The Wisdom for Successful Living in the Story of Proverbs 19

Connecting the apparent unconnected verses of Proverbs 19 give us the wisdom for a living a successful life. While wealth is so desirable, getting it swiftly through devious means does no work. Only through the hard road of getting knowledge, following God's commands with hard work will make it. But then, there is something better than wealth. That is love. Life is more than oneself. There are others to care for. A meaningful life begins with the fear of God. Success also comes to finding a good spouse, having a good family, doing parenting well and having good children. Read on to discover the how to.
Most people think of Proverbs as a loosely connected set of quotes of wisdom. So we just study a few verses from each chapter, being not able to find the connection.  However, such a connection can be discovered and we can find great wisdom from it. Consider Proverbs 19.

Proverbs 19 - The Wisdom for Successful Living

The key verse for the chapter is verse 1. It is better to be poor and upright than trying to be rich by lying and cheating; such acts are foolish. See Reading Reflectively to Get Better Understanding Using Proverbs 19:1 as an Example.

Verse 2 highlights that speeds from cheating will fail to achieve the wealth that one so desires. Success comes through the way of acquiring knowledge and so forth as shown in the table below.

1 Integrity is better than Wealth

Pro 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
(1) It is better to poor and upright than trying to be rich by lying and cheating; such acts are foolish.

(2) It is better to be uprightly poor than a rich cheater(one who get rich by illegal means) or a rich fool (one who inherits his wealth and could not keep them but waste them).
2 Speed does not assure success -Doing the right things rightly is.
Pro 19:2 Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
If we link up to up with the previous verse about not getting rich deviously, then it is about getting knowledge first to know how to provide valuable products or services to get wealth. If we just want to get rich quickly by moving too fast without acquiring wisdom first, then we will get lost.
3 A fool blames God for his errors.- Don't blame but learn from errors
Pro 19:3 When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.
Now that the fool who tries to cheat to be rich failed miserably, he blames God instead! How could a God who claims to love him did not save him from his ruins!
Of the two meanings proposed earlier, it is clear that (1) fits the context better. It is about the foolish one who tries to be rich by lying.
4 Wealth Attracts - Poverty Repels
Pro 19:4 Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
If he has obtained his wealth in the right way, getting knowledge first and following the path of righteousness, he will be rich and will have many new friends (good and bad kinds). However, the fool who ruined his life is now deserted by his old friends, even his only best friend.
5 Lying brings Punishments
Pro 19:5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
The fool changes not his ways; he can't because he blame God and others for his failures. Now he continues to try to get wealth by being a false witness; such as giving good reviews and testimonies for poor quality products or offerings; false advertising, bad mouthing of others, or hoaxes on the internet.
6 Generosity Attracts - Both good & bad, so watch out.
Pro 19:6 Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
In contrast, a wealthy and generous man will attract lots of friends.
But there is no assurance that those people who because of your gifts can be your good friends.
7 Poverty Repels - Even their siblings
Pro 19:7 All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words but does not have them.
Not only the poor have no friend, even his brothers hate him. Even if he tries to charm them with his words and big promises, they ignore him.
8 Wisdom brings Success
Pro 19:8 Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.
So, the lesson we learn in life is about getting wisdom and understanding so that one can live a successful life.
9 Wisdom - Lie Not - Honesty is Best Policy
Pro 19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.
A common sense of wisdom is not to lie.

10 Rich + Fool Don't Mix
Pro 19:10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.
A fool living with great wealth is not right. It is a bad testimony and misleads others ---- getting wealth without wisdom. It is like a servant commanding his master. It is an upside-down world.
11 Slow to Anger
Pro 19:11a Good sense makes one slow to anger,
Successful man control his emotion well. He is not quick temper.
12 Be Forgiving
Pro 19:11b and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
He also forgives an offense.
Life is about moving ahead and not be trapped by the past.
13 Boss is powerful - Be on His good side
A king's wrath is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.  Pro 19:12
A man of influence has the power to harm you or be good to you. Take care to be on his good side.
14 Foolish Son
Pro 19:13a A foolish son is ruin to his father,
Hence, a wise father teaches his sons.
A good son learns and acquires knowledge.
15 The Good Wife - Quarrel Not
Pro 19:13b and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
Nagging does not change behavior. It creates more distance between spouses.
She is a gift from God
Pro 19:14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.
A Good Wife is God's Blessing. Pray and ask God for the right one.
16 Be not Lazy - It brings hunger
Pro 19:15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.
The destructive power of laziness is not immediately seen. Failures creep in slowly.
17 Godly Living
Pro 19:16 Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.  
Obeying God's commandments, stay on the path of integrity is the best policy for sustained success.
Do not think we can outsmart and cheat God. Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
18 Charity - They are God's people - God is a Rewarder
Pro 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
What we do to the poor, we also do to God.
God is a rewarder.
Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
19 Parenting - Discipline
Pro 19:18a Discipline your son, for there is hope;
Discipline is the way to save our children that behave not.
Pro 19:18b do not set your heart on putting him to death.
Not disciplining them when needed is like condemning them death. You are destroying their future.

