Proverbs 14:4

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,

    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

Proverbs 14:4 ESV

This proverb could be restated, “You have to break a few eggs to get an omelet.” In other words, productivity comes at a price.

Here, the writer causes us to ask, “What is my objective?” If I want a clean manger, then I can’t have any oxen in it. However, if I want abundant crops, I can’t have a clean manger.

Proverbs 12:2

A good man obtains favor from the Lord,

    but a man of evil devices he condemns.

Proverbs 12:2 ESV

Here, the author once again uses contrast to make an important point. Good vs evil. Favor vs. condemns.

The point is rather straightforward as is the choice that is offered to the reader. Do you want the Lord’s favor (i.e., acceptance) or do you want his condemnation? There is a distinct path that leads to each. Choose wisely.

Proverbs 11:2

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,

    but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2 ESV

This verse is contrasts pride and humility. The result of pride is disgrace. Be careful not to dismiss this statement too quickly because you know a proud person who has never been disgraced. Don’t forget that Proverbs has two realities in mind, the temporal and the eternal or the physical and the spiritual. Also, don’t forget that because no one seems to recognize folly, doesn’t mean it isn’t folly. For example, when a group of fools are hanging out, doing whatever it is fools do together, it is unlikely any of them will recognize the folly that is present among them. Thus, it is possible to disgrace yourself even when neither you nor those around you recognize the disgrace. Perhaps more importantly, pride disgraces us before a holy God.

The second portion reminds us of the connection between humility and wisdom. Wisdom produces humility. The implication is that those who are humble, those who gain wisdom, will not be disgraced.

Which do you prefer?

Proverbs 10:2

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,

    but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 10:2 ESV

This verse goes against much of our culture. When treasure is the goal, the means is often disregarded. Here, though, the writer is focused on the heart. Thus he can say, “succeeding in the wrong way is not succeeding.” Those who gain by wickedness kill their souls. Alternatively, those who are righteous find life. Because life is the goal, success is redefined in this verse.

How do you define success? What are you striving for today?

Proverbs 8:6-7

Hear, for I will speak noble things,

    and from my lips will come what is right,

for my mouth will utter truth;

    wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

Proverbs 8:6-7 ESV

Notice the things that wisdom speaks: 1) Noble things, 2) what is right, and 3) truth. Here, the author uses three synonyms to convey the idea that wisdom speaks truth. Want to know the truth? Find wisdom. Notice also what is not coming from wisdom’s lips: “wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

We might summarize these verses as “Guard your mouth; be careful what you say (or don’t say).” While it is important to do that, we must remember that what comes out of our mouths (or doesn’t come out) is a reflection of our hearts. If I have trouble with my mouth, the problem is not with my mouth. It is my heart. The same is true for you.

Lord, please help the words of my mouth reflect the work that you are doing in my heart.

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