Summary: These verses characterize what happens to those who follow the right way of righteousness and wisdom and those who depart it.
There are two types of people in the world, I am told: those who are Irish and those who wish they were; according to Bob in the movie What About Bob?, they are people who like Neil Diamond and those who do not; there are those who prefer that the toilet paper rolls over the tube and those who prefer it roll under the tube; and then there are those who divide people into two categories and those who do not. Proverbs likes to divide. Its two favorite sets of categories are the righteous and the wicked, and the wise and the foolish. Our verses this morning characterizes what happens to those who follow the right way of righteousness and wisdom and those who depart it.
6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble.
I’ve found a great way to prepare sermons from Proverbs. The book requires a different approach than the other books we have studied, in that, where the others required consulting the research of scholars to pull out the subtle meanings of the texts, what Proverbs mostly requires is the insight of people experienced in life. Thus, I turned to the Keenagers Wednesday morning group for consultation. I asked them what kinds of treasure would be in the house of the righteous. Here are the answers I got: peace, contentment, love, knowledge.
The oddest answer was “serving others.” Certainly we think of serving others as good work to do, but most of us would not think of placing it in the category of personal treasure. But then, that is how the righteous think. They think differently about what has value. Thus, as in this case, they believe that having the opportunity and ability to serve others, is a treasure to prize. (I can immediately think of exemplary persons in this church, but will not embarrass them by naming them.)
Let’s go back to those other treasures mentioned. Peace was one. Everyone would agree with that one. How many times have we thought or yelled, “If I could just have some peace and quiet in this house!” Of course, what we mean is, “If only the others in this house or in this church or in this workplace would change, then I could have peace.” What we have to ask is why the house of the righteous contains treasure like peace and love. The answer of course is that the righteous are people who promote peace. They are people who have learned to be content in all things. They have used knowledge wisely to better themselves and benefit others.
This also explains why, in general, the righteous seem to have, if not great wealth, at least financial security. They use their money wisely; they don’t value material pleasures more than good relations with God and others; thus they don’t spend more than they can afford.
They wicked, on the other hand, can never be contented, because they are either worrying about losing what they have or about how to get more. Debt dogs them no matter how much they have, thus more income only brings more trouble. Indeed, income, which ought to be a source of building security, only creates problems. As 1 Timothy 6:10 says, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. In the context of that statement, Paul grieves that it has led people astray from the faith. It breaks up families. It leads good men and women astray who started off in the workplace with noble motives. It creates insecurity when one is secure, and creates a false sense of security when one’s downfall is near. It skewers one’s ability to value what is really valuable. The wicked who love money simply cannot comprehend how the mind of the righteous work. They would hold the individual, who named “serving others” as a great treasure, in contempt for being so simpleminded or regard him as a hypocrite since they can’t imagine a person who has all his wits thinking that way.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.
This proverb is similar to verse two: The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Note the contrast: lips of the wise with hearts of fools. The same idea is being brought out that we spoke of in the previous sermon. What is at issue is the state of the heart. The wise spread knowledge, not because they took a good course on communications (though that can help), but because they prize knowledge.
We should consider for a moment what is meant by knowledge. In Proverbs knowledge, as Derek Kidner explains, implies “not so much an informed mind as a knowing of truth and indeed of God himself.” A person of knowledge is a person of wisdom. We understand the distinction. There are many educated persons who are foolish. That is why there is just as high, if not higher, incidents of divorce, family dysfunctions, broken relationships, infighting, etc. in a university as in a factory.