Principles from Proverbs: Character

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of concise observations about life and how to navigate it successfully. Success is synonymous with living wisely. And wisdom entails doing what is good for yourself and others, today and into the foreseeable future. These four considerations provide a framework for discerning the best way to live, from a practical and a godly standpoint.

There is not a clear outline to the Book of Proverbs. It’s assembled as a sort of scrapbook of wise sayings, somewhat in the form of ancient “tweets.” It is possible, though, to divide the book into two main sections: The Pursuit of Wisdom (chapters 1 through 10) and its Practice (chapters 11 through 31).

One of its major themes is honesty. A wise person pursues a genuine life. One in which what we say we believe matches our show in our behavior.

The Source of Character

The Book of Proverbs emphasizes that integrity has two components: Personal accountability, and accountability to God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). We should accept responsibility for our conduct; and we should direct our behavior in a manner that demonstrates submission to God. When a person is living by those standards, there is little need for extensive policing or threats of force to ensure conduct with w

hat is good and right.

The Substance of Character

Proverbs also describes how a person of character will behave. The book warns repeatedly against dishonest practices. For example, on four specific occasions false balances and scales are condemned:

  • “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight” (Prov. 11:1). This goes beyond Lev. 19:35-37 and Deut. 25:13-16, which condemned this practice, to explain the “heart” of the law: Honesty is honorable to God and He blesses it.
  • “A just weight and balance are the Lord’s: all the weights of the bag are his work” (Prov. 16:11).
  • “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 20:10).
  • “Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good” (Prov. 20:23). “Different weights” implies some were intentionally inaccurate.

Amos described how shopkeepers were dishonest with their scales, gouging shoppers: “Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? 6 That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? 7 The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works” (Amos 8:5-7). Honesty is the best policy.

It is better for all of us, today and tomorrow, to be conscientious in our dealings with one another.