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Honesty in Doing Business
This verse deals with doing business. It is just as it happens on the market and in the shop, so in the everyday life. God wants that all trade transactions happens honestly. When that does not happen, it is “an abomination” to Him; when it does happen, it is “His delight”. We see here God’s personal response to the way in which trade happens. The use of “a false balance” implies that one of the members of His people is being deprived. God defends the deprived one here. In His ‘balance’ of the conduct of the seller, He uses an absolute honest measure.
There is nothing in the everyday life that is outside of Him. The life of His people ought to reflect His features. Everything ought to happen in accordance to His will, which means in accordance to Whom He is as light and love. That goes also for doing business.
Because in doing business it is especially about profit, money, there are dangers especially there to be dishonest. One can easily be driven by the love for money. Asking more money than the product is worth, give a little less than is paid for, increases the gain. God knows His people and He therefore wants them to use “just balances, a just ephah and a just bath” (Ezekiel 45:10).
All through the Scripture dishonesty in business is being condemned (Leviticus 19:35-Zephaniah :; Deuteronomy 25:13-Nehemiah :; Amos 8:5). God does not only forbid it, it is an abomination to Him. God accepts one’s practice only if it is honest. He makes sure whether we deliver the product according to the money we ask for that very product. Dishonesty flourishes when God is not being considered. A false balance is literally a ‘weight of deception’. Whoever uses a false balance, lacks honesty in his heart (Proverbs 11:20).
To be honest is linked by God in the law to the redemption of His people from Egypt (Leviticus 19:35-Zephaniah :). Through the redemption He made them His own people. Therefore they should be honest, like He is. This is how we, who belong to the church of God, ought to be honest in our doing business, because of our redemption from the world. Every injustice, every dishonesty, should be avoided by us (1 Corinthians 6:8). That does not only apply to material matters, but also when we must deal with conflicts or sins. Do we then maintain an honest standard, or do we let our balance be influenced by family bonds or friendship relations?
Humility and Uprightness
“Pride”, or arrogance, is literally ‘to overcook’, or crossing the borders and the characteristic of rebellion (Proverbs 11:2). Proud people exalt themselves to the level of a goddess. In the slipstream of their exaltation follows “dishonor”, a word which means ‘to be deflated’. The proud, puffed-up man is like a balloon that deflates, until only a rag is left.
A striking illustration of that is of Herod Agrippa, who let himself to be celebrated as God and was immediately eaten by the worms and died (Acts 12:21-Isaiah :). He was a puffed-up god who shriveled into a rag. Also the pharisees are puffed-up. They think greatly of themselves in their relation with God and despicably look down on others (Luke 18:9-2 Kings :; Matthew 6:5). The Lord speaks out the ‘woe to you’ over them (Mt 23). Another example of pride is the great Babylon, which is the roman church, which will also be judged for that (Revelation 18:7-Ruth :). The only thing that will be left of it is “the smoke of its fire” (Revelation 18:18).
The opposite of pride is humility. “With the humble is wisdom”, which appears from the place that they take towards God and men. They do not arrogate anything; they are not puffed-up. With them there is the fear for God, which is their wisdom. They will be exalted at God’s time (Luke 14:11; 1 Peter 5:6).
He who is humble is also upright (Proverbs 11:3). The consequence or result of inner “integrity” is that it “will guide the upright” on the way that they go and in the relationships that they have. There is freedom and life in their walk, both for themselves and for those that they meet. We see here the blessed influence which integrity has to the upright. Integrity is a mind of heart, which comes to expression in acting honestly and faithfully.
In contrast to the upright, we have “the treacherous”. With them there is no integrity, but the opposite, “crookedness”. This crookedness appears from the wrong ways that they go and the wrong doctrine that they proclaim. They themselves suffer from its effect. Because of their crookedness they destroy themselves. We see here the destructive influence that crookedness has on the treacherous themselves. Whoever seeks to harm others, will harm himself.
