“Good understanding produces favor,
But the way of the treacherous is hard.” (NASB)
[which is here related to “faithfulness”]
|Produces/Wins favour||[Which produces future ease.]|
|Treachery/Deceit [which here are equivalent to “bad understanding”]||[Does not produce favour; but perhaps does produce some more immediate gains]||[Produces] a hard/ruinous way.|
There seem to be two interrelated lessons in this proverb:
First, relational capital (i.e., “favour”) is very important. Second, present ease is no substitute for future gain.
In my understanding, this is how these interrelate:
The present ease comes from deploying treachery and deceit in order to get the desired result. The problem is that not many people will trust you in the future. The land will no longer produce easily, but will require hard toil. Without social capital, future endeavours will be full of toil.
However, future gain will come easily for the one who uses his senses to bless others. This is how I understand “good” in the proverb – since it is contrasted by deceit; that is, deceit is understanding which is used badly. It is used for selfish gain and to the hurt of others.The ground will produce effortlessly, as it were, for the one who gains enduring favour.
The two, opposing, narratives painted by this proverb are well known in the world of work these days. It is who you know that gets you in the door.
But there is a single, bigger, biblical, narrative here: We are drawn back into the story of the Garden, where toil comes as the result of man’s unfaithfulness and the serpent’s deceit. This is the story of one who did not continue in God’s favour, but chose the way of worldly wisdom. He exchanged his status as favoured child of God and became a child of wrath. But the story of Christ reverses this. Jesus is the one who grew “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Luke 2:52) – for us. He has gained us favour; He has gotten us in the door of heaven:
“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace [favour] you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace [favour] in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace [favour] you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:3-10).