Proverbs 10 has no new words. The word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. It is sufficient for all that we need for a life of faith in following the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness;” The Greek word for inspired by God is theópneustos. We don’t need to add hundreds of words to the Word. Our words need to be full of integrity.
Conduct: Wise and Foolish (Proverbs 10:8-10)
In vv. 8–10, we have three sayings contrasting the wise with the fool. The first encourages compliance with “commands” (may refer to scriptural commands) from superiors—a fool talks too much to be attentive to them. Derek Kidner titles this section “the obedience and the opinionated.”
Do you receive instructions and respond to them? Are you wise of heart when someone tells you what to do, or are you opinionated? We live in a culture that’s so experiential and emotional. The idea of obedience seems intolerant or abusive.
The second saying holds out the promise that security goes with integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. We’ll never regret doing something with integrity and considering the weight of our words. Finally, the third breaks the parallel in verse 10. He is likely saying that winking is like a deceptive leading, but it’s not as egregious as the babbling fool who will end in ruin.
Conduct: Good or Evil (Proverbs 10:11-12)
There are two pairs in this text that contrast good/evil and wisdom/folly. It’s not unlike Psalm 36:9, which says, “For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light, we see light.” Wisdom is found not only in Proverbs but across the text.
The 2nd proverb of this first pair compares the attitudes behind the two types. The wicked are motivated by hatred that brings dispute, but the righteous are motivated by harmonious love. We find the same instruction in our New Testament. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Speech, Wise or Foolish (Proverbs 10:13-14)
Wisdom is in the lips of the discerning. Notice that the lips are on the front of the person, but the rod is used on the back of the person. All through the Proverbs, these nuances are not coincidental happenstance. It all points back to the fact that scripture is inspired by God. Derek Kinder writes, “If your mind is enlightened, wisdom will overflow into your words and so into others’ lives. If your mind is closed, God will still deal with you, but by force.”
Wealth & Security (Proverbs 10:15)
Wealth is not evil; instead, we are warned against the love of money. Don’t despise wealth. And don’t embrace poverty with altruism. The contrast is clear: wealth affords security. The word fortress in Hebrew holds the idea of a strong structure that brings security.
It’s a witticism to say that wealth can be a fortress. Solomon juxtaposes this with poverty being the ruin of the poor. He’s laying the blame on those who are impoverished. Does that mean all people deserve the blame for being poor? No, that’s not what the Proverb was saying. Remember that scripture does not vilify the wealthy or celebrate the impoverished. Building wealth gives you security, but poverty brings ruin due to self-inflicted choices.
Earnings: Use or Abuse (Proverbs 10:16)
Rewards are determined by moral choice and how we use what we have. The proverb contrasts righteous life with wicked punishment. God’s word is clear: righteousness brings life, while wickedness brings punishment. What one receives in life depends on a wise use of gifts and a righteous character. Kidner admonishes us not to blame poverty for the quality of life. The point is not smearing of the poor but instruction to live righteously.
Romans 6:23 and 3:23 talk about the wages of sin being death because what you earn as a sinner is death. If your commerce is sinning, without salvation, what will you earn? However, the free gift is in Christ Jesus for those who believe.
Heed Indeed (Proverbs 10:17)
Throughout the book of Proverbs, we see the common theme of the path. We see the path of life followed by those who listen to instruction. This path of life lasts a lifetime. We never get to a point where we stop living righteously. You must keep living a faithful life of wisdom and righteousness because that matters to God. To hold fast to discipline is a path of life. Ignoring correction influences others.
Speech: Restrained and Righteous (Proverbs 10:19-21)
Practically, restraining the tongue helps avoid sin and exposes the nearly impossible animal to tame. We rarely regret restraining our lips; we often regret our words when we open our mouths.
We find righteous speech or words of value in Proverbs 10:20. What the righteous say is infinitely more valuable than what the wicked intend. The contrast is between the tongue (i.e., what is said) and the mind (“heart,” i.e., what is determined). Righteous speech, like silver, is valuable and treasured. What the righteous say brings edification, whereas the fool lacks character and understanding. They ruin the lives of those around them.
Catch up on the rest of the Proverbs series here.
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