Proverbs 10: The Handbook for Life Part I

So now we come to it, Solomon’s guidebook for living, an “owner’s manual” for life that compares and contrasts wisdom with foolishness, virtue with vice. In the next several posts on Proverbs, I will treat The Wise Sayings of Solomon as if they are a foreign language to be decoded, explained, translated into plain English.  These two-line Haiku style poems, found in chapters 10 through 22:16, and continuing in chapters 27 to 29, represent the wisdom of the ages, condensed and codified, divided into 16 parts (and for my purposes, 32, so as to keep any one posting from hitting the realm of a doctoral thesis!), and showing us how to lead a good life before the eyes of God.

Solomon’s Wise Sayings begin with a simple, yet profound observation;

1A wise son brings joy to his father,
 but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

If you make good choices in life, it’s your dad who is the proudest of you, but it’s a mother who feels it most, whose heart is broken when a child turns out wrong. Dads are more apt to cut their losses and distance themselves from a hurtful situation, but moms suffer for it. They’re the ones who hold out hope, even when all hope seems lost, that some good would come from a difficult situation. That’s why it’s such a joy when a prodigal child to return home, such a blessing when one realizes the error of one’s ways.

2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
but righteousness delivers from death.

The things that we hold most dear are those that we have to toil to achieve. If we don’t have to work for something, we have no concept of its worth, its true value. If we are dishonest, take short cuts or take advantage of others to get what we want, it usually doesn’t turn out very well.

3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

God takes care of those who follow his way, his instruction, yet he also frustrates the desires of the nefarious. He takes care of his own. Luke 12:24 tells us “consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

4 Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.

We are keepers of our families, our homes, our communities, and productivity is the better part of good stewardship. There are things in life that simply need to be done, and when we neglect them, whether it’s our health, our finances, or our spirituality, we find ourselves in situations that can bring us to ruin.

5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 we are told that to all things there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Wisdom teaches us the practicality of taking action at the appropriate time, of “making hay while the sun is shining,” but if we are heedless or neglectful of our duties we dishonor ourselves.

6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

When we are honest and decent, living our lives respectably, and treating people with honor, the blessings we bestow upon others returns to us manifold.  But, if we let our mouths over load our backsides, disrespecting and demeaning others, causing them pain and anguish, then we can expect to reap vehemence and cruelty.

7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings,
but the name of the wicked will rot.

We remember and honor virtuous folks, and we use them as examples to follow, to pattern ourselves after. But the wicked are reviled, detested and condemned, and they are irrevocably linked to corruption and perversion.

8 The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

The idea of attaining wisdom is connected to the notion of learning from our own or others’ mistakes, listening for and accepting instructions, taking responsibility for our actions and moving forward. But the foolish never listen, take responsibility, or accept directions. They blabber on, smugly believing they know it all, and their arrogance is their down fall.

9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

If we take the high road, walking in truthfulness and decency, our road is protected, and we can feel confident in our dealings with others. But, if we are deceitful, telling half-truths and twisting the facts, it is our scheming that eventually exposes our falseness and dishonesty.

10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

When we are unkind, making fun and talking behind other’s backs; the consequences are pain and suffering for ourselves and others. When we chatter on without regard to what we are saying, we are the one who ends up with egg on our face, who is disgraced.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

When we speak honestly, have decency and are respectful of others, we become a source for understanding and inspiration to them, but the malicious and contemptuous, disguise their true intent with their words.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.

Animosity always precedes conflict, and discord begets more hatred, but love, love is the answer. It erases all wrongs and understanding is its progeny.

13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

You can think whatever you want to, but it’s not very wise to say everything you think; discernment is the key to getting along with others, and those who show no sense inevitably suffer for their lack of judgment.

14 The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

To become wise, we must adopt the habit of listening. It’s through our ears that our knowledge builds upon itself, like a house is built from the foundation up, but those who are foolish attract ruin, because they are incessantly bragging of all they know, rather than listening.

15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

When we appreciate the blessings in our lives, we recognize God’s abundance, and our blessings become our fortification, but if we are never satisfied, and see only the thing we do not have, then our attitude of ingratitude becomes our ruin.

16 The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

When we live in an honest and virtuous manner, what we gain is character, spirit, life, but if we are corrupted, dishonest and malicious, then we are as zombies, we are dead inside.

And so ends my translation of The Handbook, Part I.        ~ SLM

Proverbs 9 Prayer

Heavenly Father, blessed possessor of eternal wisdom, show me how to be wise to truth. Set my feet on the path that You have chosen, and fortify me with Your discipline that I may recognize foolishness in all its guises. Fill my heart with Your love and graciousness that I may eat from your banquet table, growing more like You with each day, and dwelling in the fullness of Your rich presence. Amen.

 

~SLM

Proverbs 9:13-18 The Great Pretender

Sometimes it’s hard to determine what is true and right, and in our search for a better life, a wise life, we must be ever vigilant, ever discriminating, because foolishness dresses up as wisdom would do. She is the great pretender. She puts on her costume, recites her lines, and invites us in with trickery and dishonesty, only to entrap us with lies and deception.  She’s that person who we’ve all trusted and shouldn’t have, the direction we’ve taken that became a dead-end, the hope of change we’ve put our faith into that appeared to be something it was not, and that’s what this section of Proverbs 9 reminds me of, misplaced trust.

