Proverbs 24 continues the thirty ‘wise sayings’ or ‘sterling principles’ started in Proverbs 22.

The first section looks at not envying the wicked. As Paul says bluntly in 1 Corinthians 15:33 ‘bad company corrupts good character’. We need to be careful about the friends we choose to spend time with. We may not be able to choose our family or our work colleagues, but we need to understand that in the world ‘their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble’ (Prov 24:2) People without God can easily distract us from God.

Next, the writer continues the theme by looking at the fact that a house is built with wisdom. This is true literally, but also metaphorically if we view our lives as a building – Hebrews 3:6 reminds us that ‘we are God’s house’.

Then the writer talks about the wisdom needed in leadership, especially when engaged in war. The Message version reminds us ”It’s better to be wise than strong; intelligence outranks muscle any day.” (Prov 24:5) Those of us that love action films may not agree with this, but it’s worth remembering!

The chapter goes on to look at the responsibilities we face and how to live among people. Prov 24:11-12 reminds us that we are indeed our brother’s keeper; there is a collective responsibility on us to help others. God sees our actions and knows what we are doing (Prov 24:12, 18). We need to have something solid on which to build, for “if you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place!” (Prov 24:10) Honest speech is commended ( “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” Prov 24:26) – and that goes for behind people’s backs as well as to their faces! (Prov 24:28-29) The other day I heard a teenage girl make the comment that ‘everyone talks about everyone behind their backs’. Proverbs makes it abundantly clear that that ought not to be the case: Eph 4:29 reminds us “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Finally, the chapter concludes with the by-now familiar warning against indolence. That kind of laziness ultimately will lead to poverty and problems: Paul had to remind the Thessalonians that waiting for the day of the Lord does not lead us to sit back and do nothing; he reminds us that we should ‘be awake and sober.’ (1 Thess 5:7) There is still much for us to do!