God’s Word for You
Proverbs 29:21-24 The pampering, the proud, the angry, and the accomplice
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 1, 2021
21 If a man coddles his servant from youth,
he will bring grief in the end.
The dilemma of this proverb is easily lost on a largely middle class nation without servants, but we have examples from the Scriptures to help us understand the trouble. A servant who is constantly favored by his master will begin to feel entitled to his special position. He will act less and less like an adopted son and more and more like an entitled princeling. He will come to see his master as a person who is in his way rather than his benefactor.
This is what happened when David gave special allowances to Joab, who was not put to death when he killed Amasa, the commander of David’s army (2 Samuel 20:10) but became commander in his place. The commentary by Bridges also cites Abner’s insults to his sovereign (2 Samuel 3:8), and to this we might add the ‘promotion’ of the young servant girl Hagar to concubine, after which she began to despise Sarah (Genesis 16:3-4).
There are many examples in the world of business today, where someone (son or servant) who does not really earn their position is given too much authority, and in the end they despise the one who gave them their position. A servant should be given “what is right and fair” (Colossians 4:1), so that their human master will be a proper and faithful image of their Master in heaven. With God there is no favoritism (Ephesians 6:9).
22 An angry man stirs up strife,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
Anger by itself is not sinful. God becomes angry when the sins of man go unrepented (Zephaniah 2:2), and his anger will pour out on the world in the end (Zephaniah 2:3). But a man who lives in his anger and his hot temper will stumble into many temptations. He will think that everyone who disagrees with him is wrong, and doesn’t deserve to be heard. He will think that everyone who disagrees with him deserves only his wrath. He is a murder waiting to happen, and every sin in his life will be accompanied by sins against the Fifth Commandment.
23 A man’s pride brings him low,
but a man with a humble spirit gains honor.
This proverb is an elegant description of the human heart, and it is easily illustrated by the old-fashioned counterweight elevator: When one side goes up (pride) the other side drops down low (his position and reputation). But when his pride lowers down into true humble living, then his reputation and perhaps even his position will rise up again. Our goal with humble service to God is not to gain a sneaky way into God’s honor. Instead, our humble service to God is a response to the honor of being looked on with favor and grace. It is because God lifted us up that we want to thank him with our lives.
24 The accomplice of a thief is enemy to his own life;
he is put under oath but does not reveal anything.
The sinful attitude of our culture pulls a veil down over our eyes to the true meaning and horror of this proverb, and too many Christians who read it, whether brought up in a western culture or an eastern, don’t understand what it means. The attitude of the world is that if you don’t take advantage of a loophole, you’re a fool. The devil and the world want you to believe that if you choose to do the right thing, even at the cost of something dear to you, then you deserve to be ruined. This is the tyranny of sin.
The first line of the proverb is clear: An accomplice (literally “the one who divides with a thief,” that is to say, divides the loot) is just as guilty as the thief. Why? Because he accepts what has been stolen. He should insist on giving it back instead. By lining himself up with the thief, he has become an enemy to his life. Why? Because he will be punished like the thief if the thief is caught. The thief will not go down alone.
It is in the second line that we run into cultural problems. Our perception of keeping tight-lipped under oath is tainted by the representation of the U.S. Fifth Amendment in books, movies and television. Naturally, we are led to consider the legal side of this, which in the proverb is found in the words “he does not reveal anything.” But a Christian must remember the other side, “he is put under oath.” Taking an oath is not necessarily a violation of the Second Commandment (taking the Lord’s name), since we may and we do use the name of the Lord when we swear an oath that God permits. Such an oath might be in court (to tell the truth), or taking an oath of office (such as a political or military office, or the office of minister of the gospel when called by a congregation), or swearing a vow at our confirmation, or when we get married. There are examples of temporary vows in the Bible, also. Those vows were to do or not do something for a certain amount of time (Nazirite vows, see Numbers 6:1-8; Acts 18:18). But to swear an oath to tell the truth and then to say nothing is something serious, and it must be seriously considered. A wife might do this because she has already sworn an oath to her husband, and in the same way an officer in the military might be bound by one oath to his nation that could conflict with an oath to an individual court of that nation. But we must be very careful not to swear something to God and then allow our government’s laws to convince us to break that oath. Peter and John said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Perjury to a court is serious, and comes with serious penalties. But perjury to God is hardly even thought about. What about the everlasting penalty for that? This proverb has us bogged down in the mire of how to proceed when one is already guilty of a sin. The best course for daily life is not to become guilty of the sin. But we know from the school of experience that we all fall into sin. Do not bring further dishonor to God or compound a sin with more sins. Confess it, accept the consequences if there are any, and know that you have a forgiving Savior, even if the world mocks you for believing so. When your soul hangs in the balance, it is no time to go depending on the world or on the devil who hates you. Look to Jesus and trust in him. There is forgiveness in Jesus, and only in Jesus. Put your faith in the sinless and forgiving Son of God.
Pastor Timothy Smith