When the people groan: Proverbs 29:2



NOTE: Beginning in August 2022, Trinity Reformed Church worked through Proverbs 29 verse by verse for our confession of sin during our liturgy. This post is the second in a series of short articles based on those homilies.

Today’s passage for our confession of faith is Proverbs 29, verse 2:

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. — Proverbs 29:2

Of course, there is an obvious, straightforward application here. It is a simple acknowledgement that political rulers must be righteous and not wicked. 

But since very few people reading this would be a political ruler, let’s argue from the greater to the lesser. Let’s apply it to ourselves.

Do any of us have any authority over other people? Are any of us under the authority of other people? With those two questions, I think I’ve covered everyone.

So, there are two lessons for us all.

First: If you are in any kind of authority, in the home, in the workplace, in the church, or wherever, and everyone below you is groaning about something you’ve done, you must be open to the real possibility that you are behaving in some sort of wicked fashion.

Now, don’t fall for a logical fallacy here. “When the wicked rule, the people groan” does not equal, “When the people groan, the rulers must be wicked.” Nope. The people might be groaning because the people are wicked.

Regardless, if everyone is groaning about something you’ve done, you need to be open and humble with that evidence.

Second, and this one might hurt: Kids, when your mom or dad tells you to do something, do you ever groan about it?

Think about it. When you groan about some command you’ve been given, what does that groan say about your parents? It say that you think they are being wicked.

Wives, do you ever groan, or sigh, or roll your eyes, about something your husband does? Or doesn’t do? Husbands, do you ever groan and grumble about your boss? Or your pastor? Or the men in your presbytery? Or, dare I say, about God Himself? The Israelites did. You’re not above it.

When you groan like that, you are the evil counterexample to this proverb. You are saying that the authority over you is wicked.

Now, of course there are honorable ways to object to something your authority has said or done. And even if you are in the unenviable position of having some sort of wicked authority over you, you do not have to sin as a response.

So consider your heart. Are you harboring a groaning attitude toward an authority in your life? Are you wickedly calling that authority wicked? Then repent, saints. Repent. 

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  • Jon Swerens is a lifelong journalist and has been an elder at Trinity Reformed Church since 2021.