We have now covered the first two sections of the book of Proverbs and come to the third.
Purpose of Proverbs 1:1-7
Parental Proverbs 1:8-9:18
Perceivable Proverbs 10-15
I have defined this section as the "Perceivable Proverbs" because Solomon reveals life as it should or ought to turn out. The principles and view of life articulated are usually and normally true.
These next Proverbs are quick jabs to the jaw; they give no time to footnote qualifications, nor do they list exceptions to the rule. They are quick jabs; they mean to stun and get the attention of the reader. They will clearly state in a concise antithesis the contrast between two “perceivable" outcomes.
At first, it might appear difficult to see any arrangement of subject matter in these chapters, but consider the bookends, meaning the material at the beginning and end of each section of thought within the chapters.
Example: verse 1 contrasts a wise and foolish son, while verse 5 contrasts a lazy and diligent son; thus, what is between these two bookends is to be read and considered, thinking about diligence and laziness.
Verse 6 contrasts the blessings and abuse of the mouth, while verse 11 basically repeats the contrast. Between the bookends we see the subject Solomon wants pondered in light of the blessing and abuse of our tongue.
In verse 12, hatred and love are contrasted, while in verse 18, concealing one's hatred is contrasted with speaking slander. Between these two bookends, we find the subject being considered is a heart lacking forgiveness.
Verse 19 contrasts the restrained and unrestrained tongue, while verse 32 contrasts the mouth of the righteous with the wicked.
Between verses 19 and 32 are four collections of Proverbs with a single humorous Proverb bridging the two sections. This is known as a “chiasmus" or a poetic form in which something is repeated in reverse order. This form of grammar is common among Hebrew writings. The rest of this chapter would look something like this:
A. Verses 19-21: The Three-Proverb Collection on the Tongue
B. Verses 22-25: The Four-Proverb Collection on Stability of Life
C. Verse 26: The Humorous Proverb on Laziness
B. Verses 27-30: The Four-Proverb Collection on Stability of Life
A. Verses 31-32: The Three-Proverb Collection on the Tongue
All of the material between verses 19 and 32 is to be considered in the light of the tongue.
The writer of the Proverbs was not just throwing subjects into a jar to be read in some kind of disjointed manner. Solomon was structuring his material to be read together, so depth of meaning and understanding could be enhanced.
Day 10 Questions
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The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. Proverbs 10:21
What should your words do for others this week?
Solomon continues to place his Proverbs in bookends so the subject matter may be considered in the light of the introduction and conclusion.
In verse 1, an abominable or disgraceful false weight is contrasted; in verse 20, with an abominable or disgraceful, crooked heart. The subjects between these two bookends are weighed in the light of keeping one's heart honest before God.
In verse 2, pride is disgraceful and humility delights; in verse 3, crookedness is disgraceful and integrity is what delights; and in verse 4, trust in riches is disgraceful while righteousness delights. So goes the following verses as Solomon contrasts what is an abomination to God with what delights Him.
In verses 5 through 8, the fate of what is disgraceful is contrasted with the fate of what is delighted in.
In verses 9 and 12, we see the disgraceful practice of slandering one's neighbor and the delightful practice of care in what one says.
In verses 10 and 11, we find what delights the city and what disgraces it.
In verse 13, we discover the disgraceful practice of slander; in 14, we find the graceful practice of counselors; and in verse 15, we find the disgrace in co-signing a loan. All three verses express issues that bring disgrace into our lives: slander, decisions made without advice, and co-signing for a debt.
In verses 15 and 16, a delightful, gracious woman and kind man are contrasted with the disgrace of violence and cruelty.
In verses 18, 19, and 20, the proverbs end with the disgrace of being deceptive with billing, pursuing evil ends, and being of crooked heart, contrasted with the delight of righteousness and the blameless way.
The next bookends we find in verse 21 contrast the evil, who will not go unpunished, and the righteous, who will be delivered, with verse 31 where the righteous will not only be delivered but also repaid, and the wicked sinner will be much more repaid.
