Proverbs 19:16

Life or Death


1. This proverb like the last speaks of the consequences of our actions.

a. Vs. 15 – The consequence of slothfulness is hunger.

b. Vs. 16 – The consequence of disobedience is death.

2. Consider the parallelisms used here:

a. Keepeth (commandments) and keepeth (his soul)

b. Keeping the commandments and despising the commandments (His ways)

c. Preserving his soul (life) or losing his soul (dying)

16a He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul

1. Keepeth: to keep; observe; to observe to do something; give heed; care for; guard; watch carefully over; protect…

2. Keeping the commandments

a. The commandments refer to the commands of God found in His Word… including the 10 commandments.

b. The term “commandment” to the Old Testament Jew was often used as a synonym for the Word of God… not exclusively referring to the list of 605 commands… but ALL of God’s Word.

c. Psalm 119 speaks about the Word—and uses the term “commandment” to refer to Scripture in general… more than just the 10 commandments.

d. Thus, keeping the commandment here speaks of OBEDIENCE to God’s Word.

3. Keeping his own soul.

a. His own soul = one’s own life… the person.
• The man himself, self, person or individual; seat of the appetites; seat of emotions and passions; activity of mind.
• It speaks of the whole inner man… the inner life… thoughts, emotions, passions… drives.

b. Keep = same word as above… but remember that the term has various shades of meaning.
• Keep in the sense of observe to do: (commandments)
• Keep in the sense of guarding or protecting (soul)

c. Keeping one’s own soul means protecting or taking care of one’s own life.

d. In other words, Solomon tells us HOW to take good care of our own life: obey God! Keep His Word! Don’t step outside the circle of obedience…

e. Our soul is in dangerous territory outside that circle.

f. Our soul is SAFE within the circle of obedience.

g. That’s the point of the first part of this proverb.

h. Prov. 16:17 – He preserves his soul from danger and destruction.

i. Luke 11:28 – “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” There is a blessedness involved in a life of obedience.

4. The best thing one can do for oneself is to OBEY GOD.

a. Ecc. 12:13 – Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

b. Prov. 2:10-13 – One of the ways we protect ourselves is through wisdom and knowledge in God’s Word.
• It shall KEEP thee (same word) from calamity.
• Departing from evil has a preserving effect…
• This is advice very much like the advice the doctor gives. “Wash your hands often in order to get rid of the dirt and germs. It will help prevent you from getting sick.”
• Departing from evil and evil men will prevent you from the bad consequences of evil. It only makes sense.
• Prov. 21:23 – “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” By guarding our mouths from saying things we shouldn’t, we preserve our souls from all kinds of trouble.
• And the mouth is just ONE member.
• If we guard ALL our members, we will be safe indeed.
• Prov. 4:23 – Guard your heart. This is the MAIN member to guard. If the heart is right with God, we will be preserved… kept safe… our adversary cannot harm us.

c. By DOING what God said, we protect ourselves from a life of misery and unhappiness.
• God SAYS to guard our mouths, our hearts, and to keep His Word.
• This is God’s means of keeping us safe in a dangerous world.
• It is a simple proposition: do what God says and you’ll be protected!
• If we keep the Word, the word will keep us—safe and secure.

16b But he that despiseth his ways shall die.

1. On the one hand, we have the man who KEEPS God’s Word.

2. Now Solomon speaks about the person who DESPISES God’s ways.

a. His ways refers to GOD’S ways… not the man.

b. Ways = a road; a pathway; a course; and hence, a course of conduct; a way of life; behavior.

c. God has revealed to us the way of life in His word… the way OUR lives should be lived.

d. God has established a pathway for us… a straight and narrow way and He expects us to WALK in that pathway.

3. The contrast is:

a. Keeping the commandments vs. despising the commandments (His ways).

b. God’s commandments and God’s ways are used as virtual synonyms.

c. God’s ways are recorded in God’s Word… and a man will either choose to WALK in that pathway or NOT walk in that pathway. It is a choice.

4. Despise defined:

a. To despise, regard with contempt; consider worthless; think lightly of; hold with disdain; to disrespect.

b. A man honors God and His Word through submission and obedience.

c. Obedience to God’s Word and ways is a way of expressing our RESPECT for God and His ways.

d. Disobeying God’s word… and choosing NOT to walk in His ways is a way of expressing our disdain for God and His Word… it is an expression of disrespect… even contempt… considered worthless… treated lightly.

e. Disobedience is a choice… a choice that reflects a heart attitude: contempt for God. There’s no way to candy coat it. It is what it is.

5. Solomon’s point is that despising God’s ways (disobedience) is self-destructive.

a. Prov. 6:32 – But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

b. Prov. 10:29 – Destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.

c. Prov. 13:13 – The one who despises the Word shall be destroyed.

6. The consequence of despising God’s ways: DEATH.

a. Prov. 1:10-18 – The allurement of sin tells us just the opposite.
• Temptation from the enemy tells us just the opposite… things will go WELL for us!
• Cast your lot with us as we disobey God. Things will be much better for you!
• We’ll be rich and happy!
• We’ll have one purse—we will BE one… there will be a great camaraderie with our band.
• Vs. 18 – but they lurk secretly for their own blood. It ends in death or destruction.

d. There is a pleasure to sin. God says the end of that road is death… but sin tries to convince us otherwise.
• Sin promises pleasure and good things, but it is a deceptive lie.
• In the Garden of Eden—
» God said: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”
» Satan said: Ye shall NOT surely die!
» This fruit is desired to make one wise! You can be like God…
» But it ended in death. Horrible consequences to their sin—consequences that we are all dealing with every day of our lives!
» We live in a sin cursed earth… because Adam and Eve despised God’s ways, disobeyed His word, sinned, and brought DEATH into the world
• James 1:14-15 – We are drawn away by our own lust. Lust (desires) brings forth sin (fruit – deeds). And sin brings forth death. The wages of sin is death. The flesh brings forth fruit unto death.
• These are the cold, hard facts.
• Obeying God’s Word in EVERY detail makes such good sense!