There are people in this world who need no persuasion to be on board with any plan. I happen to be one of those people. If someone tells me they have a plan for a ministry, I am beside them with the resources I can offer. If someone thinks of an interesting take on a passage in class, I try to make sure that we follow it out to its conclusion. During movie nights, I say, I say “I’m cool with whatever. You pick.” and actually mean it. I attribute this to some theatrical training, where the answer to something introduced into a scene during improvisation was always “yes, and…” and never “no!”
However, you are not me and may not even think like me. For many out there, it takes a long time to convince them of anything. And that is why I think it is important to recognize that the past couple messages have been dealing with Proverbs by trying to make a compelling argument for them. Hopefully, what follows is a summary of answers to the question, “Why read and study Proverbs?” Maybe, if you are on board, these reasons can help those who you know who are struggling with understanding the Old Testament and it’s application to today, or it’s meaning for those who are in Christ. (The reasons “it’s in the Bible” and “it’s inspired” are not included because I presume those to be true. Those questions are fundamental and essential for every Biblical study, and the reasons given here assume that the reader or the reader’s friend of family believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. If not, maybe these reasons could push someone into trying to live in wisdom, which could show them the truth of their teachings.)
1. One of the key reasons why Proverbs should be read and studied is that they are immensely practical. Other wisdom literature, like Ecclesiastes or Job, as grand and powerful questions like “what in life is eternal?” (Eccl.) or “what is justice?” (Job). However, Proverbs tries to answer questions like “how do I deal with my neighbors?”, “why is it wrong to have an affair if everyone else does it?”, and “should I just marry the most beautiful person I can find?” Proverbs teaches that wisdom is “knowledge applied in pursuit of that which is holy.” While it is important to recognize that every Proverbs is situationally bound and NONE of them should be applied mechanically to every situation, still they are practical and allow us to get our hands dirty in the in-and-outs of life. When we read Proverbs we learn how to do life well.
2. Another reason that we should look to Proverbs is that outcome of living in the Path of Wisdom or in the Path of Folly. Proverbs was written to dispense the wisdom of wise men, and through them, the wisdom of God. This has implications not only for our life now (above) but also for our future state. One thing that Proverbs says again and again is that wisdom brings long and abundant life, and foolishness, the opposite of wisdom, brings death. It means both death in the natural sense, but also eternal spiritual death. To live foolishly is to live wickedly, and living wickedly is to be out of connection to God. If for no other reason, we should be studying the Proverbs because we care about our eternal destiny.
3. But the phrase “if for no other reason” is problematic, because there is at least one MAJOR reason. If to live foolishly is to live wickedly and be out of connection with God, then to live wisely is to live righteously and to be in connection with God. True, we cannot thus earn salvation or demand anything from the Almighty if we live the book of Proverbs out, but we do understand the Lord’s heart as we live in his Wisdom. In fact, Wisdom personified is closely related to God, flowing through creation and showing his beauty, his majesty, his glory. And we can live in that wisdom today. This is the most powerful reason to study Proverbs to hear it’s case and to take up the challenge to do the hardest thing.
Because the hardest thing is not simply knowing why we should study Proverbs. The hardest thing is to Live It Out.
Live-It-Out Challenge – If you are still not sure about how great Proverbs is or still have fears about looking at it too deeply, make a list of the reasons why you are not. Ask God to help you overcome those fears so you can live into his word more deeply.
If you are sold out on Proverbs and ready to study it deeply, ask God to help you be there for your family and friends who aren’t there. Also, ask him to give you grace to understand why others have their fears, because you may have had them at some point yourself.
Finally, be reading along! If you are reading along at a chapter a day through the month of February, you should have read through chapter 8 by Super Bowl Sunday (2/5)! A chapter a day will give you a good feel for the book, which is important. (See previous blog post here.)
Good luck on the challenge, and Live It Out!