This chapter has many lessons and observations about wise and godly living. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them:
One, the power of words to help or hurt-and the effect on the speaker himself-is a prominent theme (Proverbs 12:6, 13-14, 17-19, 22). Associated with this emphasis is the discretion to know when to speak and when to remain silent (v. 23). The wise seek to bless others and tell the truth (vv. 17-18), while the wicked seek to destroy and deceive (vv. 6, 17-18). The fool has an inflated view of his own knowledge (v. 15), while the wise know what they don’t know and therefore listen to advice (v. 15).
Two, the importance of words is also seen in the observation that the Lord detests lies and deception; He delights in truth (v. 22). The apostle Paul describes Him as the God ″who does not lie″ (Titus 1:2).
Three, reality is more important than appearance (Proverbs 12:9). Better to appear to be a nobody but actually be a somebody, than have the appearance of being a somebody and yet have nothing. What a contrast this is to today’s pressure to ″put on an appearance″!
Four, the wise person recognises the need to be in right relationships, including with God’s creation, and therefore cares for his animals (v. 10). Because a righteous person is concerned for those around him-including his pets and livestock-a person’s attitude towards animals can reveal much about him. English social reformer Rowland Hill sums it up well: ″I care not for a man’s repentance if his dog and cat are not the better for it.″
Five, self-control is another prominent theme (v. 16; see also 29:11). It is characterised by an insensitivity to insult and an ability to resist impulsive behaviour (see 13:3, 16). Self-control-which comes from the Holy Spirit-is most evident when we are offended or find ourselves in a position where we want to ventilate our anger.
Six, diligence and hard work is of great value (12:11, 14, 24, 27). Hard work brings reward; the lazy person will only end up trapped in forced labour (v. 24) and poverty (10:4). Proverbs 12:27 compares the efforts put in by the diligent and the lazy: one is too lazy even to cook what he has caught to feed himself, whereas the other does what is needed to fill himself. This could be a comparison between those who quit too soon, and those who persevere and see their projects to completion-and are rewarded for it.
What a privilege it is to receive such wisdom from the mind of God, revealed in these Scriptures! The righteous and wise learn from these observations and lessons. Will you apply them to your speech, attitude, and character today?
Proverbs 12:1 says that ″whoever loves discipline loves knowledge″, and ″whoever hates correction is stupid″. How does this apply to your own life?
How can you apply what Proverbs 12 teaches about the importance of words, putting on appearances, care for creation, self-control, and work attitude? Which is the most challenging for you?