‘One That Is Good Gets God’s Approval’
ALL life originates with Jehovah God. (Psalm 36:9) Yes, “by him we have life and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28) And does not our heart swell with gratitude when we consider the reward he bestows upon those who have a close relationship with him? Why, “the gift God gives is everlasting life.” (Romans 6:23) How vital that we seek Jehovah’s approval!
The psalmist assures us that ‘favor is what God gives.’ (Psalm 84:11) But to whom does he give it? People today often show favor to others on the basis of education, wealth, skin color, ethnic background, and the like. Whom does God favor? King Solomon of ancient Israel answers: “One that is good gets approval from Jehovah, but the man of wicked ideas he pronounces wicked.”—Proverbs 12:2.
Clearly, Jehovah is pleased with one who is good—a virtuous person. The virtues of a good man include such qualities as self-discipline, fairness, humility, compassion, and prudence. His thoughts are righteous, his words encouraging, his deeds just and beneficial. The first part of the 12th chapter of the Bible book of Proverbs 12:1-12 shows us how goodness should influence our everyday life and points out the benefits that result from displaying this quality. Considering what is stated there will give us “insight for doing good.” (Psalm 36:3) Applying its wise counsel will help us to gain God’s approval.
“A lover of discipline is a lover of knowledge,” states Solomon, “but a hater of reproof is unreasoning.” (Proverbs 12:1) Eager to make personal improvement, a good man craves discipline. He is quick to apply the counsel he receives at Christian meetings or in personal conversations. The words in the Scriptures and in Bible-based publications are like oxgoads that prod him to follow an upright course. He seeks out knowledge and uses it to make his paths straight. Yes, a lover of discipline is also a lover of knowledge.
How necessary discipline is to true worshipers—particularly self-discipline! We can wish that we had a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We may desire to be more effective in the Christian ministry and to be better teachers of God’s Word. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) But it takes self-discipline to make such wishes a reality. Self-discipline is also needed in other areas of life. For example, material designed to arouse illicit desires is plentiful today. Does it not call for self-discipline to restrain the eye from focusing on improper sights? Moreover, since “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” an immoral thought can indeed originate in the recesses of the mind. (Genesis 8:21) Self-discipline is needed in order not to dwell upon such a thought.
The hater of reproof, on the other hand, loves neither discipline nor knowledge. Yielding to the sinful human tendency to resent reproof, he degrades himself to the level of an unreasoning animal—a brute—lacking moral discrimination. We must firmly resist this inclination.
“Roots That Cannot Be Dislodged”
A good man cannot, of course, be unrighteous or unjust. So righteousness is also necessary for gaining Jehovah’s approval. King David sang: “You yourself will bless anyone righteous, O Jehovah; as with a large shield, with approval you will surround them.” (Psalm 5:12) Contrasting the condition of the righteous with that of the wicked, Solomon says: “No man will be firmly established by wickedness; but as for the root-foundation of the righteous ones, it will not be caused to stagger.”—Proverbs 12:3.
The wicked may seem to prosper. Consider the experience of the psalmist Asaph. “As for me,” he says, “my feet had almost turned aside, my steps had nearly been made to slip.” Why? Asaph answers: “I became envious of the boasters, when I would see the very peace of wicked people.” (Psalm 73:2, 3) But as he proceeded to come into the temple sanctuary of God, he came to realize that on slippery ground is where Jehovah had placed them. (Psalm 73:17, 18) Any success that the wicked may seem to achieve is temporary. Why should we be envious of them?
In contrast, the one who has Jehovah’s approval is stable. Using the metaphor of a strong root system of a tree, Solomon says: “Good men have roots that cannot be dislodged.” (Proverbs 12:3, The New English Bible) The unseen roots of a giant tree, such as the sequoia of California, may cover an area of several acres and can provide solid anchorage in the face of flood and high winds. A towering sequoia can even withstand a powerful earthquake.
Like such roots in earth’s nourishing soil, our minds and hearts need to delve expansively into God’s Word and draw from its life-giving waters. Our faith thus becomes firmly rooted and strong, our hope sure and firm. (Hebrews 6:19) We will not be “carried hither and thither by every wind of [false] teaching.” (Ephesians 4:14) Of course, we will feel the effects of stormy trials and may even tremble in the face of adversity. But our ‘root-foundation will not be caused to stagger.’
“A Capable Wife Is a Crown to Her Owner”
Many people know the saying, “Behind every successful man there is a good woman.” Pointing to the importance of a supportive woman, Solomon says: “A capable wife is a crown to her owner, but as rottenness in his bones is she that acts shamefully.” (Proverbs 12:4) The word “capable” sums up many elements of goodness. The virtues of a good wife, as described in detail in Proverbs chapter 31, include industriousness, faithfulness, and wisdom. A woman having these attributes is a crown to her husband because her good conduct brings honor to him and raises him in the estimation of others. Never does she ambitiously push ahead or compete with him for recognition. Rather, she is a complementary helper to her husband.
