Proverbs 8:1-21 – How to Get Rich

With great understanding,
    Wisdom is calling out
    as she stands at the crossroads
    and on every hill.
She stands by the city gate
    where everyone enters the city,
    and she shouts:
“I am calling out
    to each one of you!
Good sense and sound judgment
    can be yours.
    Listen, because what I say
    is worthwhile and right.
I always speak the truth
    and refuse to tell a lie.
Every word I speak is honest,
    not one is misleading
    or deceptive.

“If you have understanding,
    you will see that my words
    are just what you need.
Let instruction and knowledge
mean more to you
    than silver
    or the finest gold.
Wisdom is worth much more
than precious jewels
    or anything else you desire.”

I am Wisdom—Common Sense
    is my closest friend;
    I possess knowledge
    and sound judgment.
If you respect the Lord,
    you will hate evil.
    I hate pride and conceit
    and deceitful lies.
I am strong,
    and I offer
sensible advice
    and sound judgment.
By my power kings govern,
    and rulers make laws
    that are fair.
Every honest leader rules
    with help from me.

I love everyone who loves me,
    and I will be found by all
    who honestly search.
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.
I always do what is right,
    and I give great riches
    to everyone who loves me. (CEV)

Maybe you, like me, are wary of get-rich-quick schemes. Those types of marketing strategies typically involve some path to becoming a millionaire in a short amount of time. Sometimes it works. Yet, 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 is called the book of “Proverbs” and it has something a whole lot more valuable than earthly riches. Proverbs makes the audacious claim of fame and wealth greater than any billionaire. And it is no scam.

So, who can have this? How does that even happen? 

Wisdom is the genuine path to a wealth transcending dollars and cents, stocks and bonds, cash and credit, gold, or silver. 

The Law of the Lord is perfect;
    it gives us new life.
His teachings last forever,
    and they give wisdom
    to ordinary people. (Psalms 19:7, CEV)

Wisdom in the book of Proverbs, and throughout Holy Scripture, is the ability to take truth about God and the world and apply it to actual concrete life situations. Just stop and think about that for a moment… Have you ever wondered what in the heck you are going to do? Do you have times when you just do not 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.

Be a friend to yourself; do all you can to be wise. Try hard to understand, and you will be rewarded. (Proverbs 19:8, ERV)

How do I obtain this biblical wisdom?  Lady Wisdom speaks to that question. Wisdom, personified as a sage woman, says that she gives great riches to everyone who loves her.

Highly esteem her, and she will exalt you.
    She will honor you if you embrace her.

proverbs 4:8, ceb

Sit and ponder Lady 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. We honor them enough to listen and do what is best.

Respect and obey the Lord!
    This is the beginning
    of wisdom.
To have understanding,
    you must know the Holy God. (Proverbs 9:10, CEV)

There are thirty-one chapters in the book of Proverbs. One way of carefully 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 upon and contemplate. The goal is to simply let Wisdom have her way with us – into our heart, mind, and soul – so that she is with us always. When that happens, you will discover 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 respond well and rightly to any and every situation in life, to the glory of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Proverbs 1:1-7 – Right, Just, and Fair

“Passing Wisdom, Planting Seeds,” building art in Brooklyn, New York City by artists Danielle McDonald and Jazmine Hayes

These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.

Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
    to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
    to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
    knowledge and discernment to the young.

Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
    Let those with understanding receive guidance
by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (NLT)

The pursuit of wisdom is a noble aspiration for the New Year. One of the best places to go in that pursuit is the biblical book of Proverbs because it is all about living wisely and not foolishly.

To acquire and live by wisdom means learning to become right, just, and fair in all our interactions and dealings with others.

“Right” for the ancient King Solomon is a relational term – to be righteous, to have right relationships with God and other people. Righteousness involves experiencing peaceful, harmonious, and fruitful relations. For the Christian, right living is to know the wonderful freedom and joy of an unhindered relationship through Jesus Christ in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. 

When it comes to fellow human relations, a person characterized by righteousness does not, for example, let the sun go down on their anger. It is to know personal peace as well as to be a peacemaker so that relationships do not remain strained but enjoy harmony.

