Proverbs 12:20

Proverbs 12:20 "Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace is joy."
Proverbs 12:20 Baptist Church Buffalo NY
As we read the proverbs, we must remember the source from which they flow.  They are not merely neat little sayings of an old experienced king.  They are the divinely-inspired words of a holy man of God as he was moved by the Holy Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21).  The proverbs often come across as good observations when they are actually short but deep lessons of truth.  This particular proverb is not an observation of truth – it is an insightful explanation of truth.

Through Solomon’s pen, God is teaching us the power of a particular virtue.  This virtue is widely underrated and often entirely ignored.  Few see this virtue as such, assuming instead that it is an emotion.  Many see this virtue as an emotion we experience when things are going well and yet we’re told to intentionally exercise this virtue when facing bad times in James 1.  This proverb reveals the massively underrated power of JOY.  When happily responding to good things that come our way in life, joy is a natural emotion.  As an emotion, it brings us very little benefit.  When choosing to be joyful regardless of what good or bad comes our way, joy is a powerful virtue that brings us extraordinary benefit.

In this proverb, Solomon gives us two groups of people doing two very different things for two very different reasons.  One group of people is imagining evil because they have deceit in their heart while the other group of people is promoting peace because they have joy in their heart.  Just as deceit fuels an evil imagination, joy fuels the promotion of peace.  Not only does this reveal obvious benefit to the man or woman who has “the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their heart,” but the proverb hints at what may be the secret weapon for the human heart.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that, “the heart is deceitful above all things, which is why we so easily and often imagine evil.  The deceit that is naturally ruling all of our hearts is arguably man’s greatest problem.  All day, every day, we convince ourselves that we’re “OK” when we’re most definitely not.  All day, every day, we convince ourselves that every one else is wrong and that we’re just fine.  All day, every day, we justify sins and vises while minimizing the threat evil and temptation poses us because our hearts are “deceitful above all things.”  We probably could trace all of our sins and moral failures back to the deceit in our hearts.
 
Because the heart is the source of our thoughts, imaginations, intents, decisions and words, it’s a colossal problem for each of us if our hearts are “deceitful above all things.”  If it is true what Solomon said in Proverbs 4:23, that out of the heart are the issues of life, then confronting the deceit in our hearts should be a supreme priority.  If deceit is the biggest problem residing in our hearts, then we must root it out and this proverb may very well be telling us how to do that.  When choosing to contrast the dangers of deceit in our hearts with the moral alternative, Solomon uses the virtue of JOY.

Could it be that JOY is the virtue in our hearts that silences deceit?  
Could it be that JOY is the virtue that suffocates the primal vise of our hearts?
Could it be that JOY is the virtue that paralyzes the influence of deceit in our hearts?


It’s either a strange contrast or inspired insight to pit deceit and joy against each other.  When you think about it in very practical terms, it sure makes sense.  When someone is joyful, they’re not inclined to be dishonest or manipulative.  When someone is joyful, they’re less introverted and more extroverted.  That natural joy that people experience when things are going well makes them say whatever is on their mind and in their heart, usually positive things like, “I love you” or “I’m so happy I’m with you!”  When someone is not joyful, they don’t want to say anything and if they do, they only want to speak negatively and critically.  When someone is not joyful, they tend to see conspiracies and plots that don’t exist.  When someone is not joyful, they “IMAGINE” all kinds of scenarios that tend to be “EVIL” in nature.  When someone is “merry with wine,” as the Bible puts it (which should not be confused with the virtue of joy), they tend to speak very openly and very honestly because they lack the ability to hide what they’re feeling.  I recently met with someone whose adult child admitted to being gay to them when they were intoxicated.  Criminals are often caught admitting guilt when drinking.  Happiness, merriness or joyfulness tends to manifest a brutal honesty that is contrary to the natural deceit of the heart.  True godly joyfulness may very well be the most effective weapon against the damaging deceit that resides naturally in our hearts.  If that is the case, joy is the most underrated virtue available to us.
 
While it may be underestimated in the church today, joy is not overlooked by the great saints in Scripture.  In Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah told his audience to not be sad or down finishing with, “for the JOY of the Lord is your strength.”  In Psalm 51:12-13, David begged God, “restore unto me the JOY of thy salvation,” for he said, “THEN will I teach transgressors thy ways.”  In Scripture, joy is a portrayed as a powerful virtue.  In Acts 20:24, Paul told pastors that he wanted to finish his course with “JOY,” not just to be happy but to be effective and powerful.  According to 1 John 1:4, the Apostle John wrote his epistle for the sole purpose of filling up the “JOY” of his readers.  He wasn’t writing to make people happy – he was writing to give people power and strength.  According to Galatians 5:22, “JOY” is the second fruit of the Spirit, only behind love.  According to Romans 14:17, the kingdom of God is described as “righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Ghost.”  To have any power over the flesh and in particular, over the deceit of the heart, one must possess godly joy in his heart.

We are all naturally full of deceit in our hearts, which is why we are all naturally inclined to imagine evil.  When we choose to exercise true joy in our hearts, we’re unknowingly silencing the deceit in our hearts.  When we choose to be truly joyful in the Lord, we’re unknowingly seeing things more clearly.  When we submit to the Holy Spirit and entertain the joy of the Holy Ghost, we’re unknowingly seeing truth, seeking truth and speaking truth.  When we have the joy of the Lord in our hearts, we’re going to counsel peacefully because we’re going to want others to experience the joy of Christian unity.  

This proverb reveals the great truth that joy is the secret weapon against deceit.  Miserable people are enslaved to inner deceit – they imagine evil everywhere and promote evil in everyone as they slander and gossip.  Miserable people don’t see clearly and they don’t speak properly.  Joyful people, on the other hand, see things properly and promote peace sincerely.  Joyful people propagate joy by emphasizing truth and promoting peace.  Deceit feeds on a downward despair while joy succeeds with an upward gaze.  Don’t underestimate or overlook the power of having joy in your heart.

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