12The Lord watches over everyone
who shows good sense,
but he frustrates the plans
of deceitful liars.
14The words of a bad woman
are like a deep pit;
if you make the Lord angry,
you will fall right in.
16Cheat the poor to make profit
or give gifts to the rich—
either way you lose.
We live in a world of strategic and business plans. We set goals, assess our assets, compile our list of obstacles and liabilities and construct plans that will make our boards or shareholders or family or friends or boss happy. We hear the stats that suggest that four out of five new businesses fail in the first five years. We know that very few hockey players make it to the big leagues or actresses make it big in Hollywood or that only one Olympic athlete wins the gold medal in an event. Yet we live in a society that has an almost unshakable faith that “if you just believe in yourself” you can do anything.
This quest for success and stardom is so strong in Western culture that it is pursued at any cost – to me or to those who get in my way. The Teacher reminds us that there are in fact, many wrong ways to try to fulfill our plans. One is deceit. The stats on how many students lie and cheat in their pursuit of their academic goals is quite frightening. Deceit may help us get ahead in the short term, but eventually it does seem that the Lord does “frustrate the plans of deceitful liars” (v 12). Eventually we are caught in the web of our own lies and people see us for who we really are. There are other pitfalls that can ruin our well laid plans; immorality is one. The Teacher reminds us that the mouth of an immoral woman is a pit. How many leaders have been derailed by sexual immorality?
And of course there is another kind of immorality – the kind where people get ahead by oppressing the poor and weak, or by bribing and sucking up to the rich and powerful. Again, while some can try to manipulate and use people for my own ends, the good news is that often the approach backfires and that person ends up in poverty – if not in economic poverty, at least in a poverty of character and joy that leave a person empty despite their success. So while it is great to make plans, may they not be derailed by deceit, immorality and oppression!
Oh Lord may my plans be laid in humility and established in truth, honesty and Integrity. May your Spirit enable me to avoid the pitfalls that accompany the “success at all costs” approach that seems to dominate my world. Make me patient, willing to wait on your timing for the fulfillment of the best laid and best executed plans. Amen.