“Just” is closely related to “right.” We might tend toward primarily understanding justice as a punitive act – and that is certainly a part of the term. God punishes the wicked (not us!) with appropriate timing and wisdom; and deals with those who withhold righteousness and love through their uncaring, inattentive, or evil acts. 

Solomon understood justice as mostly concerned with providing a person with the necessities of life. So, for example, if someone is hungry and needs food, or does not have clean water to drink, it is a “just” act for us to provide those critical needs. God is deeply concerned for justice and expects people to act in this same manner.

“Fair” is to be egalitarian. Fairness and equity binds righteousness and peace together by avoiding prejudice toward others and their needs. It means to not show favoritism because there is an unshakable belief in the equality of all people, no matter where they are from, what they do, or who they are.

Therefore, if we exercise righteousness and justice exclusively with individuals and groups we like, but ignore others in need, there is no fairness. To give our love and service to all persons without strings attached, or without being concerned to get paid back, is the practice of being fair in all our affairs.

To live in the way of being right, just, and fair in all things is to be wise. Conversely, the classic fool is one who judges others, creates discord, and ranks persons according to their own personal standard of who deserves help, and who does not. Trying to have a useful and gracious conversation with a fool is like trying to reason with a toddler – you will get nowhere. 

A good place to start in pursuing the wise and biblical virtues of righteousness, justice, and fairness is to ask God to open our eyes to those within our sphere of influence who need both physical and relational needs met. Then, follow through with loving those persons for whom God brings into our lives.

Almighty God, the essence and source of wisdom, you are always right, just, and fair in all things, I praise you for your infinite and abundant wisdom. Whereas you abound in wisdom, I am lacking. Please help me to grow in wisdom as I increase in my knowledge and respect of your divine presence. By means of your Spirit, please increase my depth of insight as I study your Holy Word. Hold me back from leaning on my own understanding and enable me to wholeheartedly embrace the wisdom from above. Righteous God help me to grow in wisdom continually and consistently. Teach me your ways. Since you are a just God who shows no favoritism, lead me into being like you in my dealings with others through the example of Jesus Christ, in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 3:5-12 – Choose Wisely

fork in the road
“The choice to make good choices is the best choice you can choose. Fail to make that choice and on most choices you will lose.” ― Ryan Lilly

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in. (NIV)

The book of Proverbs is a collection of short pithy statements based in experiential truth. In other words, they are wisdom sayings. Wisdom is a gradual accumulation of understanding over time with a combination of observation and practice. The Teacher highlights the wisdom needed to navigate life. It is a bit like learning the basic laws of the universe such as: Respect the force of gravity by not walking off the roof of your house. Wisdom pays attention and applies understanding to reality. Otherwise, you will find you have a broken life.

Notice the realities we need to respect from today’s verses: God, God’s guidance, God’s honor, God’s discipline. The wise response to the existence of these realities is trust, submission, reverence, and acceptance. In contrast, a foolish response to reality is pride, avarice, and hate.

Both wisdom and foolishness are seen for what they are through their consequences.

The wise person, having been taught a respect for God and the ways of grace, will most likely have an experience of guidance, health, abundance, and love. The fool who ignores divine counsel will probably experience misplaced trust, health issues, short-sighted financial decisions, and cruddy attitudes. All things being equal, the wise person who deliberately and carefully applies knowledge and understanding to life will have an abundant spirit full of satisfaction – whereas the fool who improvises everything will struggle to live in a small world of holistic poverty and want.

“You can’t choose your potential, but you can choose to fulfill it.” – Theodore Roosevelt  

The gist of the Old Testament lesson for today is that one cannot live as an island. We all need to practice consultation and collaboration to achieve a good life. Being both instructed and corrected are necessary elements to obtaining the good life. To spurn both divine and human connections in favor of radical personal independence is plain old foolish and leads to a lousy life. In short, the fool incessantly airs opinions with useless sophistry to an empty room; and, the sage is an observant student to universal rhythms and has learned the timing of proper words and of silence.

I am going to state this all in a different way:

Relying on God and others through making and keeping promises to one another is the basis of a solid community and a gratifying personal life.

Relying merely on one’s self is a one-way road to spiritual pain and emotional damage, not to mention physical illness and financial scarcity. Fools always think they know best. Sages always know better than that.

The book of Proverbs is a presentation, a dialectic, a contrast and a setting forth of two ways of approaching how to live in the world: foolishness or wisdom; independence or interdependence; cognitive pride or mental humility; negligence of evidence-based research or consultation through books, literature, and reading; exploitation of resources or submission to the natural laws and rhythms of the land; holding-on with clenched fist or generosity with open hand; Grinch-like attitudes or God-like dispositions; incessant criticism or heartfelt tribute; blame-shifts or recognition of other’s contributions; shame or vulnerability; resistance to correction or acceptance of discipline; hate or love; judgment or grace – there is a fork in the road and we must choose which way to go.

Choose wisely, my friend.

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace; and, in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 8:32-9:6 – Lady Wisdom

LadyWisdom

“So, my dear friends, listen carefully;
those who embrace these my ways are most blessed.
Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
don’t squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me,
awake and ready for me each morning,
alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.
When you find me, you find life, real life,
to say nothing of God’s good pleasure.
But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul;
when you reject me, you’re flirting with death.”

Lady Wisdom has built and furnished her home;
it’s supported by seven hewn timbers.
The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted,
wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers.
Having dismissed her serving maids,
Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place,
and invites everyone within sound of her voice:
“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?
Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
roast lamb, carefully selected wines.
Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
Walk up the street to a life with meaning.” (MSG)

To live a new life is to embrace wisdom. To be blessed is to graft wisdom into one’s daily life. To go about life with meaning, humility, and confidence are the unmistakable evidences of wisdom’s work within a person. It would be difficult to overstate the great importance of wisdom. Indeed, there is no such thing as too much of it.

The wisdom literature of the Old Testament Proverbs contrasts two approaches to life, personified in the book as Lady Folly and Lady Wisdom. Lady Folly relies on clandestine encounters, secrets, and seduction in promising satisfaction and a happy life. Yet, in the end, imbibing her drink poisons the soul and kills the spirit. Conversely, Lady Wisdom operates openly and in the daylight. She gives a clarion invitation to a genuinely good life and persuades others without manipulation to feast at her banquet. Eating from Lady Wisdom’s table is open to all, both the simple and the sage. She offers a perspective which brings insight and clarity to confusing situations and bewildering circumstances. Lady Wisdom sets up a person for a truly blessed life.

Perhaps an illustration would assist. Today is my youngest daughter’s 25th birthday. When my dear wife was only three months pregnant with her, she went into labor. The result was that, although our little baby girl remained secure in the womb, my wife spent the next 128 days on total bed rest. To put that season of life in the context of Proverbs, there were many days that Lady Folly showed up to offer the easy path of getting out of bed, just taking a short stroll, perhaps getting outside a bit, and enjoying life. To my wife’s great credit, she did not listen. Instead, she liberally ate at Lady Wisdom’s table every morning. Had she gone the route of Lady Folly my daughter would likely not be having a birthday today. Yet, this day my family celebrates life and a baby who has grown to be a blessing to the world.

You see, it is eating and drinking at wisdom’s table which brings enduring patience, proper perspective, needed perseverance, and satisfying provision for life. Impatience, narrow-mindedness, lack of following through, petty squabbling, and ignorance are the sad results of folly’s empty promises for a better life. Foolishness leads to death.

Wisdom is acquired through making daily routine decisions of faith and patience, of putting one foot in front of the other in a slow process over time. In contrast, folly seeks to circumvent time and process and speaks of deliverance and happiness now, right now, without all the fuss and hardship.

So, then, in our current social and economic climate; in our world dominated with the effects of pandemic; in our own personal lives; just what is Lady Folly barking at us about and Lady Wisdom inviting us to?…

Your answer and your response just might be the difference between life and death.

Thank you, Wise God, for being present, available, and inviting me to approach you in my times of need. Thank you for bending your gracious ear to listen and to care. There are times I feel weak, helpless, even afraid. Yet, I cling to the knowledge that God is with me. I know that you are Lord, and I am not; and, I know that you hold all situations in your good strong hands. Therefore, I trust you and I trust the process you have me undergoing to become wise and just. I ask for strength and for wisdom that I would be able to endure and handle everything in a way that will bless both you and the world; through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit I pray. Amen.

Click The Perfect Wisdom of Our God written by Stuart Townsend and sung by Keith and Kristyn Getty to help inspire us in the way of wisdom.