WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART TWENTY-EIGHT

                                                 SERMON PRESENTED ON 06-10-17  

       Last time we met I expanded on Proverbs 25:6-7 by giving part two of a sermon dealing with humility.  Today we will move on in Proverbs by returning to Chapter 25 beginning with the end of verse 7 which actually is a lead in to verse 8.

       Proverbs 25:7-8: What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?

       Do not go out hastily to litigation, or what will you do afterward when your neighbor puts you to shame? (NET)

       The principle being expressed here is that if you are going to take legal action against someone over some injustice you feel you have experienced, you better be sure what you saw is what you saw and not have someone come along and provide evidence that you didn’t see what you thought you saw.  

       We live in a very litigatious society. People are suing other people for any number or real or imagined offenses.  Many law suites are frivolous.  Frivolous lawsuits are lawsuits that are made without substantial evidence or merit.  Within the scope of our legal system, you apparently can file a lawsuit against anyone at any time over any issue that you choose.  You can virtually make up an issue and file a lawsuit against people you don’t even know

       There’s the case of a federal inmate named Jonathan Lee Riches. This individual was sentences to prison years ago when he was convicted of a credit card scam. Since the time when he was put in jail, Mr. Riches has written up and filed over 3,000 law suits.

       Each of these lawsuits that he has filed has been against well known individuals such as former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, TV personality Martha Stewart, and even the former President of the United States, George W. Bush.  He has never met any of these people but our legal system allows him to file law suits against them which they or their attorney’s have to respond to.   

       Solomon instructs that we should not be quick to litigate.  We must be sure we are justified in litigating a matter so that our actions don’t come back to bite us. “What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?

       A gentleman by the name of Austin Aitken sued NBC for $2.5 million dollars because of how he reacted to an episode he was watching on the NBC show called Fear Factor.  This was a show that featured having to overcome the fear of doing certain things like walking on the window ledge of a ten story building or eating some nasty concoction.  One show featured a rat eating challenge where rats had been processed in a blender and then served to the contestants.  Aitken alleged that watching this episode made him vomit, caused his blood pressure to rise which in turn caused him to become disoriented and unable to see the door on his way to another room. This resulted in him bumping into the door and injuring himself. The judge ultimately threw the suit out of court suggesting that if you find something on TV that disturbs you, you have the option of changing the channel.

       Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for false advertising when drinking a six-pack of Bud Light failed to produce visions of beautiful women on a balmy beach as seen in the Bud Light commercials.  He sought damages of $10,000, claiming that this deceptive marketing caused him emotional and psychological distress.  In other words, Overton was upset that drinking Bud Light didn't equate with the presence of hot looking women on a beach. The case was of course deemed a frivolous law suit and thrown out of court.  

       People will sue because they know if they can get a jury to be sympathetic to their cause, they can come away with some easy money.  Even when there is evidence submitted that places the legitimacy of a law suit into question, there often is still money to be made.

       The parents of Karen Norman sued the car manufacturer Honda when their daughter died from not being able to escape from her Honda Civic after backing into the water of Galveston Bay in Texas at 2 AM in the morning.  She apparently drowned.  The Normans sued Honda because they claimed their daughter was unable to hit the emergency release button on the seatbelt.  It was determined, however, that the reason she failed to hit the button most likely was because she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 and shouldn't have been driving in the first place.  In other words, she was legally drunk.  Nevertheless, the jury actually awarded the parents with a settlement citing contributory negligent on the part of Honda.  So the Normans sued and won against Honda in spite of their daughter's obvious irresponsibility in driving while drunk.

       In this world of much criminal activity, offensive behavior and outright fraud, it may at times be necessary to sue someone to obtain justice regarding a particular matter.  I was recently watching one of these made for TV court room shows.  Brought before the judge was a case where a contractor charged an elderly lady 15,000 plus 3,000 in installation fees to install an air conditioner in her 1,800 square foot home and promised her she would cut her energy costs by one-half. The elderly lady found her energy costs were not cut in half and when she did some checking found she didn’t need the type of conditioner for her relatively small home that the contractor talked her into.  She also found she could have had this unit installed for about one-third the cost.  So she sued the contractor for fraud.

