Questions From Readers
● Proverbs 11:29 states that one bringing ostracism upon his house “will take possession of wind” and that “a foolish person will be a servant to the one wise in heart.” What is meant by these statements?—I. M., U.S.A.
The words of Proverbs 11:29 were originally directed to Israel. This text warns against foolish action that results in bad consequences, in stating: “As for anyone bringing ostracism upon his own house, he will take possession of wind; and a foolish person will be a servant to the one wise in heart.”
A figure of speech is being employed in saying that “anyone bringing ostracism upon his own house . . . will take possession of wind.” Of course, it is not meant that a person can literally take the wind in his hands or gain possession of it in that manner. The apparent reference is to trying to acquire something lacking any real substance, something he cannot hold on to. In the book of Ecclesiastes there is frequent use of the expression “striving after wind.” For instance, Ecclesiastes 1:14 reads: “I saw all the works that were done under the sun, and, look! everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” In other words, vain works end up in futility. So, Proverbs 11:29 makes it clear that a man who brings ostracism upon his house will not fare well. He will gain nothing of value. It will be as though he were taking possession of the wind.
But, how does one bring ostracism upon his own house? Consider the case of Achan. When the Israelites overthrew Jericho, everything of value in the city was to be devoted to Jehovah, to whom Jericho was the firstfruits of Canaan. But greedy Achan robbed God by appropriating to himself a good-looking garment from the land of Shinar, two hundred shekels of silver and a gold bar. Later, Israel suffered defeat at Ai. This prompted an investigation into the reason for such a setback. Eventually, Achan’s wrongdoing was uncovered and he confessed. Thereupon Joshua and all Israel took Achan, his sons and daughters, the stolen articles and “everything that was his” to the low plain of Achor. Then Joshua said to Achan: “Why have you brought ostracism upon us? Jehovah will bring ostracism upon you on this day.” “With that,” the account relates, “all Israel went pelting him with stones, after which they burned them with fire. Thus they stoned them with stones.” Certainly Achan brought ostracism upon himself and his own house.—Joshua, chapter 7.
In ancient Israel, household heads who failed to comply with Jehovah’s righteous requirements and commands could bring ostracism upon their own houses. At times the consequences would be as serious as those that befell Achan and his household. But today a man who is the head of a Christian household may become unfaithful too. He and others in his family may get involved in practices that result in disfellowshiping from the clean Christian congregation. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Truly, such a man who personally violates the Scriptures and winks at serious wrongdoing within his family brings ostracism upon his own house. He, and possibly others in his family, are justly ostracized by faithful Christians, being excluded from their association because of being unrepentant wrongdoers.—1 Cor. 5:11-13.
Proverbs 11:29 also says: “A foolish person will be a servant to the one wise in heart.” That frequently proves true. For one thing, a foolish person cannot be trusted with great responsibility. Often such an individual does become a servant to a person using better judgment than he does. Mismanagement of personal affairs may cause him to become obligated to another in some way. Due to the fact that he lacks practical wisdom, such an unwise one may well become “a servant to the one wise in heart.”
The words of Proverbs 11:29 should therefore impress true Christians with the need to use good judgment, acting with practical wisdom in all their dealings. This proverb should also make them aware of the importance of avoiding wrong conduct that would bring upon them ostracism by faithful Christians and especially by Jehovah God.