Proverbs 21:3

To do righteousness and justice

    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:3 ESV

This verse is an apologetic against the modern idea that “I have Jesus, so I can do whatever I want.” I have heard people say dismissively about their sin, “It’s under the blood.” While it is true that Jesus’ blood covers all of our sin, our attitude about his sacrifice is not inconsequential.

Here, the writer reminds us of the Lord’s primary desire for righteousness and justice. But, as sinners, how can we do those things sufficiently? Second Corinthians 5:21 reminds us that “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” So, rather than have a dismissive attitude about Christ’s death on our behalf, we should rejoice that in his death, he made it possible for us to be clothed in his righteousness.

Proverbs 21:2

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,

    but the Lord weighs the heart.

Proverbs 21:2 ESV

Man has an amazing ability to justify his actions or thoughts. However, we must be cautious in this regard because of the nature of sin and its effects upon us. Ultimately, the Lord will sort things out, identifying our true motives and desires.

In the meantime, we are not left without guidance. Proverbs 119:105 suggests one important guide: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Philippians 2:3 is another: “Do nothing from selfish ambition, but in humility, consider others more significant than yourself.”

Using God’s word as a guide and walking in humility are two helpful ways of increasing the chance that “my way” is not just right in my own eyes, but also in the eyes of the Lord.

Proverbs 21:13

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor

   will himself call out and not be answered.”

Proverbs 21:13 ESV

Here, the author uses “personal risk” to motivate the reader to hear the cry of the poor. Often it is easy to dismiss the suffering of others … until it happens to me.

This proverb reminds me of an English form poem that captures the sentiments of a 1946 speech written and delivered by German Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemöller who was released from Dachau by the Allied forces in 1945.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Who are you overlooking because you haven’t experienced their hardship?

Proverbs 21:6

“The getting of treasures by a lying tongue

    is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.”

Proverb 21:6

If the ultimate goal is to get treasure, then a person may believe any means necessary is an acceptable philosophy of life. “I’m gonna get mine,” he might laughingly say. However, at the end of the day, he will discover that the treasure was nothing more than a fleeting vapor.

This reminds me of the man who spent his life climbing the ladder of success only to discover that he had his ladder leaning against the wrong building.

A couple questions: What is your ultimate goal in life? If you reached that goal would it be a fleeting vapor?

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