Solomon is keying in on four things:
1) Things that Lead to Poverty (6:1-11)
- Foolish financial entanglements (6:1-5) - Among fellow Israelites, there was to be no interest charged when giving a loan because money lending was meant to be a way of helping other Israelites and not for money making purposes. Interest could be applied to non-Israelites, but interest at high rates (usury) was illegal. Striking hands in a pledge was like shaking hands on a deal or "signing on the dotted line." These verses are not discouraging generosity but are encouraging a good balance between generosity and good stewardship of finances.
- Laziness (6:6-11) - The Hebrew word for sluggard (asel) happens 14 times in the book of Proverbs and nowhere else in the Old Testament. It refers to a lazy, irresponsible, shiftless person. The ant has nobody directing over it, but it is industrious; storing up for the future. It is a call for industriousness, purposefulness, and prudence in looking toward the future. To not possess these character traits is to be unwise.
- Uses false and deceptive words - "perverse mouth"
- Makes insinuations - "Winks with eye, signals with feet, motions with fingers"
- Continually devises evil
- Spreads strife
- Brings disaster on himself
- Eyes that are haughty - reflecting a proud heart
- Tongue that lies
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- Heart that plots and devises wicked plans
- Feet that move quickly into sin
- One who lies in court
The "six things plus one" above is a way of handling numbers in synonymous parallelism in Hebrew poetry (x and x + 1). The intention is not to give an exhaustive list, but to stress the final (x + 1) item as a culmination of the ones that came before it.
Caution Question: Have you ever met anyone that has characteristics like the above?
I have, and I have one word for you: RUN!!!!!!
4) The Dangers of Adultery (6:20-35)
This section includes a strong warning to heed parental teaching against it and stay away from the immoral woman!
When my best friend, Debbie, and I were roommates in Eugene back in the early 80's, we shared a huge bedroom that was separated into two areas by huge movable closets that almost touched the ceiling. One Saturday morning, I was sleeping in only to be suddenly awakened by what seemed like the "voice of God" thundering over the closets:
"How long will you lie down, o sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?"
or another one of "God's" (Debbie's) favorites was:
"As the door turns on its hinges,
So does the sluggard on his bed."
It has been a running joke between us for years whenever we get together (from as near as Corvallis to as far as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). If you knew Debbie, you would know that she would read this verse followed by one of her hilariously funny, hysterical laughs. I guess you have to be there, and I guess you need to know Debbie and me. I would not say either of us are a sluggard. In fact, we both have the dubious distinction of working ourselves to emotional burnout! We are both what many would call "high functioning" individuals. We are anything but sluggards. In fact, we have learned the hard way that some time we need to slow down and rest.
In fact, these admonitions in Proverbs 6 do not mean that we should never rest. We have already seen how God has factored in a day of Sabbath rest of His people, and He wants us to rest and restore too; but sometimes, God wants us to be responsible and work. Even though I am "high functioning," often I will procrastinate and wait until the last minute to do things when I really should discipline my time!
(2014 Update: Wow! It is great to reread this and see I rarely, if ever, procrastinate now! Growth!)
APPLICATION (written in 2008)
If you struggle with laziness or irresponsibility, maybe you need some accountability in your life. Right now, one friend and I email our goals for the day every morning and give a follow up that night or the following morning. It helps us both stay on track.
My husband has two "accountability partners." They set goals over email and report back to each other at the end of the two weeks. We three wives have seen great growth as a result of these three being in this kind of relationship.
2011 update: Now George does it with the other elders in our church.
2014 update: My husband had to step down as an elder his work takes him out of town during the week. He missed the accountability and just recently went back to two or three close accountability partners again. I still have two other women that hold me accountable, and I call the group "FACEyourday."
Here is our group description:
Get ready to FACE your day with accountability and support from friends!
FACED is an accountability group that focuses on balance in the following areas:
F: Food - What are your goals for eating right?
A: Academic or Attitude - What are you feeding your mind?
C: Communion - How are you communing with God and others?
E: Exercise - What are you doing to tune your temple?
D: Daily Care - What are your goals for taking care of your loved ones and yourself?
Maybe you do not struggle with laziness and irresponsibility. Maybe you have some "scoundrel" characteristics. Are you one to spread strife among brothers/sisters? I am sure we have all had times in our lives where we did not do all to preserve unity in our congregations and fellowships. How can you grow in this area?
LORD, we want to grow, grow, grow in characteristics that reflect YOU! Help us to evaluate our lives in view of the wisdom we see in the book of Proverbs. Thank You that You are not a lazy God, and that You are a God of truth and integrity. Thank You for being 100% safe! We love You. Amen.