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

Advertisements

Overcomers

I am always right!

There have been three steps to this striking realization.

Firstly a friend said something along these lines “I cannot trust my judgement to be accurate because my mind is so committed to self-preservation”

The truth of this statement was instantly before me.  Our mind and will is always right because its goal is self-preservation.  I ought to deceive others if it protects me.  I ought to make every choice based on what provides the best outcome for me.  The ability of my mind to elevate and protect me in competition with others is surely right.  It is surely an advantage in this world to use every opportunity to secure advancement by using my influence, intelligence and resources.  Our judgement cannot be trusted to be accurate because it is designed to put me first in the same manner in which my hand will recoil from a flame.

With this thought lolling around inside I began to notice and recall situations and conversations in which people acted contrary to this new understanding of mine.  They have said things that are not natural, done things that provide no benefit to themselves.  Surely this is not right.  Something must have become dislodged  in their internal processing.

The third realisation is that these people who act without regard to their own advancement fall into two distinct categories.  Two diametrically opposite categories if such a thing is possible.  The first group of insane people seem to have some higher insight.  They see and recognise the choices that will lead to their betterment but choose instead to take a different path.  They appear to be following another.  They act in obedience and love.  Overcoming instinct, overcoming self rightness, overcoming defensiveness, overcoming self.  For ease lets call this group ‘Overcomers’ (I think someone may have coined that before me).

The other group who act without regard to their own advancement are very, very different.  They seem to make unusual choices.  They take paths that lead quite obviously to their detriment.  They choose companions that take from them, they spiral seemingly out of control, looking for a wall sturdy enough to break against.  And break they inevitably do.  These folks also seem to be following, but blindly, not knowing whom.

Both of these groups differ from ‘normal’ society in that they do not act rationally to defend and better themselves, instead they follow a different beat.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.      1 John 4:4-6