In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death. — Proverbs 12:28
I work for a school bus company, and one of my roles is to teach new employees how to drive buses. Usually, people who have never driven a forty-foot vehicle are primarily concerned about backing up the bus or learning how to make right and left turns without jumping the curb or sideswiping other vehicles. Those of us who have been doing this for a few years know that after mastering some simple techniques, the new drivers will be able to traverse narrow, winding roads or congested city traffic with no problem. Our highest priority is not in teaching technique, but in developing a profound commitment to safety. We know it is critical for bus drivers not only to be competent, but also cautious!
My goal is to instill in each of our new employees a passion for safety. If drivers really understand its importance, procedural guidelines will be followed even when no one is watching. They will be consistently alert when behind the wheel, will drive defensively, and will pay close attention to road and environmental conditions. They will not take what may seem like minor risks or skip routine safety procedures that they know should be performed, because they will be fully aware that such violations could threaten their livelihoods or even their lives.
In much the same way, I think the author of today’s chapters had a fervent desire to instill in his hearers a passion for righteousness. He knew that if they understood its vital importance, they would comply with the wise instructions for godly living that he was presenting. They would “love instruction” and take care to avoid the “counsels of the wicked.” They would turn away from those with a “perverse heart” and other “vain persons,” and take care not to fall into “the net of evil men” (Proverbs 12:1,5,8,11-12). They would heed the warning that “the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence” and find assurance in the fact that “righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way” (Proverbs 13:2,6).
The admonition we read in these chapters is as profitable to people in our day as it was for those in Solomon’s time. To please God, it is still necessary to live righteously. Rather than thinking of this as a forced obligation, it should be our heart’s desire — our passion! We should want to live righteously because we understand, as our focus verse states, that “in the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (Proverbs 12:28).
The path we choose has ultimate and eternal consequences. Let us choose to follow the way of righteousness!
Today’s text contains fifty-three verses. In at least eighteen of these, the results of “righteousness” (or closely related words like righteous, good, just, or truth) are distinctly contrasted with “wickedness” (or wicked, deceitful, lying, and sinners). In none is a third alternative offered; there is no category between righteousness and wickedness. The results of positive and the negative choices made are clearly defined and set in sharp contrast to each other.
In verse 3 of chapter 12, the word “established” refers to achieving success. Although people may rise to the top of their fields by unethical means, their achievements will be fleeting. The righteous person, on the other hand, is secure and content both in this life as well as in the life to come.
The obscure phrase in verse 12, “The wicked desireth the net of evil men,” likely means that the wicked want the easy way of acquiring wealth by taking away what others have achieved through hard work. However, the results of a righteous man’s efforts will be permanent. The following two verses reinforce the fact that a person’s words and deeds will have recompense.
The statement in verse 21, “There shall no evil happen to the just,” becomes more understandable when it is considered from an eternal perspective. While troubling events do occur to the righteous as well as the wicked, the one whose trust is in God understands that there is ultimate good in all circumstances because that is God’s promise to His followers. That good may not be discernible in this life, but it will be clear in eternity. The wicked — those who do not have God’s wisdom — are unable to grasp this perspective.
The meaning of verse 24 is that diligence will be rewarded, while laziness is costly. The assertion that “the slothful shall be under tribute” means that the lazy man will find himself put to forced labor.
In chapter 13, verse 4 is an example of the theme of “wisdom and work” which appears frequently in the Book of Proverbs. The statement that “the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” means that the diligent will prosper.
Verse 7 presents a paradox by stating that a rich man might have nothing and a poor man might have great riches. The author was pointing out that the individual who is rich in this world’s goods but leaves God out of his life is poor in the things that really matter. While poverty does not guarantee happiness, the one who trusts God will live a rich and rewarding life even if lacking in this world’s goods.
Commentators offer a variety of opinions regarding the meaning of verse 8. This passage seems to be saying that while riches can provide a measure of protection from danger, the poor do not feel threatened due to the fact that poverty gives them relative insignificance.
Verses 13 and 14 provide another warning regarding the importance of obeying the Word of God. References to “word,” “commandment,” and “law” throughout the book point to the fact that revealed truth (an understanding of God’s ways as given to man) is presupposed in Proverbs.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The sayings of the way of wisdom
A. The 375 proverbs of Solomon
1. The contrast of wisdom and folly in life (10:1 — 15:33)
If we truly grasp the importance of righteousness, we will make every effort to align our lives with wise instruction for godly living — we understand that failure to do so will have eternal consequences!