Saturday, January 7, 2017

Proverbs 11:29 --- What Will Be Your Inheritance?

Proverbs 11:29
Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
    and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.

The previous proverb, 11:28, used two images: a building falling to its destruction, and a leaf or branch flourishing with life.  Our verse today will elaborate on the building's fall and tomorrow's verse will elaborate on the branch's flourishing.[1] 

Solomon's second collection (10:1-22:16) is not a random collection.  It is remarkable how many of these individual proverbs, although they can stand alone, are often connected to the verses that surround them.  Noticing this connection will often clarify their meaning.

The first line of our proverb in the Hebrew literally says, "He who troubles his house will inherit the wind."[2]  In Scripture the word house is used figuratively to picture our own bodies or lives, our families, our churches, or even the nation or kingdom to which we belong. 

The person who troubles his own house by doing evil is compared to a stubborn fool.  This particular Hebrew word occurs nineteen times in Proverbs.  This kind of fool is the person who "rejects good and chooses evil."[3]  Steinman writes of this word that our verse translates as fool:
"This 'stubborn fool' despises wisdom (1:7), rejoices in sin and rejects repentance (14:9), cannot control his emotions (12:16; 20:3), and considers himself clever because of his folly (12:15).  He is so caught up in his foolishness that his way of life is called . . . 'stupidity,' by the sages (13:16; 14:8, 17; 26:11).  This fool is so stubborn that he is nearly    irredeemable (24:7; 27:22).  Yet by God's grace and with the discipline of wisdom, stupidity can be driven out of a person (22:15)."

Such a person will "inherit the wind."  What does this phrase mean?  The word inherit and the connection to the catastrophic "fall" in verse 28, leads me to believe that the eschaton is once again in view.  The stubborn fool will not fare well when Christ comes to judge all people.  By sowing evil, he brings trouble to himself, and sometimes to his own body.  By sowing evil he sometimes brings trouble to others in his family, church, organization, and nation as well.  Therefore, such a man will reap judgment.  He will not stand in the stormy wind of God's judgment.

The connection between lines one and two is not easy to figure out.  Robert Alden, for example, says, "The two halves of verse 29 seem unrelated; the connection between them not obvious at all."  If our proverb is referring to the final judgment, what could it possibly mean that the stubborn "fool will be servant to the wise?"

To answer this question, I would turn to 1 Corinthians 6:2, which says, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?"  Verses that also teach that believers, in some sense, will judge the unbelieving world, are Matthew 19:28, Jude 14-15, and 1 Thessalonians 3:13.  But what could this possibly mean to say that the Lord's people will judge the world?  Matthew Henry gives an explanation:
"They [believers] themselves are indeed to be judged, but they may first be acquitted, and then advanced to the bench, to approve and applaud the righteous judgment of Christ both on men and angels. In no other sense can they be judges. They are not partners in their Lord’s commission, but they have the honor to sit by, and see his proceeding against the wicked world, and approve it."[4]

In this sense, then, on that final day, fools will be servants to those who are wise in heart. While believers will be acquitted and clothed in glory as they stand with Christ the judge, unbelievers will stand in the subservient position in shame, awaiting sentence.  While believers in this world are considered by the world to be foolish because of their faith in Christ Jesus, one day the tables will be turned.  One day those who are despised in the world because they trust in Christ, will be exalted in blessing, while the world that rejected Christ in indifference or hostility will be in humiliated in eternal judgment.  Lazarus will be exalted, while the rich man in hell who still views Lazarus as a servant ("send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame" Luke 16:24) will be brought low.

If you belong to Christ Jesus, dear believer, you will not inherit the wind.  Instead, you will receive a wonderful inheritance that the Lord tells us about through his apostle Peter:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of     Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4).

[1] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 511.  This insight comes from Bruce Waltke, who has masterfully notes a number of the connections between the individual proverbs.
[2] Van Leeuwen, Proverbs, 120.
[3] Steinmann, Proverbs, 31.
[4] Quote is from the BibleGateway website:

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