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May 26, 2019

Proverbs Gives Us a Hunger for Righteousness

Passage: Proverbs 11:1-31

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Why Should I Read Proverbs Now?

Category: Proverbs

Keywords: wisdom, righteousness, proverbs, structure


This week Proverbs 11 open our eyes and our minds to another neglected aspect of Christian faith: righteousness. How often do we pray for righteousness in our acts, habits and behavior? We struggle with righteousness because sin has divided our hearts. Any righteousness we enact comes from Christ Jesus, for he is our righteousness. When the Bible encourages us to put on Christ’s righteousness many times this can feel to us like we’re putting on ill-fitting clothes; they are too big for us and we still have to grow into them. One way we grow in our righteous living is to see righteousness in relation to justice. These are often the same word in the Bible. For the Christian, righteousness isn’t some private act limited to being nice and not saying bad words. Proverbs 11 enlarges our understanding of righteousness all the way to how we treat others, our business dealings, our sexuality, and our heart’s desires. Why is all this so important? When Christ Jesus rose again as Lord and Savior, he established his righteous reign and rule. Now, blessing is linked to righteousness. So much so that Proverbs can proclaim: When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.


When my son moved

and needed to find an apartment to rent

he was frustrated by the duplicity

of some of the landlords he met.

Why don’t they tell the truth? he asked me.

If we make an appointment

why not just call me

if they’re not going to show up?

Why do they advertise one price,

but when it comes time to signing a lease

they quote a different price?


I reminded him that he was raised

to think and act differently than many others.

He was taught to value honesty and fairness

and truthfulness,

but that’s not the case for everyone.

There are other values out there:

like living for one’s self,

getting the most money,

living for personal advantage,

and many times things like truth

and right and wrong don’t fit

when you live to get as much as you can for yourself.

But don’t let that stop you

from seeking righteousness.

Because that’s what God calls us to,

that’s what Jesus made us to be,

and that’s what the Lord honors.


And eventually he did find an apartment.

I’m sure many of us could tell similar stories

about being surprised by lying,

or greed or gossip or selfishness,

some sort of unrighteous behavior

that happens,

and it’s even more hurtful when

no one thinks any different about it.


Proverbs 11 reminds us this happens

in our communities

because people don’t value righteousness

like they should.

And let’s remember

people who say they are Christians

aren’t immune to unrighteous choices and behaviors.


On a spiritual level, we all still battle the flesh.

What’s the first thing the Lord God said to Cain?

Sin is crouching at your door,

it desires to have you

but you must master it.

And we all know this basic struggle.

We remember it every time

we drop our kids off at a friend’s house

with the hopeful blessing,

‘Try to be good!’


Righteous living matters.

Yet we all confess there are times and situations

in which we choose anything but the good and right.

Especially when doing the right thing may cost us.


So as Proverbs guides us in wise living

it accents righteousness again.

15 times the word righteousness is used

in this one chapter.

You might think that faith

is just about opinions and ideas

and is all in your head,

but Proverbs links belief and behavior,

what we do and don’t do

is what faith is all about

in responding with gratitude

for salvation in Jesus Christ.

So let’s spend a few moments taking to heart

the wisdom of these proverbs.

But let me help you with understanding

and applying proverbs.

Was it a little difficult to listen to these proverbs

one after another?

I know it can seem difficult to take them in

one at a time

and one after another.


At first hearing they can seem quite random.

Yes, the point seems to be righteousness

in this chapter,

but our verses talked about a variety

of seeming unrelated situations and circumstances:

dishonest scales





gold rings and pigs



What do all these things have to do with each other?

How am I to make sense of these Proverbs?

Remember, proverbs pay attention

to what happens in our created order,

mindful of the way the Lord God shaped things

and the way sin has misshapen life.

The book of Proverbs helps us see

the principles our wise Lord

built into the created order -

like righteousness in our chapter.

Then individual proverbs examine that principle

according to what happens in everyday life.

Not as a rule that everyone follows,

not as a promised outcome you are guaranteed,

but as the Lord intends

in the holy, patient way of grace.

God’s will, we pray to be done on earth

as it is in heaven.


So righteousness is commanded of us

as the way to live wisely and well in God’s kingdom.

The individual proverbs

both see and apply righteousness

to different situations and circumstances of life:

things like wealth


harvest and work

sexual relations

neighborly relationships . . .


The proverbs recognize we answer in thanksgiving

to the one true Lord;

we don’t use God to prop up

or excuse our own broken behavior

and selfish temptations.

Proverbs isn’t given to us

to help us get ahead

as one measures getting ahead in this broken world,

but how to live in the grace of the Lord God.


This is a battle carried in our hearts

and waged in our desires.

Proverbs form our souls in the image of God.

