You Can Observe a Lot by Watching

Bible Book: Proverbs 
Subject: Wisdom; Learning; Growing; Observation

Proverbs 22:29; 26:12 and 29:20

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra is an American former Major League Baseball catcher, outfielder, and manager. In 2001 he published a book with Dave Kaplan, titled, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball's Greatest Heroes. From the chapter titled, “You Can Observe a Lot by Watching”, Yogi reveals, “When I was announced as the manager [of the New York Yankees] after the ’63 season, a reporter asked me what I had picked up from Casey Stengel and Ralph Houk, the two managers I’d mostly played for. I said, ‘You can observe a lot by watching.’”

Berra confesses, “I always observed a lot. Even Casey used to call me his assistant manager because I was always observing everything. He trusted me to go out and tell a pitcher what he might be doing wrong. As a catcher you do a lot of watching. You’re the only player who faces his own teammates. You observe the mannerisms and tendencies of opposing hitters and the actions of your pitcher. Observing is learning. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot.”[1]

Dr. Terry Powell shared the following Yogi Berra story in Balanced Living on a Tightrope: Finding Your Spiritual Equilibrium in the Book of Proverbs: “While they were enjoying lunch in a New York restaurant, Berra once said to [Bobby] Richardson, ‘Don’t look now, but somebody famous is sitting behind you.’

‘Who is it?’ Richardson inquired.

‘I’m not sure,’ Yogi answered. ‘I get them confused. There are two of them, the one that died and the other one.’”[2]

Dr. Powell advises: “ANYTIME YOU READ A PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE, HAVE THE EYE OF AN EAGLE! Be observant. We often gloss over words and details that offer timeless principles for living or encouraging truths. An old Indian asked a stranger if he had seen the man who had stolen his guns. During the conversation, the Indian went on to say that the robber was young, short, heavy, and spoke with an Eastern accent. ‘You must have gotten a good look at him!’ said the stranger.

‘No,’ the Indian replied. ‘I never saw him. I know he's young because his footprints in the snow were crisp and showed no signs of dragging feet. He’s short, because I found a box that he stood on in order to reach the guns. I know he’s heavy because his footprints sank deep into the snow. And I figure he has an Eastern accent because he wore shoes instead of cowboy boots.’

That’s being observant! He analyzed the facts and came to logical conclusions. The Holy Spirit can help you do that when you study God's Word.”[3]

Let’s trace the phrase “Do you see a man” in the Book of Proverbs.

I. First, there is an observation on working.

Proverbs 22:29 reads, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.”

“. . . work can be painful and it is cursed because of the fall (see Gen. 3:17-19), but God created Adam to ‘work the land’ (Gen. 2) even before the fall. God himself worked when he created the world. So through work, we imitate God and fulfill a part of our creation in his image.”[4]

Ecclesiastes 2:17-25 reads, “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity. Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.”

1 Corinthians 3:22-25 reads, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Proverbs 18:16 reads, “A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.”

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) observed, "Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance."[5] Missionary statesman, Dr. William Carey (1761-1834), said, “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”[6]

Dr. Stephen G. Alter, associate professor of history and recipient of the Junior Distinguished Faculty Award, shared the following in an address to incoming and returning students at the Matriculation Chapel at Gordon College: “As you already know, I make my living teaching history. And, because that's my job, you will not be surprised to hear that there are certain history-related books that I think everyone ought to read. One of those books is the famous autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; I assign this work regularly in one of my classes. People who write autobiographies usually have an agenda in mind, and Benjamin Franklin's agenda is fairly obvious. He told the story of his own life in order to provide an example to young people starting out in their careers. Franklin was saying: here are the lessons that I have learned; here are the keys to my success. This morning I want to look at one of those keys—a particular word of encouragement that Franklin took from the Bible, from a verse in the Old Testament. When Franklin was boy, his father would often quote to him the following proverb from Solomon:

‘Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.’
Proverbs 22:29

Writing in his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin recalled that he took seriously his father's admonition. From his youth onward, he said, he considered skilled work to be a pathway to fortune and fame. Now, he did not really expect that he would ever literally stand before kings. And yet, as he later pointed out, that was exactly what happened. As he said in his autobiography, ‘I have stood before five [kings], and even had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.’”[7]

To “stand before kings” does not mean everyone who is “skilled in his work” will literally stand before the kings of the earth. However, it involves work of the highest order, worthy of the attention of the rulers of the earth. Remember this is a proverb not a promise. A proverb is a statement that is generally true.

