Before we return to Solomon’s proverbs, we have five more sayings from the ″wise″ (Proverbs 24:23-34). They are possibly adapted from ancient Egyptian wisdom writing, though scholars remain unsure. The theme running through these sayings is a well-ordered society that promotes justice and truthfulness. These are attributes of God himself and are reflected in His creation, where wisdom ensures order in place of chaos (8:30).
The well-ordered society is one in which:
- The guilty are convicted because there is no partiality in judgment (24:23-25).
- Speech is honest, and is seen as a blessing and kindness (v. 26).
- False testimony and deception are avoided (v. 28).
We live in a society that tolerates the ″white lie″-the inconsequential, well-meaning untruth, or a small lie told to save face or avoid embarrassment. But all forms of lying are wrong, and represent a failure to face up to and reflect reality. White lies, or ″spin″, as psychologist Jordan B. Peterson puts it in his book, 12 Rules to Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is ″the speech people engage in when they attempt to influence and manipulate others″. We are to strive for honesty and truthfulness. Lying and deceptive speech is the Serpent’s heart language and is to be avoided.
Proverbs 24:30-34 is a close parallel to 6:6-11, which makes the same observation about laziness and contrasts the sluggard with the industrious ant. In 24:30-34, the sluggard neglects his vineyard and wall (v. 31) because he would rather rest and sleep; his life is not grounded in the reality that laziness will only lead to poverty. Theologian John Calvin said that three vices prevail much, even among pastors-″sloth, desire of gain, and lust for power″.7
Sloth comes naturally to us and must be resisted by meaningful, productive work. Be like the ant who contributes to the needs of its community.
7John Calvin, Bible Commentaries On The Catholic Epistles (Germany: Jazzybee Verlag, 2012), 92.
In what situations might you be tempted to tell a white lie? What practical steps can you take to avoid this temptation?
How might the warning of Proverbs 24:33-34 apply in modern life? How can we balance the need for proper rest and the warning against laziness?