20 Let the Consequences discipline
Pro 19:19 A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.
The most effective form of discipline is let the consequences be the teacher.
It helps them to make wise decisions.
21 Listen & Learn - Don't say I know already
Pro 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Growth and progress are about learning new things. When we said we know already, we may have stopped learning.
22 God In Control
Pro 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
You can't outsmart God - back to verse 1 don't try to cheat your way to wealth
Just obey God is the best policy. See v16.
23 Love is more valuable than Wealth
Pro 19:22 What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.
Go for something more valuable than wealth.
Poor but loving is better than a rich liar.
24 Fear of the Lord - It brings peace and security
Pro 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
The most important lesson of all is Fear and Obey the God.
25 Don't be Over-loving - It paralyzes
Pro 19:24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
You should not do everything for your children or someone in need that they do not want to take care of themselves and will always be a dependent person. It explains the famous saying, "You can bring a horse to the water but you cannot force it to drink."
26 Coaching is for Both Simple & Wise
Pro 19:25a Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
Teach the simple-minded scoffer to know the truth and to give respect.
Pro 19:25b reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
Man of wisdom will appreciate your correction done in good faith.
27 Honoring Our Parents
Pro 19:26 He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.
From being a good spouse, a good parent to honoring our own parents.
28 How does a fool come about?- A Checklist for Us
Pro 19:27 Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
Are we humble and open-minded to learn
29 Punishments are for sure.
Pro 19:28 A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
Don't be a false witness and a liar. Such actions are condemning justice.
Pro 19:29 Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools.
Two kinds of behaviors are bad and will be punished. The one who laughs at justice and truth with his lies and the fool who knows not what is right and wrong and do it wrongly.

The Key Lessons:
  1. Wealth is powerful and is to be desired.
    But it must be gained by the way of righteousness. (Mat 6:33).
    There is no instant or speedy solution but by the way of acquiring knowledge and hard work.
  2. Love is Better than Wealth.
    Even though wealth is powerful, love is even better. Helping others in need is recognized by God as helping him and they will be rewarded.
  3. The Fear of God is Best - Fear in the sense of respect, worship and awe so that we may be careful to do His will with our best efforts.
  4.  Always Learning and progressing.
  5.  Lies Not. Give no false testimonies.
  6. Be Not Lazy.
  7. Be a Good Spouse - not nagging.
  8. Be a Good Parent - teaching and discipline children with consequences 
  9. Be a Good Child - honoring parents
  10. Be a Good Teacher - teaching the simple and the wise
Lim Liat (c) 23 June 2017

Reading Reflectively to Get Better Understanding Using Proverbs 19:1 as an Example

Reading reflectively, filling in the blanks to get a whole picture will bring you greater understanding and revelation. Let's use Proverbs 19:1 as an example.

Proverbs 19:1
(KJV) Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

Dropping a Word
Some commentator can't integrate all the ideas together and so he drops some. For example,

 (BBE) Better is the poor man whose ways are upright, than the man of wealth whose ways are twisted.

The 'fool' is dropped as the commentator seems not to be abe to relate wealth and foolishness at the same time. This gives a distorted view. Even if it doesn't make sense to us, it doesn't mean we can take away some words to make it meaningful to us. That is distortion.

All There but is it Complete?
Some commentators got it all together -- So we find: 

(CJB) Better to be poor and live one's life uprightly than engage in crooked speech, for such a one is a fool. 


(CEV) It's better to be poor and live right than to be a stupid liar.

But they miss the wealth part. 

Reflectively Fill in the Implied Words.
The author is talking about poor and upright together in the first half of the verse. The 2nd half of the verse, 'perverse lips'  is opposite to the 'walking in integrity".  The first half is poor + integrity. The second should be '?' + perverse, and '?'+fool, with the '?' being the opposite of poor, i.e. rich.

The Better Interpretation:
To fully tied in the whole message, I would suggest a better interpretation as:

(1) It is better to poor and upright than trying to be rich by lying; such an act is foolish.

If we separate the fool and the liar, then I can say,

(2) It is better to be uprightly poor than a rich cheater(one who get rich by illegal means) or a rich fool (one who inherits his wealth and could not keep them but waste them).

Whether (1) or (2) is the correct interpretation can be determined by the context with the subsequent verses. This we will discuss in the next post.

Lessons for Us:

What can we learn from this verse?

  1.  Integrity/Honesty/Uprightness is more important than wealth/money.
  2. There is nothing with wealth, it is just that you must get it the right way.
    Chinese has a saying, 君子爱财 取之有道 gentleman follows the righteous way to get wealth.
  3. Getting wealth by way of cheating/lying/false testimony is not wise but foolish. You either cannot get it or even if you get it, it will not last and you will suffer other consequences. (note: the details are found in the remaining verses of Proverbs 19)

What do you think? Which is the right understanding?

