Read Proverbs 24:1-12
24 Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.
3 By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
5 The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers.
7 Wisdom is too high for fools;
in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.
8 Whoever plots evil
will be known as a schemer.
9 The schemes of folly are sin,
and people detest a mocker.
10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
What gives you hope for the future?
When have you envied an evil person’s life-style, wealth, possessions, privileges?
Whom did the author say not to envy?
What does a person’s response to hardship reveal?
According to what will each person be repaid?
“24:10–12 Saying 24 concerns spiritual and moral courage in the face of grave danger. Each person should act according to God’s Word and his conscience and seek to rescue others even when he faces personal risk. The fear of death should not deter a person from trying to save others who are condemned to die (Proverbs 24:11). All unbelievers are captives to sin and will be condemned to eternal death, but they can be saved through the Gospel proclaimed by a courageous believer. The Bible contains many accounts of heroic faith by which a person refuses to let fear of death dissuade him from testifying to God’s truth (e.g., Daniel 3; Acts 7) or prevent him from boldly snatching others from destruction despite personal peril (e.g., Joshua 2; 1 Samuel 17).
Pleading ignorance or powerlessness about the fate of others who are perishing may convince human authorities that inaction was acceptable or even prudent, but it will not convince God. He is the “one who weighs motives” and “guards your life,” and “he” will “repay” (Proverbs 24:12). He can save your life in times of danger—and will save all believers for eternity. Jesus calls his disciples to proclaim his Gospel for the salvation of all who believe, and to ignore the potentially fatal dangers of poverty, rejection, and persecution. At the same time he warns that those who spurn his missionaries will face judgment on the Last Day (Mark 6:7–13).
Therefore, the fear of losing one’s life should not override one’s fear and trust in God, who raises the dead. Christ himself became “obedient to the point of death” (Phil 2:8). Therefore “God has highly exalted him” (Phil 2:9). He promises, “Whoever loses his life for the sake of me and the Gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). That God will “repay a person according to what he has done” (Proverbs 24:12) is a warning of condemnation according to the Law for unbelievers (cf. Psalm 28:4) but is a Gospel promise for believers (Matthew 25:34–40; Revelation 14:13).”
Steinmann, Andrew E. Proverbs. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.
Heavenly father, you source of all wisdom, and the judge every human heart. Have mercy on me for rejecting your truth, and lead me always to walk in the ways of your truth, no matter what cost. Keep me focused on our Savior Jesus Christ, who lived a life of perfect obedience to what is true, good, and beautiful in your sight. Amen.