Worry is one of our more acceptable character faults, right alongside gluttony and perfectionism. After all, everybody worries, and no one quite knows how to stop. Furthermore, the primary victim of worry is the worrier, so it seems harmless enough. But worry is serious business. It not only causes a number of significant physical ailments, but worry can also trigger serious emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, and even compulsive disorders. More importantly, worry is a spiritual problem, as both a symptom of foolishness and a precursor to sin. Solomon therefore offered a solution to this age-old sickness of the soul.
This passage contributes to a lengthy discourse in which Solomon advised his son on a number of matters. Take note of his many references to “my son” in the first three chapters of Proverbs (1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21). Solomon devoted a great deal of time and effort to preserving this wise, fatherly advice. In this case, he explained how to find serenity in the midst of chaos and thereby add years to his life and tranquility to his days.
Solomon counseled his son to cultivate good relations with his community, which we might call “horizontal integrity” (vv. 3–4), and to maintain a right relationship with his God, which is “vertical integrity” (vv. 5–6). Both describe a cause-and-effect principle not unlike a law of physics or a principle of life. Drop a weight, and it will fall. Eat sensibly, exercise regularly, and your body will be fit. Live within your means, save money, and you will build wealth. We will examine the issue of horizontal relationships today and then spend the remainder of the week discovering how to maintain vertical integrity.
The sage stated that one can minimize worry by assimilating two key virtues: kindness and truth. The word kindness is one of the most theologically important words in the Hebrew culture. The term chesed is variously translated “mercy,” “loving-kindness,” “grace,” and “loyalty.” It describes the unrelenting, inexplicable, overwhelming grace of God for His covenant people. It is this quality of God’s character that causes Him to honor His covenant regardless of Israel’s many failures.
The Hebrew term rendered “truth” conveys the idea of firmness or assurance. This isn’t about truth as knowledge, but truth as a way of relating: relational integrity. When truth is part of your character, you speak truly, you honor your commitments, and you uphold others who are “true.”
When kindness and truth become a natural part of our interactions with others, favor and a good reputation become our reward. These will go a long way toward preventing problems, as well as draining our worry tank.
Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Proverbs: Insights for the Daily Grind (New York, NY: Worthy Books, 2012).
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