Leadership Lessons From The Book Of Proverbs

Leadership Lessons From The Book Of Proverbs

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Since next Tuesday is Election Day, it seems appropriate to reflect on the Proverbs’ teachings on leadership. Of course, those in positions of authority would do well to consider all the wisdom in the book of Proverbs. But there are eight passages they would do well to contemplate that speak specifically to those exercising secular authority. Here they are in the order of their appearance. 

If you don’t help the people you lead, you won’t be in charge for long. 

“In a multitude of people is a king’s glory, But in the scarcity of people is a prince’s ruin” (Proverbs 14.28 NASB). This verse tells us two things: 1) You cannot be a leader if no one is willing to follow, and 2) Deprivation will make your constituency turn on you. 

What you say will get greater attention, so carefully choose your words. 

“A divine verdict is on the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment” (Proverbs 16.10 NASB). This verse does not mean that leaders are infallible, as some interpreted in the past, but rather that people put more weight on a leader’s words. 

You cannot turn a blind eye to evil. 

“A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes. A wise king scatters the wicked, And drives a threshing wheel over them.”(Proverbs 20.8,26 NASB). 

One of the reasons God gives men authority is to wield the sword against the evildoer (Romans 13.4). As a result, being lenient toward lawbreakers harms the dominion over which you exercise control. 

Taxation should not be excessive. 

“The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a person who takes bribes ruins it” (Proverbs 29.4 NASB). 

Commentators agree that this speaks of excessive taxation. I doubt any of us would view paying taxes as equal to a bribe, but it speaks to the ruler’s greed. Do you recall what happened when Rehoboam took the wrong advice and increased the already excessive tax burden on the people? The ten northern tribes of Israel broke away and formed a new kingdom under King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12.6ff). 

Avoid surrounding yourself with “yes-men.” 

“If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked” (Proverbs 29.12 NASB). 

People in power often attract sycophants who may speak lies that the ruler finds favorable. If he is the type who delights in those stroking his ego, he might discover himself surrounded by those seeking to use him to accomplish their means.  

Don’t forget that your constituency includes people who can’t help you. 

“If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever” (Proverbs 29.14 NASB). 

A popular leader fights for fair treatment for all citizens, especially the poor unable to lobby their cause. If you’ll also note that type of character wins one re-election. 

If you want to further your political career, stay away from scandal. 

“Do not give your strength to women, Or your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire intoxicating drink” (Proverbs 31.3-4 NASB). 

Those in positions of authority are surrounded by more than just sycophants. Additionally, they have domestic and foreign foes. One strategy used by these foes involves the fairer sex. A honey trap is a name for this kind of strategy. Honey trapping entails luring a target into a romantic or sexual relationship to gain access to sensitive information. Recent history in the U.S. Congress reveals at least one Representative who fell victim to such a trap, having a relationship with an agent of communist China. 

Persons in authoritative roles should never partake in excessive drinking. You may say or do something you will regret in a drunken state. People suspect one now-deceased politician murdered a political operative with whom he may have been having an affair while driving drunk in his car. His stature, however, protected him from even being arrested. While it did not end his political career, it derailed his chances of ever becoming President of the United States. 

This list is not exhaustive. Further, Solomon discusses the proper way to interact with those in authority. However, the points I’ve made here appear particularly relevant during this election season.  

Oh, Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Oh, Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Friday Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

We finally get a glimpse of Lady Folly. Granted, she is factually a person our author was aware of, but she is the embodiment of Lady Folly. Our author relates to his students something he witnessed with his eyes, the seduction of the simpleton. Indeed, Solomon seems preoccupied with sexual immorality, having discussed it several times. However, Solomon knows the damage caused by sexual sin. It is ruinous in multiple ways. And repetition is often a device used within instruction to ensure a pupil learns the material.  

Solomon begins by directing students to God’s Law. What does God say about this? Indeed, God has prohibited sexual immorality within the Law. Therefore, the student need only properly esteem that Law, making it the apple of his eye. Furthermore, unlike the gaudy phylacteries worn by later Pharisees, the young man needs to write God’s Law on his heart. Those fortunate enough to live under the New Covenant already realize that God changed the nature of His Law so that the follower of the New Covenant can write God’s Law on his heart rather than a stone (Hebrews 10.15-17). It enables the disciple to carry God’s Word with him always.  

