Proverbs 3 is about Wisdom. The benefits and blessings of wisdom. The wisdom of laws and commands from last week (Proverbs 3:1-2), and now the wisdom of mercy and truth. This text is vital, especially for those, like me, who highly value truth. Why? For those who live and exist in the presence of truth, we realize that truth does not care about feelings, emotions, or opinions. As such, the biggest struggle, at least for me, is that I can be cold, hard, and unbending.
That is why there is this combination of truth WITH mercy. It has to have both. Let's bring this to a modern example. Let's say we have a man who is a husband and father. If truth is there without mercy, what does he say when his wife asks that dreaded question that all married men will be asked, "Does this make me look fat?"
Ok, now that you have pictured this, especially if you are married and have had to go through this, you are probably grinning and or laughing out loud. You know where this is going.
The man who lives in truth without mercy will be very unloving. The answer could look like, "Well, it never stopped you before." or, "Yes, but why ask me that now, when you wore that last week?" After he stops seeing stars and gets off the floor, I would hope some more decency would be in play. But I don't think that will get him out of the dog house any time soon, and before I am accused of being horrible, I think he should be in the dog house (remember, this is a hypothetical, suppositious situation. At least, husbands, it better be!!!!).
What about the children who are around the age of 14. "Dad, can we go buy ___________?" A father who has a lot of truth but no mercy will say, "No, son, I won't. Why? Because any spare money I would have, you ate it. You eat and devour all food like locusts, and I just frankely don't want to spend any money extra because of you eating like a horse all the time. And don't get me started for when you bring friends over." What kind of relationship would that man have with his family?
I will say right off the bat, this is abusivness of a different sort. This is an emotional abuse and, husbands, shame on you if you act this way. You are destined for a very lonely life. But what if truth is not there, and mercy only?
Let's take the same two scenarios again: Wife, "Does this make me look fat?" Husband: "Dear, you look fine in anything. Don't worry about a thing. You just look lovely." Wives, before you say, that is what we want to hear, I beg you to please consider that the wife decided to wear a peach scarf, a red hat, a shirt that is a summer flowery, with a brown jacket, a dress that has polka dots and is white and blue, and then under that jeans all down to flip flops....with socks...black....on the outside of the jeans pulled up to the knees.
I am no lady. I will never pretend to be, nor will I ever say that I understand the mind and how ladies think. But in this case, I can be pretty sure that this poor wife will not be talked about nicely.
How about the son? Son: "Can we go buy ___________?" Father: "Sure son. Money is no object and I want to just make you happy all the time. Let me go get a fourth loan on the house and car and we will rush right out and buy that." First, financially, that is unwise. Second, what kind of child would this create? Spoiled? Unappreciative? Lazy? Disrespectful? I would say, all the above.
So let us look at Proverbs 3:3-4. It starts off with mercy AND truth. Instead, perhaps the husband, in both situations above could say something like: "You know, honey, I love you, but I am not sure if that clothing you are wearing matches you." or, "You know, dear, I admire your creativity and willingness to be different, but, it doesn't work. The color scemes and the entire direction is just not there. Let's see if we can make some changes to help you look your best."
To the son, "You know, son, I would love to be able to help you with that. Right now, we are not necessarily in the place to be able to purchase _______________. However, if you want, I am willing to help you get a small job you can do around the neighborhood, and earn some money and then I will help you. But I just do not feel that I can or should just buy that for you. I want to help you learn the value of money and hard work."
Ok, mercy and truth have just been put on display. Notice what Proverbs 3:3 says. Do not let mercy and truth forsake you. I love what the Life Aplication Study Bible says. Here is what it says about this verse,
Loyalty and kindness are important character qualities. Both involve actions as well as attitudes..." (Life Application Study Bible Copyright (c) 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All right sreserved. Life Application is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, inc. Electronic text hypertextedx and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.2) (This comes from Accordance Bible Software).
I will take this a little further. Mercy and truth must be together because we are called to have mercy but not ignore truth at all. We do not lie to make people feel good. But we also present the truth in a way that will not destroy them. It works together. Solomon is telling his son, do not let them forsake you. Do not lose them, or let them flee from you. Keep both and use both.
The moment we lose one or the other we become either a door mat, or we become a tyrant. It is a beautiful balance between the two to have it work, and both should be present. That is why Solomon tells his son to bind them around your neck.
This goes back to the days when money was hung around the neck. It was bound to the one place that, if it ever was pulled off, or lost, a good chance would be that you would have no head either. Therefore, it would not matter. In the early days before the German Shepherd dogs were bred. The wealthy would have the family pet, but then they would have the dogs that would protect them.
Some went into the fields and found the farmers had one dog. A family pet and one that would guard. Around the neck of the dog, the farmer would hang their money. I have worked with dogs before doing what is called Schutzhund training. Do a search for that and you can see what these dogs could do (yes, I had the bite suit on). Needless to say, you didn't grab the money without potentially loosing a arm, face, fingers, hand, etc. But the money was bound to the neck.
We should bind mercy and truth to our necks as well. This keeps it where we will not lose them and if we did, we probably would be dead or seriously hurt anyway. But is that not the point? How we live our lives should display these two qualities in everything.
We do not lie, and we are not harsh and cold. Does this mean we do not speak the truth with authority? No. I would not go there either. There is a way of having and using authority and at times, truth must take a stronger and harder position than mercy. Not because mercy is ignored but to enhance mercy as it is given. Let me illustrate.
Truth: Sinners, who reject Jesus Christ will die and go to hell for all eternity. They will forever be in a place of torment and never will they be given a second chance. As regards to Jesus' love, He is. But in that moment He is the judge and there will be no mercy for the sinner chose to spit in His face, trash His sacrifice, and will face the eternal wrath and damnation from God.
If truth was all there was, we would not then find this:
Mercy: It is because of this damnation that all will face, outside of having salvation, the only way for salvation is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). The only way that could happen is if Jesus came to earth as the God-Man (100% God and 100% Man) and lived a sinless, perfect life (John 3:16). He then took our place on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, He did as the perfect sacrifice (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:25-10:14). He did this because He loved us and wanted to give us a way to be redeemed. All are called to repent of their sins, confess them, humble and submit themselves to Jesus Christ, and believe that He rose from the dead. Then we can be saved (Romans 10:9).
Without the truth and harsh reality of that truth, the call of mercy is weakened. One must be with the other. Not only is this to be around the neck, but on the heart. It is to be a way of life and through these two things, all other actions and activities of our lives are filtered. But notice what else mercy and truth does.
Proverbs 3:4 tells us that we will have favor and esteem with God and man. There are many who hate the truth. They despise the truth, unless you lie to them. But for the most part, the way we carry ourselves with these two things will show that we serve a God in Heaven. We will find favor because the world will see us, not as a doormat to be taken advantage of, nor as a tyrant to rebel against, but instead they will see us as those who are going to speak the truth in love. Not lying or bending the truth, but doing as the Scriptures say in Colossians 4:6, Romans 12:18, Matthew 5:13-16.
Therefore, truth and mercy. Do not ignore one. Do not downplay one over the other. And do not allow one to consistantly ignore or dominate the other. It is a balancing act that must be done equally, allowing one to take the precidence in order to deliver the other.
It is in this that we will find the world, while they may hate us, will have nothing evil to say against us, will be ashamed (Titus 2:8). And before God, we will be pure, clean, holy in our actions and attitudes, honoring and pleasing Him with all we do - 1 Corinthians 6:20