Do not honor yourself before the king,
and do not stand in the place of great men;
for it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
than to put you lower before a prince,
whom your eyes have seen.
It’s a classic scene from Cars. One that I’m sure we’ve all experienced in real life, or we know someone who has. The arrogant Lightning McQueen has just finished the piston cup. And while he barely made it across the finish line, he was still bragging as though he had most assuredly won the race. As the announcer comes over the loud speak, you hear the words “for the first time in the history of the piston cup…” and Lightning finishes the phrase “…a rookie has won the piston cup.” He busts through the curtain with pride. Only to hear the words, “we have a three way tie.”
It’s embarrassing. Though, most of us probably feel more embarrassed for Lightning than he does for himself. He stepped out to be honored for a prize or position, and that wasn’t what was going to happen.
That’s what happens when you’re proud and arrogant. And even though it’s only a cartoon, the message is loud and clear. The truth is universal because we have seen people do the same thing. We’ve seen athletes celebrate prematurely. We’ve seen salesmen celebrate records and awards they had not yet earned.
The point is pride seeks to be honored. When you’re proud, you’re going to seek honor for yourself. When you’re arrogant, you believe you deserve the awards over anyone else. And that will lead you to do things like Lightning.
Don’t be that guy. Instead be the humble guy. And even when you have done something brag-worthy, don’t brag about it. Even when you’re getting honored, don’t boast about it. It’s better to make less of yourself than you are than to make more of yourself than you are.
Remove the dross from the silver,
and material for the silversmith will emerge;
remove the wicked from before the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness.
There is a dangerous trend that has emerged in leadership in America. It’s one where the leader serves in isolation while the followers judge from the outside waiting to catch the leader in a mistake. This is true in many organizations of all different shapes and sizes. From large companies to small churches. People judge the leader from the outside, just waiting to catch them in a mistake. As soon as they make one, they go “Red Ross” on the leader and try to bring them down.
This is so bad in so many ways. First, leaders should be supported by their followers. Leaders should feel like their followers have their backs and that they are there to catch them when they fall. Leaders should be able to have faith and trust in their followers. Leaders should be able to be honest with followers without being chastised and removed.
Instead followers should do whatever they can to support their leaders. They should remove wicked things from before them, surround them in support and prayer. They should do things that will protect their leader and not be looking for ways to bring them down.
Second, leaders should never seem themselves as opposed to their followers. So many times, it seems that leaders feel like their greatest opposition are the people they are leading. It’s not the other team, the other business, the enemy or anyone on the outside. It’s the people on the inside who are the biggest problem and the biggest opposition.
What if you as a follower sought to do everything you can to support your leader? What if you saw yourself as being on the same team with the same goal and the same mission? What if you looked for opportunities to back your leader up? What if you tried to protect your leader? What if you tried to protect the integrity of your leader? What if you did whatever you could to remove the things that could cause them to fall from being in front of them instead of trying to set traps for them to fall into?
You know what would happen? I do. Success. When everyone is on the same team, going in the same direction and fighting for the same mission, you have success.
This isn’t just the responsibility of the king. It’s the responsibility of the follower too.
These also are proverbs of Solomon,
which the men of King Hezekiah of Judah copied:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
and it is the glory of a king to search out a matter.
As the heaven is high and the earth is deep
so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.
Until you’re a leader, this is something that is hard to understand. And this is something I’ve come to understand a lot recently. The hearts of kings are unsearchable. First, I want to say, I’m not comparing myself or any other leader to a king except that they are all leaders.
Here’s what I want to point out though, what is in the heart of a leader is much greater than the leader ever tells or shares. This is a great task for the leader to share things in a way that can inspire the same amount of passion he has for something even though the people he is sharing it with haven’t gone through the same process in their hearts.
As a leader, when problems and decisions arise, they become consuming issues. When a problem comes up, your mind and heart become overwhelmed with solving the problem. Your mind kicks into overdrive until you come up with a solution. When you have to make a decision, your mind is consumed with what the best decision is.
And as a leader you will spend considerably more time and energy thinking about an issue than any one else involved in the process. You will think about all the possible outcomes and solutions. You’ll think about how this could go and how that could pop up. And what about this or that.
So, here’s a very practical way you can support your leaders. Never assume they have made a decision on a whim. Never assume they have just jumped to a conclusion and haven’t though something through. Sure that’s possible.
But it’s not likely.
I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of one who lacks wisdom.
I saw that thorns had grown up all over it,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw this, I gave careful consideration to it;
I received instruction from what I saw:
“A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax,
and your poverty will come like a bandit,
and your need like an armed robber.”
