Chapter 11: Commentary

Chapter 11 is a continuation of the second collection of Proverbs (10:1-24:34) attributed to Solomon. It consists of single verse wise sayings of typical Hebrew poetry, somewhat similar to the wise sayings with which we grew up. The "righteous" are the main characters in this chapter.

11:1 The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.

     Scales and weights were often part of an ancient businessman's shop equipment. This verse reminds us that God hates it when we cheat others and loves it when we treat each other honestly.
      The fact that He says this so frequently – it is a common theme in the Law (Lev 19:35-36; Dt 25:13-16), Prophets (Ezek 45:10; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11) and Proverbs (16:11; 20:10, 23) – is probably significant. Apparently, God's people had a tendency to not deal fairly with each other. This verse indicates that such behavior really ticks God off!

11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

     This is one of those proverbs which reminds us that we are all going to be humbled (see 18:12; 29:23). "Pride" – thinking I am the smartest person in the room, have all the answers and know everything – will eventually take us down, humiliate us.
      But "humility" leads to "wisdom" which sets us up to succeed. Humiliation is very different from humility and we can bring either one on ourselves. It is our choice, either humble ourselves or get humbled (humiliated).

11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity

     This verse doesn't offer any great new insights - just the realities of life choices. Consisting of two straightforward statements of typical Hebrew poetry, it discusses two well-known characters in Proverbs -- "the upright" and "the unfaithful."
      It's hard to imagine two more opposite people. "The upright" operate from a place of "integrity" while the MO (modus operandi) of "the unfaithful" is "their duplicity."
      The one thinks and acts from a place of appropriate thought and motives. Consequently, they'll do good things. While never perfect, such a lifestyle continually "guides them." Doesn't sound like a bad way to live!
      On the other hand, there is "the unfaithful." For all the good that could be said about the "upright," the "unfaithful" represents the opposite.
      Thinking and acting from their comfort zone of "duplicity" - being twisted and distorted - they simply can't be counted on for good choices or appropriate actions.
      Of course, it's not that the "upright" never do wrong or that the "unfaithful" never do right, it's just that their core values consistently impact what they think or do.
      So, it might be asked -- just how does one go about being this "upright" guy or gal operating in "integrity?" I'm happy to report it's not rocket science!
      The simplest way to be this person is the Honest, Open and Willing (HOW) concept I adopted a few years ago from the world of recovery. When I operate in my relationship with God like this I just can't help but be that "upright" and "integrity" guy of this verse.
      I haven't perfected the art(!), but it is my MO these days and it does empower my daily spiritual walk. Interested? See:

11:4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

     We generally think that money and things are the answers to all our problems, and certainly they can make a big difference much of the time. But, in the end ("the day of wrath"), we will find that they are absolutely useless. Most of us have had enough life experience already, to understand the truth of this first line of the proverb.
      On the other hand, living and walking in "righteousness" will ultimately deliver us in the end ("from death"). But, even better than that, living righteously also sets us up for daily help and support now.
      The best way I know HOW to practice this "righteousness" is to learn how to live Honest, Open and Willing (HOW). That means being Honest with God about where I really am today; Open to what He is saying to me through circumstances today; and Willing to step out and attempt to do what I think He wants me to do now.
      Even if I get part of this wrong at first, having an Honest, Open and Willing mindset will make it simple for God to get my attention and redirect me accordingly. Now that's what I can righteous living!

11:5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

     Here's another wise saying of typical Hebrew poetry with parallel statements - one positive, the other negative - contrasting "the blameless" and "the wicked." But, while the verse talks about what happens to them, it's actually more about who they are.
      It should be noted that "blameless" doesn't mean "sinless!" Instead, it suggests the idea of right focus and commitment to what is good and appropriate.
      This verse says it's their "righteousness" that sets the "blameless" up for good things - it "makes their paths straight." And righteousness always centers more on attitudes than actions.
      These straight paths would be flatter, smoother, easier to navigate and take a safer route to appropriate places. It's not that there will never be trouble on these paths, but traveling this way is a natural benefit to being such a person.
      Conversely, it's by "their own wickedness" that the "wicked are brought down." Sadly, they will ultimately pay a price for their attitudes and choices.
      While this wise saying doesn't mention God at all, I don't doubt His active involvement in the lives of both characters. He will watch over the "blameless" and deal with the "wicked."
      Yet, I will suggest that so much of what happens to both is simply the natural consequences of their own choices - good or bad.
      So this wise says suggests I have the opportunity to think and do right and, consequently, set myself up for good things to happen. But, even beyond that - God in Heaven is watching and, for sure, He's got my back!

