Did You Know Proverbs Is Education For The Whole Of Life?
Proverbs is educational. To us “education” means a whole range of specialized subjects, unlike education as Proverbs saw it. But this doesn’t make Proverbs out of date, since the matters it covers are not those taught in our schools. Proverbs is education for the whole of life, designed to produce mature people, free from the naivety which sucks them into the clutches of thieves and harlots on one hand or on the other makes them vulnerable to exploitation by the rich and powerful. This does not make Proverbs mere worldly wisdom, since its spiritual basis and aim is declared at the outset (Proverbs 1:7). But spiritual people are not to be soft touches; they should have the wisdom of the serpent without his deadly bite (Matt. 10:16). We are now told at whom this education is aimed.
That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth—
Proverbs 1:4 (AMP)
These are not the weak-minded but the untaught and immature. Basically they are the young, who have not yet had the opportunity to become wise. But it can apply to others, such as Israelites whose parents had neglected their education, or Gentile slaves and prisoners totally ignorant of God’s law. Such needed knowledge of the right way to live, in order to acquire the discretion and prudence necessary for mixing in society and becoming good citizens.
This unique book is, as it claims, worth its weight in gold, for it fills a gap in our knowledge. The Bible is mainly about how we come from sin to salvation and are born into the family and kingdom of God.
But how do we go on and grow? How do we live in this corrupt world?
There is a tendency for believers to be naive, unsophisticated, gullible and credulous in the things of the world (Luke 16:8). Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents” without copying their deceit and malignity, and to learn from the people of the world. In fact “prudence” in Proverbs 1:4 is the word used of the serpent in Gen. 3:1 (KJV “subtle”, NIV “crafty”). This quality is capable of either good or bad use. Proverbs encourages the cultivation of this quality and shows how to direct it to holy ends, which it does in a number of ways, for example:
- It teaches us shrewdness in the common things of life, showing us how to discern the motives and methods of the people we deal with. Even in God’s Israel there were gangs on the lookout for recruits, prostitutes on the lookout for punters, and swindlers on the lookout for the gullible.
- It teaches us tact in handling our relationships, such as with our friends (Proverbs 25:17, 27:14, 17), with the bad-tempered (26:17), with the foolish (23:9) and the powerful (23:1-3, 25:15). The very first instance of Solomon’s wisdom the Bible gives us is one in which he discerned character, and on the basis of that exposed the truth (1 Kings 3:16-28).
- It teaches us to be aware of the dangers, which surround us, and the kind of people it is best to avoid altogether, lest we come off worse. Don’t try to take a mad dog by the ears (26:17).
Because it is rooted in the old covenant much of this can only work in a godly society . This is why it is good to study it along with JAMES, which is a book of wisdom for Christians in an ungodly society. These books are not so much about how to be saved as about how to equip yourself for everyday life in the real world and become a street-wise Christian.
The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]—
That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.
Proverbs 1:5-6 (AMP)
These have already been trained and are leading righteous lives. But they do not know everything and are not perfect. “For,” says Charles Bridges,
“A truly wise man is one, not who has attained, but who knows that he has not attained and is pressing on to perfection.”
Matthew Henry comments:
“This book not only makes the foolish wise but the wise better.”
Such can add to their learning, receive guidance in more difficult areas and become skillful in handling more complex people. Perhaps it was for such that the writings of men other than Solomon were included in later parts of the book, described by the terms in verse 6 as “enigmas and hard questions” (parables and riddles).
If you allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God complete access to your mind, then your life at home, at work, with friends, and in the world at large will be transformed. After all, the core message of the book of Proverbs is this:
“Do things God’s way, and you’ll be more successful in every sphere of life. Ignore divine wisdom, and you will fail.”
Our Western mind-set tends to equate knowledge with wisdom. According to the Bible, people can be called “wise” only when they behave wisely. Education and insight aside, does your behavior reflect wisdom?
How has the lack of wisdom affected your life?
Before we dig into the wisdom of Proverbs write down on a blank card a few words about how the lack of wisdom has impacted your decisions. Keep the card handy and make it a matter of prayer before you dig deeper in each day.