“Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Have I not written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightiest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?”
Calamities are often the consequences of foolishness. Many say that our country is facing great calamities, if something big is not done to prevent them, and a reasonable person must ask if these troubles are coming because we have not been wise in some way or another. The Book of Proverbs is the main wisdom book of the Bible, and it teaches us many proven rules for life, as well as broader principles upon which a successful life is built. In the twenty-second chapter of the book, King Solomon exhorts the reader to pay attention to his divinely-inspired “words of truth,” and some of his statements in the chapter seem to apply to our situation in 2009. These powerful words cause us to ponder whether our problems are simply the results of foolishness. Of course, anyone can learn from mistakes. We can pray that God will grant to the people of our times the grace and wisdom to return to the teachings of the Bible, and to Himself as the ultimate Source of wisdom.
Verse 3 says,
“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” Was not our current crisis foreseen? Could not bureaucrats and politicians, or bankers and economists, see that the rules of finance were foretelling the collapse that we have experienced in sections of our economy? Yes, many certainly could foresee the evil, but selfishness and politics let warnings of danger go unheeded, and the nation just passed on and was punished.
The next verse says,
“By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” Everybody wants riches, honor, and life, but many Americans have not been willing to pursue them by the right means. A result of this unscrupulous pursuit of goals has been calamity.
Verse 6 states,
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Home child-training has almost become a relic of the past, and the consequences have been horrendous. With both parents pursuing careers away from the children, and many homes being broken and re-broken in divorces, social problems have multiplied. The rise in out-of-wedlock pregnancies, juvenile crime, drug abuse, and suicide should not surprise us when kids have grown up without nurture or training. We have yet to understand the full effect of the collapse of the American home on the state of things in our country.
We are warned in verse 7 that “the rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Divine wisdom warns us against debt. Yet our economy has been built largely upon debt in the last hundred years, and its failure has been precipitated by failure in the credit system. The Bible views indebtedness as a negative condition comparable to slavery, but we have loved it. The fruit of this foolishness is now ruining us!
Verse nine says,
“He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” But most Americans have decided to discard charity for the welfare state as the means of soothing their consciences about the needy. Yet public assistance depends on prosperity, a benefit that taxation and government spending work against. Socialistic programs have been running down the clock of their effectiveness. Eventually we will wish we had stayed with private charity. Charity works because people are helped out of of compassion and not by compulsion with the sense of entitlement. Socialism eventually ruins the economy of every nation that tries it.
We are warned in verse 16 that the person who “oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.” Are we not seeing this principle proven? Too-good-to-be-true schemes designed to enrich the rich and swindle the poor have had the curse of God on them. So also have corporate and middle-class welfare programs and gigantic federal “bail-outs.” Try to justify the massive use of public funds to save private businesses on a moral basis. You cannot do it. Why should future generations of Americans be burdened so that the country can give to the rich? Why should so many that have oppressed the poor through deceptive deals be allowed to get away with doing it? These are fundamentally crooked activities, and the God of heaven will make sure that they blow up in the faces of those who put them on.
Verses 17 through 21 (cited at the beginning of this article) are a plea for people to listen to the divine wisdom that has guided the truly-successful for centuries. They are followed by one more precept that certainly seems to explain the mess we have made.
Verses 26 and 27 say,
“Be not one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?”
Many do not know that the Bible more than once warns against co-signing for a loan. This is what Proverbs 22 means by the phrase “strike hands” and by the idea of being “sureties for debts.” When the government pledged to back loans and mortgages, we all became “sureties for debts,” and we put ourselves in the unhappy position of playing the fool. Progressive thinkers scoffed at the notion that federally-backed loans were based on unsound principles. Experts of different kinds encouraged our politicians to head down the road of debt-for-prosperity and government-backed-success, and they have not left that road yet. But the eternal truths of life, given to us in the Bible (such as these in Proverbs 22), always apply, and we will not get out of this mess, nationally or personally, until we heed them.
In the final analysis, building a life on eternal truths is a matter of trusting God. Our national motto says that we trust in God, but our actions tell the true story. We trust in God by assuming that the Bible is true. Proverbs 22:17-21 says that “the words of the wise” and “the words of truth” were given to us so that our “trust may be in the LORD.” When we deal with the issues of life, the question always is, “Will we trust God or not?” If we will give God the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the teachings of His Word are true, and then acting on that assumption, we will act wisely and make for ourselves a better life.