12 A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
How does one judge a man? Is it by his appearance? His wealth? By the position he holds? Here the father gives his son, along with us, insight into the telltale signs of a rotten character. The troublemaker and villain is not identified by what he has, but by what he says and does. Words and deeds determine where you end up, regardless of where you begin.
First, pay attention to what people say, as well as what comes out of your own mouth. For “what goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them… the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” If you want to know what’s in a person’s heart, listen to their words. You may be tempted to go along with attractive and wealthy people, but it is better to choose your friends by character than by appearance.
The troublemaker is not only deceitful and arrogant in his speech, but also in the way he carries himself. He doesn’t invite you into duplicity directly, but through hints and innuendo. He sneers at honesty, winks at immorality, and signals to his accomplices with his hands and feet. One moment you feel like you’re in on the trick, the next that the joke is on you. Be wary of such people! Their company may be exciting at first, but sooner or later you will regret having known them. Seek out those with integrity, who live honorably and have no use for deception. Troublemakers are not worth your trouble.