“Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread.”
Reality is much more important than appearance. The notion of “lowly” is someone who is wealthy (they have a servant), but who is also humble and doesn’t seek their identity in their wealth. In contrast to humility is the person who puts in lots of effort to appear wealthy -- who tries to “play the part of a great man -- but who, in reality, is quite poor.
We live in an image-conscious society where people are more concerned with managing appearance than building character. Their effort goes into trying to create the image of success rather than doing the work required to achieve true success.
“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
People who live rightly are kind to animals; the wicked are cruel to animals. The implication is that if the wicked are cruel to animals, we shudder to think how they treat people.
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers, but the root of the righteous bears fruit.”
The observation is that wise people have a strong work ethic and do the work that matters in order to be productive. As a result, they “have plenty of bread.” The phrase “works his land” refers to doing the work required by their job: the farmer in the field, the hunter in the forest, the mason, the carpenter, the teacher, the Mom (and/or Dad) cleaning the home and mending clothes, the student in the classroom.
The Lord calls you to “work your land.” He calls you to be a faithful steward of the work that you do. The work you do is the most important act of worship you engage in every day.
On the other hand, foolish people fail to do the work that matters. They pursue foolish things. Even when they are putting forth effort, the energy of foolish people is misdirected. They covet the things that evil people have gained. They are driven by unrestricted and selfish want.
Wise people pursue what is right. They operate from the foundation of God’s truth. As John 15 says, abide in Christ as a branch to the vine or a tree to its roots. That is how you produce the fruit of the kingdom.
“An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.”
Evil people are foolish and reckless in things they say, and eventually their foolish words ensnare them. They get caught in the trap of their own deceitful manipulations. The wise person does not fall into the trap because he is disciplined in what he says. He seeks truth and speaks truth.
The final verse ties words and actions together. The man who does right produces good fruit through disciplined speech and diligent action. There is alignment and consistency between what he says and what he does.
Oh how we need this today! We are in desperate need of people in every sector of society who seek truth, speak truth, and act with wisdom.