For helpful tips on reading the Book of Proverbs, see this previous post.
This is our day of the week for Proverbs this year, and today it is to Proverbs Chapter 11 that we turn. And it is on three verses that we will focus. Verses 3, 5, and 6 all seem to say the same thing; and in truth they all convey much the same meaning, but there are some differences. Let’s examine them all three, and then we’ll try to tie them all together. First, let’s look at verse three:
“The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”
integrity (Photo credit: glsims99)
Integrity is a characteristic of the upright (those who live their lives according to God’s will). It is that integrity which guides them in their daily lives. The crookedness of the unfaithful is the converse. The lack of integrity (here, “crookedness”) is a characteristic of those who are treacherous (the NKJV, the unfaithful). That lack of integrity will destroy them. Now verse five:
“The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.”
None of us are truly “blameless” in the sense of being without sin. What it means here is living a life that is above reproach – living in such a manner that would encourage others to serve God, rather than being a stumbling block. Righteousness is being justified by the grace of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20-24). It is not earned, but it is freely given. We can fall away from that righteousness (Romans 11:22, Galatians 5:4), but it is that righteousness that will keep the “blameless” on the right path. The wicked, on the other hand, fall by their own wickedness (more about that in a moment). Finally, verse 6:
“The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.”
The grace of the Lord saves those who live according to His word. But the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. The NKJV substitutes “unfaithful,” but the “treacherous” defines it better – those who deceive, who pretend to have integrity, but secretly do not live that way.
Integrity is a commodity that seems to be in short supply at times. But is integrity in every detail of our lives important? What would you do for a million dollars? Is your integrity for sale? Sadly, the answer for many is yes. Especially when it comes to “little things.” A little “white lie” is sometimes necessary, right? And so what if I really knew the clerk at the big store chain gave me too much money back? Not my fault their employees can’t count change, is it? But Jesus gave us the truth about this in Luke 16:10: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.“
There are few people who want to be thought of by others as lacking in integrity. So most people at least pretend to have it. By the same token, even those that have wicked or deceptive intent, do not want to be thought of as such by others. And so, the wicked, the deceivers, the unfaithful sometimes live out lives for a long time fooling many of the faithful (and the unfaithful as well) into believing they are something they are not. But they are trapped by their own lust – their own wickedness brings them down.
Psalm 7:14-16 tells us how it comes about, speaking of the wicked who conceive evil and give birth to lies:
“He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head…”
Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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