There are many reasons we might be rich or poor. Lazy or hard working (Proverbs 10:4-5). Wasteful or frugal (21:17). Lucky or unlucky (17:5). We might be poor because bad things happen or rich because good things happen. Injustice (13:23). Even if we’re not actively taking advantage of others, we still do it without realising (clothes made by forced labour).
Our temptation is to think of ourselves in a positive light and of others in a negative light. All of these reasons will apply to different extents to all of us. We might have wealth for all kinds of different reasons. It’s important to not judge others by their wealth or poverty. We’ll be judged in the same way. All of our situations are complex. We shouldn’t put our hope in wealth. Money can easily be our fortress, or longing for it. It might appear to be a strong fortress, but it’s not on this earth. If it is, we’re not trusting in Jesus.
We should be generous with what we have. We need to look at ourselves. What are you doing with your money? There is no threshold for being generous. We are called to be generous with all that we have. If we are generous to others, people will be generous to us. We should care for the poor (14:31). Do you look at the poor around you and realise they are people made in God’s image? It’s easy to be generous to each other.
We can’t succeed if we just try harder. We’ll never grasp Proverbs unless we grasp what God has done for us in Jesus. In God’s eyes we can’t bring anything of worth. As we look at Jesus and his love, our love for others can grow.
What we say and what we don’t say matters. We can be heartbroken by words. Every choice we make is a step towards life or death. Proverbs is full of advice about our words. They can bring blessing or destruction.
We should listen to the wisdom of others to discern what to say (11:14, 15:5). It’s human nature to think we know best. The world knows that listening to the wisdom of others leads to blessing but sometimes it’s hard to accept. Our first response is to try to justify ourselves. We should accept correction graciously. Even if we think it’s wrong there will be elements we can learn from.
We should listen to the wisdom of God. Knowing and trusting Jesus is the only sure foundation for a wise life. Even less do we like to be corrected by God. We need to stop defending ourselves and accept the correction from God that we have sinned. Jesus has done everything for us.
We have to use our words carefully to bless others (15:1, 25:15, 26:20). We can persuade people. Sometimes it’s hard to take criticism and not give it back. When we start grumbling we don’t deal with the problem. Our goal with everything we say or write is to point others to Jesus. We are to offer forgiveness because we have been forgiven much more. We are to be gracious because Jesus has shown grace to us. We are to repay evil with love. Jesus has served us far more than we could ever give.
Every situation is different (26:4-5). We should work out how to bring blessing in a situation. We’ll get things wrong, but if we’re patiently trying, God will help us and will enable us to point more people to Jesus. Our responsibility is to consider that.
There are two women, wisdom and folly. Wisdom is someone who works hard and wants to do the right thing. At first glance they seem the same. ‘Simple’ means normal people. As far as God is concerned, wisdom leads to life and foolishness leads to death. It can be hard to tell the difference. Foolishness can be really attractive. It seems a good idea at the time. Other people do it. Adam and Eve knew they shouldn’t eat the fruit but it looked attractive.
The true path to wisdom begins with following Jesus
The only true path is fear of the Lord. It’s a respect, an awe, a recognition that God knows best. He made us and cares for us but we’ve made choices to reject him. We do what we think is right instead of listening to God. One death can be enough to pay for all of our debts. God gives us a choice. He invites us to follow Jesus. It’s only by following Jesus that shows we fear the Lord.
The path to wisdom means listening to teaching
How do you respond to teaching? Even good teaching isn’t always easy to listen to. We are to listen to correction. If you refuse you’re a wicked man. How we respond is a sign of whether we are living a wise life or a foolish life. Sometimes someone tries to correct you when you know you’re right. Listen graciously.
The path to wisdom ends with life
It’s generally true that if someone lives a wise life, they will live a longer life. The opposite is also true. One day Jesus is going to come back. Biblical wisdom ultimately leads to life. Christians think the most important thing to do is to follow Jesus. We all try to live a wise life but if the foundation isn’t Jesus, ultimately it’s a foolish life. Whatever wise choices we try to make, we make wrong decisions all the time. There is grace and forgiveness.
How are you going to respond to God’s teaching? Will you live a life of wisdom with the foundation of Jesus?
These are the proverbs of Solomon. He’s known as the wisest person who ever lived. God spoke to him. There is a warning as well. Solomon stopped listening to the wisdom God had given him and lived for himself. It’s all very well to learn what the proverbs say but if we don’t put them into practice they are of no use. We should be constantly learning. Whoever you are, the book of proverbs will teach you and you’ll be equipped to understand what others tell you. Solomon wants us to know that wisdom matters.
Wisdom – how to live well alongside other people in the real world. Intelligence isn’t the same as wisdom. Wisdom isn’t success.
