A Noble Bribe?

“A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; Wherever he turns, he prospers.”

Proverbs 17:8 (NASB)

Before I was a parent I thought to myself, “I would never bribe my own child for good behavior” when I would see other parents pacifying their unruly kids with lollipops and chocolate. Well, it didn’t take me long to jump on board the bribery philosophy when my own daughter was a toddler!

It is a sad statement on humanity that sometimes the only way to get something is to give something. And why is this? Proverbs 17:8 explains that people can be bought by things that appeal to them, whether it’s a “magic stone” or a ” lucky charm” as most translations call it. According to this verse, the giver of the bribe succeeds wherever he goes.

Throughout my  life, I’ve always thought of bribery as a bad thing. After all, the only times we ever hear about bribery in the news always involve a scandal, and jail time for someone. Bribery seems more like trickery than a fair trade. So when I came across Proverbs 17:8 which says bribery brings success, it intrigued me.  Two more verses close to this one express a similar sentiment:

“Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!”

Proverbs 18:6 (NLT)

“A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.”

Proverbs 21:14 (ESV)

Bribes can get you to the right people and they can pacify anger.  Yet, not all bribery is encouraged. The verses below show bribery in a negative light:

“The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.” Proverbs 17:23 (NIV)

“Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.” Proverbs 15:27 (ESV)

Bribes can be used to prevent justice from being served, and the person who avoids this type of bribe will live.  A bribe can be any type of gift given in exchange for something. According to all of these verses on bribery, it is important to realize that it is not the bribe itself that matters so much as the purpose for the bribe. If the aim is noble (such as to encourage a child to good behavior), a bribe can bring about a noble result. If the purpose is wicked (to conceal a wrongdoing, for example), death and ruin are sure to follow.

Consider the times in your own life when you have used bribery to get what you want. Were your bribes for noble purposes or not so noble ones? And, do you accept bribes? What do you give in exchange for those bribes? If your answers to any of these questions are anything other than noble (something pleasing to God), take Proverbs 15:27 to heart and embrace life instead of bribes.

A Silver Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31 (NIV)

When I was in my 20s, I worked with a woman who had the most beautiful gray hair. It wasn’t really gray, but a silvery white, and I remember thinking I hope my hair is that color when I’m older.

It’s a fact: with age, our hair changes color, or for some of us, it may even fall out. This is hard from a physical standpoint because it may not be the new “style” we wish to have. It is also difficult from a mental standpoint because it means we are getting older and losing our youth. From a spiritual standpoint, however, we should view this change as something glorious because wisdom should come with age. According to Proverbs 16:31, our gray hair will be a crown of splendor if we have gained wisdom by living righteously.

Notice that for gray hair to be a crown of splendor, there is one stipulation: we must live righteously. Chapter 16 alone shows us the following ways to live righteously:

  • Commit your plans to the Lord (v. 3, 20)
    • Pray, pray, pray
  • Be honest in word and deed (v. 11-13)
    • Speak the truth in love and conduct business honestly; treat others as you would want to be treated
  • Choose wisdom and understanding over riches (v. 16)
    • Seek what is good and right more than money and stuff
  • Be humble (v. 5, 18-20)
    • Honor others above yourself and accept correction and instruction without being defensive
  • Speak kindly (v. 23-24)
    • Speak words that build up and edify others and words that promote peace
  • Be patient and keep anger under control (v. 32)
    • Understand what pushes your buttons and learn to be patient with others rather than exploding in anger at them

Considering the ways listed above, are you living a righteous life? Have you gained wisdom over the years that addresses these guidelines? Do you use that wisdom in your life?

Of course, the entire Bible, not just Proverbs 16, is our guidebook for living righteously. So as you read God’s word daily, look for what he’s saying to you and pass down to your children and grandchildren the things you learn from the Lord. In doing so, you are producing fruit in your old age (Psalm 92:12-14), leaving a legacy that your descendants will honor and emulate (Proverbs 17:6), and bringing glory to God. This makes your gray hair a crown of splendor, so wear it proudly!

And that beautiful silver hair I hope to have someday… I also hope it will represent not just the passing of time, but also wisdom gained from living a righteous life.

