The word of the day is “judgment.” The adage that “Man proposes but God disposes” is true. But without plans, our lives are aimless and without purpose. To steer the course of our lives, God has given us faculty of judgment to decide between alternatives to the actions we should take. But our judgment may be in line with the will of God or against it. In our reading of Proverbs 11:19-12:6, the wise sage of Proverbs says, “The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (NKJV vs. 12:5). Today we will examine what it means to think “right” thoughts, that is, to make sound judgments.
Our commentary will use the translation of the Septuagint (LXX) since it is clearer than the English translation of the Hebrew. The Septuagint reads, “The thoughts of the righteous [are true] judgments; but ungodly men devise deceit” (L.C.L Brenton, Elpinor’s Bilingual Old Testament vs. 12:5).
“Thoughts” Mean “Judgments”
The Greek word for thought (logismo’s) derives from the verbs “to reason” or “to count” or “to reckon” (Strong’s #3053, 152). These meanings compare with the Hebrew term meaning of “thought,” “intention,” or “plan.” Hence both the Hebrew and Greek versions agree that the subject of the sage’s teaching is the deliberations or designs of the righteous.
The sage calls these considerations “judgments.” The Greek word refers to a decision that renders a verdict (Strong’s 2917, 145). Likewise, the Hebrew word suggests the act of arriving at a verdict (Strong’s Hebrew #4941, 176). The broader idea is of personal judgment, which makes choices between options as a judge would decide on a fitting ruling on a case.
The Septuagint (LXX) translation interjects the qualification to the recommendation of judgments. Other translations assume the idea of “right” or “true,” that is, “good” judgment. What then is “true” judgment? The sage says that the “ungodly devise deceit” (OSB vs. 6). This suggests that the deliberations of the righteous are free of deception. In their decisions, the righteous are honest with themselves and others. They do not base their decisions on falsehoods. And they do not focus their choices on doing wrong to their neighbor. Rather, they discriminate between good and evil, truth and falsehood, righteousness, and wickedness.
Then too, the sage contrasts the righteous with the ungodly. That means that sound judgment is righteous judgment. Of course, good judgment is based on learned experience. And informed judgment identifies the choices it has to make, the options that are available to it.
But in the view of the sage of proverbs, the principles of wisdom must inform all decision-making. In every decision, good judgment seeks the will of God. And in every action, it chooses to obey the commandments.
Here is a quotation from the Philokalia on “moral judgment”:
“Such moral judgment has the same effect as wisdom and is a most powerful factor drawing us upwards. Hence it too has its part to play. For the knowledge of the virtues involves the most scrupulous discrimination between good and evil, and this requires sound judgment. Experience and the struggle with the body teach how to use such judgment in our warfare” (G.E.H. Palmer 1981, 40-41).
G.E.H. Palmer, et. al. Trans. 1981. The Philokalia: the Complete Text Vol. 3. New York: Farber and Farber.