Righteousness Saves and Guides
Although one possesses all the gold and silver of the world, it is of no meaning “in the day of wrath”, which is the day of the wrath of God over sin (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:18; Ezekiel 7:19; Mark 8:37-Zechariah :). ‘The day of wrath’ can be both the day of death and the coming judgment. In today’s life a judge can be bribed with one’s property and one can be bailed out from his punishment. But it does not work like that with God. The only thing that counts on that day is whether a person is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (1 Peter 1:18-Psalms :). Whoever has been redeemed by it, has the righteousness of God through the faith in Christ. Only that “righteousness delivers from death”.
Righteousness not only delivers from death, but also has great practical value for life. Righteousness makes the way of the blameless smooth (Proverbs 11:5). The blameless is incorruptible, impeccable, always honest. That appears from his righteousness, from doing the right thing. That’s why his way is also smooth. There is nothing distorted or ambiguous about it. He goes a safe and secure way through life. The way that Joseph went in the midst of his brothers and in Egypt, is an example of it. It is perfectly true of the Lord Jesus, the perfectly Blameless, and it is also true for everyone who blamelessly follows Him.
What characterizes the way of the blameless, is totally missing with the wicked. With him we see the opposite. His wickedness does not give him any stability in life, but on the contrary causes his fall.
In Proverbs 11:6 there is again mention of “the righteousness of the upright”. In Proverbs 11:5 it is the singular, ‘the upright (or the blameless)’, now it is plural. It is now about the salvation from dangerous, life-threatening situations. The smooth way of Proverbs 11:5 is a way with dangers. The same righteousness that makes the way smooth, also helps with overcoming difficulties on that very way. The upright seek their help with Him Who has given the righteousness.
“The treacherous” lack righteousness and therefore also help in dangers. They do not even see those dangers, but are led by their “greed”. They are “caught” by their own greed, which makes them to be captivated by it as in a prison. Their greed causes them to commit sins, which surround them as a net out of which they cannot liberate themselves. By that net they are being dragged to the judgment and ultimately to the eternal death.
The Fate of the Wicked
“The expectation” of “a wicked man” perishes the moment that he dies (Proverbs 11:7; Psalms 49:17-Proverbs :). From this verse speaks a great tragedy which is related to the expectation that the wicked believes that he has. Every expectation for a long life or success will end in disillusionment because that expectation is anchored in the confidence in earthly property.
Even “the hope of strong men” that they would always live prosperously with an unshakable confidence in carrying out all of their plans, will fade away like a vapor when they die. The Lord Jesus tells about a rich man who dies without God. This man had to leave all his riches behind and in the afterlife could not even find just a drop of water to cool off his tongue (Luke 16:19-Obadiah :).
What a grace that the believer may have a certain hope, a hope that does not perish when he dies, but on the contrary will be fulfilled. The hope of the believer is a security; it is a hope that does not disappoint (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 5:5). Therefore he hopes “with perseverance” (Romans 8:24-Lamentations :).
“The righteous is delivered from trouble” by God (Proverbs 11:8). The righteous may find himself in trouble. We can think of oppressive, squeezing situations that limit him in his freedom and which frighten him. Wicked men may make his life very anxious. But God will make sure that he will not die and He will save him from it.
What strikes “the wicked”, is in contrast to that, but in a remarkable way. The wicked not only receives a deserved punishment, but he takes the place which he first brought the righteous to. The roles are being reversed. A clear example of that is Haman, who got hanged instead of Mordecai (see Esther 7:10; Esther 9:1). We see the same happen with the men who are thrown in the lion’s den instead of Daniel, (Daniel 6:24-Lamentations :). This reversal of roles will also happen when the Lord Jesus will appear. The believers will then be delivered from the tribulation and the wicked will then come into the tribulation (2 Thessalonians 1:6-Judges :).
Knowledge Delivers From the Godless Man
“The godless man” is an unrighteous person. He pretends to be a helpful neighbor, but he is an enemy. “With [his] mouth” he seeks to “destroy his neighbor”, which emphasizes how extremely vicious he is. He gives his neighbor the expectation that he wants to be useful to him, to seek the good for him. Instead of fulfilling that expectation, he seeks his destruction. He speaks all kinds of evil about his neighbor in order to deliver him a bad name. This is also called ‘character assassination’. In this way he makes the life of his neighbor a torture.
