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Inherit the Wind

Wisdom in winning souls

Proverbs 11:28-31

28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage.

29 He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.

31 If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth,
How much more the ungodly and the sinner.


The title of the 1960 movie, Inherit the Wind takes a verse directly out of the book of Proverbs. Based on a 1955 play of the same name, the film is a fictional depiction of the famous 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” held in Dayton Tennessee. In the trial, teacher John T. Scopes is convicted of teaching the theory of Evolution, in violation of Tennessee state law. 

The film’s all-star cast, which included Spencer Tracy as a character based on attorney Clarence Darrow, gives dramatic weight to a pivotal moment in American culture and politics. As the townspeople and clergy (portrayed as loud bigots) rage at the dangers of evolution and the influence of Darwinism, the calm, collected proponents of “science” are depicted as sane and reasonable people. 

The title refers to a climatic plot point where the local minister–a boorish, judgmental man–condemns his own daughter for her love of the teacher, Cates (Scopes), and rejection of creationism. The reverend is warned with the words of Proverbs 11:29, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

It is a scene that plays on the movie’s themes of enlightenment and reason verses fanaticism and ignorance. In the end, Spencer Tracy quotes the verse and seems to take it for his own, as if to say that it is the modernists who are truly faithful, and those who hold to Christian traditions and fundamental beliefs are the ones “troubling the household” of American culture and religion.

One thing is certain, there have been few movements as destructive and divisive to the church and western culture than the fight over the theory of evolution and the elevation of “science” to a level of its own religious devotion among many.

In Proverbs, chapter 11, Solomon is indeed concerned about divisiveness in one’s household, but he would have found the use of his words in such a heavy-handed film somewhat specious (maybe even The Origin of Specious). 

Solomon is less concerned with sweeping cultural changes as he is with your heart. His aim is to not only teach about your earthly future, but your ultimate future in eternity–and who will share in it with you: 

28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage.–Proverbs 11:28

Trusting in wealth or wisdom is a theme of Proverbs, and here Solomon adds a colorful touch. Those who put their faith in the “green” will fail, but the righteous who seek Christ, the wisdom of God, will be as a lush green garden filled with life. 

David captures this in Psalm 1, for the righteous will be “like a tree, planted by the rivers of water,” and again in Psalm 92: 

12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.–Psalm 92:12-13

No so, the wicked. There is a theme in this section of gain and loss, but these passages indicate the certainty, or finality, of your ultimate destination: will you trust in your own skills, experience, and wealth–or in your Heavenly Father? The Fear of I AM will bring you true, eternal, spiritual wealth.

This is not always easy. Verse 29 highlights the frustrations and pain of life:

29 He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.–Proverbs 11:29

So what does this verse mean? Carrying forward his theme of eternal ends, Solomon shows the impact of such a life on your family. In a rare set of two negative ideas, he speaks of final inheritance and a life of slavery to those who pursue earthly things. This is also seen in Proverbs 15: 

27 He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.–Proverbs 15:27

This use of “wind” means emptiness, nothingness, failure. Jeremiah warns Israel of false prophets, who lied about God are “windbags,” doomed to death:  

13 And the prophets become wind,
For the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them.”–Jeremiah 5:13

People who harm those with whom they have relationships, they will “inherit the wind,” meaning that they will end up with nothing. This applies to your family, as well as to those for whom you are responsible for in life.

As a parent you want to raise your children up right, to be successful in the world and to follow Christ. When your love of this world outshines your love of the next, you can be leading them astray in your own example. How do you handle your finances? Your hopes and dreams? How do you cope with failure, or setbacks?

Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs reminds you that your hope is in Christ, even when the wolf is at your door: 

You may think you find peace in Christ when you have no outward troubles, but is Christ your peace when the Assyrian comes into the land, when the enemy comes?...Jesus Christ would be peace to the soul when the enemy comes into the city, and into your houses.–Jeremiah Burroughs, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”

If you are a harsh parent, driving your children to earthly success, you can make them productive members of society…or they may resent you for life. If Christ is not the heart of your desires for them, then you could hear only wind, instead of the voices of loving sons or daughters. What is money? What is land? What is anything without an eternal home in heaven?

