The Application of Wisdom: Character (Part 1)

Notes on Proverbs

As one learns to accept the wisdom that comes from above, the result will be a change of character. As we consider some of the character traits that one will gain from a pursuit of wisdom, let us first begin by contrasting them with the negative character traits of one who rejects divine wisdom. Below is a list the wise man gives of seven abominations.

There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (6:16-19).

Haughty eyes are an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will be humble. The wise man is clear in connecting pride with sin. “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin” (21:4; cf. 21:24). Pride causes one to seek to elevate self, while the Scriptures teach that we should be humble enough that any praise we receive is not from ourselves, but from others. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (27:2). Pride also blinds one to his own sins. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (20:9). All men have sinned (Romans 3:23) and are in need of repentance. Those who deny this, in their arrogance, deceive themselves (1 John 1:8). Therefore, we must be humble if we are to follow the ways of wisdom.

A lying tongue is an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will be honest. Solomon says elsewhere, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight” (12:22). As lying is an abomination to the Lord, the “righteous man [also] hates falsehood” (13:5). One who is following after God’s wisdom will not be like many in the world who are truthful when it is convenient, but are more than willing to compromise their integrity in order to enrich themselves. The wise man says, “It is better to be a poor man than a liar” (19:22).

Hands that shed innocent blood are an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will be merciful. Solomon says, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (19:11). This verse is not about one condoning or tolerating sin, but rather that the wise man will desire a sinner’s repentance and be willing to forgive. Even when it comes to one’s enemies, though “men of bloodshed hate the blameless…the upright are concerned for his life” (29:10). The trait of mercy ought to become so ingrained into one’s character that he will not only be merciful to his fellow man, but will even have “regard for the life of his animal” (12:10).

A heart that devises wicked plans is an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will keep his thoughts pure. A man’s character is rooted in his heart. “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man” (27:19). From the heart “flow the springs of life” (4:23). Therefore, the wise man will guard his heart from wickedness. Solomon says, “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath” (11:23).

Feet that run rapidly to evil are an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will seek to do good. There are two problems with the wicked man here – his direction (toward evil) and his carelessness (he runs rapidly). In regard to direction, Solomon says, “The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright” (21:8). Elsewhere he says, “A man of understanding walks straight” (15:21), and, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who watches his way preserves life” (16:17). The wise man later says, “Better is the poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich” (28:6; cf. 19:1). But besides going the wrong direction, the wicked man is also careless. In contrast, the wise man will be careful and consider how he walks. “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly…” (14:16-17). The one who is in control of his emotions, however, will act with wisdom.

A false witness is an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will be just and fair. Earlier in the list was the abomination of a lying tongue. A false witness is different even though they both involve dishonesty. The false witness does not just utter a falsehood, but is offering false testimony against another, thereby denying that person justice. Solomon says, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (12:5). We should heed the warning: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape” (19:5). Since we will be held accountable, wisdom demands that we be fair and just in our treatment of others.

One who spreads strife is an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, the wise man will seek peace. There are a few warnings in the book of Proverbs that describe the destructiveness of strife. “A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them. Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (27:3-4). “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” (29:22). “Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger” (29:8). The strife that is caused by an angry man is like a crushing rock and a fire that burns down a city. But the last verse above describes the peacemaking efforts of the wise man – “wise men turn away anger.” Though peace is not always possible, Paul later said, “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). One who pursues divine wisdom will seek peace whenever it is possible.

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