After writing God’s Law on one’s heart, he seeks Lady Wisdom. She is here pictured as a sister. Think of the relationship many brothers have with their sisters. Do they not tend to be protective of them? Even Jacob’s brood did something drastic to protect the honor of their sister Dinah (cf. Genesis 34). So, the sister figure stands in stark contrast to Lady Folly, the seductress. With Wisdom, there is life, but Folly brings death. And this analogy of brothers and sisters continues under the New Covenant within the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Timothy 5.1-3).  

These first five verses set the stage for the subsequent confrontation and seduction of the youth. As Solomon looks out his window, he sees the “simple ones” (KJV) gathered in the streets. But as is typically the case when the Bible uses words like a fool or simple, it is not about a lack of intelligence. Instead, such words denote a disdain for or a lack of instruction. Typically, it is because simple ones pursue carnal things rather than those spiritual experiences that bring wisdom. Hence, we have those who, if pure of heart, would have sought the safety of their homes. Instead, these men preferred hanging out in the dangerous streets.  

One of the young men broke away from the pack to go towards “her” house (i.e., Lady Folly). Here, Solomon uses the poetry of the lengthening shadows to demonstrate the impending doom befalling the young man he is watching. The seductress is already out in the streets, making her way toward our simpleton. Though dressed as a harlot, this woman was someone’s wife. She took advantage of her husband’s absence to satiate her carnal desires. It seems that this was something she often did.  

The seductress’ words obfuscate the evil deed by couching it similarly to the thanksgiving peace offering in which the priests sat down on the same day to consume their portion of the sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 7.15). Thus, she has a lot of food that they must eat together. It may be that the “harlot” is aware of the adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Or it may be that this hints at her likewise being pagan on top of sexually immoral. Is she an Israelite? We don’t know. Her talk of paying vows might refer to the proceeds earned through sacred prostitution (i.e., prostitution in service to a fertility goddess like Astarte).  

If so, Lady Folly poses more than the risks discussed in Proverbs 6. She is also a threat to his spiritual life. Solomon says the young man is like an ox to the slaughter. In other words, he is oblivious to what is about to happen. The adulteress has laid a successful trap. But unfortunately, this young man does not realize the cost his actions will ultimately cost. Sadly, many breaking God’s Law is unaware of the long-term consequences. 

To such threats, Solomon offers three forms of defense. First, keep your mind safe. When a man’s thoughts wander in the direction of Lady Folly, he is in danger. Second, keep your distance, avoiding all contact, physically and mentally. Third, keep your eyes on her scorecard. In so doing, you will see the countless slain and her chambers of death. God does not shy away from telling us about men who were victims of illicit love or how they suffered afterward. Samson. David. Solomon. Each of those men sowed to the wind and reaped a whirlwind because of a woman.   

Everyone should flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6.18), but let the young men not have the same tragedy befall him as the wicked Abimelech. When Abimelech attacked Thebez, a woman cast down a millstone that struck Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. He asked his armor-bearer to run him through with his sword so no one could say of him, “A woman slew him” (Judges 7.50-57). So may it also never be said of a man, spiritually, that a woman slew him. Stay away from Lady Folly.    

You Should Drink From Your Own Well

You Should Drink From Your Own Well

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Proverbs 5 provides several insights. First and foremost, be prudent. In the first 14 verses, Solomon warns against satisfying base desires. The rest of the chapter is about lustful people and the trouble they get themselves into. Solomon warns young men to resist carnal desires as if they were his sons. Yes, it is about the seventh commandment, which is not to commit adultery. Adulterous women (referred to as “strange women” in the King James Version) may also facilitate spiritual infidelity to God. God portrays the broken covenant in the Old Testament as spiritual adultery. As a result, the adulteress can be a real woman or any other sin provocateur. Do you recall who misled Solomon? His spouses (1 Kings 11.4). 

