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with Ann Maniscalco
Proverbs 6:6-11, 16-19, 23-27
Martin Luther is credited with saying “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them
from making a nest in your hair.” Daily, we face decisions that test our moral fiber. Temptations to choose the wrong paths are like
those birds overhead. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2) can prevent the “nest-building” process.
This third study of the “Extraordinary Relationships” series (from Proverbs) challenges us to consider three character traits that
will benefit both us and others (and especially those dear to us): diligence, integrity, and purity. Good traits strengthen
relationships; bad ones tear them down. What impact is your character having on those who know you?
A diligent work ethic is exemplified by the lowly ant (Prov. 6:6-8). The lazy person is told to “observe its ways and be wise” (vs. 6
HCSB). Without an overseer, the tiny insect makes good use of its days, ascertaining its needs will be met in time of plenty and in
want. The one who shirks responsibility in lieu of spending too much time resting and sleeping is warned to change his ways, or poverty
and need will sneak up on him like a bandit.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” says the writer of Ecclesiastes (9:10 NIV). The New Testament promotes
this teaching as well. Paul said, “we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10 NIV). Being a good
and faithful employee honors God in the workplace, and prevents one from being a burden to others (of course, a workaholic is not to be
highly-esteemed; a good sense of balance is required). We would do well to impress this virtue on our children at an early age.
Demonstrating integrity is highlighted in verses 16-19 of our focal passage. Solomon lists seven negative actions and character
traits that the Lord finds detestable. In the NIV Matthew Henry Commentary, the author explains: “God hates every sin. But there are
some sins which he does in a special manner hate; and all those here mentioned are such as are injurious to our neighbor.” The list
begins with “haughty eyes” (vs. 17 NIV). “Pride is the first, because it is at the bottom of much sin,” says Henry. The list includes
lying, shedding innocent blood, and planning wicked schemes; it ends with causing factions in relationships: stirring up “dissension
among brothers” (vs. 19 NIV).
These negative traits are readily seen in the world today. Believers are to avoid such. Having integrity will cause us to seek the
reverse of these: modeling humility, truthfulness and forgiveness, and being an encourager and a peacemaker. James reminds us that we’re
“to keep [ourselves] from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV). Persons of integrity are an asset to their family and their community.
Thirdly, we’re to seek lives of purity. In Proverbs 6:20-23, Solomon exhorts his son to continually recall and heed his parents’
teachings. Holding to the Lord’s commands gives power to stand against sexual sin. The son is warned about the smooth talk and alluring
eyes of the adulterous woman. Seemingly innocent flirtations can be the first step down the road to ruin.
Paul tells young Timothy things to run from and others to run toward: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness,
faith, love and peace,” (2 Tim. 2:22 NIV). And uncontrolled “evil desires” can lead not only to physical sexual sin, but mental adultery
as well; Jesus clearly warned: “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28
NIV). With the internet giving easy access to the pornography plethora, one can be trapped in his or her own home by this
family-destroyer. In a Baptist Press article (“Confronting the Scourge of Pornography”), Barrett Duke says this ensnarement causes
“isolation from members of the opposite sex and the loss of relationships that give meaning to life.” Marriages are decimated by
resulting feelings of betrayal and insecurity, and loss of genuine intimacy, the author adds. “Can a man embrace fire and his clothes
not be burned?” Solomon rhetorically asks (Prov. 6:27 HCSB).
Pursuing diligence, integrity and purity requires constant vigilance. “Be serious! Be alert!” as Satan is “looking for anyone he can
devour” (1 Peter 5:8 HCSB). However, victory can be assured by having God’s armor in position (Ephesians 6:10-18) and His word in our
heart (Psalm 119:11).
Maniscalco is a member of LeMoyne Boulevard Church, Biloxi.