Solomon points out some instances that make you pause and think. Was it worth it? Good or bad consequences frame how you handle the same thing later.
The conditions Solomon brings to light can be taken as warnings or blueprints. Each has its own rewards or pitfalls. Let’s see where the Holy Spirit takes us with them today.
Sleep is a GOOD thing, especially to those who don’t get quality sleep. Just ask anyone who has suffered with insomnia. Our bodies require sleep to function properly. We recharge during this time. I’ve heard that it is also during this time that we actually grow. But too much sleep is a BAD thing.
Solomon warns against lying in bed, sleeping your days away. The first thing he observes is that those who only sleep don’t accomplish the tasks necessary to sustain their bodies. The field doesn’t get plowed, watered, reaped of winnowed. There is nothing to put in the storehouse because nothing was planted. In modern society, sleeping your days away leaves you unemployed and also without means to support and feed yourself. No one wants to hire someone who is always late, calls in ‘sick’ or simply doesn’t show up. So WAKE UP and do your job. Do what it takes to support yourself and your family. THEN you can lie down and sleep in peace; knowing that you have completed the tasks required of you.
The next proverb talks about getting a ‘bargain’. This is a caution to both the buyer and the seller. The buyer in this instance is getting one over on the seller. He is talking down the merchandise he is actually interested in. The seller here listens to the buyer’s words and reduces the price. Finally the buyer, figuring he has gotten the lowest possible price responds; “Ok. I’ll take it off your hands. I don’t know what use I will have for it, seeing that it is of obvious inferior quality.” The seller, happy to get anything for this piece the buyer calls junk, sells at the ridiculous price.
The buyer is proud of his ‘negotiating skills’ and can’t wait to tell his friends. He brags about how he ‘swindled’ the seller. But a secret can never be quieted when others are let in on it. The seller will eventually learn of the buyer’s tricks. He will NEVER trust that particular buyer again. He may never trust ANY buyer after that.
This same scenario is often played out in reverse too. The seller, knowing what the buyer wants desperately inflates the price as much as possible. Sometimes the item is of inferior quality too. Tin this he seller will do all he can to convince the buyer that they are getting a bargain in the deal. Used car salesmen immediately spring to mind in this instance. The inflated prices of fuel and food is another prime example.
God is not seen, at least in this parable as condoning or condemning this practice. BUT He does speak to this practice in the Ten Commandments; “Thou shall not steal” and “Thou shall not bear false witness against your brother” (in other words don’t lie). These are commandments given by Jesus to ALL men to live by. Jesus’ words to, “Love your brother as yourself” also fits this scenario. I do NOT believe God looks the other way when one person ‘gets over’ on another, but “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19b). I wish ALL would be honest in their dealings.
Next, Solomon addresses what is of greater value. Gold, silver, precious stones, and anything else man counts as precious and costly are but junk in the eyes of the Father. Lovely to look at but pale in comparison to what is TRULY valuable. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding and relationship with God is more precious than ANYTHING this world has to offer! These gifts come only from Him.
I remember a joke someone told me about a rich man who insisted on being buried with his gold. When he stands before the gates of Heaven he opens his case, believing that his great wealth would at least buy him a special place in Heaven. Peter looks down and sees what is in the case. “You brought pavement stones” he asks with a bit of condemnation in his voice. God doesn’t need our ‘wealth’, He already owns everything. All He asks for is our hearts.
The next parable looks a little funny in light of Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan but, in reality, it speaks to something different. Jesus’ story was about a man who was near death and the most unlikely of men picked him up and cared for him, when NONE of those tasked with such generosity or care refused to. The Samaritan paid the inn keeper and promised to settle up the rest of the bill when he returned. The Samaritan DIDN’T promise the inn keeper that the man would pay for his own care. He took it upon himself to make good on any and ALL services rendered.
In Solomon’s proverb, one man is vouching for the character of someone he doesn’t truly know. He will put up his own cloak as security. The cloak was a VERY valuable thing in bible days. It was often the ONLY cloak a person owned. That cloak could be used to protect one again the cold, indicate status, and even be used as a bag for carrying things. The man offering his own security for someone he has no ‘control’ over and doesn’t know well. This is NOT a wise decision! If you feel God calls you to assist someone in this way it is best to pledge payment from yourself.
I have a family member that I know pretty well. She was on our cell phone plan for YEARS! The agreement was that she would pay her portion of the bill and pay for any equipment she wanted. I could probably count the number of times she contributed to the bill on my fingers. She upgraded her phone several times. Rather than asking the cell phone service provider to get her part of the money from her, I paid it. I encouraged her to get her own plan and I’m happy to say she finally did it. There is NO WAY I will co-sign for her on anything! I have provided funds for several things she needed as a ‘loan’ but I do not expect it to be returned. For all intents and purposes it was a gift. IF I ever receive repayment, I will be grateful and surprised.
The final parable in our reading is a lot like the first one for today. This one speaks of food as the item the buyer got through deceit. We are not told what kind of deceit was used here. It may be lying to someone about the need, paying less than it was worth, or outright stealing if from off their cart. ALL come with their measure of guilt. Or at least they do for the person who had asked Jesus into their hearts.
For those who haven’t there are other consequences to follow. I told you the story of a couple who were begging all over a nearby town who were unmasked as actually have means. Their deceit resulted in new legislation for our whole area and it impacts those who truly have needs. The person who ‘haggles’ and ‘gets over’ on the seller or receives a discount they are not entitled to will have their behavior talked about by others. And other merchants will in turn be warned against their tactics. The thief will face criminal charges when they are finally caught. Some countries those penalties are QUITE severe. No one goes unpunished forever.
The heart of the child of God will recognize our own sin. If we don’t, God’s Holy Spirit WILL bring it to our minds and it WILL eat away at us until we address it. If it is past the ability for restitution, God will provide another opportunity for you to make amends. I strongly suggest we ALL take those opportunities.
Father God, forgive me for undervaluing what is TRULY valuable; our relationship. I want more than anything to be a child You are proud of. One that You can point to and say, “She is doing a good job with what I have given her.” I long to hear the words Jesus spoke for You in the story of the ten talents; ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:22). For the times that I have been ‘unfaithful’ please forgive me and give me an opportunity to make it right. I want to be Your faithful servant with all You give me. Your love and approval is what I value most!