There are AS many great verses and proverbs in this chapter as any other in the Book. Each of them may stand on their own – and yet every one of them deserves their own lesson. For example, there is verse 12 – “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” How many professing Christians despise their neighbour? And don’t – like the Pharisee – ask, “Who is my neighbour?” You know who your neighbour is. Verse 14 – “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” I often refer to verse 21 – “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.” Verse 22 – “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” Verse 24 – “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” Verse 29 – “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.” And verse 30 – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”
While asking the Lord for something to highlight tonight, the Holy Spirit gave me a fifteen point message. So buckle up and slap some water on your face because we could be here a couple hours. We COULD be here a couple hours, but I will try to be brief. With verse 1 the Holy Spirit directed my thoughts toward Christian business practices. Reading the chapter with that in mind, I jotted down points which relate to Christians in the secular world. But then I was struck with the fact that these principles apply to all of life – not just to employees and employers. All I intend to do tonight is bring them to your attention before stepping aside, permitting the Lord speak.
The first five precepts.
“A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.” The Lord despises hypocrites – not just in business, but in everything – including our own hearts. We may think that our balance of the secular and spiritual in our lives is well-controlled. But we often tip the scale toward our whims, deceiving ourselves and displeasing Jehovah. But of course, Solomon is referring to the scale used by the merchant in selling his product. His pound of butter better really be 16 ounces. If the postage is 50 cents, God considers him a thief if he applies only 49 cents to his letter. A gross of his product is a dozen dozens – 144. If he ships only 140, even though no one counts, it is an abomination to God. If he doesn’t deliver the promised gross, God calls his behavior “gross.”
Doesn’t verse 3 speak about life in general and business in particular? “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” In more than one verse in this chapter we hear the precept “honesty is the best policy.” I know some would prefer “honesty is the ONLY policy,” but these verses stress the first. There are divine and practical blessings to honest behavior. “Perverseness” – deliberate distortion of the truth will eventually come back to bite the guilty.
Verse 4 – “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” The successful businessman must remember that his business must not become his God. And despite the last phrase, the businessman must remember that his honesty is not the same as justification from sin.
“The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.” In almost every phase of life there is a temptation to adjust our practices to those who are around us. If our competitors are using steroids, it is okay for us to use them to level the playing field. If our rival is bribing city officials, then it is fine if we bride other officials. No sir, our way of life must be based on divine standards, not even the world’s best standards. We must make sure that righteousness directs our way, or the Lord, if not the world, will make us trip.
Conversely, verse 8 – “The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.” This proverb is true because there is a God in Heaven, who is sovereign over the earth. The blessing of the Lord may not immediately enrich the pocket of the honest man. But there will be a day when all the books, all the accounts, all the ledgers are audited by the divine Inspector.
The second five precepts.
Society is blessed by God’s godly servants. Verses 10 and 11 – “When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” Can we say that the mouths of the Liberals in America would bring down our society if they could? Can we say that conservative policies, though despised by some, are actually a blessing to everyone? Can we say that the presence of God’s people in a society which hates them is actually the source of God’s blessings on that society? Ultimately, godly business practices are foundational to the economy of the nation. All one has to do is glance throughout the world to see that this is true.
We touched on verse 15 in an earlier devotion – but consider it once again. “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.” Generally speaking, once we reach adulthood, we are the best people to run our own lives. If I tried to run the details of Bro. Stewart’s business, or Bro. Asmundson’s, we’d all be in trouble. And the Lord has chosen me to pastor this church; I am the He has chosen to be surety for this assembly. The moment we over-step our respective positions, we shall smart for it – ie. suffer.
Verse 17 reminds us that our lives and our businesses were not given to us by God for selfish purposes. Yes, we need our job to provide food for our table, but God wants us to be helpful and blessing to others. “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul.” There are occasions when the Christian businessman needs to cut his price, and sometimes even to do the work without charge – to be merciful. Remember that Jehovah oversees everything we do, and being merciful Himself, he honors and blesses His people when they are merciful toward others.
“The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.” No matter what service we perform or product we produce, it needs to be the best it can be. With all our skill and technology, you’d think that the products we buy today would be better built than similar things from 50 or 25 years ago, but often they are not. Isn’t it dishonesty which has built obsolence into so many of the things we buy? Perhaps this verse more accurately says, “honesty is the ONLY policy.”
But verse 19 goes back to “honesty is the BEST policy.” “As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” I realize that we could preach a gospel message from this verse, but it has practical application as well.
The third five principles.
In everything we do, we should consider what our heart wants to attain. What are our motives? I want to be rich and so I’m going to work this job, cut costs and cut corners, to reach my goal. I desire to be famous among my peers – among my competitors, among my fellow pastors, my family. My goal is to retire at the age of 40 so that I can travel throughout the world for the next 40 years. No, “the desire of the righteous (should be) only good” – not selfishness – verse 23. We should want to be a blessing to our customers – the highest blessing possible. And that includes things spiritual. But many businessmen destroy the opportunity for that through their unchristian business practices.
Verse 1 tells us that a false balance is bad, but there is an exception to that rule. What if we tipped the scale in favor of the customer? A couple weeks ago, I sold some Cinderella stamps – postage related stamps – through eBay. After a man placed a bid, I found several more of the same sort of material. Rather than going to the trouble of listing them for sale, I just stuck them in the envelop to the man who had bought the first. I hope he was pleased.
I believe, as verse 25 says, “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” The Christian businessman can be assured that with God’s blessing what we plant will be watered by the Lord and produce a nice crop in His good time.
A somewhat similar principle is seen in verse 26 – “He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.” When we have a product which someone else needs, and we hold or horde it waiting for the price to rise, the anger in the needy man will rise. And so too, will the anger of the Lord. Sharing our skills, our vegetables, our pennies with others who need them is always a good policy – good business practice; good Christianity.
And again, don’t make your mind, your skill, your product or your business – your God. “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.”
And finally, verse 31 – “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.” Without considering eternity, or the omniscience of God and the judgment seat of Christ, the Bible seems to promise that Christian business practices will bring us blessings in this world. Ignoring for a moment the Prince of the Power of the Air, Jehovah is the sovereign God, and we cannot do wrong in putting Him first in our lives.
Colossians 3:23 – “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”