Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.
Proverbs 10:26 ESV
When we were kids with our fish and chips, my siblings and I would pour loads of vinegar on and breathe in the steam, that would inevitably set us off coughing and spluttering! I think Solomon had something similar in mind here. A little vinegar can be a nice flavouring. But a swig of a bottle of vinegar would be a test of endurance as to whether you could keep it down.
I always loved bonfire night, as well as fish and chips growing up. This is where Brits celebrate the thwarting of a terrorist attack over 400 years ago by lighting fires. But you always had to be careful not to stand downwind from the fire or you’d get eyes full of smoke and start crying.
These illustrations serve the purpose of saying that you don’t want a lazy person to run errands for you. If you ask a sluggard to deliver a letter somewhere, you may be waiting a while to see whether it would ever get delivered. It’s more hastle than it’s worth to have a lazy messenger.
We’re so used to instantaneous messaging nowadays, that it’s hard for us to imagine a lazy messenger. If we have troubles with social media messaging apps, it’s usually because our Internet connection’s poor, not because of the apps’ ineptitude. But don’t be that lazy messenger who doesn’t pass the message on properly, if at all!
“Jehovah, don’t let us be the sluggard who’s a disappointment to everyone who has the misfortune of dealing with them. Please help us to be disciplined and conscientious, for Your glory, amen”
When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.
Proverbs 10:25 ESV
When Wall Street crashes and credit crunches, many people discover the unreliability of building their lives on Mammon, or material stuff. Jesus urges us to build our lives upon the rock that He and His words are, and not on the sand of anything else.
Someone might go through life with barely a metaphorical cloud in the sky. They might live in peace and plenty for a season, but ultimately there is one storm we cannot weather, and that’s death. If someone has no other storms in their life, death is something they cannot escape.
Being made righteous by the blood of Jesus doesn’t mean to say we won’t get tempestuous circumstances in our lives. What it does mean is to say that we will live to tell the tale. If anything, the believer’s life is harder than the unbelievers’ because on top of normal trials there are persecutions for swimming against the tide.
Having said that, this proverb promises that the righteous are established forever. We are founded on the rock of Christ, not the sand of self righteousness. Our Saviour guarantees eternity with Himself for us, and we rejoice in Him.
“Yahweh, our Lord, please protect us through the tempests of life. May we build our lives on You, and so find peace and security to outlast even the hurricane of death. For Jesus’ sake, amen”
What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
Proverbs 10:24 ESV
I think ultimately of life and death with this verse. The wicked might dread a lot of things, but surely the most dreaded eventuality is death itself. Death is God’s curse upon us for our wickedness, so death is when we finally get our comeuppance.
The evildoer might have an easy life. They might get rich off the oppression and exploitation of others. They may live lives of comfort and ease. But even if they do violence to their troubled consciences, eventually they will meet their maker and have to give an account for their wickedness.
If we’re all naturally evil, how is anyone ever righteous? By faith. If you desire righteousness, and seek it in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will recieve. He strips off the filthy rags of our own self righteousness, washes us in His blood, and clothes us with His goodness.
Our desire shouldn’t ultimately be a selfish desire for happiness at any cost. Our desire should be to be holy, as God the Lord is holy. And if we do, God will give us eternal life, make us perfect in eternity, and as a wonderful byproduct, give us irrepressible joy as well.
“Yahweh, we acknowledge that we deserve death and condemnation. But we praise You that we can be made righteous in Your Son, and that You will give us our desire for a joyful, perfect relationship with Yourself for all eternity, amen”
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
Proverbs 10:23 ESV
Where so much of comedy is no joke is where it is at the expense of other people. But doing wrong is like a joke to a fool. It reminds me of the craze of “happy slapping” a few years ago in the UK (and maybe elsewhere). This is where people would slap others and record it on phones for a joke.
Even slapstick humour is often laughing at other people’s misfortune. At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of self deprecating humour, a la Laurel and Hardy. But when humour is other-deprecating, it becomes wrong.
The question is not whether you can be a believer and have a sense of humour. That’s fine. But the question is, what do we find pleasure in? Is it in the misfortune of others? Or do we genuinely rejoice when others thrive?
As for the person of understanding, as we should all aspire to be, their pleasure is in wisdom. It seems too obvious to be worth mentioning. But as the Lord Jesus Himself said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
“Dear Yahweh, please give us hearts of understanding and wisdom. Don’t let us foolishly take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. For Your glory, amen”
The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.
Proverbs 10:22 ESV
When the new testament talks about blessing, it is always in spiritual, not materialistic terms. So when we read of getting rich here, we don’t need to assume that it’s on about literal wealth. The Bible is not a how to get rich quick manual.
We know from Scripture as a whole that God’s blessing doesn’t necessarily make us millionaires. In fact, it’s harder for the rich to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! But God’s blessings to us in Christ make us infinitely spiritually rich.
Money can’t buy eternal life, but the blood of Christ does. Solomon himself elsewhere wrote of how much money and responsibility makes for increased worry and sleepless nights- sorrow if you like when thieves break in and moth and rust destroy. The riches that Christ give are free from sorrow.
I remember when I was about 15 being asked if I had any regrets becoming a Christian. I replied, “only that I’ve failed the Lord so many times”. With hindsight, becoming a Christian means that all my failures are washed away in the blood of Christ. So as long as we focus on Him, we don’t need sorrow or regret.
“Dear Lord, we thank You for the riches of eternal life, which will never perish, spoil or fade. Please help us to focus on You rather than our sorrows, regrets, or even our blessings, for the glory of Your name, amen”
The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 10:21 ESV
We naturally think of feeding in a naturalistic sense. In other words, feeding to us means to give literal food. But the Bible is a spiritual book, not a manual about how to end world hunger. Still, to end world hunger, people’s lips are going to have to communicate solutions.
Pastors of churches feed their flocks with spiritual food from the word via heir lips week in week out. When was the last time you thanked your pastor for his messages of encouragement? Many people are fed from God’s word day by day. As the saying goes though, “a hungry stomach has no ears”. We should look to people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual.
Fools on the other hand are like the kind of people who die for really silly things. Lots of people smoke, damaging their lungs. Lung cancer is one of the biggest killers in the UK, often (but not always) caused by smoking.
If someone had good sense, they would stop smoking and so reduce their risk of lung disease. But there are other reasons for foolish deaths- like avoidable accidents. We would do well to take more care of ourselves than we do.
“Lord our God, please feed us by Your word, thank You for those who bring it to us. Please help us not to be foolish and die avoidable deaths, above all to not die without first making our peace with You. In Christ’s name, amen”
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
Proverbs 10:20 ESV
Some people earn a lot of brass, or silver as it were, from their tongues. I heard about a talk show host several years ago who insured his tongue for £1 million. But Solomon isn’t talking about high earning public speakers. Instead he’s on about people who’ve been made good by God and whose words are priceless.
We should all aspire to be made good by God and to speak valuable words. For some, the process may be long and slow. Others when they come to faith in God might quickly be transformed from foul mouthed blasphemers to passionate preachers of the gospel of God’s grace.
Other people on the other hand, Solomon rather uncharitably states, are at heart almost worthless. This proverb is a far cry from the gospel according to Disney, which would encourage people to “believe in yourselves”, and “follow your hearts”.
The Bible on the other hand declares that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can understand it? People tend to have very high views of themselves. The Bible on the other hand has a rather low view of fallen mankind, and a high view of the God who can transform us and raise us up.
“Lord God Almighty, please help us to have a right view of You and of ourselves. Thank You that You can take worthless people like us, and make us priceless. We praise You for Your love to us in Christ, in whose name we pray, amen”