12The wicked covet the catch of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit. 13The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will come through trouble. 14A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him.
Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. While last week constrasted the faithful worker with the idle dreamer, this week contrasts the faithful worker with the wicked schemer.
On the one hand is the wicked schemer. He covets the catch of evil men. The wicked schemer uses the gifts and skills that God has given him – he is not an idle dreamer; he is willing to work. However, rather than work honestly and devote himself to fruitful labor to the glory of his Creator, he emulates the actions of evil men: he covets their catch. He studies how, by their cleverness, they manage to swindle, steal, murder, and rob for personal profit. So who are such men? This would include gangsters and thieves, rapists and murderers, adulterers and homosexuals. It includes politicians who use the power of the civil government to take that which lawfully belongs to others. It includes unscrupulous lobbyists that pressure politicians for handouts. And it includes those who hide their sin, hoping that their spouses or parents or friends will not uncover their gambling, their porn use, or their spending spree. But the schemes of such men will inevitably be thwarted by the God who rules and reigns over heaven and earth. The wicked schemer will be ensnared by the trasngression of his lips. He will inevitably trip up and get caught – his own lips will betray him. His deceitfulness will be turned back against him. He will lay a net for his own feet. Don’t be him.
On the other hand is the faithful worker. The faithful worker is rooted deep in God Himself – trusting in the Lord who has given him the ability to work and using his abilities to the honor and praise of his Creator. Such a man’s labor will yield fruit. Though he faces hardship and struggle – the common infirmities of this life – yet he will come through these troubles by the grace of God. Whether in this life or the next, his labor will yield good fruit. His honest lips and his hard work will have their reward: A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him. God will bless him according to his labor and he will have no cause to be ashamed even in times of trouble. By his honest speech and diligent hands, he earns the respect of his neighbors and a profit from the Lord.
So what of you? Whose work do you emulate? Do you covet the catch of evil men, studying those who deceive and scheme to advance their cause? Or do you study the work of those who are honest and hard working, speaking only what they know to be right and true and looking to God to bless the work of their hands? Our calling is to emulate the latter; indeed to be the pattern that others, especially those in the next generation, can follow.
So reminded of our calling to work with our hands that we might be satisfied with good, let us confess that we and our neighbors often scheme and plot instead of pursuing honest labor. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletins.