Proverbs 8:1-21

            Maybe you, like me, are wary of get-rich-quick schemes.  Those marketing strategies typically involve some path to becoming a millionaire in a short amount of time.  Sometimes it works.  If you look more closely to the success stories, you will almost always find a person who had a laser focus to acquire wealth, and a dogged commitment to seeing it happen.
            There is a get-rich plan in the Bible.  It’s called the book of “Proverbs” and it has something a whole lot more valuable than earthly riches.
“I can make you rich and famous, important and successful.  What you receive from me is more valuable than even the finest gold or the purest silver” (verses 18-19). 
 
Interested?  It’s a great headline.  It’s also very true – no scam.
            So, who can do this? How does it happen?
Wisdom is the genuine path to a wealth that transcends dollars and cents, stocks and bonds, cash and credit, gold and silver. 
 
Wisdom in the book of Proverbs, and throughout the Bible, is the ability to take the truth about God and his world and apply it to actual concrete situations in life.  Just think about that for a moment… Have you ever wondered what in the heck you’re going to do? Do you have times when you just don’t know what your life is supposed to be about?  Are you ever uncertain about how to deal with someone, or a group of people?  Wisdom has the answers.
            How do I obtain this biblical wisdom?  She speaks to that question:
“I always do what is right, and I give great riches to everyone who loves me” (verses 20-21). 
 
There you have it.  Consider that statement from Wisdom for a minute… When we love someone, we desire to spend time with them, to have an intimate relationship, to do anything for that person.
            There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs.  One way of moving through this book of Wisdom is to read one chapter a day for a month.  I do this exercise in reading at least once a year.  I typically pick out one or two verses a day to meditate and contemplate.  The goal is to simply let Wisdom have her way with you – into your heart, mind, and soul – so that she is with you always.  When that happens, you will find the kind of wealth and riches which are far beyond what you could ever dream.

 

Ever-Wise God, you call out at every crossroad and on every hill.  Yours is not a secret wisdom – it is for all to hear and learn from.  May Wisdom fill me to the full, so that I might live wisely, knowing how to live well; to the glory of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Proverbs 4:1-9

            “My advice is useful, so don’t turn away… Be wise and learn common sense.”  Wisdom is personified in proverbs as a sage counselor for whom we must pay careful attention to listen and heed.  Wisdom in the Old Testament is the practical application of knowledge and understanding.  It is the ability to take the knowledge of God and use it in everyday life in a way that leads to human flourishing.
 
            Thus, there are really two important aspects to wisdom.  First, the individual must possess some body of knowledge.  We cannot employ knowledge that we do not even possess.  So, it is absolutely imperative for us to seek understanding, to strive to see life from God’s perspective, and to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.  We must become readers, listeners, and devoted learners because without books, the ability to hear well, and the humble posture of discovery, we will never realize wisdom.
 
            Second, the individual must use knowledge in order to act, to live well.  Knowledge by itself, apart from relevant use, only produces puffed-up pride.  The reason for accumulating understanding is to use it for the benefit of others in love.  We have quite enough preening peacocks in this world with snappy opinions and answers for every earthly problem.  This world needs much less of them, and more of those who seek the humility that comes from biblical wisdom.  As the Apostle James once put it, we must be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
 
            When wisdom is realized, there is learning through both head and hands.  The book of Proverbs is perhaps the best place to begin constructing a life of wisdom.  Reading a chapter a day for one month will get you through the entire book.  Make a wise plan to carefully go through Proverbs sometime this spring or summer.  You will be very glad you did.
 

 

            Wise God, I love wisdom.  I desire it more than money, fame, or power.  Help me to use biblical common sense and learn the ways of Jesus through the enablement of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Proverbs 2:1-5

            It doesn’t take a genius to know that we are in something of a common sense crisis within our Western culture.  Suspicion, gullibility, and extreme vitriol now characterize vast quarters of America.  And we Christians even brazenly splash our ignorance across vast swaths of social media so that more and more people want nothing to do with neither the church nor Christianity.  What shall we do?
 
            “My child, you must follow and treasure my teachings and my instructions.  Keep in tune with wisdom and think what it means to have common sense.  Beg as loud as you can for good common sense.  Search for wisdom as you would search for silver or hidden treasure.  Then you will understand what it means to respect and to know the LORD God” (CEV).
 
            If we are going to raise our voices about something, then let us shout loudly in prayer for some basic wisdom and common sense from God.  Any fool can buy into a podcast rant or get sucked into a blogger damning all who are against his views.  But the wise believer will humbly cry out to God for the wisdom to live well and make good decisions with both mind and mouth.
 

 

            Wise God, you know all things and give grace to the humble.  I beg to see all things from your perspective so that I will speak as one who knows and loves Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Proverbs 22:1-21

            As a pastor, I have seen my share of parents broken over their particular son’s or daughter’s lifestyle and/or behavior.  In some cases, the parents have a great deal of work to do in their own lives in order to deal with shortcomings.  But in many other scenarios there are godly Moms and Dads who have experienced the heartache of a wayward child through no real fault of their own.  Yet, some of them feel tremendously guilty because of a famous (or infamous) verse tucked away in our Old Testament lesson for today:  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
 
            It must be borne in mind that there are many different literary genres in Scripture.  Narratives, parables, gospel, epistles, poetry, and even apocalyptic literature all occur in the Bible.  The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings.  A proverb is a short pity statement of experiential truth.  In other words, a proverb expresses a general truth in which, all things considered, a particular outcome will likely occur.  Proverbs were never designed to be ironclad promises of how things always are; they were meant to teach wisdom.
 
            So, when we come to the verse about training children, it cannot be claimed that if a parent does a certain set of practices and disciplines that the child will always come out living a certain sort of way.  Neither people, nor Scripture, operates in that manner.  What the proverb is designed to do is place the emphasis on the necessity of training children, and instructing them with intentional focus in the ways of God.  And, more than likely, that training will kick in when the child is an adult and living on their own.  But it is not a guarantee.
 
            Even God had rebellious children, and he was the perfect parent.  What Proverbs wants us to do is encourage us to put significant effort into developing children to be responsible people.  Like God, we teach, train, exhort, live by example, and discipline our kids.  We do it all because we seek to be faithful, and we live with the hope that our efforts are not in vain.  So, it is good for parents, teachers, and all who work with kids to have a plan for training those children.  As we do so, we trust God who is the One who ultimately does the needed renovations of the heart, and transformation of the mind.
            Gracious God, you are the Lord who alone can change lives.  Give me wisdom so that I might always pray intelligently, live circumspectly, and speak lovingly to all the children in my life for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.