The first verse in this section, 22, appears to stand alone as a humorous axiom about beauty when put on something ugly, so it appears completely out of place.
Next, verses 23 and 27 appear to parallel as they discuss the conclusion of desire and searching. Verses 24 through 26 center on a similar theme of generosity, hoarding, and basic selfishness. All of this is being considered in the light of consequence.
Verses 28 through 30 deal with the catastrophic repayment on the home of one who does not capture his soul and the soul of his family but instead troubles them with building a life on poor decisions and principles.
While all of this may seem complicated, the goal of the poetry is to contrast what happens between two different kind of people and actions so one can be wise.
Day 11 Questions
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A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. Proverbs 11:1
Where can you practice being fair this week?
Solomon continues to group his Proverbs in learning blocks and now turns his attention to discipline and reproof. In verse 1, he claims that those who love discipline love knowledge and those who hate reproof are stupid. This is contrasted with verse 15, where we find that a fool is someone who thinks he is right and avoids the discipline that comes from taking advice. So discipline and advice-taking become the subject matter and bookends for the following verses.
In verses 2 and 4, we find the contrasting subjects of a good man and an excellent wife, and in verse 3, we find the unstable life of the wicked contrasted with the never-moved righteous.
In verses 5 through 8, we discover the progression of four thoughts: plans, words, stability, and honor. In verse 5, the plans of the righteous are just; in verse 6, their words rescue them when their plans are attacked. In verse 7, they plan to build a house that remains, and in verse 8, the righteous are honored for wisdom.
In verses 9 through 11, Solomon discusses how to make a living honorably. First, you place modest prosperity over the desire for status (9). Next, you care for those who provide for you, even if it is an animal (10). Finally, you place hard work over dreaming big dreams and chasing get-rich schemes (11).
In verses 12 through 14, we find two metaphors for making a living. In verses 12a and 13a, Solomon is using the hunting and snare metaphor for the wicked who hunt people with deceitful snares and defraud them. In verses 12b and 13b, Solomon uses the metaphor of raising a crop to symbolize the honor of making a living, and those who are so honorable escape trouble and are rewarded for their labor (14).
These four topics of a good man, good plans, and vocational and business integrity are to be seen in the light of loving discipline and taking advice (1,15).
Solomon now begins to teach on the subject of the use and potential abuse of words. Below I have laid out his structure so you can see how he wanted his students to contrast the subject matter. Place the indented lines in contrast to each other; for example, contrast verse 16 and 18, then contrast verse 17 with 19 and 22. This will give you the structure of this bit of poetry.
A. 16: the thoughtless reaction to an insult
B. 17: false witness
A. 18: rash words that stir up insults
B. 19: lying tongue
C. 20: deceit in the heart
C. 21: trouble in life
B. 22: lying lips are an abomination
A. 16: ignoring an insult
B. 17: honest witness
B. 18: tongue that brings healing
A. 19: truthful lips
C. 20: peace planners
C. 21: the protected righteous
B. 22: the faithful delight
Not only did Solomon want good use of words contrasted with bad use of words, but he also wants the good contrasted with the good, and the bad with the bad, so he arranges his poetry in verses 16-22 so both can be done. Obviously, the Proverbs were meant to be contemplated, to be understood.
Solomon ends his chapter with six proverbs defining what establishes or destroys a righteous life.
A. 23: carefulness versus recklessness
B. 24: diligence versus laziness
C. 25: anxiety versus gladness
A. 26: cautiousness versus impulsiveness
B. 27: diligence versus laziness
C. 28: life and immortality
Solomon wraps up this chapter ever contrasting, ever comparing, so his children may gain the most insight from every proverb.
Day 12 Questions
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Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy. Proverbs 12:19-20
Can you think of a time when you need pray about telling the truth instead of lying?
