By Randy Dillon
Proverbs 3: 27-35 "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbor, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee. Devise not evil against thy neighbor, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous. The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just. Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. The wise shall inherent glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools."
The third chapter of Proverbs begins with 26 verses re-emphasizing the value of wisdom as it personally benefits someone who recognizes its worth in everyday life. The writer then turns attention to some rather generalized rules about wisdom in human interactions. Each of these 9 verses have two parts.
The first 5 verses (vv. 27-31) begin with a directive of what to do (v. 27) or what not to do (vv. 28-31) each followed by a caveat (warning or caution) that expands on the general rule. The last 4 verses (vv. 32-35) are structured in a similar two-part fashion. However, these are not directives about conduct so much as they are statements about how God views man's conduct when interacting with people.
The first directive (v. 27) is an overarching positive command to do good to those who are deserving, with the caution to do so when it is within our power. This is stated not to exclude Godly people if they fail to do good from neglect or indifference but rather our power or ability to do good to someone who is well-deserving. Faith requires us to seek opportunity to act graciously toward others who behave righteously. The next four directives are negative statements ("do not".) Each is followed by a caveat.
Re-worded briefly they may be seen thus:
v. 28 Directive: Do not deny a neighbor in need / Caveat: When you have it to give.
v. 29 Directive: Do not do evil to a neighbor /; Caveat: Since he lives near to you.
v. 30 Directive: Do not strive without cause / Caveat: If you are not hurt.
v. 31 Directive: Do not envy oppressors / Caveat: Do not be like him.
Each directive has a caution which gives additional or limiting explanation about the directive or command. Therefore, these statements are not absolutely compulsory but rather they are tempered by practical considerations. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks to similar situations in the Sermon on the Mount.
Teaching about retaliation in Matthew (Chapter 5: 38-42) Jesus said:
v. 39 " . . . resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
v. 40 " And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have the cloak also."
v. 41 "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."
v. 42 :Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away."
Notice that Jesus did not give caveats as did Solomon. While Proverbs provides practical advice in human relations, Jesus provided divine guidance to Christian living. His directives are absolute since they abound in His justice and mercy while Solomon's directives derive from the law.
Turning to verses 32-35 we find how God views issues of human interaction. Once again we find the two-part scheme, this time how righteous and unrighteous are accorded by God. Thus, the righteous
(R) and unrighteous (U):
v. 32 U: Froward (perverse who depart from faith) are abomination
R: God's secret is with them
v. 33 U. Lord curses the house of the wicked
R: Lord blesses house of the just
v. 34 U: God scorns scorners
R: God gives grace to lowly
v. 35 R: Wise inherit glory
U: Fool's promotion (exaltation of self, presumptuousness) is shame to them.
God's view and man's view are diametrically opposed. Wisdom instructs the wise to live in accordance with God's directives. Jesus summarized this idea at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 7: 24-27 with the analogy of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the fool.