When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom… Whoever derides their neighbour has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret… A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward. Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death… A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed… Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. (Proverbs 11:2, 12–13, 18–19, 25, 29)
In this chapter of Proverbs the sage gives a contrasting picture between the wicked and the wise. The former fall into pride and disgrace, while the latter find refreshment and righteousness. Those who seek evil will experience ruin, deception, betrayal, and ultimately death. Whereas the righteous will be humble, prosperous, and will find life.
Reading these sayings of opposites can lead us to think that we are one or the other – wicked or wise. We can despair that we will always be beholden to our sin nature and we’ll never find victory over temptation or addictions. Or we can puff ourselves up, thinking with pride that we have this spiritual life sussed and conquered – we have arrived. Whereas the truth probably lies in the tension of the “already but not yet.” As Christians we’ve been redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice but we’re not yet fully transformed. We still fall into sinful patterns of behaving. Yet as we live empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can enjoy more freedom and more grace to become increasingly like the righteous whom we see in these proverbs.
Humility; holding one’s tongue; wisdom; keeping confidences; sowing righteousness; pursuing life; displaying generosity; bringing refreshment… all characteristics of the new self. Why not join me in asking God to help us live out these qualities this day, this month, and this year?
Prayer: Triune God, I know that on my own I quickly fall into patterns of the old self. Come and live in and through me, that I might reveal your love, generosity and grace to those whom I meet.