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.

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.