11:6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires

     This proverb discusses two contrasting characters - "the upright" and "the unfaithful." Here we read the result - benefits and consequences - of being either one.
      "The upright" are those who are straightforward and on the level in their thinking and dealings. Their "righteousness" - or the daily practice of their good thinking and deeds - will "deliver" or "rescue" them.
      The appropriate and upright manner of their motive and actions will just naturally keep them from difficult situations. But God - who's not mentioned in the verse - will honor the faithfulness of these folks and will also intervene in their lives as necessary. Sounds like a pretty good way to go!
      On the other hand, "the unfaithful" are those who can't be trusted. They're "deceitful" to others, even "betraying" them. Not surprising, their MO (modus operandi) is to live and operate on the basis of "evil desires."
      Their attitudes are selfish and hurtful to others. Yet, in the end, these same attitudes that will eventually turn back on them and "the unfaithful" wind up "trapping" themselves.
      Caught in their own trap - great shades of Wile E Coyote!

11:9 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape.

     The first line in this verse talks about something with which we are all familiar – people destroying other people with their words. Sad to say, it mentions they are neighbors. This we also know – family, friends, coworkers and neighbors are frequently severely damaged by the words of people they know.
      But, one does not have to be destroyed by another's words. The second line says the righteous can escape this destruction – through knowledge. The ability to see the bigger picture, to understand whose talking and to think through an appropriate response helps a righteous person rise above this destruction. And beyond all that is still the direct intervention of God on behalf of His people.
      But to keep this verse in perspective – we have all said inappropriate things about others and we should face up to that. We should also not fall apart when things like this happen, God said it would. He also told us how to escape it!

11:14 For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.

     This is one of a small number of Proverbs which do not focus on everyday life of individuals, but on the scale of an entire nation. In good Hebrew parallelism, this verse actually says the same thing from both a positive and negative perspective.
      Here we note the serious consequences of "lack of guidance" for national leadership – "a nation falls." Yet, we also have the reminder that a leader who is open to listening to "many advisers" can, in fact, "make victory sure." These were the kind of thoughts that a king like Solomon would have to consider.
      But we don't need to be great social scientists or military strategists to appreciate just how much good such thinking could do in my life. If I align myself with the kind of support that tells me what is good for me to hear, just like that nation, I don't need to stumble around and can even be victorious in my life – one day at a time.

11:15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

     This verse doesn't sound very nice! It seems selfish and anti-social. But maybe not...
      Good Hebrew poetry, this wise saying has two parallel statements saying the same thing in different words. Someone who "puts up security for a stranger" is one who "co-signs" for another. That is, they agree to pay someone else's financial obligations if that person can't or doesn't.
      To do that for a loved one is one thing, but to do it for "a stranger" would be crazy - we "will surely suffer!" On the other hand, one who "refuses to shake hands in pledge" - refuses to commit to such an agreement - "is safe."
      To co-sign for someone is not a sin. But it might be a really bad decision - whether for a loved one or stranger!
      Of course, if we think God says, "Do this" - we'd better! But often we do it for other others reasons, some good, some not.
      There are two basic problems with co-signing. 1.) It can hurt them; and 2.) It can hurt me.
      It can hurt them because our co-signing may get in God's way. He might be using this situation to teach them things He wants them to know.
      It can hurt me because it might cost me plenty! It could also hurt our relationship.
      Sometimes they start ducking me because they know they owe me. Or I get an attitude because I paid and I don't appreciate how they're living or spending their own money.
      Co-sign if you think God wants you to! Otherwise, trust Him. He's got a plan for both of you!

11:16 A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.

