The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
What is a great life? A life well lived? A noble life with purpose and value? It is a man with this epitaph: “He loved God more than all others; he was a tree of life to all others.”
Why are you alive? What is your purpose? You have two goals – to love God and help others. Pleasure is not your goal, but fulfilling these callings brings the greatest pleasure.
Are you a tree of life? A righteous man affects the lives of others for good. Are you a soul winner? A wise man will work to save the lives of those around him. The second commandment in the Christian religion, after loving God, is to love others. The most loving thing you can do for another person is to help them to a godly and wise life.
Great persons are trees of life – winning souls from sin and folly to righteousness and truth. There is no higher calling, in your relationships with others, than to help them by providing correction and instruction to please their Creator and enjoy the abundant life of godliness and wisdom. The highest measure of love is perfecting others before God.
There are two clauses in this proverb. Are they merely repetitive, or is one slightly better than the other? Righteous men by their lives bear the fruit of godliness, which others are able to copy or learn by asking questions. But slightly better is the wise man who actively puts forth winsome efforts to identify, attract, and persuade others to godliness.
This proverb does not teach any man can save a soul from eternal hell to heaven. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do that. The divine transaction that makes men accepted before God is only by His will, purpose, and grace and the singular obedience of Jesus Christ Himself (Jn 1:13; 5:21; Rom 5:12-19; 9:15-16,21-24; Eph 1:3-12; II Tim 1:9; Heb 1:3).
God chose His people to eternal life and will glorify every one of them in heaven soon (Ro 8:28-39; Tit 1:1-2). He assigned Jesus Christ to live a perfect life for them and to die a substitutionary death for them, and He will not lose a single one (Jn 6:37-39; 10:26-29; 17:2). But it is your gospel privilege to show this truth to God’s elect (II Tim 2:10; 1:10).
Solomon did not have any vain idea like modern soul winners that he could fill heaven by getting men to repeat the sinner’s prayer. He never spent one minute writing tracts to the Philistines to scare them to invite Jesus into their hearts. He wrote this inspired proverb to encourage God’s people to help each other advance in godliness, truth, and wisdom.
This proverb does teach you can save a soul from error and folly, which cost men their fellowship with God and lead them to trouble and destruction in this life. Wisdom leads to the good life (Pr 3:18; 4:13; 8:35), and righteous men help others find it. Folly causes men pain and death, and wise men will help others out of it (Pr 8:36; 11:19; 13:14-15).
James described soul winning, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:19-20). True soul winning is of brethren, from error to truth, which is conversion. Only God can regenerate a man from death to life. Men need conversion many times, after God regenerates once.
Parents can save their children from death and hell by using the rod and reproof wisely (Pr 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 29:15). Though Solomon used the words death and hell, he did not mean you can save your child from the eternal lake of fire by child discipline. But you can save him from hell on earth and an untimely death by use of reproof and the rod.
Solomon, as a loving father, spent many proverbs seeking to save his son from the death and hell of sexual sins (Pr 2:18-19; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 22:14; 23:27-28). Many lives have suffered the horrible pain of fornication and adultery, and it is death and hell in several respects. Good fathers save the souls of sons (and daughters) from this danger.
This loving father also warned his son about odious women, to save him from a painful marriage (Pr 12:4; 14:1; 19:13-14; 21:9,19; 25:24; 27:15-16; 30:23). King Lemuel’s mother lovingly gave her son a lengthy description of the virtuous woman to save his life with a great wife (Pr 31:1-3,10-31). Many parents shirk these clear duties (Pr 1:8; 6:20).
Think of your family! Men, you should be proactively leading (Gen 18:19; Deut 6:6-9; Josh 24:15; I Cor 14:34-35). Mothers, you have your role (II Tim 1:5; 3:15; Tit 2:3-5). Siblings, be like Andrew, who told his brother Peter about Jesus (Jn 1:40-42). Be like Philip, who found and told Nathaniel (Jn 1:43-46). Start first with your own family!
Consider Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:24-28). This husband and wife were tentmakers. When they heard Apollos preach, they took him home and gently showed him where he was in error. Though an eloquent man, mighty in the scriptures, very knowledgeable, and fervent in spirit, they converted Apollos, and he went on to convert many others.
Forget foreign missions until you have been a missionary at home. You do not need to plant a church in another country until you have planted seeds of truth and wisdom with those around you. There are people right now that you could seek to save today from pain or trouble caused by error, folly, or sin. Do not look for greener pastures. Start at home.
Have you helped those deluded by Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism? Have you helped others get free from Sabbatarianism, the superstition that Saturday for Israel still applies? Have you corrected the damning delusions of Mariolatry and other heresies of Roman Catholicism? Have you protected family and friends from Benny Hinn and Joseph Smith?
Have you helped others have a better marriage by example, instruction, or warning? How about better finances by the same three means? How many have you helped with child training, career progression, getting along with others, submitting to government and avoiding rabble rousers, altering speech habits, honoring parents, and knowing the Bible?
You are to warn others about sin, which is true love (Lev 19:17). Read it. This is serious business. If you have opportunity, speak up about backbiting, bitterness, complaining, cremation, drunkenness, envy, evil surmising, foolish talking, fornication, gluttony, grudges, horoscopes, jesting, malice, mode of baptism, pagan holidays, pride, purloining, scorn, sedition, self-love, slander, sodomy, talebearing, temperance, witchcraft, etc., etc.
Reader, are you a tree of life? Are others thankful for you helping them please God? Do you win souls? How many have you turned to the truth? Are you known for wisdom hanging from your branches? Are you a lighthouse from life’s storms for those in need? Do you help others acquire wisdom and its benefits? You must answer these questions.
When you are with others, what do you talk about? Do you gently bring all conversations back to profitable purposes for their good and God’s glory? You should be conscientious on the phone as well. What is the content of your emails like? What do you text to others – the weather or a sports score? What could you text? What could you tweet? Get busy!
Are you ready to win others? There are two basics. First, you must set a godly example by total submission to God and good works (I Pet 3:15; Matt 5:16; Tit 2:1-10). Second, you need to learn God’s truth and wisdom to be able to give certain words of truth to those asking due to your successful life (I Pet 3:15; Pr 22:17-21). Will you win others?
It takes only a little knowledge to believe something. It takes more knowledge to be able to teach something – to be a soul winner like this proverb. Are you ready? It takes a great deal of knowledge to defend the truth against fools and scorners. Paul had to rebuke Hebrew Christians for not being ready for even level two soul winning (Heb 5:12-14).
The more you know by study and preparation, the less likely you will lose control and graciousness in a discussion (Pr 15:2,28; 13:16; 16:23; 29:11; I Pet 3:15). A godly man is gracious from a pure heart (Pr 22:11; Eccl 10:12; Col 4:6). His words are health and kindness (Pr 15:4; 12:18). He is never hasty but hears out a person first (Pr 18:13; 29:20).
How much have you truly helped those who have known you? Are they pleasing God with their lives, and much of that is due to your efforts toward them? Are they enjoying the abundant and prosperous life of a person walking with God? Are they thankful for the enriching effect you have had on their lives by showing them the truth in word and deed?
How many have you helped among your acquaintances? Ten? A hundred? How many are further leveraging your life by being trees of life to yet others? Many adore multi-level marketing for overpriced candles or cosmetics, but here is the best use of the concept. How big is your downline of those who know God’s truth and wisdom because of you?
God has great delight in those who turn others to righteousness. Daniel praised the coming ministers of the New Testament, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3). Is this a chief goal for your life? How well are you meeting it?
Earn your epitaph, “He loved God more than all others; he was a tree of life to all others.”