Sunday, April 05, 2009

How to Reduce Your Risks: A Lesson on Proverbs 6

How to Reduce Your Risks: A Lesson on Proverbs 6
By Terry Pruitt

If you use this lesson in a small group or Sunday School class please let me know.

Texts: Proverbs 6; Rom 13:8; 2Th 3:10; Mat 12:36; Heb 5:14; Heb 9:1

Main Idea: There is a difference between someone who takes naive risk and someone who simply enjoys being evil; both will suffer consequences.

Many people look at morality as simply rules to mitigate risk in our lives. Often these people would see the function of laws and etiquette is to bring order, happiness and prosperity. With this sort of thinking, rules of morality are functional in nature, they are to bring the most good. The authority of “Thou shalt not” becomes the suggestion stating “be careful if you do”. Morality becomes a way of expressing risk management. In this thinking, the exact cause and effect sequence of why are not always known, but the speaker knows that something might happen bad if one breaks the rule. Of course many Christians see the Ten Commandments in the Scripture as God given Laws which are designed to mitigate risk against bad consequences. However, if morality is merely risk management, then the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments dealing with the right worship of God take a back seat since there is no earthly risk seen in this. Bad consequences of breaking laws are cited in Proverbs 6 as reasons against breaking the Law. However, the consequences are not mentioned at all when discussing the Lord's attitude toward those who embrace their lawlessness. While consequences are implied from the surrounding verses, the main idea discussed is that God hates the shameless embracing of evil. It points to an aspect of morality, that there is an inherently authoritarian aspect to morality. God finding an act, a word or an action an abomination is its own punishment in addition to any consequences which we may or may not avoid. God judges perfectly man's actions as morally good or evil. We suffer consequences from naive foolishness and from out right sin, but we should seek the rewards of virtue and God's favor.

1. Taking on financial risk for someone you do not know will likely come to a bad end so get out of it as quickly as possible. (Proverbs 6:1-5)

The first five verses of chapter tell about someone who takes on financial risk for someone else. Today this would the equivalent of co-signing of a loan or investing in a business. This may or may not be a morally wrong action to take. If you or I have money of our own, we are free to spend it as we see fit. It may not be wise to back someone else's debts, but given you or I have the resources, it is not a breaking of the Ten Commandments to do so. The author does not want the student addressed by the book to get taken by those who would misuse good will or naivety of the student. So in this case the concern is to mitigate financial risk.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:8 ESV)

Does this Scripture preclude the Christian from taking or making a loan? Why is this true Scripturally? If so, how does this fit in with the Ten Commandments? If not, when do we know we must literally follow the direction of a passage?

2. Becoming a self-starter in work is a guard against poverty. (Proverbs 6:6-11)

In the last section the person may suffer from being a poor judge the ways of the world. In this section, the lazy bum is not actively breaking the law. His sins are those of omission rather than commission. He should work for his provision. The consequences are in this case more the result of doing the morally wrong thing, but only in breaking the Ten Commandments in their implied virtues, not the explicit commandment.

Ants are famous for being hard workers who have no hierarchical structure governing that work. This self-starting attitude is a necessity for the entrepreneur but is also useful in other stations of life.

Is a lack of hard work a sin or just unwise? When the Scripture says if “someone does not work he should not eat”, in what situations does this apply and not apply?

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2Th 3:10 ESV)

3. An evil person often gives signs of his evil actions through body language and actions but sudden and thorough destruction will overcome him. (Proverbs 6:12-15)

Being a good communicator means invariably means listening to non-verbal communication. We are often left with people's actions, tone, expression, and posture to interpret, that is if we want to communicate effectively. Of course, we have to be careful to not assume we can interpret these signals as if they mean only one thing. Crossed arms in front of someone can mean that some does not want to listen, but it also can mean that a person is physically cold or that he has shoulder injury that feels better in that posture. When people are full of pride, invariably they want to communicate their successes to others. When people are prideful of something evil, they want to communicate that too. They feel it is a success. In reality, glorying in evil often brings swift and non-recoverable destruction. Who has not heard a child incriminate himself? Adults do the same thing but usually on a more sophisticated level. You and I do this also. The passage warns us that we could be incriminating ourselves and implied by what follows incriminating ourselves before God. We feel comfortable confessing a sin if we feel we have mitigated all consequences and know we have gotten away with it.

Listening to ourselves can be a difficult thing to do. People often do not like how they sounds on a tape recorder. Is if fair to judge us by our own words when we don't really know what we say?

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (Mat 12:36 ESV)

Hebrews 5:14 tells us a mark of maturity is distinguishing good from evil. How do we learn to distinguish good from evil?

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14 ESV)

4. The Lord hates those who practice evil. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Here the worst of sins are listed but we do not see any earthly consequences mentioned. These are not unintentional sins. These are full blown evil attitudes that takes pleasure in evil. Some people have said that the only sins that can be forgiven are the unintentional ones.

but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. (Heb 9:1 ESV)

How would one ensure he has not committed sins intentionally? What would he do if he had committed sins intentionally?

5. The man who commits adultery will not receive mercy from the woman's husband. (Proverbs 6:20-35)

In this passage, the man who commits adultery is both like man who was swindled and also not like that man. Both men seem to be misled. The man who was swindled was misled into something that was merely unwise and did not break a direct commandment. The adulterer actually broke a commandment.

A strange thing in interpreting Proverbs 6: 28 is that people do walk on hot coals in a process people call fire walking. This is practiced in many places and has a long history. Scientist explain the phenomena but they do not always agree. The basic explanations are that the transfer of heat from the wood to the human flesh is not quick. So as long as the walker keep moving at rate of one step per half second he can fire walk with no injury. It is like running one's finger through a candle flame. Do it quickly and you suffer nothing. Just hold it in the flame and you will get burned. The other explanation has to do with a steam barrier being built up between the foot and the coals.

Many people actually have gotten burned by trying to fire walk. A famous case in Australia had KFC employees participating in a confidence exercise at a company retreat were injured.

In reality why fire walking is such a novelty is that if we touch fire long periods of time we do get hurt. We can think we can mitigate risk of moral failure, and sometimes we do, but ultimately it will catch up with us.

Should we as Christians reduce risks of consequences on those who incur those risks by breaking Scriptural commands?

"If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Lev 20:10 ESV)

Is the general equity of Lev 20: 10 superseded by John 8? If not, how would we go about making the equity of this Old Testament Law viable in our modern culture? If so, what about other Laws such as murder?
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