     Most of the wise sayings in Proverbs are about men, but this one uniquely contrasts a "woman" with "men." The focus here is on her quality of being "kindhearted" and how it earns ("gains") her the "respect," love and appreciation of others. . The Proverbs treat this quality as being very important and valuable.
      The second half of the verse speak of "ruthless men" who also "gain" something from others. But it is "only wealth."
      The contrast is between this kindhearted woman and "ruthless men". Her decisions and choices bring her the respect of others, while the best ruthless men can get is the wealth of others for themselves.
      While many of us would look at the wealth and think that is such a great thing, Proverbs is full of verses which point out that wealth, by itself is a dead end (see 11:4). From my experience, people with the most stuff are not generally the happiest people I know. Instead, those who have developed meaningful relationships with others, based on kindness, are the ones who appreciate life the most.

11:22 Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

     "A gold ring" was a valuable piece of jewelry. "A pig's snout" was an extremely dirty part of a very unclean animal - according to Jewish Law.
      Such a valuable item stuck in an unclean pig's snout was a terrible waste of good jewelry. In fact, to the ancient Israelite, just the ring's association with a pig probably made it unclean.
      So the comparison of such a ring to a "beautiful woman" would seem incredible. Yet, most would agree that both "a gold ring" and "a beautiful woman" would be much appreciated.
      The other part of the comparison is the "pig's snout" to showing "no discretion." Sadly, this beautiful woman might well not be so appreciated - maybe even treated as an abomination - because of her inability to demonstrate any kind of good taste or judgment.
      So a beautiful woman and a gold ring would be pleasing to look at and both would seemingly represent something very special in a man's life. Unfortunately, the indiscrete actions of this woman would make her a real liability to most men.
      Since most of Proverbs is father-to-son talk, a woman who is discussed here. The same could be said about men, too. In fact, when it comes to indiscretion, us boys can get 'er done!
      Bottom line for this proverb...even beautiful things can lose their attractiveness. Our behaviors and attitudes can really mess up a great life - male or female!

11:29 He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.

     This verse is typical Hebrew poetry. Called "parallelism," the verse is divided into two parts. In this case, both parts speak about bad guys, maybe even referring to the same person.
      The first guy brings trouble on his family – whether he be father, son or brother. His actions and choices make life difficult for family members.
      Proverbs constantly reminds us of the consequences to our bad decisions. Here the man who troubles his own family will only inherit the wind. Maybe it was the direct result of his bad choices which left him with nothing, cut off from any family inheritance. Or it was God's direct judgment, but this guy winds up with nothing but air.
      The second man in the verse is called a fool and may also be the same guy in the first part of the verse. It says this fool will end up in a subservient role to a wise person. His bad choices will cost him, as well.

11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

     Typical Hebrew poetic parallelism – both parts of the verse speak positive things about good people. "The righteous" at the beginning of the verse produce "fruit" which becomes "a tree of life" (see also 3:18; 13:12; 15:4) for him and others. To be able to create something meaningful and share it with others sounds like a nice way to live.
      Many of us grew up in churches where there was lots of talk about "soul winning" – folks going out and sharing their faith with others. But when Solomon wrote "he who wins souls" in the second half of this verse, he was not thinking about sharing the gospel with others.
      The one who "wins souls" is parallel to "the righteous" at the beginning of the verse. This is a guy whose words, ways and force of personality can move others to join his point of view. The ability to impact people like this makes them "wise" people.
      May we always be willing to share our story and how God has made a difference in our lives. May we also be wise in doing so - for the greatest eternal impact in the lives of others!

11:31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!

     This verse is an interesting twist on the benefits of being a believer ("the righteous"). We usually talk about the "pie in the sky by and by," but this verse is about the here and now. While life is sometimes very difficult for a believer, God promises – obligates Himself – to honor our righteous attitudes and actions in this life.
      The same is also true for the "ungodly" and the "sinner" (unbeliever). Their eternal destiny is clearly stated in Scripture, but they must also know and expect to "reap what they sow" in this life, as well.
      If I wasn't a believer, this verse would make me very uncomfortable. But as a believer, I am banking on it! And, BTW, I am happy to report that it's working!