You cannot always control your children’s responses to your parenting, and the Gospel lived in you will provoke an eternal reaction from them. Perhaps you came to Christ late in life, and your children were not raised in a believing household. Maybe you were a godly parent but your children reacted negatively to your calls to follow Christ. 

If so, then my heart aches for you and with you. You must continue to pray for them, that the Spirit will quicken their hearts to Christ. If you like, message me their name, and I will pray for them with you [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]. 

“Household” here is certainly the family, and much to be said there. It also means the church family, and making trouble within the Body of Christ. Is there murmuring and grumbling in your church? Do loud voices and strong opinions push agendas, or does gossip prevent true confession of sin and forgiveness of one another? There are many ways to apply this.

Solomon continues, revealing a true inheritance:

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.–Proverbs 11:30

The twin negatives of verse 29 are contrasted by the two positives of verse 30. The opposite of troubling your family with selfish living and earthly focus is to win souls. The phrase here in Hebrew is similar to “taking life,” meaning “to kill.” Here, Solomon makes a play on words with intentional irony–instead of meaning “to kill,” here it means “to save.”

Never forget that Christ saves you from the grip of world, the flesh, and the devil with His drawn sword of victory over death at the cross. As Joshua encountered Jesus with drawn sword, for He is the commander of the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13), so Jesus has defeated your enemies and won you for His Father.

This, then, is your call: to save souls! Does this thought of eternity “fire you up” to think on all who need Jesus? The richness and grace of your savior must be proclaimed to all who hear!

Charles Spurgeon set his congregation alight with this passage, seeking to stir them from their spiritual slumber:

We ought to regard the Christian Church, not as a luxurious hostelry where Christian gentlemen may each one dwell at his ease in his own inn, but as a barracks in which soldiers are gathered together to be drilled and trained for war. - Charles Spurgeon

Is your church a “luxurious hostelry,” or “country club” of polite believers…or like Joshua’s armed camp before a Jericho? Furthermore, your inheritance–and that of your children–is assured, for Christ has accomplished it and He goes before you: 

We must not think so much of what we already are as to forget what the Lord may accomplish by us for others. Here are the coals of fire, but who shall describe the conflagration which they may cause?-Charles Spurgeon

As you seek an eternal inheritance, seek to bring others along with you! Like “gold fever” of the California Gold Rush, as you tell others of Christ, they too can be filled with desire to follow Him. Spurgeon warns you not to miss out:

You shall have a crown in heaven, but no jewels in it. You will go to heaven childless; and you know how it was in the old times, how the women dreaded lest they should be childless. Let it be so with Christian people; let them dread being spiritually child less.–Spurgeon 

Are you “spiritually childless?” Has anyone been impacted by Christ through your words or life? Do you practice godliness only on Sunday, or are you always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you (I Peter 3:15)? What a blessing it will be to get to heaven and see those whom Christ has transformed, having first heard or seen the gospel in you!

As previously mentioned, C.S. Lewis describes this in the person of “Sarah of Golders Green” in The Great Divorce. Childless on earth, she is surrounded in heaven by a multitude who celebrate her life: 

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”
“Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?”
“No. There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents, loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”–C.S. Lewis, “The Great Divorce”

You see, an earthly inheritance is ultimately ashes and dust, but a heavenly inheritance is best when shared with others. Solomon brings you back to the ultimate end:

31 If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth,
How much more the ungodly and the sinner.–Proverbs 11:31

The righteous may have hard times here on earth, even while fools and villains prosper. But the trials of a Christian, battling with sin and growing in Christ, are fulfilled in glory–while the wicked are punished for eternity:

32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.–I Corinthians 11:32 

So seek your eternal inheritance, seek Christ and share Him with others-especially those whom you love. As this song from Green River Ordinance sings, it is the greatest gift you can give:

You take me as I am
Now I understand
The greatest gift to give a man
Is to give him grace to live again
Faith is not an idle grace
Guide my fears and lead my way
The darkest heart that You have saved
I can't find a better love




The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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