Sow Righteousness, Reap God’s Loving-Kindness
“ONE will positively fare badly because he has gone surety for a stranger, but the one hating handshaking is keeping carefree.” (Proverbs 11:15) How convincingly this concise proverb encourages responsible action! Cosign a loan for a risky borrower and invite trouble. Avoid handshaking—a gesture that served as a signature to an agreement in ancient Israel—and remain free of monetary entrapment.
Clearly, the principle in operation here is: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) “Sow seed for yourselves in righteousness,” stated the prophet Hosea, “reap in accord with loving-kindness.” (Hosea 10:12) Yes, sow righteousness by doing things God’s way, and reap his loving-kindness. Using this principle time and again, King Solomon of Israel forcefully encourages right action, upright speech, and a proper disposition. Closely examining his words of wisdom will indeed encourage us to sow seed for ourselves in righteousness.—Proverbs 11:15-31.
Sow “Charm,” Reap “Glory”
“A woman of charm is the one that takes hold of glory,” says the wise king, “but the tyrants, for their part, take hold of riches.” (Proverbs 11:16) This verse draws a contrast between the enduring glory that a woman of charm, “a gracious woman,” may obtain and the transitory riches that a tyrant acquires.—An American Translation.
How may one acquire charm that results in glory? “Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability,” counseled Solomon, “and they will prove to be . . . charm to your throat.” (Proverbs 3:21, 22) And the psalmist spoke of ‘charm being poured out upon the lips of a king.’ (Psalm 45:1, 2) Yes, practical wisdom, thinking ability, and proper use of the tongue contribute to a person’s value and charm. That certainly is true of a discreet woman. Abigail, the wife of foolish Nabal, is one example. She was “good in discretion and beautiful in form,” and King David praised her for her “sensibleness.”—1 Samuel 25:3, 33.
A godly woman who has true charm will surely receive glory. She will be well spoken of by others. If married, she will gain glory for herself in the eyes of her husband. In fact, she will bring glory to the entire family. And hers is not a fleeting glory. “A name is to be chosen rather than abundant riches; favor is better than even silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) The good name that she makes with God has permanent value.
The situation is the opposite with a tyrant, ‘a ruthless man.’ (Proverbs 11:16, New International Version) A tyrant is categorized with wicked men and those who are adversaries of Jehovah’s worshipers. (Job 6:23; 27:13) Such a man ‘does not set God in front of him.’ (Psalm 54:3) By suppressing and taking selfish advantage of the innocent, such a person may “pile up silver like dust itself.” (Job 27:16) Yet, at some point in time, he may lie down and not arise, and any day that he does open his eyes may be his last. (Job 27:19) All his wealth and accomplishments will then amount to nothing.—Luke 12:16-21.
What an important lesson Proverbs 11:16 teaches! By succinctly setting before us what charm and tyranny each will reap, the king of Israel urges us to sow righteousness.
“Loving-Kindness” Brings Rewards
Teaching yet another lesson in human relationships, Solomon says: “A man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul, but the cruel person is bringing ostracism upon his own organism.” (Proverbs 11:17) “The point of the proverb,” says one scholar, “is that one’s behaviour towards others, whether good or bad, has unintended or unexpected consequences for oneself.” Consider a young woman named Lisa.a Although well-meaning, she is always late for her appointments. It is not unusual for her to be 30 minutes or more late for her arrangements to meet other Kingdom proclaimers for preaching activity. Lisa is not dealing rewardingly with herself. Can she blame others if they tire of losing valuable time and avoid making further appointments with her?
A perfectionist—someone who sets excessively high standards of accomplishment—is also cruel to himself. Always tirelessly striving to meet unattainable goals, he is setting himself up for exhaustion and disappointment. On the other hand, we deal rewardingly with ourselves when we set realistic and reasonable goals. Perhaps we are not as quick as others to grasp ideas. Or it may be that sickness or old age has imposed restraints upon us. Let us never become exasperated at our spiritual progress, but always continue to manifest reasonableness in dealing with our limitations. Happy we are when we ‘do our utmost’ within our capabilities.—2 Timothy 2:15; Philippians 4:5.
Going into further detail on how a righteous one benefits himself whereas the cruel person hurts himself, the wise king states: “The wicked one is making false wages, but the one sowing righteousness, true earnings. The one firmly standing for righteousness is in line for life, but the one chasing after what is bad is in line for his own death. Those crooked at heart are something detestable to Jehovah, but the ones blameless in their way are a pleasure to him. Though hand be to hand, a bad person will not go unpunished; but the offspring of the righteous ones will certainly escape.”—Proverbs 11:18-21.
In various ways these verses make this basic point: Sow righteousness and reap its reward. The wicked one may resort to deception or gambling in order to get something for nothing. Since such wages are false, he may be in for disappointment. The one doing an honest day’s work brings in true earnings in that he has security. Having God’s approval, the blameless one is in line for life. But how will a bad person fare? “Though hand be to hand” in scheming treachery, the wicked one will not escape punishment. (Proverbs 2:21, 22) What a fine exhortation to sow righteousness!