Gospel-Centered Parenting

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

Being a parent is hard! And, being a Christian parent in a worldly society is even harder. As time goes by and my daughter gets closer to teenage years, we find ourselves at a crossroads between living in cultural norms and Scriptural truth. While I know that the perfect parenting handbook does not exist, over the years I’ve read many parenting books that gave me good insight and ideas to try when I didn’t know what to do. I recently read The Gospel & Parenting by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker, and found some fresh ideas on how the Gospel fits into parenting.

While most parenting books give practical ideas for how to handle different situations, this book makes a clear connection with how parenting and the Gospel fit together. Some of the most revolutionary points I gained are:

  • Because our role as parents is to teach our children the Gospel, “our children are, first and foremost, our potential or actual brothers and sisters in Christ.” (28) This was a “Wow!” moment for me because I’ve always thought of myself as “Caroline’s mom,” not her sister. But since we are both Christians, according to God’s word we are sisters in Christ! I’m still an authority figure in her life because God made me to be her mom, but I can also remember to follow Biblical principles like speaking truth into her life, confessing sin in my life, and disciplining and discipling her as I would another Christian.
  • Culture tells us that our kids’ behavior reflects our parenting skills. Most people take this idea and internalize it to reflect their identity. If I’m a good parent, I’m a good person, but if I’m a bad parent, I’m not a good person. This idea, counter to what the Bible says (our identity is based on God’s grace, not our performance), has caused parents to focus on raising kids that look good on the “outside.” Instead of this Pharisaic idea, the authors explain, “The Christian parent’s goal is not good kids — it is gospel kids. The Christian parent’s goal in discipline is not low-maintenance, well-mannered children, but gospel proclamation.” (p. 88) Regardless of a child’s manners, our main goal as parents is to guide them in Christian principles.
  • Our role as Christian parents is to train our children toward physical and moral courage. This goes against the “American parenting manifesto: Be nice, be happy and be safe.” (92) Of all the ideas I read in this book, this one was the most intriguing to me. I felt convicted in that I’ve told my daughter to be nice, I’ve always wanted her to be happy, and I’ve prayed for her safety on many an occasion. But this book reminded me that no one ever called Jesus nice or happy, and if we don’t teach our children that they are not always a winner this will lead to self-consciousness and discontentment in them. Our children need to know truth, even if it’s pointing out one of their weaknesses, and they need to be encouraged to stand up for others, even when risk is involved.

If you are a Christian who wants to be a better parent and who wants to understand how some of the parenting breakdowns in our society have occurred, you will gain wisdom from this book. Every main point in the book is supported by Scripture and clear examples to which all parents can relate. This book is unique in that it includes information for church leaders to gain a better understanding of what parents and families in their church need most (and it’s not more programs). Just more than 100 pages, it is an easy read for the busy person.

*I recently joined B&H Bloggers and will be reviewing books on occasion. This is my first book review, and the opinions are entirely my own.

Decisions, Decisions

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 15:22 (ESV)

Are you deliberating over a decision with so many pros and cons that you can’t figure out what is best? Or, have you recently made a snap decision that you regretted?

When we have decisions to make that affect the root of our being, especially who we are spiritually, Solomon gives us a piece of good advice: don’t make those decisions alone. Proverbs 15:22 and 11:14 urge us to seek wise counselors before making any life-changing decision. And Proverbs 20:18 and 24:6 reinforce Solomon’s teaching that victory comes only when we seek help in the decision-making process.

Why do our plans have a greater chance of success when we consult the advice of others? Firstly, because these individuals bring different experiences to the table and can see facets of a situation that we cannot. Likewise, others who are detached from a situation can look at it objectively, while those of us who are emotionally attached to it will most likely choose a course of action based on our feelings.

Several years ago, I was excited about buying my first new car. I took my brother along with me, which was a great decision because while I chose the car, he did the negotiating. Since he was not emotionally involved – it didn’t matter if he got the car or not – he could walk away if the price wasn’t right. If I had handled the negotiating, I probably would have paid more than I should have because I really wanted that particular car. As a result, I got a great car at a reasonable price.

