Some people may be surprised to find a book like Proverbs in the Bible, given that it contains so much common-sense advice-not unlike a collection of wise sayings they might find in a secular book. But we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, good common sense comes from God, and it is available to all who are willing to listen and learn. Proverbs 20 is one of the many examples of chapters in the book that contain good common sense.
- Drunkenness leads to aggressive behaviour and poor judgment (v. 1). It is not wise to be under the influence of wine and beer, as they can lead to wrongful behaviour (31:4-7).
- The fool is quick to be offended and get into a fight, which just makes matters worse (20:3). Cool it!
- Many claim to be a faithful friend, but talk is cheap (v. 6). True friendship will be tested by times of difficulty.
- Knowing oneself-and one’s sinful self-well is an important aspect of wisdom (v. 9). ″Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure?’″ is a rhetorical question, for no one is perfect (Romans 3:10). No one has a right to moral superiority, and we are to resist judgmentalism and self-righteousness.
- Beware the shrewdness of buyers, who haggle for a lower price by claiming the item is worthless-only to brag about the bargain later (Proverbs 20:14)! Wisdom allows us to discern between truth and deception in people’s words.
- Things obtained by dishonest means or deception are appealing and may bring momentary satisfaction (v. 17), but ultimately they will be unsatisfying and possibly even destructive, like how gravel destroys the teeth.
- Don’t be impulsive or arrogant; seek advice before making and carrying out any plans (v. 18; see also 11:14, 15:22). Jesus, when speaking of counting the cost, also highlighted the value of seeking wise counsel before waging war (Luke 14:31).
- Gaining an inheritance ″too soon″ implies obtaining it by unjust or unrighteous means (Proverbs 20:21)-an act that will ultimately not end well, perhaps because of divine justice.
- The old and young have their unique, respective strengths (v. 29); this observation is a reminder for the young and old to respect and appreciate each other.
The problem with common sense is that it is not so common. That is why Proverbs is such a precious book. It is, as Bible commentator Matthew Henry put it: ″A complete body of divine ethics . . . exposing every vice, recommending every virtue, and suggesting rules for the government of ourselves in every relation and condition and every turn of the conversation.″
Which of the ″common-sense″ advice in Proverbs 20 strikes you most? Why? How can you apply it to your life?
Proverbs 20:12 notes that God gave us ears to hear (wise counsel and teaching) and eyes to discern (what is right and wrong). How can we keep our eyes and ears open to assess other ″common-sense″ advice we hear in the light of His Word?