17The food you get by cheating
may taste delicious,
but it turns to gravel.
18Be sure you have sound advice
before making plans
or starting a war.
19Stay away from gossips—
they tell everything.
20Children who curse their parents
will go to the land of darkness
long before their time.
21Getting rich quick
may turn out to be a curse.
These few proverbs consist of warnings not to act simply on our own or to take our direction from those who lack wisdom. Engaging in fraud to get your food (or your livelihood) offers only momentary pleasure. You can be pleased to have outwitted someone in deceiving them – but in the long term such action turns sour (See Job 20:12-19). This is a practice which commonly exploits the poor and for that there is no lasting reward. In going to war one should seek the counsel of many for a war may be won not through the might of the warriors but through the wisdom of good strategy. This is not an endorsement of war but an illustration of the importance of counsel. Christians are members of a community where there is opportunity to seek the counsel of others and not rest on our own instincts and inclinations alone.
However it is important who we look to for counsel. A gossip and a babbler is not a good choice for friendship and advice (v 19). One should seek counsel from those we discern as wise and trustworthy. Gossiping is talk that brings destruction and damages our relationships. Another example of this kind of speaking is noted in v 20. The metaphor of the lamp that “goes out” is a warning not to make choices that bring darkness and death – but to choose instead that which brings light and life. The invitation to engage wisdom and the counsel of others is essentially an invitation to light and life but it is often the more difficult path.
This is said with the full recognition that the counsel of others is not always life giving or wise. The challenge is for us to find and engage those who walk a path of righteousness and to exercise discernment in the counsel we receive.
Lord I thank you that I am a member of your family, adopted through the saving work of Christ. Help me to benefit from the counsel of others and through them to discern a path consistent with your calling on my life. Keep me from quick self-centred choices, from talk that is destructive, from judgments that bring death. Enable me to know instead the life-giving breath of your Spirit drawn from your word – that in all things you might be glorified. Amen.