Proverbs 20:6 – “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?”
A proverbial statement might be defined as a short, meaningful saying that expresses a significant, substantial truth for life. In the book of the Proverbs, a proverb is often constructed with two lines, presenting a comparison or contrast. Proverbs 20:6 presents a truth of contrast. Whereas the great majority of men will boldly proclaim their own goodness, a truly faithful man is a quite rare and precious find.
The subject in the first line of this proverb is “most men.” The subject in the second line of this proverb is “a faithful man.” Thus the contrast of this proverb concerns the character of most men in opposition to the character of a truly faithful man. However, the contrast of this proverb is not structured in the form of a direct parallel. Rather, the first line of the proverb makes a statement of truth concerning “most men;” whereas the second line of the proverb asks a rhetorical question concerning the truly “faithful man.”
So then, what does the opening statement of truth in this proverb reveal concerning “most men”? This opening statement reveals three basic elements concerning the nature of men (that is – concerning the natural character of men). First, it reveals that men in their natural character are proud of, and preferential to themselves. Yea, this proverb states, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” Indeed, men in their natural character focus their attention upon what they perceive about how good they are. This is a spirit of pride concerning one’s self. In addition, men in their natural character focus their attention upon their own perceived goodness, while ignoring the possible goodness of others. This is a spirit of proud preference for one’s self. Yea, this is the nature of “most men.”
Second, the opening statement of truth in this proverb reveals that men in their natural character promote and praise up themselves. Yea, this proverb states, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” Indeed, men in their natural character will not only focus the attention of their own proud hearts upon what they perceive about how good they are; but they will also proclaim this viewpoint in their daily communication. Consistently in their communication, men in their natural character will proclaim how good they perceive themselves to be. They will promote themselves. They will praise up themselves. Yea, this is the nature of “most men.”
Third, the contrast between the opening statement of truth in this proverb and the rhetorical question of this proverbs reveals that men in their natural character are presumptuous and pretentious concerning themselves. While stating in the opening line of the proverb that “most men” will proudly and boldly proclaim their own goodness, this proverb indicates through the rhetorical question that a truly “faithful man” is quite rare among the multitude of men – “But a faithful man who can find?” Thus we are moved to understand that “most men” are not actually in the category of the “faithful man.” Although men in their natural character will proclaim their own goodness, they are not actually as good and faithful as they proclaim. Indeed, they are not really good and faithful at all. Rather, they are presumptuous in that they simply take their own goodness for granted, as an obvious and absolute truth simply because they themselves perceive it to be so. In addition, they are pretentious in that their perception and proclamation of their own goodness is a falsehood.
So then, we are brought to understand through this proverbial contrast that it is not what a man perceives of his character that truly matters; for such is often filled with the self-deception of pride. In addition, it is not what a man proclaims concerning his character that truly matters; for such is often filled with the falsehood of presumption. Rather, it is what a man produces in his daily conduct that truly matters; for faithfulness in his God-given responsibilities is that which defines a truly “good” man. Yet truly good and faithful men are hard to find, because so few of us men truly pursue faithfulness in our daily walk. This then is the need for us men – To learn godly faithfulness in our God-given responsibilities and daily walk.
The proverbial context that surrounds Proverbs 20:6 appears to present truths and warnings with a focus upon the negative perspective. This more negative perspective appears to begin at Proverbs 19:24 and to extend unto Proverbs 20:25. As such, we find various characteristics that would be contrary to the character and conduct of the “faithful men,” but would be true for the character of “most men.”
1. The “faithful man” is not a lazy, slothful man. (Proverbs 19:24; 20:4, 13)
2. The “faithful man” does not dishonor his parents. (Proverbs 19:26; 20:20)
3. The “faithful man” rejects ungodly counsel, but heeds godly counsel. (Proverbs 19:27; 20:18)
4. The “faithful man” is not an ungodly witness. (Proverbs 19:28; 20:19)
5. The “faithful man” is not a spiritual fool or scorner. (Proverbs 19:29)
6. The “faithful man” is not deceived by alcohol. (Proverbs 20:1)
7. The “faithful man” does not rebel against government authority. (Proverbs 20:2)
8. The “faithful man” does not meddle in strife. (Proverbs 20:3)
9. The “faithful man” is not deceitful in business. (Proverbs 20:10; 14,17, 21, 23)
10. The “faithful man” does not have vengeful spirit. (Proverbs 20:22)
Rather, the “faithful man” will pursue and maintain godly integrity in his character (Proverbs 19:23), in his conduct (Proverbs 20:7), and in his communication (Proverbs 20:15).
So then, we men must ask ourselves if we truly desire to be defined by the Lord our God as good and faithful servants. Even so, we must examine ourselves whether we possess that proud spirit wherein we presumptuously perceive and proclaim our “own goodness,” or whether we are truly walking in godly integrity before the Lord our God, faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities that He has given to us. Finally, if we have been maintaining that spirit of pride wherein we presumptuously perceive and proclaim our “own goodness,” rather than actually pursuing and producing godly faithfulness, let us be zealous to repent thereof.