Have you noticed as we have been working our way through the book of Proverbs, that in the last chapter (22), we started a new collection of proverbs called “sayings of the wise” (starting in 22:17). You will notice that these thirty sayings are wisdom from God, revealed to the sages, for our purpose, to be able to answer with truth, those we serve (Proverbs 22:17-21).
When I think of “wise” people, there are a few older saints who come to mind. Wisdom is usually associated with “elders”, and since wisdom comes from God, the wisest people are usually seniors who have been walking with God a long time. They have a personal relationship with the living God, and know Him intimately as they spend time with Him and His Word. There have been several influential “elders” in my life, whose wisdom I cherish. I would encourage any young person (90 and under) reading this to find an elderly, godly saint with whom you can sit and from whom you can glean wisdom. Let’s be honest, no matter what our age, we can all benefit from sitting with an older saint that loves Jesus. And we can all become like these saints by spending time with Jesus and His word.
In Proverbs 23, we find 13 “sayings” meant for us to learn, apply and pass on to others. Here is a brief summary:
So what is the central theme of Proverbs 23? Self-control, self-restraint, self-discipline, temperance. This is a common message in the Bible. Why? Because “a person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls” (Prov. 25:28). Self-control is having mastery over your passions and desires. It is choosing not to be led by impulses and emotions, but for the Christian, being led by Holy Spirit. Self-control comes from Holy Spirit. See Galatians 5:19-23 for the difference between those led by passions and desires, and those led by God. What a message for a people living in luxury and affluence, with everything we could ever want at our fingertips; literally just a click away and then it shows up on your doorstep! Do you know that you can actually call up a car dealer and have the car of your dreams you’ve been viewing online, delivered to your house! What a time we find ourselves in! The need for self-control is of vital importance. Many of us know what awaits us if we give in to our passions, desires, emotions and impulses. That is how those who don’t have the Spirit of God live their lives. But we are not of them.
Let me give you a vivid illustration of what I mean. Just a few moments ago (5:30am), I opened my blinds to view my backyard, and there trying to get the rabbits living under my shed, was a large fox. Now I live in the middle of the city, with a completely fenced yard. This was unnatural! It was digging frantically under my shed to get the rabbits. I knocked on the window, and it looked at me, but continued its desire to satisfy its belly. I could have easily taken that creature out, if I was that type. The satisfaction of a fulfilled desire was worth the risk, no matter what the cost. The desire was what drove the creature. Sadly, that is the way many people live – only to satisfy their desires regardless of the consequences. But we have self-control, because we have Holy Spirit!
Self-control (along with righteousness and judgment) is what Paul preached to a pagan roman ruler (Acts 24:25), and what would characterize the people of the last days we are living in (2Tim. 3:3). Paul states that because of a lack of self-control, Satan can easily tempt individuals (married people) to sin (1Cor. 7:5). Peter said it was a necessary attribute to being effective and productive “in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Peter 1:5-8). The saints are exhorted continually, especially in the last days to “be self-controlled” (1 Thess. 5:6, 8; 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8; 2:2, 5f, 12; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).
The center of Proverbs 23 sums up the directive quite clearly, emphasizing what may be at the heart of a lack of self-control – envy (desire):
17-18 Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels;
soak yourself in the Fear-of-God—
That’s where your future lies.
Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing. (Prov. 23:17-18 MSG)
Instead of destruction, blessing awaits those who exercise self-control (rooted in the Fear of the Lord). Live by the Spirit, not desires (Gal. 5:16).
Have an effective and productive week!
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