Proverbs 12:20 Deceit or Joy

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil [contrivers of mischief], but those who promote peace [counselors of peace] have joy. Proverbs‬ ‭12:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ [Rotherham]‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The Hebrew word for plot means: to cut in, engrave, plow, devise. It’s often used of a farmer planting seed. And the seed being planted here, in the Hebrew means: evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity. Who would do such a thing? Being a “contriver of mischief” or an evil plotter sounds like Dr. Dastardly and his tireless effort at world domination. But in reality I am that person when I obsess over a plan that advances my interests at the expense of another’s. It works deliberately to fool or persuade for my benefit. And the result? And because Deceit is at the core of my effort, I create a resting place for him. He enjoys my company. He feels at home in me. But he’s not a pleasant fellow or a good companion.

When I choose to “promote peace” or be a “counselor of peace,” it doesn’t mean I become a Secretary of State, or a hostage negotiator. It simply means I mediate between two extremes. It could mean I help mitigate unhealthy stress in a friend. Or clear up a misunderstanding and its resulting discord between two coworkers. Or offer wisdom for a way out to someone who is experiencing financial hardship. No matter what the circumstance, the Wonderful Counselor who has made His home inside me also becomes the Prince of Peace in my world. The result? He feels at home within me. Takes up residence. He’s really a pleasant fellow and a good companion.

I have to remind myself as I’m reading Proverbs that life is not as black and white as the opposites that Solomon contrasts. He speaks of two kinds of individuals that seem worlds apart, yet what about the little mischief and plotting or counsel of peace in my own heart? Daily it’s a choice.

There are two contrasts in this verse. The first is between plotting evil and counseling peace. They represent roles I may take for outcomes I desire. So what is it I want? (This is always a good question to ask myself every day.) Plotting and executing plans for my own good, rather than for a higher, better, further reaching good will result in leveraging deceit. Which in turn results in contention and strife. Darkness only thrives in the absence of light — and the absence of joy. Plotting for my own good at the expense of another does not produce peace — rather, it obscures and hides truth. Darkness obscures. But when the light appears, I see the nasty obstacles, the path forward, and it embeds hope within for a way out of the contention I feel within. The Holy Spirit’s word to me is light and brings incredible peace. Those who bring his light to others calm the storm’s fury.

The other contrast is between deceit and joy. These are the fruits or results of my chosen character — and the means for fulfilling their roles. In the presence of light, darkness flees. Darkness has no substance, no definition, nothing to offer when light is present. Joy doesn’t simply appear, poof, because of my behavior. It is the tool and the premise for peace. I choose joy. Happiness. Contentment. And as a result, I am intentional about distributing the peace it provides. When joy is present, it dominates over the need to plot, plan, and devise a way forward. The joy of honesty, transparency and authenticity and my Father’s absolute acceptance of me as I currently exist triumphs over the need to lie, connive and weasel my way through life. Even in the midst of pain or a difficult situation, having my eyes set on the horizon and the good that my Father promises me brings it into my moment.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews‬ ‭12:2-3‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

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