Proverbs 21

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As we begin a new year, we’ll be studying the book of Proverbs for the first 31 days of the year. The new year is a great opportunity to invite your friends, families, and Life Groups to read along with you in 2023. If you missed the first day’s reading or are looking for an overview of the book, click here to catch up!

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Read Proverbs 21

21 In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
    that he channels toward all who please him.

A person may think their own ways are right,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.

To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
    the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
    as surely as haste leads to poverty.

A fortune made by a lying tongue
    is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

The violence of the wicked will drag them away,
    for they refuse to do what is right.

The way of the guilty is devious,
    but the conduct of the innocent is upright.

Better to live on a corner of the roof
    than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

10 The wicked crave evil;
    their neighbors get no mercy from them.

11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
    by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.

12 The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked
    and brings the wicked to ruin.

13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
    will also cry out and not be answered.

14 A gift given in secret soothes anger,
    and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.

15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
    but terror to evildoers.

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence
    comes to rest in the company of the dead.

17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
    whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.

18 The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
    and the unfaithful for the upright.

19 Better to live in a desert
    than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
    but fools gulp theirs down.

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love
    finds life, prosperity and honor.

22 One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty
    and pull down the stronghold in which they trust.

23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues
    keep themselves from calamity.

24 The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—
    behaves with insolent fury.

25 The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him,
    because his hands refuse to work.
26 All day long he craves for more,
    but the righteous give without sparing.

27 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—
    how much more so when brought with evil intent!

28 A false witness will perish,
    but a careful listener will testify successfully.

29 The wicked put up a bold front,
    but the upright give thought to their ways.

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but victory rests with the Lord.

Go Deeper

Proverbs provides many wisdom principles to live by. Chapter 21 causes us to consider both our inward motivations and outward actions. The chapter can be broken down into 2 lists: wisdom principles or character traits of the wise and warnings or character traits of the wicked. Take a look at the chart below to help recap the traits listed of the wise and wicked:


Wisdom principles/ character traits


V. 3: does what is right and just

V. 2: thinks their own ways are right

V. 5: diligent

V. 3: puts sacrifice over caring for people

V. 8: upright conduct

V. 4 & 2: haughty and proud

V. 11: pays attention to the wise

V. 6 & 7, 28: lying and violent

V. 26: generous

V. 8: devious

V. 20: stores up wisely

V. 9 & 19: quarrelsome

V. 21: pursues righteousness and love

V. 13: shuts their ears to the cry of the poor

V. 23: guards their mouth and their tongue

V. 16: strays from the path of prudence

V. 28-29: careful listener and thoughtful

V. 17 & 25: loves pleasure and is a sluggard

 The inward motivations of the wise lead them to pursue diligence and righteousness. Outwardly, they care for others through conduct and justice, and they seek to be wise with their words. In Luke 10: 30-36, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. This Samaritan doesn’t ignore the needs of others, as the priest and Levite do, but cares for the man in distress. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, our actions an outward reflection of what is in our heart.

 Sometimes in Proverbs the descriptions of the wicked can seem extreme or removed from our own character. However, when we look closely at words contained within the warnings, it forces us to consider and be convicted by what is familiar. Thinking our way is the right way, pride, lying, being quarrelsome, ignoring the needs of others, and loving pleasure are examples of a few within this chapter. The righteous are aware of their own weakness and confess it to God and community. To pursue what is right, we must know what is wrong and turn from it. Romans 12:9, “…hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”

 Ultimately, wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). The Lord is after our hearts. The key verse of this chapter states, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30) When we pursue Him and His ways and seek Him with all our heart, then our life and our actions will begin to reflect who He is calling us to be.


  1. What is the state of your heart? What does your life reflect?
  2. Make a list of sin present in your life and talk with your community about how you can turn from it and pursue what is good.
  3. What is the “good” God is calling you to pursue?

By the Way

Romans 12:9-21 offers some insight into pursuing what is good. Spend time reading through it to further grow in this area.

