As I first read this paragraph the other day, first one, then another kind of person, came to my mind. Those of you who can remember public school can probably picture both of these people. And I suppose that anyone who has ever spent much time at the playground can as well. The first that came to mind was the “class clown” – “He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet and he teacheth with his fingers.” Then reading this a second time, my mind fell upon the class and playground bully, with his little entourage of corrupted pals. He is naughty, forward, sowing strife and discord among the smaller, weaker kids.
Obviously, Solomon is warning about this kind of person; he doesn’t want any of his children joining them. And I suppose that the children of a king might be even more prone than others to become either person. I suppose there are few peers among the royalty – peers among the peers of the realm – But everyone’s eyes would be upon the children of the king, and they could become any number of different kinds of people – both good and bad. And so could we; so could our children and grand-children – leaders, trouble-makers – problems.
We have four short and relatively simple verses, which some people might overlook – don’t do that. These clowns and bullies are described, explained and then condemned. And even though I often put these Proverbs in the context of Solomon and his children, remember that the real Author is the Lord, and these things apply to all the children of Adam – even our own kith and kin.
First, they are described.
As we all know, words are constantly emerging, evolving and then often falling into disuse. A notable example is the word “gay” – which doesn’t mean what it once did. Another not so obvious word is “naughty.” When I was young “naughty” was applied to improper behavior, but of the more innocuous variety. Misbehaving children were sometimes “naughty” but the word wasn’t often applied to adults. Bad and rotten adults were described more harshly. But this “naughty” is a lot more harsh that we 21st century Christians might think. It is used 27 times in the Bible, but it is rendered “naughty.” only once. It is most often transliterated, but when it is translated it is most often rendered “wicked” and “ungodly.” Usually when we find this word in the Bible it is transliterated – the word is “Belial.” Literally, it speaks of someone who is unprofitable or worthless. But he is worthless because He is no good – wicked, unlike God, a rule-breaker just like Satan. Following this Solomon uses the adjective “wicked,” which we ought to be able to understand.
A third word which has lost its original meaning is “mischief.” “Frowardness is in his heart, he desevisth mischief continually.” In today’s world “mischief” is a misdemeanor – hardly worth a slap on the wrist. “Mischief” is when the naughty boy puts salt in the sugar bowl and sugar in the salt shaker. It is often through his mischief that people laugh at the class clown. But this Hebrew word is “mischief” 21 times, but “evil” and “wickedness” – 442 and 84 times respectively. This “mischief” is a spiritual felony worthy of capital punishment. It’s not a joke; it is a sin.
This wicked, naughty person “walketh with a froward mouth.” If we let our imaginations run wild we might picture someone using his lips as his feet – but that is silly. What the Lord means to tell us is that this frowardness is the way that he lives – everywhere he goes his mouth precedes him or characterizes him. And as we said a couple weeks ago, “frowardness” means “perversity.” Unfortunately that doesn’t help us very much because the evolution of language is trying to leave both those words behind. “Perversity” speaks of a deliberate and obstinate behavior which is unreasonable and unacceptable – but it is carried out in spite the consequences. Thus, I picture the clown, who just can’t keep his mouth shut – and as a result is in constant trouble.
What he says is with a wink in his eye and a smile on his face. Only the completely naive don’t realize that he is just “foolin” – joking around for the sake of a laugh. He wants to be popular, so he’ll say and do the silliest things. He also speaks with his feet and shows off with his hands and fingers. He moves from clown to bully. He is the sort of person who will steal a kid’s lunch or pocket change and tease him with it – for laughs. He will toss what he has taken back and forth between his flunky friends – tormenting the lesser child. He laughs at others – sometimes with the purpose of isolating them from the crowd – separating friends.
This person is not “naughty.” in the modern sense – He is evil, wicked. Beware of this sort of person and avoid them as well as you can. But even more importantly, don’t become one of them.
The key to moving from a victim to a perpetrator is the condition of one’s heart.
“Frowardness is in his heart, he desevisth mischief continually.” Why is the bully a bully? Why is the show-off yearning for the center of attention? That is the call of his heart – that is what his innermost being craves. And when the heart makes its demand, the person will usually do whatever it takes to be satisfied.
But regenerated hearts are not froward; they are humble. Regenerated hearts are not noisy and troublesome; they are quiet and peaceful. They aren’t divisive and stirring the pot; they are helpful and supportive.
The heart of this naughty person cannot keep itself from devising mischief – evil. In Psalm 64 David pleads with the Lord for protection from with wicked. He says, “They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.” They have bottomless hearts full of mischief and trouble.
If we pursued this line of thought – followed this trail – we’d come to the conclusion – “ye must be born again.” From where do bullies come? From bullies. They often come from being bullied. I don’t often agree with what sociologists say, but they are right in pointing out that much of our social ills are learned. There is the forgotten fact that sin is inherited by every baby ever born. The problem is that our computer-like hearts are already infected with the sin virus. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Just as the leopard cannot change his spots neither can the naughty little boy change his heart. He must be regenerated – born again.
And if he is never converted to Christ “his calamity (shall) come suddenly.“
“Suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.” If “naughtiness” was punished only by vice-principals and vice cops, most naughty people would go unpunished. If the only judge was the man sitting on the bench at the county courthouse, 95% of all petty crime would never be examined or judged. But there is a Judge who judges even judges. And that school-yard bully, or the man who has graduated to mugging strangers on the streets, or the lawyer who perverts justice – “his calamity (shall) come suddenly.” The Almighty God guarantees it.
He may think that he is above the law or he is the law in his playground – but he mistaken. And when the Lord cuts him down to size there will be no one to build him up again. “Suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.” The solution must be preemptive – “He must be born again.”