But “the righteous” will not fall prey to his wickedness. They actually have “knowledge”. Due to their knowledge they see through the godless man. They see the real intention behind the words of the godless man; they unmask and resist him. The mouth of the godless man is stopped and the righteous are saved. The faithful Christian knows, by holding fast “the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching”, how “to refute the opponents”, by which he “silences them” (Titus 1:9-1 Kings :).
The Joy and Exaltation of a City
In Proverbs 11:10-1 Kings : it is not about individuals, but about “a city”, a living community. A living community knows how to estimate it when it goes well with the righteous (Proverbs 11:10). That “it goes well” with the righteous, meaning their condition of prosperity, is because of their honest trading, which benefits the city. A city, which means the civilians of the city, even shouts and rejoices in it (cf. Esther 8:15).
There is also joyful shouting when the wicked perish (2 Kings 11:20). There will also be a joyful shout and rejoicing in heaven when the wicked Babylon has been destroyed (Revelation 18:20-Ecclesiastes :; Revelation 19:1-Exodus :). In the first case there is joy over the good influence of the righteous. In the second case there will be rejoicing because of the elimination of the destructive influence of the wicked.
The good influence of the upright and the bad influence of the wicked on the life in a city are underlined in Proverbs 11:11. “The upright” speak out blessing over the city and wishes it prosperity. It does not stop with the wish of blessing, but the upright also work blessing. This is how the city is “exalted”. It receives a good reputation; it is a pleasant place to dwell into. The city becomes attractive.
The opposite is ‘the promotion’ by the wicked. They tear it down with their words. They do that by speaking negatively about the city, but also by their general language use. Out of their mouth comes only curse and filthiness. Even with a decent language use, like many politicians often use, forgery is hidden in their words and they follow a hidden agenda. They present themselves as protectors, but their practice will expose that they tear down the city.
We can apply this to the local church of God as a city. When we are upright, we will say good things about the church as a local community and will want to be a blessing to it. All who participate in the local church will rejoice in it. People who do not have any connection with it, because they live without God, will not allow a local church any basis of existence. They will spread slander about it and make every effort to make the life of the Christians unlivable and the gatherings impossible. Such people may also find themselves in the church and do their destructive work by spreading false doctrines.
Understanding and Trustworthiness
He who despises his neighbor, proves that he “lacks sense” (literally ‘is without a heart) (Proverbs 11:12). Such a person totally lacks self-knowledge. He also shows his despise. That appears from the second line of the verse. Someone who has understanding about what he is himself, will not speak despicably about his neighbor, but “keeps silent”. He is aware that his neighbor is not less than himself and that he himself is like his neighbor. The standard for the Christian is even higher: he will regard the other person “with humility of mind as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3; Ephesians 4:25).
A person who goes about “as a talebearer”, is doing wrong and is not to be trusted (Proverbs 11:13; cf. 1 Timothy 5:13). When something is entrusted to him in secret, he will reveal it publicly with pleasure. In contrast to that stands the person who “is trustworthy”. When something is said to him confidently, he will conceal that matter and not reveal it. He will not misuse the confidence that has been given to him and will therefore not harm and disappoint the person who has confided in him.
Wise Counsel – Don’t Be a Guarantor
“Wise counsel” is essential for the stability of a people (Proverbs 11:14). Wise counsel is to be compared with the piloting of a ship. That ship is the people here, the nation. The old expression ‘the Ship of State’ indicates it. The comparison is made, because a ship, concerning its safety, is also dependent on the guidance of a captain who has to be an expert in his field. Without the guidance of men in ‘the Ship of State’ who are able to lead the people, the ship will sink, which means that “the people fall”. But “in abundance of counselors”, through many wise men in all kinds of area, “there is victory” from the hardship and the people are saved from the fall.
This also applies to the people of God, of which the local church is a representative. Consultation in prayer and on the basis of God’s Word is necessary to be a church where the Lord Jesus can be in its midst. At the meeting in Jerusalem about the dispute whether the peoples have to keep the law, they came to a liberating conclusion, due to the contributions of several wise counselors (Acts 15).
