Saturday, August 3, 2019

Proverbial Wisdom

The Bible isn’t just a book of fables and tall tales as many see it. Those who want insight, particularly Believers, should view it as a presentation of practical knowledge that we can apply to our everyday lives. It’s common today for people to want small and easily digested tidbits of content. So reading some portions of the Bible does not appeal to them. Those parts are important and we should all strive to delve deep into the Bible to really begin to understand everything it has to offer. That said, the Bible does have little tidbits of information that can be readily applied to anybody’s life to make a difference. In fact, it has a whole book of such bits of insight – Proverbs.

Many of the proverbs are not overly spiritual in nature. For example:
The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper. – Proverbs 19:8
That certainly can apply to how we deal with the Bible. After all, wisdom can be obtained through the consumption of the information within the Bible, and understanding of what God is trying to tell us will certainly lead to spiritual prosperity at the very least. However, that particular saying works just as well when considering more worldly matters. If we seek to learn and gain insight in our world and understand the things around us, then we can probably expect to see a positive impact in our lives.
Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. – Proverbs 13:10
The danger of pride is something of which we should all be wary. As this proverb suggests, pride is the cause of much of the discord we experience in our lives. However, the second part of the proverb is just as important. Those of us who think we know everything and can’t be told anything are foolish. As this proverb tells us, being open to advice from others with good insight is wise.
Let someone else praise you and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips. – Proverbs 27:2
We probably shouldn’t get caught up in seeking praise at all, but this verse makes it clear that praise should come from others, particularly outsiders or strangers (in other translations) not ourselves. This is useful insight. Someone we don’t know is more likely to give us unbiased feedback, so praise we receive from them is likely trustworthy. Further, if we spend all our time patting ourselves on the back, we can lose perspective, and it becomes much harder to avoid that pride mentioned in the previous proverb.

Proverbs is full of useful sayings, and many of them, whether we realize it or not, have entered our common vernacular. However, we have to be careful. Not everything that sounds wise or invokes God comes from the Bible. For example, we’ve all heard the saying “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, no Biblical figure ever said that. It’s actually a quote from Benjamin Franklin. While Franklin was certainly a great man in many ways, imparting Biblical wisdom was not his specialty. Many of us have tossed this saying around because it appeals to our need to feel in control. We like to believe that goodness will come from our actions and any help God gives us will come as a result of the good work that we’ve already done. However, that actually flies in the face of what the Bible teaches us. God actually wants us to come to him with our requests and desires.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7
Based on what the Bible actually says, a more accurate stating of Franklin’s quote would be “God helps those who ask for his help.”

Not all of the Bible’s wise sayings are from Proverbs. Jesus gave us more than his fair share in the Gospels. One in particular, often called the Golden Rule, is especially important.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. – Luke 6:31
Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived by that simple rule. Surely, there are some sadistic and masochistic people out there that would endure pain just to see others suffer, but for the most part, people would be much more inclined to treat others well when they consider how they want to be treated.

The idea of reciprocity in how we all interact with each other wasn’t a new concept at that point in the Bible, but the perspective was a bit different. We saw it as far back as Exodus.
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. – Exodus 21:23-25
That way of looking at things has typically appealed to us as humans very well. We seem to like the idea of bad being done to those who have done bad to us. Many of the world’s justice systems seem to be built on the concept. If someone kills one of our loved ones, we execute them. That’s only fair right? Well, Jesus commented on that too.
“You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also. – Matthew 5:38-39
Jesus changed the narrative a bit and turned the concept on its head. He wasn’t telling us that we should just let people beat us up as is often said by those that seek to misrepresent his meaning. He was moving us away from our need to seek vengeance for every slight we receive and telling us we should not seek to do something that is wrong because we were wronged. With the Golden Rule, Jesus is forcing us to turn the concept back on ourselves. Instead of solely seeking to force others to experience the bad they have perpetrated on us. We should put the good on others that we would like to experience. This should be an easier thing to do. After all, we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control our own actions.

Whether your mind is on getting to Heaven or simply navigating through the world about your daily business, God’s Word can be of service. Sure, there are commandments we need to follow and doctrine we must apply to our faith, but there are also simpler and more concise truths that may be just as important. In the end, it’s all meant to bring us closer to God’s will. Whether it’s the most complicated parable Jesus told or the Bible’s smallest gilded nugget of insight, we should embed it all in our hearts and minds.

Chris Lawyer
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