       The judge did some investigating and found the women was totally in the right and had indeed been frauded and ordered the contractor to remove the air conditioner, refund the lady in total and told the lady to get a different contractor. Sometimes litigation may be the only avenue to receiving justice.

       What do the Scriptures teach regarding the settling of disputes?  When it comes to disputes among Christians the Scriptural instruction is to settle such disputes within the confines of the brotherhood of believers rather than go to court outside of the Christian community.  Here is what Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians:

       1 Corinthians 6:1-6: If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!  Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers!

        It appears here that Paul may be reflecting on what Jesus taught about resolving conflicts within the confines of the church rather than go outside the church for such resolution.

       Mathew 18:15-17: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that `every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

       Solomon’s proverb does not prohibit going to court over a matter. What it does do is warn us to be sure we have all out ducks in a row and that we are pretty sure we have the evidence to support our case.  A failure to do this can leave us with egg on our face and a loss of creditability.

       This being said, it is seen in the teaching of Scripture that it is far better for people to resolve issues between themselves short of having to appear before a judge and jury where an issue has to be resolved by others. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this observation:

       Matthew 5:25: "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.

       The instruction here is to settle out of court if at all possible.  This is especially true if it turns out you are in the wrong and the case goes to court and you are found by a judge to be in the wrong.  If you are found to be in the wrong, there’s a good chance you may end up with a punishment that could have been avoided if you had resolved the issue you had with someone before a judge or jury gets involved.

        Solomon gives some additional advice as to settling a matter with your neighbor.      

       Proverbs 25:9-10: If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man's confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.

       The general consensus of commentators on this instruction from Solomon is that when you argue or debate an issue with your neighbor, don’t bring up information you may have in confidence about someone else in an effort to bolster your case.  That someone else may fine out about it and may be very upset you shared what was confidential information and you will end up being seen as someone who cannot be trusted to keep a secret.

       Proverbs 25:14: Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.

       We have all experienced drought conditions and longed for rain to come to water our lawns, gardens and so forth.  So when dark clouds gather in the sky and the wind picks up we rejoice that we are finally going to get some rain.  If those clouds bring no rain we are very disappointed.  Solomon likens this to a man who promises to give something and then fails to do so.

       The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary provides a poignant overview of Proverbs 25:14:

  Those who promise and do not perform are wantonly cruel. To raise expectations without fulfilling them is one of the greatest unkindness’s of which men can be guilty. For however sorely the gift or the service desired may be needed, if the needy brother has never had any hope of possessing it, his sense of loss is not nearly so keen as it is if, depending on the word of another, he has felt as if the coveted good was almost in his grasp.

The thirsty traveler in the desert feels his thirst more terribly after the deceitful mirage has led him to believe that a refreshing lake is just within his reach. He thinks he sees the sparkling water but a few paces distant, and is already in fancy drinking his fill when all his hopes are destroyed by the vanishing of the deception, and he is in a far worse condition than he was before its appearance.

There are many men who are as deceitful and as disappointing as the mirage of the desert. Their large promises awaken bright hopes in the breast of some wayfarer on the journey of life, and he looks forward with confident joy to the time when he shall possess the promised gift. But his heart is gradually made sick by the deferred hope until at last he becomes aware that he has been cruelly deceived, and finds himself a far more wretched man than he was before the promise was made to him.

 As a rule he who promises most will perform the least. Those who bestow most upon others are those who do not spend much time in talking about what they will do. Sometimes a heavy cloud is seen in the heavens, which seems as if it would every moment fall in refreshing showers. But a few drops only fall on the parched earth, and while the husbandman is looking with confident expectancy it vanishes from his sight. On another day a cloud which seems to promise far less falls in abundance upon the thirsty land. This is not the rule in nature, but it is in relation to the promises and performances of men. The loud boaster is well-nigh certain to be a cloud without rain, and should therefore never be relied upon, and the greatest givers are generally those who promise least.