Growing up, I loved doing a garden. You probably know this already. But it was one of the things I enjoyed doing the most. I had a catalog of seeds that I’d go through and order seed for the coming year. One year, I even grew popcorn, and it worked. Of course, it was my Grandma who shelled most of it. Regardless, we popped a lot of it.
Because I enjoyed gardening, I was always looking at other people’s gardens to see how they did things. I wanted to see what they did with their tomatoes, and how far apart they planted their corn. But there was one thing that amazed me. It was when I would see gardens that people would plant and then they’d let them grow completely over with weeds.
I’m not just talking weeds here and there. Every garden always has a weed. And I hated weeding. Still do. But, why go to all that trouble of tilling the soil and planting the seed to let it get overtaken by weeds? What’s the point of that. A lot of them, you wouldn’t even know there was a garden there unless the corn was taller than the weeds.
I hope you don’t take this the wrong way if that was you. But, that’s the perfect example of this verse, although the example of this verse is a little more extreme. A weedy garden can happen in a season. It takes longer for thorns to grow, walls to break down and be covered in weeds. But it gives you the picture.
I want to clarify the latter part of this verse. First, it’s not saying that sleeping and relaxing are bad things. To say that would be in direct contradiction with one of the 10 commandments. Instead what it’s describing is a pattern or sleeping, slumber and relaxing. It might read better this way, A little sleep here, a little slumber there and a little relaxing here. It’s compounding. It’s habitual. It’s a lifestyle.
I wanted to point that out because being a workaholic can be just as bad as being a sluggard. We need rest. But we also need to work.
So, what do your fields look like? Because the condition of our fields are a good indicator of the condition of our lives. In other words, if several parts of your life are a wreck, then you’re likely to be a sluggard. If your house is a mess, your car is a pit and your yard is a disaster – just because your desk at work is clean doesn’t make you not a sluggard.
So, what do your fields look like?
Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
and do not deceive with your words.
Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will pay him back according to what he has done.”
This is an interesting Proverb. It’s interesting because of the second part of verse 28. “Do not deceive with your words.” It’s interesting because this is the norm now. This is normal for our culture.
What I mean is, it’s normal to bend the truth. It’s normal to evade the truth. It’s normal to say enough to be telling the truth while still not saying everything. Politics in general have driven us to a point where we think it’s okay to be intentionally deceptive with our words. We say whatever minimalistic thing we need to say to cover our bases, but we never say everything. We never say the whole truth.
And I think that’s what it comes down to. I think that’s what this proverb is addressing. You can technically tell the truth, but still be deceptive. But, when you tell the whole truth, it’s harder to be intentionally deceptive.
These are some of the principles of being a good neighbor. If you want to have a long-standing relationship, one that endures, then you need to do these things. And those things are: Don’t be intentionally deceptive. Don’t be a witness against your neighbor without cause. Don’t seek vengeance.
Don’t be a witness against your neighbor, and if you are be sure not to be intentionally deceptive. In other words, don’t say partial truths just to try to get your neighbor in trouble. If you know the whole truth, especially if the whole truth will vindicate your neighbor, you need to share it. Don’t seek to get back at your neighbor for whatever wrongs they have done by being a bad witness.
This goes along with gossiping too. You can’t have a good neighbor if you’re constantly gossiping about them. And gossip always intentionally deceives. At least all the gossip I’ve heard. The intent of it is to stretch and bend the truth just far enough to still be “factual” but make them look and sound really bad.
Don’t be intentionally deceptive.
Establish your work outside and get your fields ready;
afterward build your house.
Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
and do not deceive with your words.
We’ve gotten a little backwards and upside down in today’s culture. We want the stuff first, and then to pay for it later. In fact, you could even say we think we deserve the stuff first, even before we have the money to warrant having the stuff.
But here we see that it’s actually the other way around. We’re supposed to do the work to get the fields ready so that we can get food on the table. Then we build the house.We’re supposed to make sure the most important and basic needs come first. Then we take care of the others.
Of course, housing is a pretty big need. So, it’s high on the priority list. But, it’s not as high as food. If you don’t eat, you don’t live. At least not for long. Food is a higher priority than a roof.
Also, their crops would have also been their source of income. They would have sold their crop to get money or traded their crop for other goods and services they needed. If you don’t do the work in the fields to get the field and crops ready, you’ll never have a harvest. You’ll never have any evidence that you’re going to have anything worth anything to be able to build a house.
So, don’t be obsessed with getting the house built when you don’t have the money to build it. A house is a good thing, but it’s not good if it destroys you. And many a family has been destroyed by trying to buy a house when they shouldn’t have.
It doesn’t just go for houses though. It goes for anything you don’t have the money for. Don’t let your priority be keeping up with other people. Let your priority be what’s best for you and your family.
It’s all about priorities. Do you have your priorities in order?