When I was in junior high, I started reading the Proverbs and ever since I have tried reading one chapter from Proverbs a day. It works out pretty well, considering that there are 31 chapters and 30-31 days in each month (ok, except for February). Some of the Proverbs are extremely profound. But, especially to a junior higher, some of these verses were so obvious that I wondered how dumb people must have been to think that these statements were wise. For instance, Proverbs 21:8 reads, "A guilty man's conduct is crooked, but the behavior of the innocent is upright" (HCSB).
I never did it, primarily because I thought it to be somehow sacrilegious, but I always wanted to say, "Well, Duh!" Of course a guilty man's conduct is crooked! Of course an innocent person's behavior is upright!" Are we really so dumb that we need that spelled out for us?
You see, the vast majority of people consider themselves to be "good" people. I would guess that nearly everyone reading this considers him or herself to be an "upright" person. What the author of the proverb was trying to tell us has nothing to do with defining the actions of a good or a crooked person, the author was trying to remind us that we should determine whether we are upright or wicked based on our actions.
As human beings, we have a great capacity for self-deception. We cheat on our taxes but insist that we are good. We ignore the speed-limit as the law of the land, but don't count that as really doing anything wrong. We do things behind our spouse's back and pretend that we are honest with them. We lose our temper with family members and dismiss it as an aberration because we've "had a bad day." The author of proverbs was trying to tell us, "Don't lie to yourselves! If your actions are upright, then you are upright. If your actions are crooked, you are wicked!"
As wicked people, we can find forgiveness in the love of Jesus, but we can only be conformed to the image of Christ when we admit our wickedness, face it openly and honestly, and move to correct it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So, the next time you read one of those verses that makes you want to say, "Well, duh," stop for a moment and think again. Is Scripture giving us a definition or reminding us to be honest with ourselves?