Promoting rather than recording true wisdom.

Written by Blue Pipe Thoughts.

Having found the book of Numbers a bit of a slog, I felt that I needed some wisdom. So, I turned next to the book of Proverbs – but soon found myself wondering how to draw the line between wisdom and cleverness.

  1. Young people tend to follow their own desires instead of listening to the call of wisdom, and end up in trouble
  2. Wisdom and knowledge from elders will guide you to the right path – beware of novelty
  3. God’s wisdom leads to goodness; if you don’t listen for God’s guidance things will go badly
  4. Listen to your father; seek wisdom and don’t follow wicked people, or you’ll end up in a bad place
  5. Following wisdom is comparable to remaining faithful to your wife, rather than chasing after other women – a sure path to ruin!
  6. Try not to get yourself into a mess; but if you do, then don’t rest until you’ve got yourself back out of it again
  7. Don’t listen to unfaithful people
  8. The paths of wisdom and of foolishness are easy to tell apart; wisdom’s path comes from God, and leads to life
  9. Both wisdom and folly invite us to join them; those who respond to wisdom’s call are humble listeners, those who follow folly, are listening only to themselves
  10. Wisdom and the fear of God are the way to goodness, while wicked selfishness leads to ruin
  11. Generosity and honesty benefit all and are appreciated, but greed and untrustworthy behaviour create bad feeling, they will leave you lonely and despised
  12. The wise can be guided, but fools only ever follow their own path, and it leads to their destruction
  13. Discipline and diligence are ways of wisdom, while selfishness and laziness are the choices of fools
  14. Wise people make good life choices – seeking and obeying God is always a wise choice
  15. Be careful of the words you listen to, and the words you speak; both wisdom and folly can be heard clearly – if you listen…
  16. God guides those who are righteous, patient, humble and wise; proud people, who plot always for their own gain, will not find God’s saving love in hard times
  17. Quarrels, gossip, unfair criticism and lies can spread far and cause great harm – the wise keep quiet
  18. Faith and good relationships can sustain and protect a person, but selfish and foolish people who do not value these things have no refuge in times of trouble
  19. Kindness and good relationships are worth more than the wealth of all the rich idiots (who rage constantly against God and the world)
  20. Drive out dishonesty, gossip, laziness and disrespect, because God hates these things, and destroys those who practice them
  21. Kindness, generosity and righteousness will have longer lasting effects than treachery, greed and laziness, because God is in the former, but destroys the latter
  22. Wisdom, trust in God and mercy all go together – you should build your life with these rather than wealth
  23. Try your hardest to avoid addictive behaviours and substances, let yourself be led and disciplined by trustworthy people
  24. If you seek goodness, don’t worry about what wicked and lazy people are getting up to – their doom will find them in time
  25. Try to make sensible choices
  26. Don’t listen to idiots or look for trouble
  27. Seek good relationships with your family, neighbours and colleagues, and you will be well rewarded
  28. Those who are righteous and will listen to instruction, and live fruitful lives that bless others and themselves
  29. Uncontrolled clamour is the mark of the wicked and of fools, the wise are meekly disciplined and seek instruction from God
  30. A list of sayings, attributed to a man named Agur, includes the wisdom that no humans are truly wise and only God’s word can be trusted
  31. Some final wisdom from King Lemuel’s Mum, who teaches him to value a good woman, but warns him not to give his heart to an untrustworthy woman or to impair his judgement with strong drink

Much of Proverbs is imagined as a father-son conversation, but is also rich in female characters; a mother’s teaching is like a beautiful adornment to be worn (1:8-9), and wisdom is personified as a woman who shouts above the crowds and taunts the folks who ignore her (1:20-32). The theme of marital fidelity appears frequently; wisdom is compared to a beautiful woman, a mother and a good wife, whereas following the crowd is likened to chasing seductive unfaithful women, a casual flings and adulterous affairs.

Some of the chapters don’t have a discernable theme but just seem to be a collection of clever or funny sayings grouped together, so I had to choose a theme from among them to try and reflect the main ‘headlines’ of the chapter – a challenge for my bible condensing project! However, as the sayings quickly seem to become rather repetitive and predictable, trying to get an overall sense of them want really difficult. In fact, by chapter twenty-two it really feels that the author is scraping the bottom of the barrel for more ‘wise sayings’ and descends into trite truisms, rather than anything that seems actually wise or particularly helpful.

Throughout Proverbs it is suggested that good things will come to you, if you’re a good person. I don’t think this really fits most people’s life experience, but sounds more like the way most people wish that life worked out. I did feel that there was a true thread of wisdom running through the book of Proverbs though, in that it promoted listening, good relationships – with God and other people – and in the observation that a persons choices and actions will both decide and reveal the kind of person they really are.