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6 thoughts on “Proverbs 21”

  1. It’s easy to justify, rationalize, or excuse away our sin, but put under the searchlight of God’s word it becomes clear that we have missed the mark and actively gone the wrong way. When I recall this verse of scripture in Isaiah 53:6, it pierces my heart: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, each one, to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” We do not have to continue to walk in sin and shame, as God provided us a new way through his son to walk in newness of life. This means I no longer belong to myself but belong to him and am able to deny my carnal nature, accepting his way is infinitely better.

    1. What you just stated, Ella, summed up my study this week on the paralytic man in John 5:5-16 …“We do not have to continue to walk in sin and shame, as God provided us a new way through his son to walk in newness of life.“
      This poor, unbeliever for 38 years met the Good Samaritan the last Saturday of his crippled life. V13 struck me,“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” Out of all the pagans in the crowd at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus chose this man. Was it through his pity of having no one that birthed his salvation thru Jesus? Jesus heard his cry. That Saturday, he picked up his mat(his mess), and walked away with his sins forgiven and with no shame as he began his new life through Christ.
      Thank you, Ella and BRP commentary!

  2. What “good” do you do when no one is looking? God is always there, always. He sees every single thing we do and don’t do, that we should have done or not done. Do right things and make right choices when someone is looking and especially when they are not. We are known by our fruit Gal 5;22. BUT GOD and His son showing us that Hesed LOVE unconditional, unfailing, steadfast, chasing YOU, loyal, covenant, undeserved, reliable, compassionate, complete, generous, essential, abounding, fulfilling, beautiful, amazing, LOVE OF GOD!!!

    Thank You God for my walk with You through Your Holy Spirit and that I can do what is right and just, be diligent, choose upright conduct, that I pays attention to the wise, that I give generously, that I store up wisely, I pursue righteousness and love AND MOST ESPECIALLY that I guard my mouth and tongue so that I can be a careful listener and thoughtful person in Jesus name amen

  3. Thoughts on Proverbs 21

    “Hi. My name is Pam. I have a new life in Christ. I am in recovery for (among other things) addiction to comfort.”

    All things being equal, if I have one consistent sin struggle, it is sloth. My desires for comfort and earthly satisfaction can sabotage my work ethic. Every. Single. Day.

    Ever since all four of my kids were in school full-time, I’ve had the freedom, luxury and challenge of “numbering my own days.“ I have no earthly boss, no place or employer to whom I must report. Such a lifestyle leaves me totally at the mercy of my own priorities and desires, which consistently and insistently pull me this way and that.

    It’s tough to reach the finish line while running multiple directions at once! It’s tougher still if you’re always slipping off to the sidelines for rest, shade… and comfort.

    Is it any wonder I often feel life is just passing me by?

    To be fair, I’m not always inactive – just woefully ineffective. So often I hear, “I can’t even imagine how busy you must be.“

    “But I’m NOT!” I want to scream. “What you can’t imagine is how lazy I can be.”

    Such is the futility of life driven by desire for constant comfort, which we read spelled out in no uncertain terms in Proverbs 21:

    “Those who love pleasure will become poor; those who love wine and luxury [insert phone games, naps, Netflix and sugar!] will never be rich” (v 17).

    Verses 25 and 26 go on to say, “ The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more.“

    Guzik’s commentary unpacks this as follows:
    “Having the desire for good and blessing and prosperity, but not the desire to work, the lazy man [or woman!] lives a life of constant frustration and disappointment. S/He does not know the satisfaction of earned achievement… doing rather than desiring brings success.”

    If the only “work” I do each day is to satisfy my own desires, I accomplish nothing – not for me, not for others, and certainly not for God.

    “Merciful God, I do not wish to be a pleasure-lover at the mercy of my cravings, but a God-lover dependent on your mercy. I turn to you, the God of All Comfort, to redirect my desires and priorities to things that honor you. When asked, “What did you do all day, may I answer faithfully, “I served the Lord.”

    To discover true freedom from addiction, visit

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