Proverbs 11:30

Proverbs 11:30 "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise."
Proverbs 11:30 Christian Church West Seneca NY
As is the case for the previous proverb and as is the case in many proverbs, the latter part of this proverb sheds light on the leading part of the proverb.  Solomon uses the words, “and” and “but” often in his writing.  Both words are meant to connect two statements or images with “but” being used for contrast while “and” is used for explanation or illustration.  The word, “and” ensures that the listener or reader knows that the author is speaking about the same thing.  It wouldn’t make sense if I said, “I am going to Hawaii AND I love the snow.”  It would only make sense if I said, “I am going to Hawaii AND I love the ocean.”  Such is the case with this proverb.  Solomon is talking about the same thing when describing the fruit of the righteous as a tree of life AND declaring the person who wins souls as wise.  These two statements belong together.  They are dealing with the same thing.

Anytime a tree of life is used in Scripture, it intrigues us.  I think it intrigues us because Scripture suggests that the tree of life in the Garden of Eden would’ve given eternal life to Adam and Eve had they not sinned and been banished from that paradise.  Because we are creatures of time all destined for death, we are fascinated by the prospect of having a tree whose juicy fruit could keep us living forever.  This is what Solomon uses to describe the fruit of the righteous.  It gets our attention.  We can see that tree.  We can imagine that tree.  But what does that image mean?  Why paint the picture of a tree of life for us when thinking about the fruit of the righteous?  

This is why we have to keep reading the proverb starting with the word, “and.”  The less intriguing latter part of the proverb sheds light on why Solomon used the more fascinating wordage of the leading part of the proverb.  The second part of the proverb simply points out that wisdom in souls leads to the winning of souls.  A wise man is equipped by virtue to earn the trust of people.  A wise woman is empowered by virtue to win the hearts of her children.  Wise people are able to win over hurting hearts and skeptical minds.  This is no small task, especially when you consider what Solomon would later write in 18:19, “a brother offended is harder to be WON than a strong city.”  Wisdom is therefore quite impressive.
 
But what does wisdom’s ability to win souls have to do with the fruit of the righteous being a tree of life?

Winning a hurting heart or a skeptical mind is not just good for the wise – it’s especially good for the offended or the skeptic.  A skeptical person is a scared person.  An untrusting person is an uncertain person.  An offended person is a hardened person.  A wounded soul is a weak soul.  Wisdom helps a man remove fear from a soul and bring them assurance.  Wisdom helps a woman remove doubt from a person and bring them confidence.  Wisdom helps a person remove loneliness and emptiness from a soul and bring them companionship.  Wisdom helps a person remove bitterness and unforgiveness from a soul and bring them peace and love.  The latter part of this proverb is ultimately teaching that VIRTUE is used to help give OTHERS LIFE.  That is exactly the picture Solomon paints in the first part of the proverb!

The tree of life in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis is not there to give life to itself but rather to mankind.  The tree of life in the Paradise of God in the book of Revelation is not there to give life to itself but rather to mankind.  The fruit of the righteous then is not for the benefit of the righteous but for the benefit of others.  A tree’s fruit doesn’t feed itself; it feeds others.  A tree’s nutrients come from above – from the sun and from the rain.  The righteous receive their nutrients and benefits from above, from the Father of Lights.  The fruit then that the righteous produce is for the well-being of those around them.  God helps make us WISE for the good of others.  God helps make us RIGHTEOUS for the well-being of others.  

VIRTUE in men is the FRUIT God uses to bless and sustain the souls of men.  Virtuous men and women make up the Garden of God from which He harvests blessings for the rest of the world to enjoy.

When we are righteous, our children benefit.  When we are upright, our employer benefits.  When we are honest, our government benefits.  When we are loving, all others around us benefit.  When we are wise, all others around us benefit.  No matter the virtue within us, all others around us benefit.  When we are righteous, our words and our actions help people.  When we are wise, our words and our actions help people live longer, better and happier.  Foolish fathers rob their children of days by teaching them dangerous behavior.  Selfish women drain the life out of their husbands by making it miserable to live with them.  Evil men cut lives short by physical violence and mental trauma.  Virtue on the other hand, brings life, joy and peace to those nearby.

God wants us to be virtuous for more than His pleasure and certainly for more than our well-being.  He desires virtue in us for the well-being of the world around us.  He seeks righteousness, wisdom and love in us so that He can use us to help those around us.  God blesses the world by planting rows of the righteous and groves of the good in His Garden of Virtue.  Be wise so an offended soul can finally forgive.  Be wise so a scared person can finally be at ease.  Be righteous so a young person can get the courage to do right in a wicked world.  Be righteous so your spouse can be encouraged in her battle with evil.  Be virtuous so God has some fruit to feed the spiritually malnourished around you.

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