As we move into chapter 13, notice the first four verses are built around a common subject. Simply viewed, the wise, listening son of verse 1 listens and fills with instruction, and the diligent son of verse 4 fills with satisfaction. The mocker in verse 1 listens to nothing, and the sluggard in verse 4 gets nothing. In verse 2, the fruit of a man's lips are contrasted with the one who guards his lips in verse 3, and the unfaithful of verse 2 is contrasted with the one who speaks rashly in verse 3.
In verses 5 and 6, Solomon is looking at the action and reaction of the righteous and wicked. In verse 5, the righteous hate what is false, and he is contrasted in verse 6 with the righteousness that guards integrity. Then, notice in each verse how righteousness and wickedness are contrasted.
In the next section, Solomon deals with riches. In verse 7, he speaks to the deceitfulness of riches; in verse 8, to the control of money; in verse 9, the life of the righteous not controlled by riches. All of this is contrasted in verse 10 to pride and problems that riches create, contrasted in verse 11 to the outcome of dishonest riches. Verses 9 and 10 do not mention money, but Solomon here wants them considered in the context of riches.
Solomon now goes back into his bookend of organizing verses 12-19.
Hope deferred and longing fulfilled in verse 12 are to be contrasted with the sweetness of longing and a fool’s inability to fulfill longing due to his inability to turn from evil in verse 19.The rest of these verses can be viewed in the following outline.
A. Hope Deferred (12)
B. Instruction Scorned (13)
C. Wise Teaching a Fountain (14)
C. Good Understanding Wins Favor (15)
D. The Prudent and the Fool (16)
D. The Trustworthy Envoy and the Wicked Messenger (19)
B. Discipline Ignored (18)
A. Longing Fulfilled (19)
Solomon touches on choosing friends. In verse 20, he contrasts having wise and foolish friends; in verse 21, he defines the destiny of the sinner friend with the righteous friend.
Solomon now goes back to discussing how one provides for his family. The subject matter is structured in two basic sections.
A. A good man leaves a material inheritance (22).
B. A poor man experiences injustice (23).
A. A good man leaves a moral heritage (24).
B. A wicked man experiences hunger (25).
Remember, seeking to find Solomon's contrasts and parallels is the best way to gain the depth of meaning from his subjects.
Day 13 Questions
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The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Proverbs 13:4
Are you ever lazy? What different choice can you make?
Solomon opens with three proverbs: in verse 1, he shows how a wise woman builds her house, and in verse 3, how wise lips protect life. Sandwiched between verses 1 and 3, Solomon is clear: fools are self-destructive, and the wise are self-preserving.
In verse 4, Solomon reveals to his son the minor advantage of not having to take care of something you own versus the greater advantage, potential, and power of owning something.
In verses 5 and 25, we have two more bookends. In verse 5, a faithful witness does not lie; in verse 25, the truthful witness saves lives. In verse 5, a false witness breathes lies, and in verse 25, the false witness is a traitor.
Between verses 5 and 25, Solomon considers his proverbs under four different subjects: credibility, prudence, anger, and honor.
In verses 6 and 7, Solomon teaches his son to consider who is credible (6) and who lacks credibility (7).
In verses 8 through 15, Solomon is seeking to teach his son those things that can be quite deceptive. This series of thoughts is sandwiched between the deception of folly in verse 8 and the easily deceived, gullible man in verse 15.
A. The Prudent and the Deceitful (8)
B. Making Amends (9)
C. The Bitter Heart (10)
D. The Destroyed Home of the Wicked (11)
D. The Destroyed Way of the Wicked (12)
C. The Aching Heart (13)
B. Paying for Sin (14)
A. The Prudent and the Simple (15)
Solomon quickly inserts two proverbs on being hot-headed and ill-tempered (16,17) and then moves on to what crowns someone with honor in verses 18 through 24.
In verse 18, the prudent is crowned with knowledge, and in verse 24, the wise is crowned with wealth. Between these two points of honor, Solomon builds his chiasmus (concepts repeated in reverse order).
A. The crowns of wisdom (18)
A. Evil bow to the wise (19)
B. Poor despised; rich have friends (20)
C. Belittling others vs. helping the poor (21)
C. Evil planning vs. good planning (22)
B. Talk makes you poor; work profits (23)
A. The crown of wealth (24)
Finally, Solomon concludes with where he began—true witness (25).