 Men are especially vulnerable to women’s wiles. I believe Satan tempted Eve because he knew he could get Adam to sin through her rather than through a direct approach. But take note of Satan’s promise of reward in words as smooth as oil. Honey drips from the adulterer’s lips as well. (The KJV makes use of honeycomb.) Keil and Delitzsch define it as “virgin honey” from intact comb cells. This translation, I believe, should not be overlooked. A prostitute or a repeat adulteress is not virginal in the literal sense, but she is a new experience for the young man. And new experiences motivate men who seek the flesh. 

Of course, Satan never fulfills his promises. Instead, the seductress’ honey tastes like wormwood. Wormwood is a bitter shrub used to produce absinthe, a deworming medicine. Wormwood is used apocalyptically by John in Revelation to describe the sorrow that befalls the earth’s rivers and fountains. The seduction eventually kills. That is the price of indulgence. “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay,” Ravi Zacharias says. We want to stay away from Hell’s Highway. Unlawful and promiscuous sex causes social, financial, moral, and physical devastation. This behavior harms society, family, the body, the church, and God. 

Solomon discusses the difficulties a young man’s lust can cause in verse ten. Strangers will fill themselves with their wealth, according to the KJV. In contrast to the NASB1995’s “strength,” this is worth considering. Consider a few scenarios in which sexual immorality can lead to financial ruin. First, there is the risk of blackmail from the person with whom you had an immoral relationship or a third party who discovered the tryst. What about having to make amends to the affected parties? For example, an adulterer in ancient Greece could face a hefty fine. (While this was preferable to execution or public humiliation, it was still expensive.) 

 However, sexual immorality causes physical harm (5.11). It is a sin that has resulted in terrible diseases both then and now. Many sexually transmitted diseases were fatal before the discovery of penicillin. Syphilis was particularly dreadful. In addition to blindness in infants and insanity in adults, it may occasionally attack a specific part of the body, such as the spine. Doctors call the latter condition tabes dorsalis. It effectively renders one unable to walk and move around without a wheelchair. The prevalence of tabes dorsalis is increasing among HIV-positive people.1

The issue with those young men who fall into this trap is not a lack of teachers but rather a dislike for instruction and correction. As a result, when their advisers warn them of the folly, the prodigal chooses to disregard their advice. Unfortunately, this vice appears to open the door to many other sins one desires to commit. Do you remember David, Solomon’s father? What did he do due to his adultery? (2 Samuel 11.1ff) When Bathsheba became pregnant, David attempted to conceal his sin by bringing her husband home from the war. He believed that Uriah the Hittite would undoubtedly “know” his wife while on leave. However, Uriah did not. As a result, David killed him by withdrawing his soldiers from Uriah, leaving him to fight alone on the battlefield. 

 God gives us a proper way to satisfy our sexual desires. Marriage. Solomon praises and encourages young men to pursue conjugal love. Solomon discusses a fulfilling marriage in the Song of Solomon-like language. These verses are in direct contrast to the first. Solomon describes marital love as “exhilarating.” (Contrast this verse with those at the start of the chapter, where we noted that young men seek experiences for the thrill of novelty.) Indeed, God created sexuality for us to enjoy with our spouses, but He forbids sexual relations outside of the union of a man and a woman in holy matrimony. It is worth noting that God forbids adultery in both the Old and New Testaments. However, we also require consistency in this regard. Some may be quick to point out the illicit nature of a homosexual relationship and condemn it as sexual immorality. Still, they ignore heterosexuals who have marital relations outside of wedlock. God’s word forbids either type of relationship. 

 Solomon reminds his sons that God is keeping an eye on them. Ultimately, the issue is less about sex and more about a person’s love for God. We read about Joseph, the young man approached by Potiphar’s wife. She attempted to seduce Joseph. But Joseph maintained his integrity. As he turned down Potiphar’s wife’s advances, Joseph referred to Potiphar’s trust in him but said his decision was ultimately a matter of faith. “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he (Potiphar) has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God? (Genesis 39.9 NASB1995) 

So, let the young man drink from his cisterns and wells, not the polluted waters of the streets. 

Sources Cited 

1 “Tabes Dorsalis.” Brain&Life, American Academy of Neurology, www.brainandlife.org/disorders-a-z/disorders/tabes-dorsalis