June 14th 2018 – Proverbs 12:10-16

Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
    but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
    but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
    but the righteous escapes from trouble.
From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
    and the work of a man's hand comes back to him.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice.
The vexation of a fool is known at once,
    but the prudent ignores an insult.

Proverbs 12:10-16

A series of contrasts between the righteous and the wicked follows in these verses. We could put 10 this way: a right man will never be cruel to an animal, and when people are cruel to animals, they are not right people. Where there is a basic reverence for life, this dictates a certain attitude which extends to brutish and even inanimate creation. 'Vain persons' in 11 is rendered 'worthless pursuits' in RSV. The proverb is a significant one, and is of wide application, not merely on the agricultural and industrial level, but also on cultural levels. One thinks of the paralysing effect of 'boxed' entertainment - music at the turn of a switch which has so largely killed the desire for making music by learning to play an instrument oneself, and the tyranny of the TV which has changed the reading habits of an entire generation and bids fair to destroy the ability of people to think independently and conduct intelligent conversation. The 'do-it-yourself' principle is given an absolute precedence in this realm. The contrast in 12, according to Kidner, seems to be between the delusive attractions of evil methods and the quiet rewards of goodness. 13 and 14 go back once more to the theme of words and deeds. It is impressive to see how frequently this crops up in Scripture (cf Matthew 12:36, 37). One thinks of Paul's solemn warning in Gal 6:7, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap' - this is true in both directions, for good or evil. A wise man, says 15 RSV, listens to advice (see 12:1). Note the paradox here: one would think that if a man is wise, he does not need to listen to advice; but in fact the wise man is usually quite open-minded, and prepared to concede the possibility that he might be wrong. He recognising that he is but a man, and not God. In 16 the RSV should be followed. The wisdom that makes a man open-minded also enables him to ignore an insult, knowing that ultimately it cannot hurt him.