Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Do We Need Proverbs?

"A stitch in time saves nine."
"The early bird catches the worm."
"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

These are examples of well-known proverbs, wise sayings meant to help a person make good decisions. Biblical proverbs are similar. They are wisdom sentences that are brief, grounded in experience, reflect everyday life, meant to be pithy and memorable, and give insight. For example:

He who despises his neighbour lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent. (Prov. 11:12). 

That's a helpful bit of counsel: watch your tongue.

Or how about this one?

As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. (Prov. 11:22)

The lesson there? A beautiful woman will not look so beautiful if she's indiscreet.

You can see how these are useful. Even someone who never gave much thought to the Bible would see the benefit of such counsel. It's just good sense. So, what is the difference between that kind of proverb and another? It has to do with the source of the wisdom being offered. Biblical proverbs are rooted in the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). If we do not fear the Lord, we will not appreciate his wisdom. When we fear the Lord, we will seek his wisdom and live it out in every day situations.

Our faith is expressed in the mundane, ordinary situations, the kind that Proverbs depicts. Wisdom is required not only so that we will have a good life, but so that we will live in a way that honours God. There is a reason why indiscretion is discouraged: it means we are not using our speech to honour others or God. Pursuing wisdom means we pursue God. Christ is the complete revelation of God's wisdom (I Cor. 1:30). To follow Christ is to pursue wisdom.

Wisdom demands that we think about the decisions we make. We live in a culture where feelings are regularly exalted above reason and thought. Because someone feels something, it must be right. If I feel like I need to say something that is ultimately harmful, it's okay, because I shouldn't deny my feelings. Employing wisdom means that we have to think through the matter, setting aside emotion. When emotion is in control, we don't stop to think. Just think of some of the most foolish things you have ever done; was emotion running high at the time? For most of us, times when we are hurt or angry are the times we are most likely to make foolish decisions.

The beauty of Proverbs is how practical they are. And we do love the practical things, don't we? But they are more than just practical advice; following them means we must fear the Lord, and that is something that will change us and shape us entirely.

If you are interested in learning more about Proverbs, here are some recommendations:
  1. God's Wisdom in Proverbs, Dan Phillips. This deals with the theme of wisdom in Proverbs.
  2. Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, John Kitchen. A verse by verse exposition of the Proverbs.
  3. Proverbs: Wisdom That Works,  Raymond Ortlund. A look at themes in the book of Proverbs. 

1 comment:

  1. Phillips did a great job with God's Wisdom in Proverbs. Highly recommended.