Real Beauty for the Sensible One
“As a gold nose ring in the snout of a pig, so is a woman that is pretty but that is turning away from sensibleness,” continues Solomon. (Proverbs 11:22) Nose rings were a popular adornment during Bible times. A gold nose ring inserted through the side of the nose or through the septum separating the nostrils would be a readily noticeable piece of jewelry on a woman. How inappropriate such an exquisite ornament would be in the snout of a pig! It is similar with an outwardly beautiful person who lacks “sensibleness.” Adornment just does not befit that one, whether female or male. It is out of place—not appealing at all.
Granted, concern over how we look to others is natural. But why be overly anxious or dissatisfied with our face or physical form? We have no control over many aspects of our features. And physical appearance is not everything. Is it not true that most of the people we like and admire are rather ordinary looking? Physical attractiveness is not the key to happiness. What really counts is the inward beauty of enduring godly qualities. May we then be sensible and cultivate such qualities.
“The Generous Soul Will Itself Be Made Fat”
“The desire of the righteous ones is surely good,” states King Solomon, “the hope of the wicked ones is fury.” Illustrating how this is so, he adds: “There exists the one that is scattering and yet is being increased; also the one that is keeping back from what is right, but it results only in want.”—Proverbs 11:23, 24.
As we diligently scatter—impart to others—the knowledge of God’s Word, we certainly improve our own grasp of its “breadth and length and height and depth.” (Ephesians 3:18) The one letting his knowledge remain idle, on the other hand, is in danger of losing what he has. Yes, “he that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”—2 Corinthians 9:6.
“The generous soul will itself be made fat [prosperous],” continues the king, “and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.” (Proverbs 11:25) When we generously use our time and resources to advance true worship, Jehovah is well pleased with us. (Hebrews 13:15, 16) He will ‘open the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon us a blessing until there is no more want.’ (Malachi 3:10) Just look at the spiritual prosperity of his servants today!
Giving yet another example of the contrasting desires of the righteous and of the wicked, Solomon says: “The one holding back grain—the populace will execrate him, but there is a blessing for the head of the one letting it be bought.” (Proverbs 11:26) To buy up commodities when prices are low and hold them back till supplies shrink and prices soar can be profitable. Even though some good may result from limiting consumption and maintaining a reserve, people generally despise a person doing this because of his selfishness. On the other hand, the one who refrains from making large profits from an emergency wins people’s favor.
Encouraging us to continue to desire what is good, or righteous, the king of Israel says: “He that is looking for good will keep seeking goodwill; but as for the one searching for bad, it will come upon him. The one trusting in his riches—he himself will fall; but just like foliage the righteous ones will flourish.”—Proverbs 11:27, 28.
The Righteous One Is Winning Souls
Illustrating how foolish action results in bad consequences, Solomon states: “As for anyone bringing ostracism upon his own house, he will take possession of wind.” (Proverbs 11:29a) Achan’s wrongdoing ‘brought ostracism upon him,’ and both he and members of his family were stoned to death. (Joshua, chapter 7) Today, the head of a Christian household and others in his family may get involved in wrongdoing that results in their being disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. By personally failing to comply with God’s commandments and by tolerating serious wrongdoing within his family, a man brings ostracism upon his own house. He and perhaps others in his family are excluded from Christian association as unrepentant wrongdoers. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) And what will he acquire? Only wind—something lacking any real substance or value.
“A foolish person will be a servant to the one wise in heart,” continues the verse. (Proverbs 11:29b) Since a foolish person lacks practical wisdom, he cannot be trusted with great responsibility. Moreover, his mismanagement of his personal affairs may cause him to become obligated to another individual in some way. Such an unwise one may well become “a servant to the one wise in heart.” Clearly, then, it is vital that we use good judgment and practical wisdom in all our dealings.
“The fruitage of the righteous one is a tree of life,” the wise king assures us, “and he that is winning souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30) How does this happen? Well, by his speech and conduct, a righteous person brings spiritual nourishment to others. They are encouraged to serve Jehovah and may eventually receive the life that God makes possible.
‘The Sinner Will Be Rewarded Even More’
How persuasively the aforementioned proverbs exhort us to sow righteousness! Applying in yet another way the principle that “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap,” Solomon states: “Look! The righteous one—in the earth he will be rewarded. How much more should the wicked one and the sinner be!”—Proverbs 11:31.
Even though a righteous person makes the effort to do what is right, he at times errs. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) And for his mistakes he will be “rewarded” by receiving discipline. What, though, of the wicked person who deliberately chooses a bad course and makes no effort to turn to the way of uprightness? Does he not deserve a greater ‘reward’—a severe punishment? “If the righteous man is being saved with difficulty,” wrote the apostle Peter, “where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?” (1 Peter 4:18) Let us, therefore, be determined always to sow seed for ourselves in righteousness.
a A substitute name is used here.
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“Charm” brought Abigail “glory”
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‘The wicked one is making false wages, the righteous one true earnings’
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‘Sow bountifully, reap bountifully’