Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 21:22
"A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust"
This is a proverb about what to do when a person has an opponent or an obstacle which they must beat before they can move forward with their plan. Solomon is using a military metaphor for winning over another person who stands in the way. In the military setting, a city would protect itself from a conquering general by shutting its city gates tight. With the city gates shut there is no way for the city to be conquered. The wise general finds the weakness in the city wall or in the needs of the people in the city. Usually in that day it was the need for water or food. It was not uncommon for people to try and sneak out at night to try and get water or food for a city under siege. Also, as was the case for Solomon's father, David, the city of Jerusalem was conquered by sending men up the water system.
Solomon is not talking about going to battle, but he is using the metaphor to tell us that every opponent has a stronghold and an area of weakness. If you want to win people to your way of thinking, then you must understand their stronghold – what is most precious to them. If you can convince them that their stronghold will be benefited or remain secure, they will allow you to move forward. If the person is an unrighteous opponent, then they may need to have their stronghold crushed. But Solomon uses the phrase a wise manand so he is talking about building a great life. If he had wanted to suggest that people need to treat other powerful people as opponents, he would have said a kingscales the city of the mighty. This would have suggested that leadership must see itself from the dominant position. Remember Solomon does not do this; therefore, he is talking about how to live life well. Make sure that you understand their stronghold and know how to make it a non-factor in your discussions, plans, and strategies.
This is the basic principle that says that there must be a clear win for your opponent, not just for you. It is true that he talks about bringing down the stronghold, but this is the idea still buried in the military metaphor. When it is applied outside of a military context, it seems to have the meaning of the person not being resistant to your idea or plan. Everyone has a stronghold – that which is most important to them. It could be their business, their money, their family, their religion, their reputation, their power, or a hundred other things. But it is essential that you understand what the other person is trusting in, what they are counting on, what they have at the core of their life.
This stronghold can be found by what they are willing to cast away in a crisis and on what they spend their time and resources. Everyone spends time and resources on what is most precious to them. If you are going to win them over or defeat them, then Solomon says that you must know what that stronghold is and prove that you will enhance it or crush it, depending on what you are trying to do with the person.
Questions for application of this proverb:
Who is the mighty person that you are working with or against? Is it a spouse, a son or daughter, a boss, a friend, an instructor?
What is their stronghold in which they trust? What is most important to them? What are they protecting at all costs? On what are they spending lots of time and money?
How can you let them know that what you want to do will benefit and strengthen their stronghold?
If they are a true opponent, how can you destroy the stronghold in which they trust?
Remember you can't win someone over if you do not take into account their stronghold.