The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor: but the way of the wicked seduces them.
(NKJV) The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them away.
You can see from the above example how the English translations vary widely for this verse. Sometimes it can be difficult to get to the heart of the Hebrew idiom. What we can say with certainty is that the Bible marks a hard and fast division between the righteous and the wicked. In any sort of community, whether it be neighborhoods or workplaces, people rub off on each other. So this proverb reminds us to always be aware of who is rubbing off on whom. When more of the wicked rubs off on the righteous than the other way around, then the righteous should reevaluate the situation. A Christian teacher, for example works diligently in the godless public schools, teaching young men and women how to fear God in chemistry and history classes throughout his career. His children attend the same schools. Because the institutions (as a whole), are set in opposition to the reverence and worship of God, his own children and grandchildren will fail to learn the fear of God. They learn to be man-centered (and dualistic) in their education and their work, while remaining “good little Christians” on Sundays. If they take to heart what they learn in secular humanist classrooms, they come to think like humanists. They begin to seek after churches that teach a man-centered theology. After forty years of involvement in the public school machine, this teacher finds that the six opportunities he had to “witness” about Jesus were drowned out by a system of humanist indoctrination, in a stridently godless educational institution. If he participated in promulgating this godless education, he must know that his life work contributed to the ongoing secularization of society. Again, the question we all must ask is this, “Can we remain holy, separate, and undefiled while participating in this or that aspect of the world’s system?” In a flagrantly godless age where the apostasy from Europe is spreading to North America, Christians must be more discerning than ever.
The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
There are various forms of diligence carefully distinguished for us in God’s holy revelation. What is taught in this verse is a conscientious, meticulous diligence. Most children have a hard time turning off lights to conserve energy when they leave a room. I doubt that they have calculated how much time it would take to flip off the light in comparison with the kilowatt-hours of energy wasted by leaving the lights on. By nature, children are not given to diligence. In almost every situation, they exhibit some lack of conscientiousness in what they do. When studying an Algebra lesson, a child may complete a page of work on a problem, but because he forgot to put the decimal point in the right place or left out a parenthesis, he will arrive at the wrong answer. He should receive no credit for the work he did, for the same reason that an engineer who makes the same error in the design of a bridge receives no credit when the bridge collapses! Mathematics trains this special trait of conscientious diligence, and in the scientific disciplines there is no substitution for this vital character trait.
This verse encourages us to a careful use of the resources that God gives us. Naturally, we all face the deleterious effects of the law of entropy. Things grow old and dilapidated over time. But when we take due care of our belongings, carefully maintaining our homes, automobiles, and yards, they do not lose value as quickly as they would if we were careless with them.
In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.
The way to life is a road. Salvation is a path. To think of salvation as a solitary event apart from a life of faith, repentance, and relational obedience is to misunderstand the Christian faith. This is why the Christian classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, is a closer representation of the faith than what you will find in many systematic theologies. Even the Apostles in the New Testament refer to the faith as “the way” (Acts 9:2, 16:17, 18:26, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, 24:22). Applying this lesson to the discipleship of our children, we wish more than a one-time religious experience for them. We want to see them walking in the truth (2 John 1:4, 3 John 1:4).
1. Does our association with godless people yield more or less fruit for the kingdom of God? What are the ways in which the wicked might seduce us away from God?
2. In which way do you walk? Are you walking in the pathway of life or are you walking in the way of the wicked? How do you know that you are walking in the way of righteousness?
3. How are we doing in the area of conscientious diligence? In what areas of our lives are we most conscientious? In what areas are we the least conscientious? Are we wasteful or frugal with the resources God gives to us?