June 6th 2018 – Proverbs 11:12-14

Whoever belittles his neighbour lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:12-14

The RSV turns 12a around to read 'He who belittles his neighbours lacks sense'. This rendering has the advantage of indicating that the 'despising' (AV) is vocal, and serves to show the connection with the thought of the next verse. Wisdom dictates an attitude of reticence and silence in the kind of situation envisaged here. 'Keeping things hidden' (13 RSV) bears a similar emphasis to 'love covereth all sins' (10:12), and this should bring a note of caution into our thinking about the place of confession in the experience of the Church. It is true that 'confession is good for the soul', and that it is biblically enjoined; but it is possible to be preoccupied with, and to glory in, confession for its own sake, and this is unhealthy and wrong. There are lots of things trailed out into the open that had no business to be thus trailed out. In our kind of society, the less people know about some things the better for everybody concerned. Sometimes a desire for such 'openness' simply panders to carnal instinct, and must be resisted, in the spirit of 13b. There is an interesting and significant emphasis in 14, which might raise problems for some who say, 'Ought we not to go to God, not to others, for our guidance and counsel (in terms of 3:5)?' Yes, sure 1:5, 20:18 and 24:6). Refusal to listen to the counsel of others in favour of 'listening to God' sometimes indicates a determination to depend on one's own judgment. 'Even the wisest and godliest are often given to blunders and errors of discernment; for infallibility is a dream indulged in concerning one man alone. To weigh a matter in the presence of God; to invite the counsel of those whose experience and spirituality evidence ability to try the things that differ, is the course of wisdom' (Ironside)