The Essence of Life: Proverbs 11:22, “How do we become men, women, and children growing in character?”

Proverbs 11:22, “22 As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.”

Proverbs is in the Old Testament, considered wisdom literature, Proverbs make you think, and the original audience for Proverbs is a training guide for boys, otherwise known as a manual for growing young men in character.

Now, in 2019 we hear that language, and we say to ourselves, “What about the ladies?” In fact, when you see verse 22 reference a “beautiful woman” it is possible our inner “Beyonce” comes out, we get in “Formation” and we wonder, “What about the ladies?”

That’s good. We need to think about what Proverbs means for women. We need to remember that God’s Word is for women despite what our professor’s in college taught us. We need to remember that just because the original audience was for men, it doesn’t mean that God’s Word isn’t applicable and beneficial for women.

In fact, in Proverbs 11:22 there is a contextual truth for men, there is a contextual truth for women, and stay with me, both of those truths are for men and women, therefore, lets look at each word and phrase of Proverbs 11:22.

  • The word “as” tells us everything we need to know about verse 22. The word, “As” is a figure of speech, a simile involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, and the first word in verse 22 pulls the reader into the proverb with a call to observation. The author isn’t describing a taste of the apple, or how the apple feels, or how the swine (a pig) sounds, but the proverb begins with a comparison of what the eyes see, and from the very first word the author is pulling us in to see a comparison between two unrelated things, “A gold ring in swine’s snout.”
  • Then we see the next phrase, “so is” and the phrase, “so is” tells us the explanation of the observation is coming. Does that make sense? The phrase, “so is” is telling the reader, “Pay attention, interpretation is coming.” Just as shocking as a gold ring in a swine’s snout, so is it just as shocking for a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.
  • The word, “discretion” means the ability to make clear judgment. The word, “discretion” means the ability to discern truth. It is a person who isn’t always wondering, “What other people think about themselves” and they can put their whole self into the conversation, and in verse 22 we see this beautiful woman is lacking in discretion.

I remember when I was in college waiting tables, and I walked up to a table to greet them, “Welcome to Chili’s!” That’s where I worked, “Baby back ribs!” When I greeted this table they never responded. So I said more loudly and more clearly, “Welcome to Chili’s!” They never said anything. Filled with insecurity and doubt I said something snarky, “What are you people, deaf?” And they were.

Their lack of response had nothing to do with me, but I was filled with such self-doubt, “lacking in discretion” I had to say something snarky.  In verse 22 this woman is outwardly beautiful, she is the gold ring, but inwardly her words are like cancer to the bones, like a pig’s snout, and it is intended to be shocking.

Now, today our culture is very sensitive to the connotation of “beautiful women” because women are not an object to be sexually exploited, and this is true, but don’t let culture distract you from the power of verse 22.

Verse 22 is not objectifying women, but highlighting a contrast with this woman’s “outward beauty”, and “inward beauty” and, just as we mentioned at the beginning, the truth of verse 22 is applicable to men and women.

Specifically, in the context of the verse, there is a charge for men, “Be careful you don’t chase after a woman because of her outward beauty and overlook the absence of her inward beauty.” Right? She’s going to cause you some pain. She is going to cause you some headaches, and some heartaches, and that same truth applies to women in their pursuit of men.

In addition, in the context of verse 22 there is a truth for women, “Be careful that you don’t spend too much time on your physical, outward appearances, and overlook your inner character.” Right?  And same truth applies to men. You with me?

In fact, this is the power of God’s Word. Once you go through the observation and interpretation of God’s Word, you can see how there are a variety of contexts verse 22 could be applied. It just depends on what you consider beautiful or valuable.

  • You might get swept up in an opportunity in your career, and overlook the character of the company.
  • You could get pulled in by someone’s social standing at school, noticed by the “popular crowd”, and not realize they are leading you down a path of destruction. It just depends on what you consider beautiful.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “How can we become men, women, and children growing in character?”  If we are going to spot character in others, we must be growing in character ourselves.

First: Put Jesus At the Center Of Your Life. If we are going to be men and women who are growing in character then we start with putting Jesus at the center of our lives.

In verse 22 we see that gold ring is out of place in a pig’s snout, and we see that lacking in discretion is out of place on a beautiful woman, and Scripture teaches us that all of humanity is “out of place.”

We are all like that gold ring in a pig’s snout, out of place, getting drug through the darkness of this world, and the good news is that Jesus has come to find us, He comes to pull that gold ring out of the muck and mire of this world, He purchases us at the cross, He cleanses us in the resurrection, and He restores us in Him.

One author wrote, “The reason our culture today is so obsessed with outward physical beauty is because we know intuitively that the inward parts of our soul are dark, and we don’t want to think about it, so we try to cover our inward faults and flaws with outward physical beauty.

This is exactly what Scripture teaches us in Genesis 3 as Adam and Eve, alienated from their rightful place, try to cover their faults and flaws with fig leaves, and we do the same thing today.

This is what makes Jesus so powerful. It is Jesus who sees the tireless ways we try to cover ourselves with trinkets, and He comes to rescue us, give us Himself, give us His beauty that will never fade.

Second: Remember, You Are In Jesus. When you read a proverb like verse 22 that calls us to grow in character there is probably one of two extremes that you might respond this morning.

  • There are some of us who read verse 22 and you might feel defeated. Even right now you are thinking to yourself, “I guess I am going to lack discretion my whole life, I say stupid things all the time, I guess I am a gold ring in a pig’s snout, I guess nothing will every change.” There might be some of us who read verse 22 and feel the weight of verse 22, you feel defeated.
  • There are probably also some of us who read verse 22 and somehow feel determined. You are thinking to yourself, “I am going to do it!” I am going to become a man or woman of character. I am going to be nice, I am going to follow the golden rule, in fact, I am going to look down on outer beauty, never take showers, and only focus on inner beauty. Ugly for Jesus!

But, remember the purpose of Scripture is to stir up our hope in Jesus. Neither one of those immediate responses (defeated / determined) is pointing us to see our hope in Jesus, and our hope in Jesus isn’t that we need to “give up / try really hard” but our hope in Jesus is that we are already clothed in character in Him.

Third: Develop An Inner Beauty Routine. Just as we all have a routine of getting ready in the morning to develop our outer beauty, we want to develop a routine for our inner beauty.

Even those of us who might put very little effort in getting ready in the morning still have an “Outer Beauty Routine” like brushing your teeth, putting on clothes, taking a shower periodically, getting a hair cut, etc.

Might we also develop an “Inner Beauty Routine” that keeps our hearts teachable to Jesus, His Word, and His people.   We would never roll out of the bed, put very little effort in our “Outer Beauty” and expect ourselves to just magically look our best, therefore, why would we do anything different with our “Inner Beauty?”