But it’s more than simple misplaced trust; it’s an active pursuit to mislead. There are so many voices shouting out for our attention, urging us to follow blindly the latest fads, telling us what the “cool” kids would or would not say, and asking us to accept without question the opinions of “enlightened” thinkers who can show us the way to a better world.  “Beware of the teachers of the law.” says Luke 20:46-47, “They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” Folly’s whole end-game is to steel our lives and to lead us into darkness. Therefore, we must consider the spirit of things; test their metal, to see who it is we are following.

Wisdom is of God, of His spirit and of His word, and as such is reflective of His character. Folly is not of God, and while she would have us believe that she is, when we scrutinize her actions, her behavior, the advice of 1 John 4:1 rings true: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

 

~SLM

Proverbs 9:7-12 Pearls Before Swine

To understand this section of Proverbs 9, we need a clear understanding of the word scoffer. So what is a scoffer?  The word means: to show contempt by derisive acts or language; to treat or address with derision. In other words, it’s about mocking, sneering, or rejecting with vigorous contempt. Scoffers feel compelled to scorn and ridicule others, especially when confronted with anything that opposes their own narrow and most times self-righteous view of things. Wisdom tells us that correcting a scoffer will only bring us dishonor, that it is vain for us to attempt chastisement in the face of contempt, and that it is best left to God.

 

Just the other day, I had the choice between censuring someone for their unacceptable behavior, or just leaving it to God. I choose to scold, and let me tell you, it did not turn out very well – it never does. It didn’t solve anything, and I can guarantee that NOBODY learned a flippin’ thing from it. I don’t know why it is that sometimes we feel the need to take matters into our own hands. Maybe it’s our less-than-perfect nature, or maybe it’s just that we are so busy telling God and everyone how things ought to be that we forget to stop and listen, we overlook wisdom’s warning. In Matthew 7:6, we are advised: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces,” yet it seems that many times, we throw wisdom to the curb and run head-long into situations that are best left to God.

Many years ago, while I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, I read somewhere that when you find yourself to be the object of derision, where you are constantly berated and belittled, you should find a quiet place to sit and contemplate this: If I were to find myself standing in front of my maker right now, would this be what He sees in me, would what so-and-so has said or done even matter, or change my relationship to Him? The answer is NO, of course it doesn’t, and maybe our benefit from learning wisdom’s way, our promise of a long and prosperous life, doesn’t have to involve giving ourselves a heart attack over fools who, in the end, really don’t matter in our lives!

It’s a comfort, the promise that Wisdom makes us; Wisdom rewards those who are wise, and those who scoff will suffer alone. Like a bee, extracting honey from every flower, learning begets more learning, and understanding creates more understanding. Proverbs 9:7-12 assures us that the old adage is true; what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow, for every action, there’s a reaction. The common thread here is a singular train of thought: What you put out into the world, you will surely get back, and the one who seeks wisdom is rewarded with it.

 

~SLM

Proverbs 9:1-6 Wisdom’s Feast

In Matthew 22, Christ tells the parable of the King and the wedding banquet in which the king had prepared the feast (slaughtered his oxen and fat calves and mixed the wine), but those who had been invited refused to come, so he had his servants go out and gather people from the street corners to fill the wedding hall. This parable shares many of the same aspects as does Solomon’s tale of Wisdom’s feast. Wisdom has fashioned her seven pillars (principles) and prepared a place for us, has made everything ready, and stands by the door waiting for us to arrive.  The messengers have been sent forth, and are standing in the midst of our lives, calling out to us to take part in the banquet.

The goal is not to simply get to the table, but to eat from the table; to eat the bread and drink the wine that Wisdom has prepared. Wisdom’s table is not the culmination, but the commencement of the journey. Christ said to his disciples in John 6:26, “you seek me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” Sitting at Wisdom’s table creates a hunger in us to “eat of the loaves,” to accept the bread of life and to drink of the cup of truth. And, the more we eat, the more we wish to eat, the more we understand, the more we wish to understand.

I just kept thinking of the Eucharist, of Christ blessing the bread, saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the wine, and noting how Holy Communion is connected to these passages Proverbs 9: “Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake all thoughtlessness and live; and walk in the way of understanding.”

 

~SLM

Proverbs 8: A Prayer for Guidance

Heavenly father, your love and guidance amaze me. Thank you for the wonders of your Wisdom which is ever present, ever patient, waiting in plain sight for us to simply take note. Bless my eyes, dear God that I may see; see your hand in everything, no matter how great or small, and no matter how joyous or painful. Bless my ears, oh Lord that I may hear; hear your loving voice in every situation, no matter how difficult or harmonious, and when I have lost my way, fill my heart with your gracious Wisdom that through Wisdom’s presence, I may truly live.

Amen.