William MacDonald (1917-2007), former president of Emmaus Bible College, reminds us: “A man who excels in his work . . .will be promoted . . .to a position of honor. He will not serve unknown men. This is another reminder that cream rises to the surface. We see it in the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Nehemiah.”[8] In a message titled, “Saying No to the Status Quo,” I share the following: “Since the middle ages those providing goods and services for the Royal Family for at least five years are eligible for a Royal Appointment. As you travel through London you can often find a Royal Coat of Arms with the statement ‘By Appointment to . . .’ followed by the name of the particular member of the Royal Family.”[9]

II. Second, there is an observation on thinking.

Proverbs 26:12 reads, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1906-1966), Polish writer, poet, satirist, observed, “The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all is the person who argues with him.”[10]

Proverbs 3:5-7 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.”

Pastor Kent Crockett shares, “A young man loaned an acquaintance $500, but failed to get the borrower’s signature on a receipt. When the guy hadn’t paid him back a year later, he realized he had probably lost the money due to lack of proof. He asked his father what to do. ‘The answer is simple,’ his father said. ‘Just write him and say you need the $1,000 you loaned him.’ ‘You mean $500,’ his son replied. ‘No, you need to say $1,000. He’ll immediately write back that he only owes you $500, and then you’ll have it in writing!’”[11]

Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.”

Genesis 3:6 reads, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Genesis 2:16-17 reads, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”

Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

Dr. Os Guinness writes, “Woe betide the foolish whose power is so powerful and whose success is so successful that they presume they can afford not to learn.”[12]

Proverbs 16:25 reads, “He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”

Dr. Johnny Hunt explains, “Happiness – the blessed man referred to in the Scriptures is a happiness that stems from being in a right relationship with God. There can be no happiness without holiness.”[13]

III. Third, there is an observation on speaking.

Proverbs 29:20 reads, “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

James 1:19 reads, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Proverbs 18:13 reads, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.”

Proverbs 15:28 reads, “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure are pleasant.”

Ecclesiastes 10:12-13 reads, “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious,
But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up; The words of his mouth begin with foolishness,
And the end of his talk is raving madness.”

Proverbs 21:5 reads, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”

Proverbs 22:20-21 reads, “Have I not written to you excellent things Of counsels and knowledge, That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, That you may answer words of truth To those who send to you?”

Proverbs 26:12 reads, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.”

Proverbs 11:14 reads, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

Proverbs 29:11 reads, “A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.”

Proverbs 14:29 reads, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding,
But he who is impulsive exalts folly.”

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 reads, “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.”

Many people mistakenly read the Book of Ecclesiastes as scriptural permission to live a life after the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and miss the major theme of the fear of God (Ecclesiastes 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12-13; 12:13).


Dr. C. Sumner Wemp (1922-2012) shares on his Website that his mother taught him early in his life to observe people. Solomon makes observations in Proverbs 22:29; 26:12; and 29:20 about those around in terms of thought, word, and deed, thus encompassing the totality of life.

Publiluis Syrus, a Latin writer of maxims, who flourished in the 1st century BC, observes, “Observation, not old age, brings wisdom.”[14]

While it is good to observe others, it is even better to observe ourselves. James 1:21-27 reads, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Dr. H. A. Ironside (1876-1951) explains, “God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for broken men, for men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to an end of themselves, and whose trust and confidence is not in themselves but in God.”[15]

Remember, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

[1]Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!, (New York, NY: Hyperion, 2001), 66.

[2]Terry Powell, Balanced Living on a Tightrope: Finding Your Spiritual Equilibrium in the Book of Proverbs, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1991), 41.

[3]Terry Powell, Christianity 101, (Sumas, WA: Discipleship Overseas, Inc., 2012), 79.

[4]“Work and Laziness,” Proverbs Week 7, Accessed: 11/15/14,

[5]Mark Water, Christian Living Made Simple, (Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishing, Ltd., 2002), 103. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.

[6]James Hamilton, Excelsior: Helps to Progress in Religion, Science, and Literature, Volume 2, (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1854), 5.

[7]Stephen G. Alter, “Learning to Serve” Accessed: 09/16/14

[8]William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 849.

[9]Franklin L. Kirksey, ”Saying No to the Status Quo,” Sermon Notes, (Proverbs 22:29).

[10]Accessed: 09/17/14, .

[11]Kent Crockett’s Sermon Illustrations, Accessed: 11/14/14,

[12]Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2014), 121.

[13]Johnny Hunt, “Father with a Bright Future,” Sermon Notes, (Proverbs 3:7-18).

[14]Sir William Gurney Benham, A Book of Quotations, Proverbs and Household Words, (Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1907), 673.

[15]H. A. Ironside, “Men God Wants,” Accessed: 09/17/14, .

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & / / (251) 626-6210

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