Other decisions are even more important, including marriage, career change, relocating, pursuing a dating relationship, choosing a college, changing churches, and the list goes on. Whatever decision you are facing, if it is a life-changing one, seek out wise counselors before making it.

As Christians, the ultimate counselor we have is the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 tells us, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” When we pray, we provide a path for the Holy Spirit to speak to us. Prayer should always be our first course of action before making a decision. After that, we should seek counsel from wise friends.

That said, everyone has an opinion, and it is important to make sure that we choose our counselors carefully. So, what does a wise counselor look like?

We weren’t made to live this life alone, so don’t make big decisions alone. Heed Solomon’s instruction and seek the advice of godly friends.

Are You in Construction or Demolition?

“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”

Proverbs 14:1 (NASB)

When I was seven years old, I wanted to grow a watermelon. So, one day after eating this favorite fruit of mine I rinsed off a few watermelon seeds and planted them in the ground following my dad’s instructions. I watered them and watched them and waited to see what would happen. A little vine started to grow, but after a few weeks I couldn’t see a watermelon yet so I yanked it up. I got so mad I stomped the ground around it with all of my first-grade strength. I had just torn down the plant I was trying to grow.

Proverbs 14:1 explains the results of wisdom and foolishness. A wise person builds while the foolish one destroys. In my watermelon-growing endeavor, I lost the vision and foolishly destroyed what I had tried to build, all because of my impatience and anger. I tore up that vine with my own hands and as a result I lost my chance to see the fruit of my labor.

Have you ever worked hard to build something, maybe a career, a garden, a house, a company, a friendship, a family? Did you see it to completion, or did you destroy it somewhere along the way?

Think about the important things you are trying to build in your life. Are there any obstacles you need to overcome to continue building and avoid tearing something down? It’s painful to think we, ourselves, can be the cause of losing a dream to which we aspire or destroying relationships with friends or family. Don’t let jealousy, bitterness, negative speech, sexual immorality, anger, impatience or addictions destroy the “buildings” in your life.

The apostle Paul told the Ephesians to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV). He exhorted them to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2 NIV), all for the sake of unity. We should heed this counsel as well, since all of these traits help build, rather than destroy, unity in our lives.

Whatever godly buildings are in your life, work to keep their foundations strong by fixing your focus on God (Proverbs 4:25-27) and setting your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2),  inspecting them for cracks (Psalm 139:23-24 ) and maintaining them with prayer (1 Chronicles 16:11). Don’t give up or purposely destroy the buildings in your life. Be a builder!

 

Walk With the Wise

“The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Proverbs 13:20 (HCSB)

Choose wisely. You’ll become like who you spend time with. It’s easier for someone to pull you down than for you to pull someone up.

Did you hear this advice from your parents when you were a kid? I’ve heard it AND I’ve also said it to my own daughter. While it’s not always the advice we want to hear, especially when we so desperately want to be a part of the “in” crowd, it comes straight from the lips of Solomon. Proverbs 13:20 says it plainly: hang out with the wise and you will be wise; linger with fools and you will find trouble.

It is so important to find friends who share your same aesthetic. If the people you associate with don’t edify you, encourage you and nudge you to be your best, they will cause you harm. This harm can be emotional – sadness and disappointment when they let you down or speak cruelly. It can be physical, like punishment for wrong behavior even if you didn’t actually participate because of guilt by association. Or it can be spiritual – foolish friends can pull you away from the things of God. 1 Corinthians 15:33 tells us, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

On the other hand, if you search for friends who love God as much as or more than you do, you can count on those friendships providing safety and wisdom. I’ve been blessed by wise and godly women who have brought me great joy. I appreciate the way they seek God in their lives and encourage me to do the same. I can always count on them to pray for me. These ladies truly live what they “preach.”

I’m grateful to my longtime college friend Tracie, my dear friends Angela and Donna, and my beloved mother-in-law Barbara for speaking wisdom into my life. They are my Proverbs 31:26 friends.

If you have wise friends, be thankful! If you need a wise friend, pray for the Lord to provide one. We all need help along this journey of life, so seek out and walk with the wise.