~SLM

Proverbs 8:22-36 Let Those Who Have Eyes See

Wisdom’s words in Proverbs 8:22-31 are strikingly similar to the language the gospel of John uses to describe Christ. John 1:1-4 states that the Word was with God from the beginning, and that nothing came into being apart from him. Similarly, this section of Proverbs describes how Wisdom was with God before the earth began. The Lord possessed Wisdom at the beginning of his work, as in acquired or held; creation requires wisdom in the first place in order that it (creation) may be generated, formed, constructed. Wrap your head around that conundrum!

But wait, there’s more…Consider this:

The word was formed before all creation, and the word was with God. Wisdom was also with God. The word is wisdom and Christ is the word, hence wisdom is Christ. Wisdom is also the spirit, so Christ is the manifestation of wisdom – wisdom incarnate – and wisdom is God’s delight and rejoices before Him, praising His creation.

It’s interesting how themes are repeated and expounded upon in scripture, like puzzle pieces that fit together in only the proper sequence, exposing ever more profound turns of how wisdom works.

When God opens your eyes to his truth, He shows it to you wherever you look: His wisdom awaits your notice, and once we have eyes to see, we always see.

~SLM

A note on connecting the dots…

Normally, I use a New Inductive Study Bible that my mom got me at a garage sale, complete with lots of hand written notes in the margins, or my New International Version, which is easy to read, and I also use biblos.com and biblegateway.com, as well as aish.com, when studying for my posts, but when It’s time to write a prayer, I go to the Lutheran Study Bible my sister got me. This bible is humongous, it’s part scripture and part foot note, there are lots of footnotes, and not including the concordance, it sports 2244 pages.  So this morning, I pulled out the big book, and as is my habit, started reading the footnotes for chapter 8. At nearly the end of the chapter was a commentary entitled “Christ as Wisdom” that discussed the very ideas that I had expressed in this posting. I was amazed to see that others have also connected the same dots that I had…talk about once we see, we always see!  Synchronicity.

SLM 5/23/13

Proverbs 8:1-22 Seek and You Will Find

Wisdom is right in front of us. Everywhere we go and in every situation we find ourselves, she calls out for us to see her, standing in plain sight on a crowded street corner, behind a cart at the grocery store, waiting in line at Starbucks. She cries out for us to take notice, to hear her message, not in the brash, loud voice of the temptress, but in the quiet, confident tone of a knowing mother. She waits patiently for us to seek her out, to willingly stop and listen, to still ourselves in the midst of controversy and mayhem, to focus on her steady voice, ringing clear and true, like temple bells tolling for the faithful. If we hope to heed her sage advice, and to keep her company, then we must recognize her in our daily lives, and in order to do that, we have to know what she looks like.

It’s interesting to me how the simple act of seeking can point us in directions that we never imagined existed. Like Paul’s model of what constitutes Love in 1 Corinthians 13, the first half of Proverbs 8 offers a model by which we can identify wisdom. Wisdom is discrete and prudent, not arrogant or prideful, knows the fear of the Lord, and speaks to truth and understanding. It’s a portrayal that is not altogether dissimilar to Paul’s description of love, and as Christ promises us in Matthew 7:7 that if we “ask, it will be given; if we seek, we will find; if we knock, the door will be opened,” likewise, we are assured that if we seek wisdom diligently, we will find it.

~SLM

Proverbs 7 A Prayer Against Temptation

Heavenly Father, creator of the seeds of wisdom, root your word in my heart that I may grow in truth and light.  Lead me away from the enticements of the temptress, and keep me safe from her carefully placed snares.  Help me to keep company with your wisdom as I would a sister or a trusted friend, and show me Your will that I may know Your way. Amen

~SLM

Proverbs 7 What Waits in the Shadows

Ah, the seductress, once again she visits us to tempt and deceive, to lure and entrap.  Solomon uses her to paint a picture of how we can allow flattery and desire to mislead and betray us. He describes her as brazen and brash, as roaming the streets and lying in wait for just the right time to approach, using our cravings to entice us into sin.  She snares us by our own folly, and we willingly follow her down the path of destruction and death.

While reading this chapter, I couldn’t help thinking of “The Lord of the Rings.” The details with which the story is related, reminded me of the tale of the Nazgûl, the nine black riders, who once were mighty kings and whose greed and lust for power became their undoing, distorting and disfiguring them, transforming them into hideous, unrecognizable creatures. Like the naïve young man in Solomon’s account, they were seduced by the promises of forbidden fruit, and through their eager acceptance of the dark lord’s gifts, they became enslaved to his will.

We have all, at one time or another, been in Solomon’s shoes, looking out upon a scene we know will not end well, watching from a distance as a loved one makes a wrong turn, seeing the outcome as if someone had drawn a diagram on a chalkboard. If only they could see what we are seeing, the traps that have been set, the heartache, the devastation waiting in the shadows.  We can protect ourselves from the snares of the seductress, and Solomon tells us that wisdom’s voice is the only guard we have against her, that the temptations of our worldly desires can be waylaid through talking to wisdom as if she’s a sister, and through treating her insight as a constant companion.

 

~SLM