For a solidly financial management it is necessary not to commit inexplicable financial obligations. One of that kind of inexplicable obligations is being “a guarantor for a stranger” (Proverbs 11:15). To be a guarantor is an extremely stupid commitment (cf. Proverbs 6:1-Joshua :), certainly when it is done for a stranger. Solomon is very clear here in his warning: he who is guarantor for a stranger “will surely suffer for it”. He who is guarantor, guarantees the other that he will pay for his debt when this person is not able to, while he has no guarantee that the other person will pay him back. That can lead him to his own bankruptcy and poverty.
Due to the contradiction in the second line of the verse, it is emphasized how dangerous it is to be guarantor. It is about nothing less than a “secure”, carefree life. That is the prospect of him “who hates to strike hands” as it is literally said. To strike hands is the confirmation of an agreement, which we make today by the means of our signature. Never sign anything or never give any kind of confirmation before you fully know about what you have obligated yourself to with your signature.
A Gracious Woman and Ruthless Men
“A gracious woman” is a charming, endearing woman. The woman is indeed ‘the weaker vessel’ (1 Peter 3:7), though she yet has the power to attain “honor”. She does that like “ruthless men attain riches”. Her power is actually expressed in a totally different way from the ruthless men. Her power is not physical, but spiritual by nature. She is a woman with virtue, which is spiritual courage or power, a woman who trusts in God. An example of that is Ruth (Ruth 3:11).
She is “gracious” or endearing because she attains imperishable “honor”. That honor will remain, even if the outward beauty diminishes. She knows its value. That it should be ‘attained’, means that there are powers in action that are seeking to take away her honor. In the New Testament the honor of the woman is related to her long hair, which is a symbol of her submissiveness towards the man (1 Corinthians 11:15). She attains it, in spite of all violence of emancipation.
Ruthless men attain perishable “riches”. In order to safeguard their riches, they use physical violence against their neighbor. They have gained their riches with violence and will attain them with violence. When a neighbor turns to them to take back what they have robbed from them, they will chase them away with violence.
The Results of Righteous or Wicked Conduct
Whoever is “merciful” to others, will experience the beneficial result of it “himself”, which means, he himself, personally (Proverbs 11:17). A “merciful man” loves his neighbor, loves those who are related to him or whomever he comes into contact with. Such a person is a follower of God, Who is merciful, showing His mercifulness to men (Titus 3:4). Rahab showed mercifulness to the spies and in that way did herself good and also those who belonged to the household of her father (Joshua 2:12; Joshua 2:14).
It works in the same way with “a cruel man”, but then in reverse. Whoever is without mercy, works his own misfortune. Such a person is barbarian, who lacks all the love for his neighbor, both in his thoughts and in his conduct. He leads himself in the misfortune. That’s what Ahab and Jezebel experienced (1 Kings 22:37-Zechariah :; 2 Kings 9:36-Haggai :).
“The wicked man” is doing work which is “deceptive”, which means work that delivers nothing, which is without result (Proverbs 11:18). “He who sows righteousness” (cf. James 3:18), will have a different experience. Such a person causes others to do righteousness in their lives, which in its turn is a benefit again for other ones. Whatever is sown, will bear fruit (1 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:6). The harvest it delivers, is here called “true reward”.
When “true righteousness” is sown (Proverbs 11:18), it will “attain to life” (Proverbs 11:19). With life here is meant the life in its deepest and richest form, which means the life in fellowship with God, the eternal life. Doing righteousness belongs together with life. In contrast to that is the “pursuit of evil”, which is making every effort to pursue evil. That always inevitably “brings about one’s own death”. Like righteousness and life, doing evil and death belong together, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
“The perverse in heart” (Proverbs 11:20) are the people who have a crooked, distorted mind. Their whole spiritual life has been influenced by evil and permeated with it. They are “an abomination to the LORD”, because they invent cunning things with their heart and in no way want to consider God’s will. But “the blameless in walk”, which are those who inwardly are focused on Him and therefore go His way, “are His delight”.