Next, Solomon inserts two proverbs on the "fear of the Lord," listing those who "fear the Lord" as being secure and a fountain of life (26-27).
The chapter concludes with proverbs on "National Security" (28-35).
A. The King needs a growing population (28).
B. A King needs self-controlled citizens (29).
C. The King needs peaceful, life-giving citizens (30).
D. The King needs philanthropic citizens (31).
C. The King needs peaceful, death-facing citizens (32).
D. The King needs wise counselors among his citizens (33).
B. A King needs righteous, controlled citizens (34).
A. The King needs wise servants (35).
Day 14 Questions
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One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. Proverbs 14:16
When do you need to be cautious at home or at school?
Solomon now gives us four proverbs on the tongue.
A. A gentle answer deflects anger (1)
B. The tongue of the wise is appealing (2)
C. The Lord is watching evil and good (3)
A. Gentle words are a tree of life (4)
We come now to a series of parental training proverbs. In verse 5, a fool is found despising his father's instruction; in verse 20, a fool is found despising his mother.
So, a wise son is found with treasure in his house (6), he is found with wise advice on his lips (7), his prayers are a delight to God (8), and he pursues godliness (9).
Then, the outcome of a fool who hates instruction is defined: he abandons the right path (10), his heart is completely known by the Lord, no matter how dark it is (11), and he becomes a mocker who avoids the wise (12).
Finally, Solomon gives the wise some perspective about a glad heart and a broken heart (13), an appetite for knowledge (14), being despondent (15), the value of the "fear of the Lord" (16), the importance of fellowship over pleasure (17), being hot-tempered (18), and the excuses the lazy use for inactivity (18).
Solomon finishes off this section of the Proverbs with fourteen proverbs contrasting a variety of subjects. Remember, these proverbs are to be read and thought about as they are contrasted. Some proverbs are contrasted with other proverbs, so Solomon uses outlines known as chiasmi (in the plural) to demonstrate the contrasts; here, Solomon places the contrast within single proverbs.
The way of the sluggard (19)
The sensible and foolish son (20-21)
The lack of counsel vs. many advisers (22)
The fitting reply (23)
Path of life vs. the grave (24)
The fate of the proud vs. the widow (25)
Evil plans vs. pure words (26)
Greed vs. hatred of bribes (27)
Careful thinking vs. speaking without thinking (28)
The distance vs. the nearness of God (29)
Cheerful look and good news (30)
Life-giving rebukes (31)
Ignoring vs. listening to correction (32)
Fear of the Lord and humility (33)
Day 15 Questions
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A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
When can you practice using a soft answer this week?
We come now to the section of Proverbs I have termed "Prejudicial Proverbs" (see introduction for breakdown). By “prejudicial” I mean to imply these proverbs show some degree of distrust; they hint that life cannot be trusted—it will not always turn out the way one plans, assumes, or seems logical. The righteous do not always prosper (16:8, 28:6). Things are not always black or white but sometimes shades of gray. In these proverbs, Solomon suggests to his son that life can be painful, absurd, unjust, and sometimes catastrophic, but there is still wisdom that governs all. They are written to reflect life, for life can seem illogical, but in the end, there is always guiding wisdom. Solomon often splits up the perplexity with the unchanging related wisdom.
In verses 1 through 9, Solomon presents God as over all, and he bookends these proverbs with contrasts in our plans with the Lord's response (1,9).
A. We plan and the Lord gives the answer (1).
B. People think they're godly, but God examines motives (2).
C. Commit your actions and succeed (3).
D. Everything has a purpose, even disaster (4).
E. Proud are detested and punished (5).
D. Love atones for sin; fear of the Lord avoids evil (6).
C. Please the Lord and be at peace (7).
B. Better to be modest and godly than have bad motives (8).
A. We plan and the Lord determines our steps (9).
From verses 10 to 15, Solomon inserts some proverbs relating to the leadership of kings. In verses 10 through 12, Solomon deals with the king’s judgment as it is calibrated to fairness, justice, and honesty. In verse 11, he speaks to standards of fairness. In verses 14 and 15, Solomon teaches the king how to use anger and friendliness.
