He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.
Do you care about yourself? There is a way to live that brings happiness and success, and there is a way to live that will kill you. The choice is yours. The results are God’s. The consequences are certain. Do you love or despise God’s way for living your life?
If you keep God’s commandment, you keep yourself from pain and trouble. If you despise God’s ways, you commit suicide. The Creator God did not give a command for how men should live to ruin their fun; He gave commandment for them to maximize life. It is foolish and rebellious man that rejects His word that ruins their lives in many ways.
What is the commandment to keep your soul? It is all God’s commandments, no matter what part of life each may apply to (Ps 119:128). The singular noun is a collective noun for all His commandments (Pr 6:20,23; 13:13). The singular is also the fear of the Lord, which includes all other commandments (Pr 1:7; 19:23; Ps 111:10; 112:1; Ec 12:13).
The man who keeps God’s commandments is doing something very good for his own soul. He is pursuing wisdom and all its benefits for his life (Pr 4:4-9). “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul” (Pr 16:17). “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Pr 21:23).
How does a man despise his ways? He rejects God’s ways for the various aspects of his life. You interpret “his ways” as God’s ways, because God is to be elliptically understood from the first clause, and because men do not truly despise their own ways. The man here believes he has better ideas on how to live, so he rejects the counsel of God for his life.
What are the consequences? When a man chooses his own way for a decision, rather than God’s way, he chooses death. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr 16:25). “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr 14:12). Do you hear the warning?
God’s infallible revelation, the Bible, teaches men how to be happy and successful. If they rebel against His wisdom, they bring on themselves dysfunction, pain, trouble, and eventually death. They die early by accidents, capital punishment, disease, revenge, or God’s judgment. If a man truly cared for himself, he would keep God’s commandments.
Here is how Moses taught this wisdom to Israel, “Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess” (Deut 5:33). And, “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it” (Deut 32:47).
Consider a simple example. Instead of honoring parents as God commanded, men allow disrespect, jokes, and rebellion, never seeing that such irreverent fools will eventually run into a human authority that will crush them, and they lose God’s promised blessings for parental honor (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:2-3). It is lose-lose to reject this commandment of God.
Consider another example. Instead of being faithful to one spouse as God commanded, men promote casual sex and adultery, never seeing that such promiscuous fools will eventually end up diseased, divorced, lonely, scarred, unloved, or killed. They could have had the pleasure of a devoted spouse and a happy family, but they wanted it their way.
Consider another example. Instead of training children by the simple methods taught in the Bible, especially in this book of Proverbs, many parents think they can follow the permissive and compromising ways of worldly psychologists. They never grasp why their children cause them so much grief, pain, expense, and shame. They despised God’s ways.
Consider another example. Instead of being thankful for the wisdom, capital, and risk-taking of an entrepreneur that built the company that employs them, fools conspire with other fools to form a union and demand greater wages and benefits for their little jobs. Instead of diligence and faithfulness, they choose sloth and rebellion. The company closes, and they lose their jobs. They despised God’s way of properly serving employers.
Consider another example. Instead of measuring a church by sound doctrine and practice as found in the Bible, most choose their own kind of church by programs, popularity, or prosperity. They wonder in the end why their souls seem dead, and the answer is that they wandered out of the way of understanding into the congregation of the dead (Pr 21:16).
God will soon separate all men on Judgment Day – those who did His will, and those who did things their way. Jesus warned, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord – And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:21-23).
A famous American singer, Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), often sang what is considered to be his most popular song, “I Did It My Way.” Since he died and met his Creator, he has learned that he should not have lived his life his way. He should have lived God’s way.
Do you want a rule for life? “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Pr 3:5-6). Rather than despise His ways, humble yourself and appreciate His ways. “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (Ps 119:15). In what part of your life today are you following your own way instead of God’s way? Repent today.