“The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
(Proverbs 28:1 NIV)
Solomon contrasts the insecurity of someone with a guilty conscience with the courage of someone with a clear conscience. The person with a guilty conscience is constantly looking over their shoulder, expecting someone or something to jump out and condemn them for their past or present actions. Those with a clear conscience move forward without fear of the past or the present.
Solomon is not telling us to be prideful, but to be strong in our faith and courageous in our actions. This reflects in our love of the Lord, and our care for ourselves and others around us.
“Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.”
(Proverbs 28:6 NIV)
Solomon makes an assumption that most who become rich do so at the expense of others. Yes, there are those whom God blesses that walk in integrity; Solomon is not addressing them. When Solomon uses the phrase “whose ways”, he is talking about the rich who live hypocritical lives, who want to look good on the outside, but are corrupt from the heart, and in their actions. Solomon says that honesty with poverty is a better choice than wealth with corruption.
“Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.”
(Proverbs 28:8 NIV)
What is Solomon talking about here? When God laid out the principles for commerce and community within the nation of Israel, He said that people with money could make loans to fellow Israelites who needed help, but they could not charge interest (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36-37, Deuteronomy 23:20). Solomon is saying that those who ignore or dismiss God’s clear directive in this area will not be able to hold on to their ill-gotten wealth. Instead, God will redistribute that wealth through another who obeys God’s commands in this area, who will be kind to the poor and not take advantage of them, and give back to the community and to the poor.
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
(Proverbs 28:13 NIV)
As Solomon wrote this, he was likely remembering the contrast between Saul, the first king of Israel, and David, his father, who was second king of Israel.
In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel had given Saul clear direction from the Lord, and Saul had clearly disobeyed. Samuel confronted Saul, and Saul even admitted to Samuel that he had sinned. Samuel told Saul that the Lord had removed him as king over Israel. Saul then insisted that Samuel return to town with him, and that they worship the Lord together, as if everything was OK. Saul may had admitted his sin when directly confronted by Samuel, but had not changed his ways, and was consumed with how others would perceive him, so he covered over his issue by insisting that Samuel return and worship the Lord with him.
Contrast Saul with David, when Samuel confronted David about his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, and his premeditated murder of her husband. In Psalm 51, David confesses his sins, and writes it down and proclaims it publicly. King David does not care who hears, he only wants to be set right before the Lord. Unlike Saul, David turns from his wicked ways and finds God’s mercy, rather than God’s judgment.
As we consider Solomon’s contrasting proverbs today, may we choose to walk humbly with the Lord, boldly for Him, and generously with others.