More about hard issues

Wisdom From Proverbs

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
—Proverbs 27:1, NIV

Flipping through the channels on cable television, I find that there are lots of people who know my future. There are the preachers who know precisely when Jesus will come again and what will happen to me then. There are people who know that if I buy their exorbitantly expensive self-improvement tapes or attend their real-estate seminars, I will become a very wealthy slumlord. There are people who promise me wealth and fame if I sell dish detergent to my friends and family. And if that isn’t enough, there are psychics standing by, waiting to talk to me on the phone at five dollars an hour, to tell me every detail of my future finances and love life.

There are other people telling me my future too: According to my doctor, if I don’t keep my blood pressure down, I could die of renal failure. According to some actuarial tables I saw, I can reasonably expect to live until the year 2021, maybe longer. According to The Readers Digest, I could be a millionaire and not even know it. According to my best calculations, I will never have enough money to retire. There are atheists who make very cogent arguments, which I find difficult to refute, that when I die it is the end of me; my personality dissipates and is no more.

Every single end-times preacher I have ever heard has been dead wrong about the return of Christ. The self-improvement tapes were boring, and even though the seminar taught me how to buy my house, I am not rich. I tried selling the dish detergent, but I only got tired and annoyed my friends. I can’t call the Psychic Hotline on the telephone, because they went bankrupt! Now tell, me how did that take them by surprise? This isn’t the first time The Readers Digest has promised me millions, and the atheists have been wrong about a number of things. Just about every other thing I have been told about the future has not come to pass.

When I was a teenager, a girl in my youth group once openly speculated that if ever an end-times prognosticator successfully guessed the time of the second coming, God would revise the date so that we wouldn’t know the hour of His return. She meant it as a joke and we took it as a joke, but I wonder sometimes. I sometimes suspect that whatever we think the future will bring, God will deliberately change it just to keep us humble.

So you see, I really haven’t the foggiest idea how the future will turn out; it is in the hands of God. If my life were a car, I would have to say I don’t know how to drive it, because I can’t see the road ahead. So I think it’s best to let God drive this thing and trust Him that all the curves and bumps are necessary, and that the destination is good for me. (Sometimes it is as if God suddenly veers off the road, drives over the curb, and speeds over a rough gravel path. I ask Him why, I can’t hear the answer over the din, but it always turns out to have been a short cut.) Even if I had certain knowledge of the future like all those people on cable television, I would trade it all in to be on good terms with God. For I know that whatever the future holds for me, if I am on good terms with God, it will work out for me.

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips.
—Proverbs 27:2, NIV

If someone at work thanks you for something that you have done, and asks what they can do in return, don’t hesitate to ask them to tell your manager about it. If someone does something good for you, don’t thank them, thank their manager. These things have a way of getting into personnel files and improving life for everyone.

Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.
—Proverbs 27:3, NIV

It is hard to remain silent when you are provoked, but if you are provoked by a fool and you add to the foolishness by responding, the heavy burden of the provocation becomes even heavier and crushes you. At Thanksgiving dinner some years ago, my brother poured the coffee. When he came to my cup, he taunted me, saying, “Gee, Ken, I’m glad to see you’re cutting back on sugar! Must be about a half a cup in there!” and on and on. I was enraged at his provocation and I was tempted to fight back, to protest that it was none of his business that I took sugar with my coffee, and that I deserved some consideration because I had cooked the meal. But I decided that no one would be moved if I tried to get them pity my emotional wounds. So in a rare moment of self-control I replied, “Well, I’m glad to see you’re cutting back on your etiquette!” Everyone laughed, my brother blushed, the provocation was turned aside, and that was the end of that.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
—Proverbs 27:5, NIV

By now everyone on planet Earth has seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which was about a man who was the victim of hidden love. He was respected and well-loved, but no one told him about it, so during a crisis he despaired of his life and attempted suicide. It took the rebuke of an angel to set things aright: he realized the value of his life, and in the crisis, all the people who had hidden their love finally brought it out into view.

Why did they hide their love? Because in the face of his goodness, they felt unworthy to thank and praise him.

If there are helpful and trustworthy people in your life, do not hide your appreciation. There are people we respect so much, we think they are too big for our praise and too worthy for our appreciation, but it is not so. Haven’t you heard that it’s very difficult for a beautiful girl to get a date, because all the boys are intimidated by her beauty and are afraid she’ll turn them down? Well, the same thing is true about wise and helpful saints. No one tells them how helpful they are, not because their help isn’t appreciated, but because people feel intimidated by their wisdom and kindness.

Don’t hide your love! Even God’s greatest saints can despair for lack of praise, and there might not be an angel at the bridge to rebuke them in time.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
—Proverbs 27:6, NIV

Have you ever noticed how strange rich people look? A friend of mine was commenting on a millionaire’s outlandish hair-do and clothing recently. He diagnosed the problem as a surplus of groupies and a deficit of friends. “People who are out for your money won’t tell you that you look funny,” he observed, “Only a friend will tell you in confidence that your fly is open or your dress is outlandish or your hair-do looks like a UFO landed on your head.”