Lim Liat (c) 23 June 2013


Love, Fear Not - Looking Deeper into Love and Fear

The Background

In last week Mandarin service at Petra Church, Ps Moses Largo's sermon was titled "爱,不怕 Love, Fear Not". It so happened that before the service, a FaceBook friend posted "The Three Treasures of Lao Zi". The first of which is Love. Lao Zi in Chapter 67 said that 慈故能勇 "Love enables one to be bold". What an interesting coincidence. It shows the teaching of Ancient Chinese Wisdom matches well with the Bible too.

Back to Moses' sermon. Here are some of the key points that I picked up.

  • The most touching part was his sharing of the premature birth of his son and all the challenges, the stresses, the fear, the comforts, the miracles and lessons that he and his wife had to go through.
  • Our view of God determines how we act. If we think our God is very strict and unforgiving, then we will live in fear and behave badly. This is the teaching from the servant with one mina who buried it (see Luke 19:11-27). When anything goes wrong, we will think it is God punishing us. Living in fear, we will do as little as possible to get by.
  • As an example, breastfeeding of a baby. The lesser the milk, the more stress the mother becomes. The greater the stress, the lesser the milk produced. Fear brings a vicious cycle of defeats. 
  • Fear is something we give away our control to. We let fear control us.
  • Fear, however, is powerful. It will not just stay we us but will also spread out to those around us, especially our children. 
  • Fear is also like a magnet. Fear draws the bad things toward us. Let Job 3, the things that he feared most had happened to him.
  • However, we have a choice to make. We can either give our fear to our children or the Words of God to them.
  • Seek God first in all our decision making.
  • Use LOVE to overcome Fear. 
  • However, just receiving love will not remove fears. Fears are overcome by loving others. So go and pray for other people. Go and help others. Love and concern for others will cast out fear.
Fears in the Bible - The right meaning of the Fear of God.
  • A typical meaning for Fear is afraid. Fear of sickness, injury, accidents, harms, even of devils etc.
  • However, there is another kind of Fear, the good kind, Fear of God. In Chinese, 畏, and usually, 敬畏, is used for the fear of God. 畏 has many meanings, the two key meanings are afraid and respect. We don't fear God because of His punishment but rather because of His love and honour. We fear that we may cause God to lose face when we sin. We do good things not to gain His approval but because we are already approved and hence want to please Him.
Overcoming Fears - Know that You are Not Entitled and yet Securely Loved and Protected
  • Apostle John reminded himself as "the disciple Jesus loved" often. Whereas Apostle Peter said he loved Jesus. The one that felt loved was bold to stay with Jesus all the way and be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The one who claimed he loved denied Jesus three times. A secured person is bold to help others because he is secured. A person who is a good swimmer is able to jump in the water to save others. A person who is not should not and could not save others.
  • Hurt people hurt others. Will loved people love others?
    Apostle John showed us that it was. But Jesus' parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35 - The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant - Bible Gateway) seems to indicate otherwise. It is only when love is truly felt inside that will trigger the boldness to care for others. The unmerciful servant only thought it was by his intelligent plead that go him off his hook and hence did not feel love nor grateful. Giving lots of things, giving a lot of blessings, do not automatically trigger love and boldness. It may just produce spoiled brats like the many stories of the bad behaviour of the rich and famous 2nd and 3rd generation children. They think they are the specially entitled people whereas others are not.
  • John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. Jesus did that for us without us doing anything to earn it. Henceforth, Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. We are not just saved, but saved for good work to glorify God (Eph 2:8-10). Loving others become a responsibility because we are of our Heavenly Father.
Lim Liat (c) 17 June 2017


Compare by All Means, But Pick the Right Target

The typical advice for happiness is "not to compare with others".  Others suggest that we compare ourselves with those better than us, we will be upset. So, we just compare ourselves with those worse off than us and then we will be happy and we feel blessed. All such pieces of advice are wrong. We are to compare so that we can learn where we stand and make improvements. However, the target of our comparisons must be right. We don't choose those who are better so that we become jealous nor we choose those who are less so that we pride ourselves. Our target must be the specific calling that God want us to be.

Our Target for Comparison

Paul gave us the following verses:

Ephesians 2:10  (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The target gives us a purpose, a meaning and a yardstick for us to steer our course and to check our progress.

It is a Journey with Him

It is not a lonely and tough journey because our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the assurance that He is with us even until the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20 NKJV ... to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. )

It is Not an Exam - There is no failure but a prize waiting.

We don't have to pass an exam. We are starting from the acceptance of God as a child of God. This journey is for us to grow-up to be like Him in our own unique masterpiece created by Him ( Rom 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.)

See also:

Lim Liat (c) 7 Jun 2017