Proverbs 22

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor meet together;
    the Lord is the Maker of them all.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
    but the simple go on and suffer for it.
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
    is riches and honor and life.
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
    whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The rich rules over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
    and the rod of his fury will fail.
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
    for he shares his bread with the poor.
10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
    and quarreling and abuse will cease.
11 He who loves purity of heart,
    and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
    but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
    I shall be killed in the streets!”
14 The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit;
    he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
    but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
    or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
    and apply your heart to my knowledge,
18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
    if all of them are ready on your lips.
19 That your trust may be in the Lord,
    I have made them known to you today, even to you.
20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings
    of counsel and knowledge,
21 to make you know what is right and true,
    that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?
22 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
    or crush the afflicted at the gate,
23 for the Lord will plead their cause
    and rob of life those who rob them.
24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
    nor go with a wrathful man,
25 lest you learn his ways
    and entangle yourself in a snare.
26 Be not one of those who give pledges,
    who put up security for debts.
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
    why should your bed be taken from under you?
28 Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set.
29 Do you see a man skillful in his work?
    He will stand before kings;
    he will not stand before obscure men.

One of my favorite books is The Hedge of Thorns, a short parable published 200 years ago about a boy and his little sister who lived in the English countryside. Each day they walked back and forth to school along a hedge of thorns. Overly curious and suffering from the modern-day FOMO (fear of missing out), the boy convinces his sister that they should find out what is on the other side of the hedge. Acting the gentleman, he invites her to go first, but as he pushes her part way through the hedge, she begins to cry out in pain. Their adventure is cut short as blood drips from her beautiful face.

Later the same day their father takes the boy to peek over the hedge, and what the boy sees rocks his world. On one side, a black ditch of stagnant water waits to suck the breath out of any little one unable to swim. On the other side, a steep precipice promises instant injury or worse. The father quotes from Proverbs 22:5, our key verse today, and explains to his son that thorns’ sting is a natural consequence and a gift put in place to keep us on God’s good path and away from destruction.

Pause: Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from it (vs. 5).

Ponder: What are the protective hedges in my own life? When have I pushed through to the other side? What was the result? When have I chosen to say “no” to temptation and stay on the path? What was the result? Which will I choose today?

Pray: Thank You for establishing a good path for me to walk. Forgive me for the times when I have pushed through the protected hedge because I was too curious or too afraid I was missing out on something better. In those moments, I didn’t trust You to bless me with the very best. Thank You for using thorns and snares to slow me and direct me back onto the path of life. May I say “no” to the allure of life on the other side and stay fixed on You!

— Jaime Sherman