You notice they are different from some of our

everyday, American proverbs like:

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

“Everyone wants to live long

but no one wants to get old.”

“Look at the mother before you marry the daughter”

As you listened to Proverbs 11

you heard a different sort of wisdom.

You were drawn to life lived

in the reality that God is present

and we each answer to the Lord.

This is reflected in proverbs like vs 4 -

4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,

    but righteousness delivers from death.


If this is wisdom, it is risky wisdom.

Because the prevailing pressure on us

is to get, gain and gather

as much wealth as we can

for the scary and threatening future.

When things go bad, give me wealth, we think.

It’s the old Warren Zevon song:

I’m a desperate man,

Send lawyers, guns, and money . . .


So this proverb enlarges our vision,

seeks to transform our wisdom,

commands us in the presence of the God of grace.

Trust in King Jesus

when it comes to what you’re living for –

4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,

    but righteousness delivers from death.


It’s teaching:

Devote yourself to righteous living

when it comes to your resources and finances,

because in the end

this is how God brings deliverance.

Put effort into right behavior

more than accumulating wealth,

because wealth won’t get you what you want,

even tho you think it will.

Proverbs invites us to value righteousness

because God is righteous,

and we are made in God’s image

so this is what we are made and redeemed for.


Now that we’ve looked a little more closely

at one proverb,

let me help us learn how best to read

and understand them:

be alert to the different types of proverbs

in the book.

Different study guides will label them differently,

but it helps to recognize the structure of the proverbs

for understanding them.

For instance,

vs 1 is one type of structure, contrast:

1 The Lord detests dishonest scales,

    but accurate weights find favor with him.


Did you notice in this verse

the lines contrast with each other:

the Lord detests dishonest scales

the Lord finds favor with accurate weights.

When we apply this

to the theme of valuing righteousness

we understand that in everyday life

there are choices to be made

for what’s right, true, fair or honest,

and against what is wicked and unjust,

and that the Lord delights in such faithfulness.


Because, this is the way the world works well;

this is how peace and flourishing come.

So things as far removed from the spiritual

as correct weights matter

because Jesus is Lord of all.

Did you hear this week?

It was big news

that we have a new standard of measurement

for the kilogram.

A new definition of a kilogram

went into effect this week.

Up until now the accurate weight of a kilogram

was based on an actual metal object

safeguarded in France.

From now on a kilogram

will be based on a mathematical constant.

Why is that important?

A metal weight behaves differently

in space or under water or in a vacuum.

But a mathematical constant

can be applied anywhere.

And as one scientist said,

“The better you can measure,

the more things you can do.”


It’s a scientific clue

to the way things are supposed to be;

the way God made creation

and intends life to be lived.

It is righteous to weigh things accurately.


Some proverbs are parabolic:

they sound like mini parables.

Look at verse 22 –

22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout

    is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

How is this related to righteousness?

It’s a picture of the misuse of our sexuality.

It’s a reminder that what we do with our bodies

is not up to us or our choice

apart from the Lordship of Jesus.

We are to honor the Lord with our bodies.

Our Creator God has made each one of us

for his glory;

each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.

You are beautiful and your beauty is for the Lord.

But it’s useless, it’s out of place,

it’s comical and foolish,

like a gold ring in a pig’s snout,

if you are reckless and shameless

and selfish with your beauty.

Regarding your sexuality choose righteousness.


Another type of proverb is called integral,

meaning the second line

advances the thought of the first line.

Look at vs 10 –

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;

    when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.


We have to look no farther

than some of our city neighborhoods

to see the value of this proverb.

Neighborhoods controlled by the wickedness

of gangs, drugs and guns

live in sorrow and fear.

Cities like Harvey are in ruin

because of dishonest management.

The plea here is for God’s people

to be the salt and light they are supposed to be,

and to join in the cry of justice

so that righteousness may be established again.


Some proverbs are synonymous –

each line echoes each other

in order to help us understand the meaning:

vs 25 –

25 A generous person will prosper;

    whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.


This verse also reminds us that proverbs

are more descriptive than prescriptive.

Do you know the difference?

Prescriptive, it’s like the word prescription.

Take this to get better.

Remember, proverbs do more

to describe the will and way of God

than to promise personal flourishing.

We aren’t to misuse the proverbs

as a method for personal advancement

and material prosperity.

The point is to honor what God has made

and live for his glory, not ours.

So we shouldn’t read this verse thinking, ahh!

so this is how I can get ahead:

I’ll be generous

because I’m going to get more out of it:

if I help you I guess you owe me.

Instead, read it as a description

of what righteous living looks like,

and it looks in this respect like being generous

with your time, talents and treasures toward others.


This also enlarges

our understanding of righteousness.

Because when we first think of being righteous,

we think of being good.

And when we think of being good,

we think of personal piety.

