Proverbs Daily Devotionals
Danny Strange, Associate Pastor
What makes a person good?
By this question I don’t mean, “What makes a person a good person?” We know what makes someone a good person: it’s someone with ethics, who treats others kindly, who loves God, loves their neighbors. It’s not hard to define what makes a person good in that way. After reading Proverbs 28 today, the question on my mind is a different one: “What makes a person good at something?”
It’s one thing to imagine what it would look like for a good person to be in public office. You can picture a strong Christian leader you know and imagine what it would be like if they stepped into that role. Still, “What makes a person a good politician?” is a different question. We know what a good woman would act like if she were an investment banker or a teacher or a bank teller. Still, it’s another question entirely to ask, “What makes a woman good at those jobs?”
Think to what God has you doing in this world at the moment. Are you a student? A stay-at-home dad? A contractor? How does your Christian character affect the work you do? Does your faith impact the way you carry out your role in society?
Generally when we consider the question, “What makes a person good at their job?” we think about the requirements of the position. A good investment banker is someone who turns money into more money. A good politician is someone who carries out the duties of office well.
In short, as we walk through this world, we see these two questions as distinct:
1) Are you a good person (or not)?
2) Are you good at your job (or not)?
Still, as we look at the collection of proverbs found in Chapter 28, we see when God defines success, He bleeds these two areas together.
Take a look at the combination of proverbs on rulers in this chapter:
“When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order (28:2); A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops (28:3); A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign (28:16).”
According to this set of proverbs, a good ruler is someone who (a) is skilled and knowledgeable at ruling, (b) uses his office to lift up the impoverished and (c) rules with morality and character. In other words, when God defines the success of a leader, He describes a person who knows what it means to be a good person, applies her righteousness to her position and rules in a way that brings more righteousness into the world.
This means a good investment banker is not merely someone who is good at investment banking, nor is it merely a good person who happens to find himself in that role. Rather, a good investment banker as defined in proverbs would be a good person who is good at investment banking and does investment banking in a way that is good.
When it comes to something like politics, this can form a pretty heated discussion. Some Christians might say, “We need to find a candidate with good moral character.” Other believers respond, “No, we need to find someone who is suitable to carry out the duties of office.” Solomon says here in Proverbs 28 that the Christian definition of a good candidate is someone who is a man or woman of good character who carries out the duties of the office well for the betterment of society.
A ruler whose ruling is not good for the poor is not a good ruler, argues the Scriptures (28:3). Likewise a ruler who gets things done, but through tyranny, is not a good ruler (28:16). According to these texts, righteous people are not in a different category than successful people. Rather, God’s definition of a successful person is someone who strives to bring forth righteousness as he practices his role with skill.
This is why Solomon can say, “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding” (28:12). When a truly righteous person finds success in this world, the people around her are overjoyed. They rejoice not because a good woman is in office; they rejoice because her righteousness flows through her office and brings blessing to the community at large.
What has God called you to do in this world? How can you do it well? What does it look like for you to carry out your duties while upholding good character? How can you do your job in a way that brings righteousness and justice into the community in which you do it?