Just like in Proverbs 11:1 it comes down to what is “an abomination to the LORD” and the opposite of what is “His delight”. In Proverbs 11:1 it is about honestly or dishonestly doing business, the practice of life. Here it is about the state of the heart, whether it is evil or upright. It is not only about the outward behavior, but especially about the motives behind it. God notices our ways and also sees what is in our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We may actually be honest, but the motivation is only seeking our own benefit. In that case we are not His delight.
There will be a day of vengeance, which is something you can be sure of; that is “assuredly” (literally “hand to hand”) as something that is confirmed with striking hands (Proverbs 11:21). Every person will come before the judgment seat of God and give account for his deeds (Romans 14:10-2 Kings :; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Then the evildoer will not be able to declare himself “unpunished”. The Judge fully sees through him. But “the descendants of the righteous”, which are not the offspring, but everyone who belongs to the generation of the righteous, will escape from the judgment (cf. John 5:24).
A Beautiful Woman Who Lacks Discretion
An outwardly “beautiful woman” but “who lacks discretion”, is comparable to a beautiful “ring of gold” that has been put in “a swine’s snout”. The Israelite women wore amongst other adornments a nose ring (Genesis 24:22; Genesis 24:30Genesis 24:47; Isaiah 3:21). It doesn’t make any sense to think that wearing a nose ring for an animal that is always dirty, would make it beautiful. It agrees to the Dutch saying: it fits as a flag on a broomstick.
The comparison is that a beautiful jewel is related to an unworthy body. A swine does not know the value of it. You may want to adorn the animal with jewels and in that way try to make it attractive, but the animal will still stink and will always have pleasure in living in the mud and the stench. The ring will therefore lose its beauty. Jezebel was such a woman. There was absolutely no agreement between her conduct and her wealthy appearance. Her outward decoration faded in the light of her corrupt inner being (2 Kings 9:30). We can also apply this to the nice appearance of the roman church, which is however full of corruption in the inside (Revelation 17:4-Joshua :).
The true adornment of a woman is in the inside, in her heart, in her mind (1 Peter 3:3-Numbers :). Of Abigail it is first noticed that she was “intelligent” and then that she was “beautiful in appearance” (1 Samuel 25:3). A woman is attractive when she shows the mind and features of Christ. The bride, the wife of the Lamb, will possess those features in full glory (Revelation 21:9-2 Samuel :).
The Blessing of the Righteous
The character of “the righteous” and “the wicked” appears not only from what they do, but also from what they desire and expect (Proverbs 11:23). “The righteous” have no other desire than “only good”. They are in relation with God and therefore have a desire for good material and spiritual things, in order to do good with them themselves in their turn.
“The expectation of the wicked” will bring them only “wrath”. They have no relation with God and expect to gain profit from their wicked life as much as they possibly can. But their expectation will lead to nothing else than to God’s “wrath” upon them, because all their desires provoke God’s wrath.
In the government of God it is ordained in such a way, that first there is to be scattered, given, sown, which is followed by the profit, the harvest, the advantage (Proverbs 11:24). God also wants us to “scatter” mildly or abundantly, not scarcely. When that happens, one will experience that the harvest is much more abundant than what has been scattered, given away or sown (Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-1 Samuel :; Psalms 112:9). We can also scatter time and attention.
The opposite is also true. There are people “who withhold what is justly due”. They assume that they will become rich in that way. But except that they do others injustice, they also deceive themselves. All the profit that they have gained dishonestly will lead to their lack, for God will revenge on them. Ultimately they will end up with nothing but a list that’s full of debts which they are not able to settle anymore.
Not granting a person what is his, is also a form of withholding what is justly due. Nabal had that attitude toward David (1 Samuel 25:10-1 Kings :; 1 Samuel 25:38). The chief tax collector Zacchaeus became aware of such an attitude on time and repented of this sin (Luke 19:8).
Proverbs 11:25 connects to Proverbs 11:24. “A generous man” is someone who spreads blessing around him in both words and deeds; he benefits others and seeks the happiness of others. Whoever does that, will receive the blessing of it for himself. People will do good to him; he himself will be satisfied. Whoever refreshes others (spiritually), will be refreshed himself in that way. We see that with the Lord Jesus in His conversation with the Samaritan woman. The spiritual food that He gave the woman, had also refreshed Himself (John 4:31-Nahum :; Matthew 10:42; Jeremiah 31:24).