       What this commentary is pointing out is the devastation experienced by those who are promised certain things and never receiving what was promised.  We see this with politicians all the time.  Promises are often made by politicians running for office that are not kept once they are elected and in many cases were not intended to be kept or where not able to be kept because of extenuating  circumstances which the politician knew all along would make it impossible for the promise to be kept.   

       The promise becomes like a mirage. We have all experienced a mirage.  You’re driving down the highway on a hot summer day and the sun causes the black top road to appear to shimmer as though there was water on the road except there is no water.  This is commonly experienced when walking on the hot sands of a desert where the sun causes the sand to shimmer and make it appear as though there is water just ahead.  For a weary traveler who has run out of water and is very thirsty, this shimmering can make the traveler think there is water just ahead only to discover there is no water, a devastating discover for some one who may be dying from thirst.  

       What we can take home from Proverbs 25:14 is that we need to carefully evaluate what is promised by others as to the potential for such promise to be carried out.  We also need to insure that when we make a promise, we have the wherewithal to fulfill it. 

       Proverbs 25:19: Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house-- too much of you, and he will hate you.

       We have all probably experienced the situation where someone overstays their welcome.  A friend comes over for dinner and stays into the late night hours of the evening while you keep looking at the clock on the wall wondering when he is going to leave but not wanting to upset him by suggesting that he do so.  Many families have experienced the situation where a family member in need of a place to stay on a temporary basis turns it into a permanent basis causing any number of problems for the host. 

       This Proverb could also be applied to phone calls were somebody calls about something only to move on to numerous other something’s and take up an inordinate amount of your time with a phone call.

       This matter of overstaying a welcome is apparently such a problem that there are websites you can go to get tips on how to deal with the problem.  One website I looked at provided a number of tips to deal with guests that don’t or won’t leave in a timely manner.   Here are just four of them:

       #1) Make time a part of the invitation. Prevention is the key. Present a clear and obvious start and finish date/time for their stay--whether it's a dinner party or an overnight guest. If anything, this allows you to save face if it comes down to showing them the door.

       #2) Have a schedule. Particularly if your house guest has come for a vacation, have a rough itinerary of what you'd like to do together, with at least one thing being the last thing you do. Whether you save the best for last, or just want to relax on the final day, having activities as sign-posts for your guest's stay is a convenient way of reminding them when their stay is up.

       #3) Suggest an outing. Offer your guest(s) a trip to the mall, or simply a walk around the neighborhood. Make the suggestion as "one last thing before you go." Getting the guest out of the house is the biggest step, and afterwards you can simply show them to their car (or have a taxi waiting) rather than inviting them back inside.

       #4) Give them chores. If a guest has truly overstayed their welcome, let them know they ought to start pitching in around the house. Have them pick up after themselves, and suggest they do a fair share of the dishes and the tidying up. At worst you will have a new helper around the house. However, most house guests would be reaching for reasons to leave once doing dishes entered the itinerary.

       Sometimes, people simply don’t pick up on subtle hints and you have to take a more direct approach. To avoid coming across as rude by simply telling a person to leave, you can always use what are called "diplomatic expressions." For example, you might say, "It's important to me to have time this afternoon to finish my report, so we'll have to talk some other time." Or you could say, "I made a promise to myself that I would get enough sleep, so I'm going to call it a night. Can I walk you to your car?"

       The lesson we should learn from this Proverb is that we need to be aware of the other person’s time constraints and any signs that indicate we have visited long enough or been on the phone long enough and then proceed to make our exit so that the person or persons we are visiting with don’t have to come up with ingenious ways of prompting our exit.

PART TWENTY-NINE