From verses 16 to 25, Solomon wants his sons trained in right choices. In verse 16, he asserts that wisdom and good judgment are better than money. In verse 17, he reveals that virtue naturally leads away from evil. In verses 18 through 20, he teaches his son to cultivate humility. In verses 21-24, he instructs in how to be wise in the way one speaks. He concludes his comments on right choices by telling his son there is a way that seems right but ends in death.
The chapter moves to Solomon’s revealing the kind of people who cause trouble (26-30).
A. The satisfied (26)
B. The deceitful (27)
C. The slanderer (28)
D. The harsh (29)
E. The insincere (30)
Finally, Solomon charges his sons to look forward to his future (31), to look inward at his spirit (32), and to look upward to Yahweh Who determines all (33).
Day 16 Questions
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Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24
Are your words gracious? When can you practice that today?
Chapter 17 opens with eight random proverbs.
A. Contentment (1)
B. Character triumphs over birthright (2)
C. The Lord tests with adversity (3)
D. Ill-charactered people listen to gossip (4)
E. To mock the ill-fortuned, insults God (5)
F. Our identity is conferred both ways generationally (6)
G. Honor has no place for lying (7)
H. The non-moralizing insight on gift giving (8)
Solomon now uses four sets of proverbs in chiastic forms.
First chiasmus … on forgiveness
A. Love and forgiveness (9)
B. A rebuke (10)
C. Rebellion and punishment (11)
B. Confrontation (12)
A. Retaliation (13)
Second chiasmus … on quarreling
A. Starting a quarrel (14)
B. Poor judgment in condemning a debtor (15)
C. Senseless to pay a fool (16)
C. A friend is loyal (17)
B. Poor judgment in delivering a debtor (18)
A. Loving to quarrel (19)
Third chiasmus … on the heart
A. The crooked heart (20)
B. The parent of a fool (21)
A. The cheerful heart (22)
Fourth chiasmus … on perversion
A. The perversion of justice (23)
B. The wandering of a fool’s way (24)
B. The weariness of a fool’s life (25)
A. The perversion of justice (26)
Solomon concludes this chapter by contrasting those who use few words (27) with those who keep silent (28), and the even-tempered (27) with those who keep their mouths shut (28),
Day 17 Questions
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Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:27
When do you need to pray for help to have a cool spirit?
Solomon lays out the appropriate conduct in conversations and for friendship in verses 1 through 8.
A. Unfriendly speech (1)
B. Fools love their own opinion (2)
C. Scandal and disgrace (3)
D. The depth of wise words (4)
D. The depth of wise judgment (5)
C. Quarrels and disgrace (6)
B. Fools' opinions destroy them (7)
A. Friendship destroying speech (8)
Solomon next lays out six proverbs dealing with the theme of security. In verse 9, he states that laziness leads to calamity; in verse 10, calling on the name of the Lord is a a great security. In verse 11, wealth is an illusion for security; and in verse 12, when someone feels most secure in himself, it is the time to actually be the most concerned. In verse 13, we find security in listening well before an answer; and in verse 14, a person's spirit and attitude will bring security and stability in times of sickness.
In verses 15 through 19, Solomon deals with the subject of justice in the courts. In verse 15, we learn that those who give justice are always learning. In verse 16, we learn that gifts given to people of influence can give someone access to their help. Next, Solomon inserts that the first to present his argument does not necessarily have the advantage (17). Sometimes the evidence is not very compelling and flipping a coin is the best way to resolve a conflict (18). Finally, it must be noted that the closer the relationship, the harder it is to resolve the offense (19).
Solomon then presents two proverbs on the power of words: first, the words we use feed our souls (20), and second, our words have the power to give or drain someone of life (21).
