Walk in ‘the Path of Uprightness’
“IT WILL be well with the righteous one,” declared the prophet Isaiah, “for they will eat the very fruitage of their dealings.” Isaiah also said: “The path of the righteous one is uprightness.” (Isaiah 3:10; 26:7) Clearly, if our dealings are to produce good fruitage, we must do what is right in God’s eyes.
How, though, may we walk in the path of uprightness? What blessings can we expect from doing so? And how may others benefit from our conforming to God’s righteous standards? In chapter 10 of the Bible book of Proverbs, King Solomon of ancient Israel provides answers to these questions as he contrasts the righteous with the wicked. In doing so, he uses the expression “righteous one[s]” 13 times. Nine of these occurrences are in verses 15 through 32. Considering Proverbs 10:15-32, then, will prove to be encouraging.a
Hold Fast to Discipline
Solomon points to the importance of righteousness. He says: “The valuable things of a rich man are his strong town. The ruin of the lowly ones is their poverty. The activity of the righteous one results in life; the produce of the wicked one results in sin.”—Proverbs 10:15, 16.
Riches can serve as a protection against some uncertainties in life, just as a fortified town provides a degree of security to those who reside in it. And poverty can be ruinous when there are unexpected developments. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) However, the wise king could also be hinting at a danger involving both wealth and poverty. A rich man may be inclined to put his complete trust in his wealth, imagining that his valuable things are “like a protective wall.” (Proverbs 18:11) And a poor person may mistakenly take the view that his poverty makes his future hopeless. Thus, both fail to make a good name with God.
On the other hand, whether a righteous person has much or little materially, his upright activity leads to life. How? Well, he is content with what he has. He does not allow his financial situation to interfere with his good standing with God. Whether rich or poor, a righteous man’s course of life brings him happiness now and hope of everlasting life in the future. (Job 42:10-13) The wicked one does not benefit even if he gains wealth. Instead of appreciating its protective value and living in accord with God’s will, he uses his riches to promote a life of sin.
“He that is holding to discipline is a path to life,” continues the king of Israel, “but he that is leaving reproof is causing to wander.” (Proverbs 10:17) One Bible scholar suggests that this verse can be understood in two ways. One possibility is that the person who submits to discipline and pursues righteousness is on the path to life, whereas the one leaving reproof wanders off that path. The verse could also mean that “he who heeds discipline shows the way to life [to others because his good example benefits them], but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” (Proverbs 10:17, New International Version) In either case, how vital it is that we hold fast to discipline and do not forsake reproof!
Replace Hatred With Love
Solomon next presents a two-part proverb carrying a similar idea, the second part reinforcing the first. He says: “Where there is one covering over hatred there are lips of falsehood.” If a man has hatred in his heart for another and is concealing it behind sweet words or flattery, he is being deceitful—he has “lips of falsehood.” To this the wise king adds: “The one bringing forth a bad report is stupid.” (Proverbs 10:18) Rather than conceal their hatred, some people make false accusations or spread disparaging comments concerning the one they hate. This is foolish because the slanderous report does not really change what that person is. And a perceptive listener will come to see the malice and will think less of the slanderer. Thus the one spreading a bad report hurts himself.
The righteous course is to resort neither to deception nor to slander. God told the Israelites: “You must not hate your brother in your heart.” (Leviticus 19:17) And Jesus counseled his listeners: “Continue to love [even] your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:44, 45) How much better it is to fill our heart with love rather than hate!
‘Keep Lips in Check’
Emphasizing the need to control the tongue, the wise king states: “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.”—Proverbs 10:19.
“The foolish one speaks many words.” (Ecclesiastes 10:14) His mouth “bubbles forth with foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:2) This is not to say that every talkative person is a fool. But how easy it is for an individual who talks too much to be a channel for spreading harmful gossip or rumor! A ruined reputation, hurt feelings, strained relationships, and even physical harm can often be attributed to foolish speech. “Where words abound, sin will not be wanting.” (Proverbs 10:19, An American Translation) Moreover, it is irritating to be around a person who has something to say on every matter. May we not abound in words.
More than merely avoiding falsehood, the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly. He thinks before he speaks. Motivated by love for Jehovah’s ways and a genuine desire to help his fellowman, he takes into consideration the effect of his words on others. His statements are loving and kind. He meditates on how to make what he says appealing and helpful. His words are like “apples of gold in silver carvings”—artful and dignified at all times.—Proverbs 25:11.
“Keep Pasturing Many”
“The tongue of the righteous one is choice silver,” Solomon goes on to say, “the heart of the wicked one is worth little.” (Proverbs 10:20) What the righteous say is pure—like choice, refined silver, free of dross. This certainly is true of Jehovah’s servants as they dispense the life-saving knowledge of God’s Word to others. Their Grand Instructor, Jehovah God, has educated them and ‘given them the tongue of the taught ones, that they may know how to answer the tired one with a word.’ (Isaiah 30:20; 50:4) Indeed, their tongue is like choice silver as it speaks forth Bible truth. How infinitely more valuable their utterances are to the honesthearted ones than are the intentions of the wicked one! Let us be eager to speak about God’s Kingdom and the wonderful works of God.
