Wisdom’s Warnings I

The Proverbs of Solomon in the Old Testament of the Holy Scriptures received by Christians and Jews alike contain abundant wisdom for those willing to search them out. In the Orthodox Church, the Proverbs are read through at weekday Vespers during the course of Great Lent to put before the faithful a standard of good and evil, of righteousness and unrighteousness, of wisdom and folly, by which they may examine their own lives, correct what is amiss, and learn wisdom as they seek the Divine Wisdom of God. All who read with a desire for wisdom may profit from the Proverbs; Christians in particular do well to read them regularly that they may be guided by the wisdom of God expressed by His servant rather than the wisdom of this world. A profitable practice is to read the chapter of Proverbs corresponding to the day of the month each month.

The following words from Proverbs have imprinted themselves on my mind since I read them two weeks ago (Dec 17):

“Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.” (Proverbs of Solomon 17:13; KJV)

We have all known people for whom life never seems to go well. Always there is some misfortune, some loss, some unexpected hardship, some injustice suffered at the hands of others. It seems that others go out of their way to mistreat them and take advantage of them. Very often these suffering souls¬† whine at great length about how unfair it all is. Often even the simplest things that work out for most people don’t work out for these, and anyone with a bit of compassion, or, at least, curiosity, has to wonder: why?

Why indeed? When people ask, “Why does everything go wrong for me?” or “Why do I always have such bad luck?” or “Why is everyone out to get me?”, this word from the Proverbs of Solomon could well serve as the place to begin to diagnose the problem. To ask oneself, “Have I done wrong to those who have done good to me?”, “Have I mistreated those who have treated me well?” and to find one must answer “yes”, is to have found with high probability the primary reason for one’s woes.

Solomon says evil “will not depart from his house.” In other words, for returning evil for good, perhaps even just once, he will be dogged, pursued, hunted by evil–until he makes right what he did wrong. By doing evil to those who do good, a basic law of human relations is violated, and it seems that the perpetrator receives due recompense either directly from God in His justice or, having opened himself to evil through his violation, he becomes the plaything of demons. In either case, he is dogged by bad things happening to him In either case, the goal of divine Justice is that he come to his senses, sees the evil he has done, repents, and mends his ways. What a powerful disincentive this should be to anyone tempted to return evil for good, to be ungrateful and forgetful of benefits rendered by others, to be disrespectful to parents, to take advantage of the weak in their weakness and the naive in their simplicity!

Conversely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls Christians and those who would know the Living God to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you that ye may be the children of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:44-45, KJV) St. Paul, elaborating both on Christ’s words and Solomon’s, writes, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly¬† beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.’ Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21, KJV; Paul cites both Proverbs 25:21 and Deuteronomy 32:35).

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” The foolish and wicked man does evil to those who do good to him, while the Christian is called to overcome evil with good and do good to those that hate him. The contrast could not be starker in action or in outcome. To return evil for good invites persistent evil into one’s life; to return good for evil makes one a child of the Heavenly Father.

Published in: on Thursday, 31 December, 2009 at 13:54  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,