This is part twenty two in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that God is in complete control – Every person, whether great or small, believing or unbelieving, must do God’s will, whether he realizes he is doing it or not. I also saw that the path to destruction begins with greedily desiring things but not having the motivation to acquire them. I need to set my sites on godly goals and do all I can to reach them.
The chapter opens with the following statement: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” A good reputation in society is a natural consequence of living a life of wisdom. This is far more important than gaining a reputation based on my wealth. While wealth itself is not wrong, I should not be drawn to it above wisdom.
The seventh verse contains a statement with no moral judgment attached, something we have seen several times in Proverbs. It reads “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.” The author merely states an observation about this world – the rich generally rule over the poor. Wealth most often serves as the basis for power. Verse two, though, provides an important perspective. “The rich and the poor have this in common, The LORD is the maker of them all.” Despite the inequality in their social status, God created everyone as equals. They will both stand before Him for judgment for the same reason and will be judged on the same basis. Though wealth may determine one’s standing in this world, God will determine standing for eternity.
As verses 2 and 7 follow a theme, so do verses 6 and 15. “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” The author has continually emphasized the importance of raising a child in the ways of wisdom. The Hebrew expression translated “in the way he should go” means “setting a child along the path” or words similar to that. The point is that if I set my child walking along the path of wisdom, he will continue in it until he is old enough to understand himself. The fifteenth verse provides insight on how to train a child. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” The rod of correction does not apply only to corporal discipline but indicates a range of disciplinary techniques. Discipline is an important aspect of wisdom, for if I take the time to consistently and lovingly discipline my child, I will be setting his feet on the way to wisdom.
“The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!”” This verse provides a humorous statement on lazy people. Willing to do anything to keep himself from having to work, the lazy man will come up with any excuse, however absurd. In this proverb he insists there is a lion in the street and leaving the house would lead to his death.
Since chapter 10 the proverbs have followed a similar structure. Most have been two lines and often the second line contrasts the first, most often using the word “but.” Suddenly, halfway through this chapter, this changes. We are introduced to the “sayings of the wise” which will fill the next three chapters. There is evidence to suggest that these instructions are based on Egyptian wisdom literature, particularly the teachings of Amenemope. Though this may seem strange, we know that wisdom flows from God, so He can use this material that already existed to teach us His wisdom. The instructions are most often in the form of several verses which hold to a certain theme.
Verses 17 through 21 provide an introduction to this section. It exhorts me as the reader to listen to the words of the wise and not just that, but to apply this wisdom to my heart as well. Benefits to doing this are many: It is pleasant, it will help me trust in the Lord, I will know what is true and will be able to answer intelligently to other’s questions.
“Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.” This passage teaches that I should avoid making friends with people who are foolish, especially those who express their foolishness in constant anger and strife. If I admire him and spend too much time with him, I will begin to learn his ways and thus set a trap for my own soul. I will lead myself to my own destruction by assuming his behavior.