Truth Not For Sale (Prov 23:23)

Two years ago (seriously), my pastor preached a mother’s day message that was really convicting. I was initially roused out of my “this-probably-isn’t-for-me-since-I’m-a-father” stupor when Pastor Tim went to Proverbs 23. Suddenly the message turned out to be for me and it’s been rattling around my life for the past two years. Here is the passage and some meditations:

Proverbs 23:23: Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

Buy Truth:

  • Expend every resource to obtain truth. Positively, I will make every effort to gain truth, while waiting for the Spirit’s priceless conviction. I must read books, listen to sermons, have iron-sharpening-iron conversations, and listen to truth-filled music. I have to realize that the pursuit of truth will require great expenditure of time. For David it meant meditating day and night (Psalm 1:2). Negatively, I will choose not to spend all my free time on activities that are not priorities. I will spend more of my life on truth than on pleasure, comfort, power, control or any other idolatry—for God’s glory and my enjoyment of Him forever.
  • Buying the truth means that I buy into the truth. When the Spirit convicts, I will believe. Let everyone else be a liar (including my own thoughts), when God’s truth speaks to me (Romans 3:4).

Do Not Sell It:

  • Truth is valuable. Why wouldn’t you sell your families’ picture albums? Why wouldn’t you sell your wedding ring? The answer is because they are priceless to you. You should feel the same way about truth. It is priceless.  However, the reason you refuse to sell truth is not because it has some sentimental value to you. Rather, you refuse to sell it because it is necessary for life. This is what makes it priceless (see Matt 4:4 ). If you were starving (say you spent 40 days and nights without food), would you value a loaf of bread over the truth?  There shouldn’t even be a contest. Truth should always win. (See also, Prov. 3:13–18; 8:10–11; 16:16; and especially Matt 13:44–45)
  • Truth remains valuable. You don’t barter truth for lesser things. Truth continues to be useful and priceless forever (Mt 24:35). To not “sell it” in this context means that, after you have gained it, you don’t begin to believe something else—something false in its place. We can’t sell out the truth. We can’t exchange it for something of lesser value. When we sin, we engage in a grisly exchange.  We exchange priceless truth (say, truths about God’s eternal power and divine nature) for worthless lies (Rom 1:20, 25, Cf. Gen 3:1–7). Mark it. Every time we sin, we have sold out the truth (that is, if you bought it in the first place).

Buy Wisdom, Instruction, and Understanding

  • Wisdom: This is generally figuring out how to live righteously (see Prov 23:24, the righteous son is the “wise son”—same word!). It asks and answers the question: “What’s the next right thing to do?” Life is complex; its path’s crooked. The one who buys wisdom will know, believe, and apply the Scriptures skillfully so that righteousness is the result.
  • Instruction: This is the correction of errant thinking. It is the opposite of selling the truth to gain lies. Buying instruction is deciding to listen to truth and then obliterate the lies you were believing. The truth reproves and corrects your thinking. It implies that what you currently believe is wrong, and needs a makeover.
  • Understanding: This means that you perceive the real meaning of peoples words and actions (including your own). To understand is to see how moral and spiritual systems interact with real life. For example, it is to know the end of the wicked (Ps 73:16–17) instead of envying their wealth (Ps 73:3). Or to know that sin always brings death (Jas 1:15) after its pleasurable season (Heb 11:25).

Concluding Prayer

  • Father, I would spend my life pursuing your truth. What is the value of my daily food, if I forget your Word of truth? Help me to understand that truth is more valuable than money and time. Convince me of its value always, but especially in those times I would sell it for a bowl of “worthless stew.” I need your wisdom to live righteously, not to earn your favor, but to express my love to you and to those you have given me to love. And when my thinking falters or crumbles under some great temptation or trial, let your instruction correct me and reprove me so that I might see and understand the worth of every word that proceeds from your mouth—and live. Rescue me from the schemes of the devil. Let your understanding unearth his hidden traps and shelter me from his flaming arrows of deceit. I would spend all of my life on you. Please fulfill this resolve for good so that the name of Jesus may be glorified in me, and I in him, according to the grace of my God and my Lord, Jesus Christ. (2 Thess 1:11–12.)


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