The righteous one is a blessing to those around him. “The very lips of the righteous one keep pasturing many,” continues Solomon, “but for want of heart the foolish themselves keep dying.”—Proverbs 10:21.
How does “the righteous one keep pasturing many”? The Hebrew word that is used here conveys the idea of “shepherding.” (Proverbs 10:21, footnote) It carries the thought of guiding as well as nourishing, much as a shepherd of ancient times cared for his sheep. (1 Samuel 16:11; Psalm 23:1-3; Song of Solomon 1:7) The righteous person guides or leads others to the way of righteousness, his speech nourishing his listeners. As a result, they lead happier, more satisfying lives, and may even receive everlasting life.
What, though, of the foolish one? Being in want of heart, he shows a lack of good motive or concern about the consequences of his course. Such a person does whatever he wants to, oblivious of the results. Hence, he suffers the penalties of his actions. While the righteous one helps to keep others alive, the person in want of heart cannot even keep himself alive.
Shun Loose Conduct
The personality of an individual is often revealed by his likes and dislikes. Stating this fact, the king of Israel says: “To the stupid one the carrying on of loose conduct is like sport, but wisdom is for the man of discernment.”—Proverbs 10:23.
Some view loose conduct as a sport, or a game, and engage in it just for “fun.” Such people discount God as the one to whom all must render an account, and they remain blind to the wrongness of their course. (Romans 14:12) They become perverted in their reasoning to the point of assuming that God does not see their wrongdoing. By their actions, they in effect say: “There is no Jehovah.” (Psalm 14:1-3; Isaiah 29:15, 16) How foolish!
The man of discernment, on the other hand, realizes that loose conduct is not a sport. He knows that it displeases God and can destroy a person’s relationship with him. Such conduct is foolish because it robs people of self-respect, ruins marriages, harms both mind and body, and leads to loss of spirituality. We are wise to shun loose conduct and cultivate affection for wisdom as for a dearly loved sister.—Proverbs 7:4.
Build on the Right Foundation
Pointing to the value of building one’s life on a proper foundation, Solomon states: “The thing frightful to the wicked one—that is what will come to him; but the desire of the righteous ones will be granted. As when the storm wind passes over, so the wicked one is no more; but the righteous one is a foundation to time indefinite.”—Proverbs 10:24, 25.
The wicked one may cause much fright to others. In the end, however, what he dreads comes upon him. Lacking a foundation in righteous principles, he is like an unstable building that collapses in a violent storm. He caves in under pressure. On the other hand, the righteous one is like the man who acts in harmony with Jesus’ sayings. He is “a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass.” “And,” said Jesus, “the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass.” (Matthew 7:24, 25) Such a person is stable—his thinking and actions are solidly founded upon godly principles.
Before going further with the contrast between the wicked and the righteous, the wise king presents a concise but important warning. He says: “As vinegar to the teeth and as smoke to the eyes, so the lazy man is to those sending him forth.” (Proverbs 10:26) Vinegar is a source of discomfort to the teeth. The acetic acid contained in it produces a sour taste in the mouth and can cause one’s teeth to feel sensitive. Smoke makes the eyes sting and smart. Accordingly, whoever hires a lazy person or uses him as a representative is bound to be vexed and will suffer loss.
“The Way of Jehovah Is a Stronghold”
The king of Israel continues: “The very fear of Jehovah will add days, but the years themselves of the wicked ones will be cut short. The expectation of the righteous ones is a rejoicing, but the very hope of the wicked ones will perish.”—Proverbs 10:27, 28.
The righteous one is guided by godly fear and tries to please Jehovah by his thoughts, words, and deeds. God cares for him and fulfills his righteous expectations. However, the wicked one lives a godless life. His hopes may at times appear to be fulfilled but only temporarily, for his days are often cut short by violence or an ailment resulting from his life-style. On the day of his death all his hopes are shattered.—Proverbs 11:7.
“The way of Jehovah is a stronghold for the blameless one,” says Solomon, “but ruin is for the practicers of what is hurtful.” (Proverbs 10:29) The way of Jehovah here refers, not to the path of life in which we should walk, but to God’s way of dealing with mankind. “The Rock, perfect is his activity,” said Moses, “for all his ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) God’s just ways mean security for the righteous and ruin for the wicked.
What a stronghold Jehovah proves to be for his people! “As for the righteous one, to time indefinite he will not be caused to stagger; but as for the wicked ones, they will not keep residing on the earth. The mouth of the righteous one—it bears the fruit of wisdom, but the tongue of perverseness will be cut off. The lips of the righteous one—they come to know goodwill, but the mouth of the wicked ones is perverseness.”—Proverbs 10:30-32.
The righteous certainly fare well and are blessed because of walking in the path of uprightness. Indeed, “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) May we, then, always take care to act in harmony with godly principles. Let us also keep our lips in check and use our tongue to nurture others with the life-saving truth of God’s Word and guide them to the way of righteousness.
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The tongue can be like “choice silver”