I try to read the Bible every day. For me, it is essential food. It is a lifeline of clarity and instruction. Often I read according to a schedule or on a plan. But not always.
Wherever I do read, sometimes in the old section—sometimes in the even older section—I make sure to include one installment from Proverbs, the great book of wisdom.
I’ve decided to share some of my considerings from those Proverbs reflections, starting with today.
When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food. Proverbs 23:1-3.
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always. Proverbs 23:17
There’s an easy temptation when it comes to money and wealth and comfort and rich things. The temptation is to make them a god or an idol. They aren’t bad on their own. I enjoy them in different measures. A sumptuous meal, a day of rest, greater wealth than 95% of the globe, resources for all of my practical needs. I’m thankful for those benefits. Sunny vacations. Good books. Public libraries. Perfect cheesecakes. Quality backpacking gear. Working cars.
None of those things are in themselves sinful.
The error is always with the user. (User error!) Or even deeper, the error is in the heart of the user. How I relate to those things in my heart is what makes them good or bad. I can enjoy them in a state of liberated alignment or in a state of sinful idolatry.
That is the primary caution for me as I consider these verses. The admonition is to be a vigilant watchman over my heart. To “consider carefully what is before you,” to use self-restraint by way of “putting a knife to your throat,” to be wary of any desire that is envious, lustful, morals-compromising. Otherwise it becomes a wedge between me and God.
“Do not let your heart envy sinners” makes plain the heart’s role. Do not let your heart envy sin, sinners, and their fruit. Their pleasures, ease, and apparent self-satisfied contentment. The caution starts with the heart. Do not let your heart.
It always flows from the heart.
The guarding of the heart isn’t complicated. The how of it is as clear as day, laid out in the second half of the verse. “Live always in the fear of the Lord” is what supplies those protective guardrails.
The fear of the Lord is good. It is crisp and clean. It is an invitation that protects and clarifies.
When I fear God, I’m not scuttling around in terror of an errant lighting bolt. For me, it is about recognition. I’m acknowledging that not only is He my creator and the maker of all things, but that He is perfect and just—and He must punish sin. He must. It is part of His nature, He cannot abide any corruption. And it is by Christ only that I am spared the punitive rod of destruction.
That’s where the majestic fear of the Lord finds its footing in me, by focusing on Jesus.
Considering the universe-shattering expensive cost of his sacrificial blood, freely shed for me, helps to me watch over my heart. Focusing on Jesus, the only perfect man who lived, and his wholly surrendered death on the cross for my idolatry and pride and sin births that desire to watch over my heart. The cost of my freedom was so great!
Focusing on Jesus, who loves and gives and intercedes for me even now—gracious, ever-present, welcoming, delivering me as I stumble toward the light in this body of bones and flesh, stirs up such a terrible, grateful awe that watching over my heart flows out as a natural response.