I’ll be good if I don’t smoke or drink or swear.

I’m a good person because I go to church

and because I don’t go to casinos.

But righteousness is based on

our belonging in God’s covenant family.

So righteousness is about loving God,

loving our neighbor,

and loving Christ’s church.

Goodness is more about how we treat others

than just our personal habits.

This hit me a while ago

when I was looking at the fruit of the Spirit.

Many of us have memorized

those verses from Galatians 5:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness . . .

But then I looked up the verse

in the New Revised Standard version,

and I was startled to see

that when we get to the word ‘goodness’

the NRSV uses the word ‘generosity’ instead.

All to accent that our right behavior and choices

are measured by how we treat others,

not how we perceive we keep ourselves clean.


For it is Jesus who fulfilled

and now defines our righteousness.

Because of the righteousness of Jesus

he is our Savior and Redeemer.

He came to fulfill the will of God,

he is the Lord’s intention for Creation,

and he is the strength for human beings

to live a righteous life.

We don’t make our own righteousness.

It’s not a status we achieve by being good enough.

Jesus makes us righteous;

his righteous declares that we are made right.

Faith says, Trust him, and now be who you are!

Holy, made righteous.

1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him

that you are in Christ Jesus,

who has become for us wisdom from God—

that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.


Matthew 6:33

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.


“Whoever Jesus was,

he was not a ‘nice’ person

spouting lofty platitudes about peace;

no, Jesus was a threat, despite his goodness—

or, rather, precisely because of his goodness.

Jesus was good but was considered as good as dead by his opponents, both religious and secular,

because he was everything they weren’t

and the people knew it.

For those leaders,

it was ‘Jesus or me,’ not ‘Jesus for me’!”

The righteous example set by our Savior

resulted in him being hated, despised, and rejected,

precisely because of his goodness and righteousness.


And so Proverbs 11 reminds us

that to choose Christ

is to choose against many of the world’s values:

16 A kindhearted woman gains honor,

    but ruthless men gain only wealth.


So what type of proverb is this?

See the contrast?

Good. You’re getting it already.


There are two contrasts here:

one in attitude and action towards others,

and the second contrast in terms of the result.

Kindheartedness results in honor,

ruthlessness only in wealth.

What would you rather have, honor or wealth?

Now again, it’s to be read descriptively,

not prescriptively.

Some kindhearted people wind up dishonored

and some ruthless people are to be pitied

because they are both mean and broke.

And not everyone who has more than you

is more ruthless than you.

We’re asking about faith here:

what do you live for?

‘Only’ wealth . . .

do you hear the judgment,

the limitation of that?

Do you hear the caution given us

in putting our energies into material gain?


The deeper description is that righteousness

isn’t carried out ruthlessly – by force –

by manipulation –

by political power –

you can’t bully your way into a righteous land

tho some seem to think so today.


While Jesus wasn’t a nice Mr Rogers kind of guy,

he was kind.

So if you’re having a hard time deciding on

what righteousness looks like in your situation,

start with kindness:

not being nice to yourself,

but being kind to another.


This recognizes that Jesus is your king

and reigns over your life:

How does Christ’s ascension to heaven

benefit us?

  1. First, he is our advocate

in heaven

in the presence of his Father.

Second, we have our own flesh in heaven

as a sure pledge that Christ our head

will also take us, his members,

up to himself.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth

as a corresponding pledge.

By the Spirit’s power

we seek not earthly things

but the things above, where Christ is,

sitting at God’s right hand.


So we don’t live for ‘only wealth,’

or ‘only happiness’

or merely this world’s fleeting comforts.

The Lord will honor you in his kingdom.

We live to hear only one thing:

well done, good and faithful servant,

come enter in the joy of the Lord!


Vs 30 gives us our vision for tomorrow:

in our workplace,

at home,

in our relationships

as a citizen

encountering the stranger

loving our neighbor

belonging to God’s people –

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,

    and the one who is wise saves lives.


When we submit our living to the way of Christ,

and put on his righteousness,

the blessing of life in him will come

and will be shared by those we bless in his name.


Humankind’s sin is described in Genesis 3 this way:

When Adam and Eve sinned against God,

they were exiled from the garden

losing access to the tree of life.

Life was lost except for the grace of God.

You may be here today feeling life is lost for you.

The hurt is too painful.

The limits are too great.

The world is against you.

God seems silent.

Tempted to despair,

to selfish living,

to anger or greed,

Proverbs 11 points us ultimately

to the righteous fulfillment of Jesus

by his cross and empty tomb.

Jesus has ascended to his throne

and rules by that same righteousness today.

When in faith we respond choosing the right,

favoring what is just,

exercising kindness and generosity,

we highlight the presence of Jesus

who is our tree of life.

He brings life and flourishing.

He is the difference we long in our hearts to bring.