He who does not scatter blessing (Proverbs 11:25), but on the contrary keeps everything to himself selfishly in the very time of scarcity, will be cursed by the people (Proverbs 11:26). God wants us to pass the blessing, which he has blessed us with, on to others. That goes for both the material and the spiritual blessing. If we make the blessing which we have received, available and offer it for sale, blessing will be on our head. With selling we do not necessarily consider only money or a means of exchange. What ‘to sell’ means is that another person should make an effort to come into the possession of what is offered for sale (cf. Proverbs 23:23).
Anyone who knows how to value it, will pursue it, which means that he will make an effort to come into the possession of it (Proverbs 11:27). Such a person is seeking “favor”, whereby we may especially think of the favor of God. He who “seeks evil”, does that because he thinks to profit from it. He will not consider it evil what he pursues. Nobody pursues evil for himself. It is about evil things in the sight of God. He will, however, not receive what he seeks, but it will “come to him”. That refers to a cause from the outside. It means that he ultimately will be struck by the wrath of God’s judgment.
The Increase of the Righteous
Wanting to become rich and misusing riches are to be condemned. There is another evil related to riches and that is trusting in riches (Proverbs 11:28). “He who trusts in his riches”, will be ashamed. He will notice that to his cost when he “will fall”. Riches offer no firm foundation for life. To fall means that one’s life ends up in a mess. The cause of it is that he does not give God any room in his life (Luke 12:16-Ecclesiastes :).
To “the righteous” the opposite is applied. They trust in God and “flourish like the [green] leaf”. Their life is rooted in Him and is characterized by prosperity and fertility (cf. Psalms 92:12-Ezra :; Jeremiah 17:7-Ruth :). The life of those who trusts in riches, is like a fallen and dried leaf, while that of the righteous keeps growing like a green leaf that’s full of vitality.
A person who in his greed thinks only about himself, will trouble his own house (Proverbs 11:29). He has absolutely no interest in the other members of his household, whom he only considers to be a burden in his pursuit of evil. What is left of his efforts is only wind: nothing that he can grasp with his hands. From the way he has directed his household, it appears that he is a fool. The second line of the verse assumes that he has lost everything, which caused him to get into so many debts, that he had to hire out his services as a servant himself to “the wise-hearted”.
What the righteous produces (Proverbs 11:30), is in contrast to the fool of Proverbs 11:29. His life as a righteous person shows that he has life. That very life is not in himself. What comes out of him, what becomes visible of the life which is in him, comes from the true Tree of life, the Lord Jesus. The life of the righteous looks therefore like the life of Him, the perfect Righteous One.
This similarity also comes to expression in the relation towards other people. A person who produces a tree of life as fruit, is someone who seeks to bring other people into relation with the true Tree of life. It is mainly about making other people to be drawn by and be won for wisdom. Whoever does that, whoever catches souls in that way, is wise.
We can also apply that to the gospel. We can become fishers of men and catch them (Matthew 4:19) by winning them for Christ, so that they may follow Him. Paul is a special example of such a wise man (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:20-Song of Solomon :; 1 Corinthians 10:33). His whole ministry is a source of life and spiritual food for the generations after him.
“A righteous” has got to do with the government of God (Proverbs 11:31) as has the “the wicked and the sinner”. God in His righteousness has to deal with every sin, regardless who commits that sin. A righteous who sins, has to bear and face its consequences. Moses is an example of that. Because he sinned, he was not allowed to lead the people into the promised land. Also the life of David shows the truth of what is written here. This revenge happens on earth. A comfort thereby is that the righteous may know that Christ helps him bearing the consequences of his sins, because He bore the judgment over his sins on the cross.
“The wicked and the sinner” will equally deal with the consequences of his sins on earth and will have to bear them. But there is a “how much more” (this is the first of the four ‘how much more’ proverbs, Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 15:11Proverbs 19:7; Proverbs 21:27). He will have to bear the burden alone because he lives without Christ and, if he still does not repent, will die without Him. It looks like Peter quotes this word in his first epistle, when he writes: “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany