Summary: Sometimes we bring our troubles on ourselves (and on others). That is the case of the wicked as these proverbs note.
Troubles; we’ve all got them. Sometimes we keep quiet about them; sometimes we moan loudly. We write songs about them. Indeed, much of the world’s great literature, music and art have sprung from troubles. But sometimes we bring our troubles on ourselves (and on others). That is the case of the wicked as our proverbs this morning will note.
25 The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.
The Scriptures often speak of God’s animosity towards the proud. They really bother him. In contrast he favors the humble. Here are a couple of examples:
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble (Luke 1:51-52).
6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly,
but the proud he knows from afar (Psalm 138:6).
The primary reason he despises pride is that springs from man’s desire to compete against God for glory, and there are scriptures which speak to this. But oftentimes the Bible connects pride with plain old meanness. Proud is synonymous with wickedness. Again, a couple of examples:
1 O LORD, the God who avenges,
O God who avenges, shine forth.
2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
3 How long will the wicked, O LORD,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, O LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the alien;
they murder the fatherless.
7 They say, “The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed” (Psalm 94:1-7).
19 Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud (Proverbs 16:19).
This is the proud person that our proverb is speaking of. The proud man’s house is built either on the land of the widow or by swindling people like her to get his wealth and property. This is why the proverb speaks of keeping the widow’s boundaries intact. It is referring to her land being protected from the proud land barons. The contrast in the proverb is not simply between the proud and the humble, but the oppressor and the oppressed. It is between the oppressor who acts out of his pride that he is strong and the oppressed who because of being in humble circumstances is vulnerable to abuse.
This proverb lets us know clearly what God thinks of the corporate executives who have grown wealthy while deceiving investors and running their companies into bankruptcy. It also impresses upon us to consider how wealth and development may impact the poor and vulnerable. Scripture does not teach that wealth and development are bad; but such verses as this remind us that increased wealth and power have increased potential to do harm. It also shows the heart of God. The plight of the poor, particularly as represented by the widow and the orphan, matters so much to God that James could make this statement: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).
26 The LORD detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him.
Translations differ somewhat on how the latter half of this proverb ought to be rendered. For some reason, the NIV does not indicate the “those” of the pure are sayings, spoken words and not “thoughts.” It is the only translation that does so. The other translations render the phrase in one of two ways: those like the NIV which read “the words of the pure are pleasing,” and those which read “pleasant or gracious words are pure.” Whichever one we choose the basic meaning is the same: God is pleased with the words of those whose hearts are right with him. What is pleasant is by definition what is pleasant to God; and what is pleasant to God is only what is pure.
It is a shame the NIV doesn’t put in the term “words” or “sayings,” because the proverb loses the force of what it is saying. It is a more ancient form of the expression, “Don’t even think about it!” It is a warning to the wicked that despite what kind of outward show they might make, God detests what is really inside them and that they are not fooling him. It is an encouragement to those who strive to please him that he delights in their humble speech. It is not eloquence that attracts God; it is a pure heart.