How might a woman act shamefully, and with what results? This shameful conduct may range from contentiousness to adultery. (Proverbs 7:10-23; 19:13) Such actions on the part of a wife succeed only in tearing down her husband. She is like “rottenness in his bones” in the sense that “she brings him to ruin, like a disease which weakens the bodily frame,” says one reference work. “A modern equivalent expression might be ‘a cancer’—some disease which progressively saps a person’s vitality,” states another. May Christian wives endeavor to win God’s approval by reflecting the virtues of a capable wife.
From Thoughts to Actions to Consequences
Thoughts lead to actions, and deeds to consequences. Solomon next presents a progression from thoughts to actions, comparing the righteous ones with the wicked. He states: “The thoughts of the righteous ones are judgment; the steering by the wicked ones is deception. The words of the wicked ones are a lying in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright ones is what will deliver them.”—Proverbs 12:5, 6.
The very thoughts of good people are morally sound and directed toward what is fair and just. Since righteous ones are motivated by love for God and for fellow humans, their intentions are good. The wicked, on the other hand, are motivated by selfishness. Consequently, their designs—their methods of reaching their objectives—are deceitful. Their actions are treacherous. They do not hesitate to lay a trap for the innocent, perhaps in a court of law, by false accusations. Their words are “a lying in wait for blood” because they want to harm their innocent victims. The upright ones, having knowledge of the wicked plots and the wisdom needed to be cautious, are able to avoid this danger. They may even be able to warn the unwary and deliver them from the deceitful schemes of the wicked.
How will the righteous and the wicked fare? “There is an overthrowing of the wicked ones and they are no more,” answers Solomon, “but the very house of the righteous ones will keep standing.” (Proverbs 12:7) The house, says one reference work, “stands for the household and everything precious to the individual, making it possible for him to truly live.” It can even refer to the family and the descendants of the righteous. In any case, the point of the proverb is clear: The righteous will stand firm under adversity.
The Humble One Is Better Off
Emphasizing the value of discernment, the king of Israel states: “For his mouth of discretion a man will be praised, but one who is twisted at heart will come to be for contempt.” (Proverbs 12:8) A discerning person does not allow words to flow out of his mouth hastily. He thinks before speaking and enjoys peaceful relations with others because a “mouth of discretion” leads him to choose his words carefully. When faced with foolish or speculative questioning, a man of discernment is able to ‘hold back his sayings.’ (Proverbs 17:27) Such a man is praised and is pleasing to Jehovah. How different he is from the one with twisted opinions emanating from a ‘twisted heart’!
Yes, a man of discretion is praised, but the next proverb teaches us the value of humility. It says: “Better is the one lightly esteemed but having a servant than the one glorifying himself but in want of bread.” (Proverbs 12:9) Solomon seems to be saying that it is better to be a humble one of little means, having merely one servant, than to spend what is needed for life’s necessities in an effort to maintain a high social status. What sound advice this is for us—to live within our means!
Agricultural Life Provides Lessons in Goodness
Drawing upon the agricultural way of life, Solomon teaches two lessons in goodness. “The righteous one is caring for the soul of his domestic animal,” he says, “but the mercies of the wicked ones are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10) The righteous man treats his animals with kindness. He knows their needs and has concern for their welfare. A wicked person may say that he is concerned about animals, but he is not stirred by their needs. His motives are selfish, and his treatment of animals is based on the profit that he might make from them. What such a person considers adequate care for animals might actually be cruel treatment.
The principle of kind treatment of animals applies to the care of pets as well. How cruel it would be to take in animals as pets and then cause them needless suffering by neglecting or mistreating them! In the case of an animal that is suffering greatly from serious disease or injury, kindness may call for ending its life.
Drawing upon yet another aspect of agricultural life—tilling the soil—Solomon says: “The one cultivating his ground will himself be satisfied with bread.” Indeed, meaningful hard work reaps benefits. “But the one pursuing valueless things is in want of heart.” (Proverbs 12:11) Lacking good judgment or understanding, the one “in want of heart” pursues idle, speculative, and valueless ventures. The lessons in these two verses Pr 12:10, 11 are clear: Be merciful and industrious.
The Righteous One Flourishes
“The wicked one has desired the netted prey of bad men,” says the wise king. (Proverbs 12:12a) How does the wicked one do that? Apparently by desiring the spoils gained by evil means.
What can be said of the one who is good? Such a person is a lover of discipline and is firmly rooted in the faith. He is righteous and just, discreet and humble, compassionate and diligent. And “as for the root of the righteous ones,” Solomon states, “it yields,” or “flourishes.” (Proverbs 12:12b; New International Version) “The root of the righteous will remain forever,” says An American Translation. Such a person is stable and secure. Indeed, ‘one that is good gets God’s approval.’ Let us, then, “trust in Jehovah and do good.”—Psalm 37:3.
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Like a healthy tree, the faith of the righteous one is firmly rooted