As I continue my study of Proverbs, I keep finding more and more to put on my favorites list. Last week, I shared five favorites from the first 10 chapters of Proverbs. Here are my top five from chapters 11 through 20.
I’m having a hard enough time narrowing it down to five verses for every 10 chapters — I’m not sure how I’ll settle on just one favorite for our study discussion next month. Perhaps I’ll bring a list roughly organized by which one I want to talk about most, and then cross-off any that someone mentions before I do.
A gracious woman retains honor, but ruthless men retain riches. (Prov. 11:16)
It is for the first half of this verse that I have included it here. Ever since my career adviser at OSU told me I was very gracious in the way I responded when she had to take a phone call while we were meeting, I’ve paid extra attention to verses like this. I liked how it felt to be considered gracious — it was a description I’ve always thought held value, but this was the first time someone applied it to me. I want to be a grace-filled woman, and I hope to give people that impression of me.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12)
There are many hopes I have that have been deferred (marriage and a family of my own, to name one). I have to believe, though, that God does not want to make our hearts sick. Therefore, when our hopes are deferred, it must be for a good reason. Perhaps it is to teach us to trust Him long-term — if all our hopes were fulfilled instantly I doubt we would appreciate His gifts very much. Psalm 37 says if we delight in the Lord, “He shall give you the desires of your heart.” If we trust in Him and commit lives to following Him, He will bring about our desires (Ps. 37:4-5). God wants to give us good things. He wants us to be delighted.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov. 15:1)
A cross reference in my study Bible gives an example of this in Judges 8:1-3. The men of Ephraim were chiding Gideon sharply for not calling them to fight with him against Midian. Instead of answering them in kind, he diplomatically diffused the situation and “their anger toward him subsided.” The flip side of this principle, of course, is that being snappish and peevish stirs up an angry response in others and leads to escalating arguments. We need to be moving toward peace instead of anger. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Christ said, “for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. (Prov. 16:3)
I find it interesting that in this verse, it says your “thoughts will be established.” Related verses talk about God establishing our ways and caring for our wants, but this one focuses on the state of our minds. It is like Philippians 4:6-9 in a single verse.
He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. (Prov. 17:27-28)
How little we value the skill and gift of quietness in today’s society. Words fitly spoken are beautiful (Prov. 25:11), but there are also many times when it is more beautiful to be “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19).