Front Row Seats

"If you have been foolish in exalting yourself or you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth, for the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife." Proverbs 30:33

Deja Vus. It is that strange sensation that hits us at times, and causes us to believe that somehow we have heard this all before. It is sometimes an eerie feeling that somehow I have lived this scene or passed this way on some previous occasion. For me it has accompanied the multiple brain concussions that I have had from football injuries and automobile accidents. Kinda creepy and yet the feeling is hard to shake. No need to rush to the ER this time. The truth is Proverbs often repeats a lesson that may have been missed if it is not given again and again. Check out these parallel passages.

"Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones." Proverbs 3:7-8

"Pride comes before destruction." Proverbs 16:18

If Proverbs gives the same lesson again it may be a sign that people over the ages have had a tendency to be slow learners. Dr. Baker, my church history professor in seminary, would often chastise "the boys on the back row." He was a no nonsense prof who had been through the FBI academy and didn't suffer any foolishness in class. He had been teaching seminary students for thirty years, and he knew that a scholar sitting on the front row was going to pay better attention than the guy who barely made it to his eight 0'clock class. It is hard to sleep in class when you are sitting in "The Splash Zone," the area most likely to get hit by spit. Good times.

The New Testament authors reveal a strong background in Proverbs. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit received by these men shows a consistency between the Old Testament and the New that should not be ignored.

"I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think." Romans 12:3

"Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation." Romans 12:16

"...the boastful pride of life is not from the Father..." I John 2:16

Proverbs warns against the foolishness of self-promoting pride. This is sometimes hard for people to grasp when they are so accustomed to seeing pride as an accepted form of reference for everything from marching bands to chicken. The pages of the thirty-one chapters of Proverbs are filled with caution signs that tell of the dangers of being full of oneself. Pride comes before a fall, but it is not because the barricades and flag men were not out on the road alerting people of the danger ahead.

What is wrong with a little healthy self esteem or an appreciation of ones alma mater? The answer is nothing. Proverbs is not minimizing the value of a well adjusted and balanced life. It shines the light on the all too common tendency of exalting oneself at the expense of another person's character. For some people to feel better about themselves they have to knock another person down. This scheming to bring about another person's downfall is hard to hide. It bubbles to the surface like a broken septic system or ruptured sewage line. What is considered over and over again within a person's heart comes out of their mouth. Capping the volcano is effective for a time, but eventually the molten magma of a churned up grievance flows out of the lips like lava. It destroys everything it touches. Once it cools down the damage has already been done to the surrounding landscape of personal relationships.

Being impressed with oneself rarely impresses other people. The reality is that people who cut others down for a living are rarely rewarded with statues and accolades. When was the last time a critic of the year award was given at the Academy Awards?

Covering one's mouth will cover a multitude of sins. Pressing or churning envy of another person's success or accomplishments is dangerous. It transforms a real or imagined slight into a great depression. People get depressed when they become consumed with putting other people in their place, and trying to climb on top of the lava rocks to be king of the hill. John Maxwell has stated that it takes more energy to hold a person down than to help a person up. I'll take his word for it rather than do my own field testing. Who has the energy to prove him wrong? After a life time of being knocked down, I can tell you what I prefer. I always think more highly of the person who helps me up than the person who knocks me down. Can I get a witness?

So, what is the point? Stop pressing some one's nose to get what you want. The only outcome will be a hurt hand and a bloody nose. Instead, start meeting the needs of others. It will not necessarily build your reputation, but it will build your character. It takes a life time to build the latter, and a moment to lose the former. Why do people still think so highly of Mother Teresa long after her death? Perhaps it was the way she saw herself. Her personal assessment changed the way she lived. She often referred to herself as just a pencil in the hand of God. Notice she didn't say Mont Blanc pen. The way we look at ourselves will give us a usefulness in the hand of God that will impact others.

"And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful." Titus 3: 14

Don't spend the rest of your life pressing noses looking for the fountain of significance. You will be disappointed in what comes out. Forget the resentments and the knock downs that have come your way.

"Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

Sound familiar? Get rid of envy and resentment with the same urgency you would cough up a bone in your throat or shake out a rock in your shoe. It is always easier to be an angel when no one is ruffling your feathers, but life is full of people who are more prone to pluck us clean than to help us up. Be nice to people on your way up because you are going to meet them again on the way down. Spend the rest of your life helping people up, and you will not have to worry about what people think of you. Class is about to begin, and I'm saving a seat for you on the front row.