A false witness will perish,
but a careful listener will testify successfully.
Yet another unexpected contrast. We would think the second clause to say something like, “but the word of a man who tells the truth will endure.” This contrast draws out the heart condition of the false witness. Such a person lies because he is not interested in a fair hearing of a case, but in getting his own way. Some lie to take advantage of another; some lie to avoid being taken advantage of. In either case, the false witness is more concerned in getting the outcome he desires than for the truth to be known.
This proverb also notes what is in the heart of the truth teller. He is interested in the truth. That is why he first takes the time to listen well before speaking. Some people pride themselves in truth-telling when they are no such thing. To speak before one has listened is to betray that one’s real motive is merely to draw attention to oneself. It certainly shows a disregard for truth, because truth may come from any source, and it is the wise person who is able to listen well and discern the truth that is spoken.
Will you speak the truth today? The better question is, “Will you listen carefully for the truth?”
Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
4 I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
5 Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
7 No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.
10 For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their houses[b] forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had[c] named lands after themselves.
12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.[d]
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.
20 People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish.