General Wisdom – Proverbs 29
Read the Passage: Proverbs 29
Righteous Relationships (29:1–7)
As is the case in the larger section of this book (i.e., Prov. 10–29), so here in this chapter we see that Solomon addresses a variety of issues. A common theme in Prov. 29:1–7 is that in these first few verses Solomon addresses several different relationships in which man engages. In this passage he mentions interaction with: self (cf. Prov. 29:1, 6), rulers (cf. Prov. 29:2, 4), parents (cf. Prov. 29:3a), fools (cf. Prov. 29:3b), neighbors (cf. Prob. 29:5), and the poor (cf. Prov. 29:7). Since wisdom is the practical application of God’s Word to daily living, there is no area or relationship in which wisdom does not apply. This passage teaches that a common theme in each of these relationships is that wisdom produces rejoicing, justice, consideration, and even singing. By way of contrast, the expression of foolishness results in rebuke, poor stewardship, hardening, destruction, groaning, waste, bribery, snares, and ignorance.
One of the repeated themes in this chapter, as well as in the entire book of Proverbs, is the importance of wise leadership. In this chapter Solomon mentions those in “authority” (Prov. 29:2), the “king” (Prov. 29:4, 14), and a “ruler” (Prov. 29:12, 26). Given that Solomon was the king, and surely knew the importance of wisdom in governance, it is not surprising that there are more than forty explicit mentions of rulers and kings in the book of Proverbs, as well as many other implied references. Of course, in the church, leaders must be believers. In the secular arena, it is ideal for those in charge to be Christians and to be wise; however, we can observe that regardless of their spiritual status, kings and others in political power are “God’s ministers” (Rom. 13:4). Note that since biblical wisdom is logical, oftentimes secular leaders can make decisions that mimic wisdom.
Foolish Interactions (29:8–18)
A common theme in Prov. 29:8–18 is the contrast between the wise and the foolish man. Furthermore, at Prov. 29:9–10 Solomon writes about the interaction between a wise man and a scoffer, noting, “If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace. The bloodthirsty hate the blameless” (cf. Prov. 29:27). The idea here is that wisdom inherently brings conviction upon the foolish man. Indeed, when a scoffer, who loves sin, is exposed to wisdom, he will oftentimes seek to marginalize the witness of wisdom in order to avoid being impugned. In a broader sense, the fool cannot help but act this way, for 1 Cor. 2:14 reveals, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Yet, the fool is still accountable for his willful rejection of God.
There are two interesting verses in this section of Proverbs that are sometimes cited. First, at Prov. 29:13 Solomon teaches, “The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The Lord gives light to the eyes of both” Given the contrast between the wise man and fools in this chapter, this verse may be surprising. Note that the theological concept Solomon appeals to here is sometimes referred to as natural or common grace. Jesus appealed to common grace as He taught, “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Second, Prov. 29:18 says, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” Here in this verse Solomon is appealing to the governing effect of Scripture, especially the moral law, upon those who are not believers (cf. Exod. 20:20; Gal. 3:19, 23; 1 Tim. 1:8–11).
Powerful Words (29:19–27)
A recurrent theme in the last section of this chapter is the power of words. Somewhat ironically, in Prov. 29:19 Solomon warns, “A servant will not be corrected by mere words, for though he understands, he will not respond.” While the spoken word is extremely powerful, words of wisdom are often not able to move an obstinate heart (cf. Jas. 3:1–12). In such cases, writes Solomon, perhaps involving an insubordinate servant, other avenues may be needed in order to affect outward change. In a related teaching, at Prov. 29:20, Solomon rhetorically asks, “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” The idea here is that on account of the power of the spoken word, no one ought to be hasty in their communication. Recall that earlier, at Prov. 17:28, Solomon taught, “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace.”
- What is the difference, if at all, between discretion, prudence, and wisdom? Is there any area of life where wisdom does not apply?
- As you’ve grown in your own spiritual maturity, can you testify to the gradual improvement in the application of wisdom in your relationships?
- How ought Christians to react when our leaders, whether in a spiritual or a secular arena, make decisions that are unwise?
- In what ways is God’s common grace evident in the natural world? In what ways does God’s Word work to instill order in society?
- Do you often consider the power of words? Are you careful to not be hasty in your oral and written communication?