Reading through the book of Proverbs lately, I have been struck by how many passages are directly relevant to our times, especially heading into tomorrow’s elections. Among the many apropos themes in Proverbs, several are to be found in chapter 11. Here are some thoughts on some of these.
1 The Lord detests dishonest scales,
but accurate weights find favor with him.
There has been much talk of potential fraud and corruption with regard to the presidential election. While we all hope none of these worries will be realized, judging by the corruption elsewhere in the American politics, we cannot rule out the possibility that it will happen. But if it does, even if those who perpetrate such “dishonest scales” get away with it for now, they will eventually be found out and judged, if only in the next world. No one really “gets away” with anything.
2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.
During this election cycle, as always, there has been much ballyhooing by many candidates, touting their own capacity to achieve justice and goodness in this country. In some cases, it does seem to be vicious pride, which will only bring disgrace in the end. Sadly, real humility seems rare in politics (as well as throughout the rest of mainstream American culture), though as we are reminded here, humility is the way of wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,
but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.
In the age of the “me too” movement we have seen many popular and powerful people brought down or undermined by accusations of sexual abuse and harassment. This includes some prominent politicians, including both of our current presidential candidates. Surely many other perpetrators are living with anxiety over whether eventually they will be publicly accused. But those who have remained pure and lived with integrity are free of these worries.
4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.
Many are prognosticating serious unrest following tomorrow’ elections, whatever the results. Some business owners in major cities are boarding up their storefronts, while others are arming themselves. Such tangible means of preparation may be appropriate, but they are not sufficient protection “in the day of wrath.” God protects his own—those who faithfully obey and honor him—and even the strongest human bulwarks against attack are fallible. This goes for the formidable American military as well. God could quickly bring this entire nation to its knees if he so willed.
7 Hopes placed in mortals die with them;
all the promise of their power comes to nothing.
For all of the passion we might have for certain politicians, religious leaders, or entertainers, they are all mere mortals who are destined to lie in a grave somewhere or be reduced to ash in an urn. Even the most powerful leaders eventually perish. All of the triumphs of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Bonaparte ultimately achieve little for them. As Jesus said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36).
9 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
but through knowledge the righteous escape.
11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.
12 Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.
In our culture the “mouths of the wicked” are seemingly on display everywhere—from media distortions and fake news to slander and personal abuse on social media. The godless (as well as believers who act godlessly) are destroying their neighbors all over this country. Through what knowledge can “the righteous escape”? By refusing to partake in such destructive verbal practices.
14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.
Perhaps one thing about which those on the left and the right can agree is that for many years the United States has suffered from a lack of wise guidance. We might also agree that because of this our nation is on the brink of collapse.
19 Truly the righteous attain life,
but whoever pursues evil finds death.
20 The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse,
but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.
These two couplets capture much of the essence of the Bible’s central moral message. Those who live righteously—who consistently obey and honor God with their thoughts, words, and actions—will flourish, if not in this world then at least throughout eternity. But those who live ungodly lives never find lasting peace in this world and are destined for destruction in the next world.
21 Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will go free.
So whatever the election outcomes, and no matter how chaotic the unrest which follows, we can rest in the confidence that everyone will be held accountable. The wicked will ultimately not get away with anything. The righteous will ultimately be rewarded. God is a perfect, all-seeing judge. This is why we can trust the promises of this psalmist who echoes some of the themes from Proverbs 11:
“Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land” (Ps. 37:7-9).