The Irresponsible (Proverbs 6:1-5)
We begin with the father’s instruction toward his son. This is essentially saying, absolve yourself from foolishness. Watch out for irresponsible people. Don’t pledge yourself as a guarantee for someone else’s debt. In our culture, we can equate this to cosigning a loan. When you do this, you indenture yourself to someone else’s problem. Proverbs 11:15-18 underscores the picture of these pledges being a ‘garment’ representing the person. You are ‘wearing’ their troubles.
You’ve indentured yourself and now wear the weight of his problem on your back and around your neck. The phrase ‘given a pledge’ means struck or clapping your hand, demonstrating the sealing of an agreement. Not unlike the phrase, “a man’s word, his handshake was as good as a contract.” This is a snare. The Old Testament describes a trap that was deceptive and too fast to avoid the consequences.
To be a co-signer is to put yourself under someone else’s debt problem. This is illustrated profoundly in our current country with student loans and the government’s loan relief programs for students. That’s a fool’s errand designed by fools that people who are responsible have to bear the burden for, and it won’t get any better. So, as a Christian living in the culture, you must understand what you’re up against.
The Language of The Text
The language in this text is fascinating. Wisdom is shouting at you. Don’t go into debt because you’re a slave to it. He’s trapped, and he has to deliver himself. This reminds us that personal responsibility is a great teacher.
The urgency of the father’s warning to the son is underscored in Proverbs 6:3-5. Sleep in scripture is generally considered a blessing. Physically it provides rest, restoration, and refreshment. Spiritually it is under God’s care and protection that one sleeps soundly, without fear or anxiety. Too much sleep is a curse. Too much sleep is dangerous. Sampson found out the hard way in Judges 16 when he lost everything in his sleep.
The word fowler in Hebrew means baitlayer. It’s used 40 times in the Old Testament. You’re to get out of the fowler’s hand, get away as quickly as possible. The irresponsible person has to take action with humility in importune. Importune means a boisterous or proud approach. To paraphrase, shaking hands trapped you; now you need to shake your hand to get out of your trap.
The Lazy (Proverbs 6:6-11)
A lazy person does the least they can do. The trajectory here moves from irresponsibility to laziness and ultimately to wickedness. Proverbs 6 teaches us the trap of the lazy leads to poverty. This section is about the sluggard- a word only used in Proverbs.
The sluggard does not start or finish anything. He will not take the initiative, finish things, or face things. Proverbs 22:13 underscores the laziness of the sluggard. He will make excuses not to get up and go to work. Then, in Proverbs 20:4, we read that the sluggard does not plow in the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing. Derek Kidner writes that Solomon shames the slugger twice over. Look at the ants on the ground. They don’t need a manager. They gather provisions in the harvest and work all the time.
The sluggard, like the fool, will not learn. He will face poverty and need, resulting in a parasitic existence. He is a person that goes from job to job. To quote my father, “the reward of work is not the end of work, but the work itself.” That came from me saying I couldn’t wait for the weekend. He would say, “boy, you’re wishing your life away.” Enjoy the day. There is a lot of wisdom in that if you don’t like what you’re doing daily, that’s a problem. The entitlement culture is the perfect illustration of the sluggard. ‘You owe it to me; You made a lot of money; You can pay for my problem.’ That’s a lie from hell. The person who works, lives under their income, gives, saves, and invests will do fine.
The Wicked (Proverbs 6:12-19)
Dr. Bruce Waltke calls this section, ‘morally inferior men.’ The father is lecturing the son to watch out for these three (irresponsible, lazy, and wicked). Therefore, generally speaking, the fool and the sluggard will not change. Primarily though, the naive and simple are those who are not yet wise but can be filled with the right things. If they listen to wisdom, the simple and naive will become wise.
The Seven Marks of Evil Doers
- Haughty eyes- They are full of arrogant ambition and willful rebellion. Numbers 15:30 shows the sin of the high hand.
- Lying tongue- They lie to deceive; a false prophet.
- Hands that shed innocent blood- These are willing instruments of murder.
- A heart that devises wicked plans- The one who plots evil. This points to Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on Earth and that every intent in the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This culture is only evil all the time. Our political system is only evil all the time.
- Feet that run to evil- Those that are ready to the gang, who delight in harming the innocent.
- False witness- Exodus 20:16 ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’
- One who spreads strife- This is the final abomination: paraphrased as ‘one who hates God.’ Spreading strife or dissension comes from contentious people given to arguing.
Allen Ross compares/contrasts these seven things God hates with the beatitudes. “If He hates these things, then conversely He must love humility, truthful speech, preservation of life, pure thoughts, eagerness to do good things, honest witnesses, and peaceful harmony.”
Are you a humble person? Do you speak the truth and work to preserve life? Keep your thoughts pure. God knows about our thought lives. We need pure thoughts, which is why you need to get your nose in a book. Use tools that help you swim out of the impasse so you’re not drowning in it. Eagerness to do good things, honest witnesses, and peaceful harmony is good.
Check out all of Michael’s recommended Proverbs resources here.