How do you read the Book of Proverbs?

So I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs for the last while and have noticed a tendency to read them in a certain way.

How do you read Proverbs

Lets read a few proverbs from chapter 12 to illustrate what I have observed about myself.  Take a few moments, read each one carefully.

6- The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.

8- A person who talks sense is honored; airheads are held in contempt.

13- The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble; the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

15- Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.

16- Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly; the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

23- Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge; talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

24- The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work.

Many of the proverbs in the Book of Proverbs identify 2 people; the wise man and the fool, the bad person and the good, the wicked and the upright.

Getting it wrong

Let’s get straight to the point – When I read the Book of Proverbs I invariably end up being the good guy!  Join me in a brief review.  In verse 6 above did you cast yourself in the role of the upright whose words save?  Go on have a look.  How about verse 8?  I cast myself as the bloke who talks sense, not the contemptuous airhead!  You?

If you are anything like me you cast yourself as the good guy every time.  Think about it, re-read them.

When I began to realise this I saw how utterly useless my reading of the Book of Proverbs actually is.  Unless I happen to read a relevant proverb while I am in the throws of asking myself whether I should listen to a particular person, my reading of this book is largely pointless.

Given this realization I am left with only 2 choices.  Either I am altogether awesome or I am reading the book of Proverbs completely wrongly.  Without any risk of false humility it’s fair to say that I need to rethink how I am reading this book.

How do we get it right?

So if this book is not about making me feel self righteous or convincing me that these ‘others’ are the people who should really be reading the book then how should I be reading the book?  How do others approach the book.

Warren W Wiersbe said this about the Book of Proverbs…

…we must not think that this wisdom is a set of rules or a collection of success formulas that anyone can occasionally apply as he or she pleases.  Following God’s wisdom is a full-time endeavor.

I think I agree with him.  Eugene Peterson in his study on Proverbs, commented;

“On earth as it is in heaven” is Jesus’ prayer.  “Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living.

I have 3 personal responses to these comments:

  1. The Book of Proverbs exists to help us follow God and not just His wisdom.

We must be careful not to substitute wise living for living close to God.  It is possible to follow the Godly wisdom of the Proverbs, at least in part, while not seeking to follow God.  The truth is this wisdom will enhance your life, but God desires that we love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind.  Living well is not a replacement for loving God, it is a product of loving God.

We will know we are reading the Book of Proverbs correctly when the result is a heart turned towards God.

  1. The whole Book of Proverbs is about me!

The whole book is about me and it’s about you.  The truth is I fit both sides of the coin.  Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.  I do both!  This proverb is not to help you identify whether you are foolish or wise, it is like the tip of an arrow piercing us carried by the full weight of the whole Word of God.

In response I need to participate in the work God desires to do in me.  In response I need to stop using Proverbs as a comparison between myself and others.

  1. The Book of Proverbs is a guide to living a Kingdom of God life on earth

Yes, it is a book about life here on earth, it’s about relationships and work, money and honesty, prudence and good talk.  The Book of Proverbs is clearly more about earth than heaven, but I must never separate my daily life from my spiritual life.  The two are one. What I do everyday is as much my walk with God as how I worship or pray.

My response to this ‘practical’ wisdom ought to be prayerful.  Jesus prayed, “Your Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven”, I too ought to read these Proverbs and prayerfully seek Gods help in living on Earth as in Heaven.

 

 

Proverbs series

So here’s the deal.  I’m gonna keep reading the Book of Proverbs, but I’m gonna be careful not to use them to compare myself to others. I’m gonna prayerfully ask God to help change my daily actions to reflect His Kingdom.

I would like to invite you to join me.  As I continue to read the Book of Proverbs I am going to write some prayers and share them on this blog, you are very welcome to write some prayers from Proverbs and share them in the comments below or email me at jonny@tentmaker.co.uk if you prefer.

Featured Image: Some rights reserved by yoshi87

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4 thoughts on “How do you read the Book of Proverbs?

  1. Great thoughts Jonny. I’m not sure I completely cast myself as the righteous man but I certainly do it more than I cast myself as the fool (which is telling).

    As for your point three, I remember my old pastor saying that “Proverbs are what is true 99% of the time, There are times when God will tell you to do the exact opposite but in general they how we can live Godly lives.”

    I’d say it’s the most “self-help-esq” part of the bible…not necessarily in a bad way

    • Pretty high quality self help: In fact it’s really God help rather than self help, we just get to participate in our lives being transformed…. Thanks Chris

  2. Thank you for your post! The Lord truly spoke to me through it. On Monday evening I was at a study and the speaker was talking about David and despite how close he was to God, he wanted to be closer. She talked about how David asked God to reveal things in his life he was not even aware of that God wanted to remove or change. Your post spoke to my heart in the same manner. I typically feel like I’m pretty much the good guy (or gal in this case) when reading Proverbs. In fact, I confess that Proverbs is often “light reading” for me. Your post was a confirmation from the Lord that I need to change that.
    Blessings!
    Leslie

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