke.  He 10:1-22:16 as collection II.

Collection IIa is 10:1-15:29 called Antithetical parallels of the righteous vs. the wicked.

10:17-11:31, Waltke refers to this section as Deeds and destinies of the righteous and the wicked contrasted.

11:1-8 is labelled Security through honesty  and righteousness.

11:10-15 words in community

11:16-22 benevolence and community

11:23-27 desires and paradoxical fulfillments

11:28-31 certain gain and loss

Waltke sees intentional grouping of Proverbs which is contrary to how some look at Proverbs: Proverbs is a random collection of individual wise some with no reason to place one after another. Here is a bit more detail within this chapter.

11:1-2             security through honesty

11:3-8             security through righteousness

11:9-15           word and communication serving the community not personal stability  (v. 9 is a bridge)

11:16-27         benevolence brings rewards to oneself but selfishness harms oneself

16-22  notice the gracious woman with honor (v. 16) verses the indiscreet beauty who has no honor (v. 22).

23-27  desires and paradoxical fulfillment

11:28-31         certain gain or loss (emphasis on their certainty than on the activity of serving others or self).

First, let’s look at the power of words in community.  One author, Goldingay, notes the words for community: neighbor, city, and nation (Proverbs, NBC Commentary p. 595).  These are all words that reflect a person is thinking about (negatively or positively) about others.  The culture of both Old and New Testaments is a community-first mindset.  Granted, many of these communities were small.  They were facing constant danger from violent nations or maurading bands of violent men.  Given the economies of the day, one individual was stronger together with others than alone. But they thought in terms of the collective rather than the individual.

This is fascinating for us because we are the opposite of that.  In the US, my name is Mark Hudson.  If I lived in China with a Chinese name, my name would be last name first; like Hudson Mark.  So the family is what is important and then the individual is secondary.  Most, if not all, native American cultures were and still are this community-centric approach.   Our culture is to reward the risk taker, the leaves our small town to seek greater and better things away from our family.  The individual is all important.  But in many parts of the world, the majority of the world in fact, do not think that way.

There is not one right way and one obvious wrong approach.  Yet we all live with neighbors, in a community, and within a state and a nation.  Our words matter as we relate to others.  We can “destroy his (or our) neighbor” (v. 9).  A city can be overthrown by the mouth of the wicked  but the blessing of the upright a city is exalted (v. 11).  The tongue has the power to raise up or tear down a city.  Maybe James was reading the Proverbs when James wrote, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness”  (James 3:5-6).  While James focues on the negative, this author looks at both positive and negative aspects of the tongue.

In v. 12a, the one who lacks sense belittles, despiese or disrespects his neighbor.  But the man of understanding remains siilent.  This does not mean that if a person is slandered, it is wise to not defend an innocent person.  Rather, a wise person may be disappointed, upset, or confused by a person’s actions but instead of venting, accusing, or tearing down, the wise person holds his judgment in abeyance waiting for more information, another perspective, or a chance to talk to the person who disappointed them.  During that time, they do not jump to conclusions or speak in a way they will later regret.

In vs. 16-27 benevolence brings rewards to oneself but selfishness harms oneself which may sound somewhat tepid but is nonetheless true.  We must repeat that these Proverbs do not mean every giving, righteous, generous person gets a reward from God that is tangible.  But, we can say that a man who is kind benefits himself (v. 17) in so many different ways.  Consider when you speak kind and loving words. You feel kind and loving.  But when you are angry, what happens to your blood pressure?  Your head, face, voice all change and not for the better.  What do people think of you when you are kind and how do they perceive you when you are angry?  We tend to like a kind person and keep our distance from an angry person.

In v. 24, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”  There are some people who would give you “the shirt of their back” and are happy, content, and spoken well of by others.  Then there are those that ought to give and while they may not lack money they still suffer want.  Either in the respect of the community, lasting friendship, etc.  The “one who waters will himself be watered” v. 25.  Giving people are generally happy, blessed people.  This does not mean a giving person will reap a financial reward but they will experience God’s blessings.

No one is a better example of this way of speaking or living than our Lord Jesus Christ.  We look to His Spirit to empower us to live like He did.  While we never can live a sinless life, we strive for holiness and obedience.  Of course, righteousness only comes from Jesus Christ but we strive to be sanctified more every day.

Dear holy Father, we seek Your blessing.  We want to experience Your blessing because You give the very best gifts.  We love to bless others and serve others because You made us that way.  We are made in Your image and loving and serving others is what we are made to do.  Pour more of Yourself into our feeble human bodies so we will enjoy Your presence.  Keep our tongues in check.  Remind us what good we can do by speaking kindly or sometimes not speaking at all. May Your Son Jesus receive all the praise due His name.  Amen.