"When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down." Proverbs 29:2 - 4 (ESV)
This reminds me of a passage in Jeremiah 29; the people of Israel are about to enter captivity and the Lord tells them to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (v. 7). Even in exile, God had a plan for His people. Even in exile, God had a plan for His people. They were instructed to have children, support the city, and add to the righteousness of the community. Solomon shares the same sentiment in chapter 29 - righteousness is good for the people.
Justice and righteousness are good for more than the person who acts in righteousness. Loving wisdom makes your father glad. Loving wisdom brings joy to a community. Loving wisdom can even bring prosperity to an entire city. The people of Israel were in captivity but God promised He would not leave nor forsake them. As you walk in wisdom and seek righteousness, others benefit because of your faithfulness.
Turn Away Wrath
"An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices. A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.” Proverbs 29:6 - 9 (ESV)
John 8:32 says, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When you walk in truth, you will not be ensnared by lies and foolishness. When we walk in the truth, we’re kept from being pulled into the pit (or digging a pit for yourself). Verse 7 reminds us that righteousness also looks out for the poor and those who are in need. It is not enough to take care of yourself and ignore your community. When righteousness increases, there is an elevated concern for widows, orphans, the poor, for anyone who cannot add to your status.
The righteous bring good to the city, and wisdom keeps the community intact. Wise people turn away wrath and they literally keep others safe. Walking in the light of wisdom means that you see what is ahead of you. As we walk in wisdom, others may follow our path as well. From neighbors to the next generation, our actions can have lasting consequences. Wisdom brings positive changes and scoffers bring fire and destruction. Just as a small spark starts a great forest fire, scoffers can bring about great destruction in a matter of minutes. Are you seeking the good of your city? Is wisdom producing a concern for those in the most need?
Not So Fast
"Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 29:20 (ESV)
Have you ever said something that you immediately regretted? Maybe it was to your spouse, one of your kids, or to a friend. Words have the power to hurt others, and it can happen so quickly that it feels like the words are just spilling out of your mouth like water from a hose. You can't put those words back after they have been said; that is what makes them so deadly.
If you make a habit of speaking before you think, you just might find yourself in hot water on a regular basis. Solomon says that there is more hope for a fool than someone who is hasty with their words. The fool makes choices that are for personal gain and does not consider the effects that they have on other people. The fool's hope for change is for God to intervene. If fools have more hope than those who speak without thinking, we need to take these words seriously and consider our conversations.
Reflect and Respond
How has your speech been recently? Are you measuring your words when speaking the truth? Or, are you shooting from the hip and firing off every thought you have? It's easier than ever to say what’s on our mind and we have multiple outlets to let our words fly. We must be vigilant to consider what we say and how we speak to others. Most of us have a supercomputer in our pocket disguised as a phone that you can literally broadcast a message to the world in about 10 seconds. Take a few minutes today to consider your speech and ensure it is building others up and promoting righteousness.