Finally, the chapter concludes with Solomon’s defining the foundation for healthy friendships. First, we are to treasure our wives (22); next, we are to be merciful (23); and finally, we are to show great loyalty (24).
Day 18 Questions
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A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2
How can you remember to listen before speaking?
This chapter is divided into about five different actions covering subjects of wealth, friendships, actions fitting and unfitting, imperatives that must be followed, and that which must be avoided.
Solomon's first section is a quick survey on money and wealth.
A. Contrasting a life built on honesty (1)
B. Contrasting the ruin of haste (2)
B. With the ruin of foolishness (3)
A. With a life built on loyalty (4)
Solomon's next section of proverbs considers witnesses and friends.
A. A false witness and liar (5)
B. The favor of a ruler and becoming friends to a gift giver (6)
C. The relatives and friends of the poor (7)
B. The favor of wisdom and becoming a friend of understanding (8)
A. A false witness and liar (9)
Solomon then moves to a list of subjects defining what is fitting and not fitting.
A. Embellished honor not fitting (10)
B. Controlled emotions are fitting (11)
B. King’s favor is fitting (12)
A. Foolish child and a quarrelsome wife not fitting (13)
B. An inheritance of the Lord, an understanding wife is fitting (14)
B. Laziness not fitting (15)
Solomon now finishes off the chapter with two lists. The first list deals with subjects that are imperative for his children give attention to. The second section deals with what his sons should avoid at all cost.
A. Keep the commandments (16)
B. Help the poor (17)
C. Discipline your children (18)
D. Let hot-tempered people pay their penalty (19)
E. Get counsel (20)
F. You can plan but the Lord's purposes prevail (21)
G. Be loyal and honest (22)
H. Fear the Lord and live (23)
Now we come to the section of proverbs where Solomon is telling his children not what they should do, but what and whom they should avoid being like.
A. Don't be lazy (24)
B. Don't correct the wrong person (25)
C. Don't dishonor your parents (26)
D. Don't stop listening (27)
E. Don't be a corrupted witness (28)
F. Don't be a mocker or a fool (29)
Day 19 Questions
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Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
Do you need Jesus to help you to forgive someone today?
Solomon jumps right into the chapter condemning four vices.
A. Contentious effects of alcohol (1)
B. Offending a leader (2)
C. Strife (3)
D. Laziness (4)
Next, Solomon moves to proverbs dealing with discernment and integrity (5-12).
A. Real motives are deep (5)
B. Loyalty is rare (6)
C. Loyalty produces generational blessing (7)
C. Good leadership produces generational blessing (8)
B. Integrity is rare (9)
Notice that the five proverbs above beg the reader to discern the rarity, blessing, and essential nature of integrity.
We come now to a section of proverbs written between two bookends—verse 10, where it is stated the Lord detests double standards, and verse 23, where the Lord is displeased with dishonest scales. Solomon is wishing for these proverbs to regarded in light of the subject matter of the two bookends.
A. Double standards (10)
B. Conduct proves character (11)
C. Cautious judgment is essential for success (12)
D. Love of ease leads to poverty (13)
E. Don't deceive to gain a bargain (14)
E. Wise words are the real bargain (15)
E. Deposits are a bargain from people of poor character (16)
E. Stolen goods are cursed bargains (17)
D. Love of planning leads to success (18)
C. Cautious sharing is essential to success (19)
B. Honor proves character 20
C. Cautiously gained inheritance is a gift from God (21)
B. Waiting on God to vindicate proves character (22)
A. Dishonest scales (23)
Finally, Solomon ends this chapter by defining how a king is to lead.
A. Let Yahweh provide the guidance (24)
B. Treat a promise as irrevocable (25)
C. Separate the wicked from the good (26)
D. Expose your motives to Yahweh (27)
E. Grace and truth preserve the leader (28)
F. Accumulate wisdom with age (29)
G. Discipline disciplines the heart (30)
Day 20 Questions
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Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright. Proverbs 20:11
What do your acts say about you this week?