Chapters 1-9 – advice from father to son
Chapters 10-29 – the proverbs
Chapter 30 – an example to follow
Chapter 31 – advice from mother to son
A life of wisdom leads to righteousness, generosity and integrity, which leads to success and peace. A life of foolishness leads to selfishness and pride that leads to ruin and shame.
This is a book of the general principles of life, not a book of promises. Job, Psalms and Ecclesiastes deal with the brokenness. What matters is what kind of person we are becoming, not what we achieve. Every choice we make affects the person we are becoming. There is no one thing that defines who we are. The path of wisdom is best, even if it doesn’t lead to success. How can you be wise in a situation? Every big and small choice is a step towards foolishness or wisdom. Which direction is your choice taking you?
The only sure foundation for a wise life is an awe for Jesus. It’s taking God seriously. Fear of the Lord means realising that there are ways we should act according to him. It means doing that no matter if someone is watching or not. He alone has the right to tell us. Jesus is the one who knows best. He loves us so much that he came to rescue us. There is forgiveness when we live foolishly. We have no right to judge another person. Wisdom enables us to live well in the real world, but it’s only possible with an awe for Jesus.
Our motivation for doing right is a fear of the Lord.
Plug into reality (v19-20)
The Bible teaches us there is a personality behind creation. The world is made so that generally speaking hard work pays off. The character of God established the value of work and thoughtfulness in the world. The only way we have a society that functions is if we think of the impact of our actions. The wisdom that this passage describes shows that evolution wouldn’t contain those qualities. If you’re wise you’re plugging into the way God made the world.
Wisdom brings life (v13-18)
The path of wisdom is one of peace. It’s hard to change yourself to fit in with the way God wants you to be. Is true living ease and money? Or is it a full life? The ones who head out on adventures with the God who made them. We know what a good life will have been. Wisdom is better than riches. Life is walking with God’s radical values built into creation. There’s a chance to be a blessing to others if you don’t let money control you.
Wisdom brings safety (v21-26)
If we all know we can trust each other, we can be free. If we suspect each other, we won’t. If you’re willing to fear only God there’s nothing left to fear. A life where you walk hand in hand with God and all you care about is God’s opinion, that is a life that is safe. God’s good opinion is guaranteed if you’re trusting in Jesus. Our security in life is dependent on things that aren’t secure. Fearing only God is safer.
Stop faffing and get on with it (v1-12 & 28-35)
There are practical examples of wisdom. Keep loving people with cost. Steadfast love keeps going and is costly. Submit to God everywhere. Whatever makes up your days it all takes place in God’s world. What does it mean to play the long game in this place? It’s a death, but it’s a life. Don’t think you are clever. You will always need God’s help. Give your money to God first. Does the way you use your wealth honour God? Appreciate God’s discipline. It’s unwise to get angry at being questioned. If you can be generous, do be. Treat those near you well. Don’t plot harm against your neighbour. Don’t pick fights. Don’t envy bad success.
Plug into reality (v19-20)
Jesus didn’t reinvent the rules to win. He saw that this way of living made sense. He saw that wisdom sometimes doesn’t make sense. If he can’t ignore the way the world was made, neither can we.
God doesn’t want to be your sat-nav. The relationship is more like a child with their father. The invitation that Jesus gives us is to walk hand in hand with the God who loves us. We get to know the God who made us. Growing in wisdom will be growing in knowing how the world works as you know the one who is in charge. For most things in normal life there is no right or wrong answer.
Prudence is pretty (v1-6)
Solomon thinks prudence is a good thing. It’s the way we bring good stuff into the world that God has made. A prudent person thinks about the person they are becoming. They play the long game, not the short game. We think we just choose. That’s not the way we’re made. Every choice shapes the way we’re becoming.
Fear isn’t foolish (v7)
Christians aren’t scared of God but stand back and have him in his proper place. You don’t need to be scared of him punishing you but you need to be in awe of him. The only first right step is to hold him in his right regard. Fearing God, thinking you want to be on the right of side of him is the only way to be wise.
Selfishness is stupid (v8-19)
Proverbs is a simplified view of the world. We get a picture of parents (the wise). There are the wicked. Listen to those who make good decisions. The wicked are motivated by wealth and selfishness. You don’t want the life you end up with if all your decisions are about getting things for yourself. That life is death. Hear the call of those who’ve walked before you. How would their concern for the long game play out? What’s motivating you? What type of person would you become?
Paths pull you (v15-16)
The more you begin to see the world God’s way the more you want to live that way. Once you join in with rejecting God’s wisdom it’s a slippery slope to disaster. Hear wisdom’s voice now. The world is full of Christians who took a break and then look back at a life stolen by a few bad decisions. The choices will form the person you become.
Jesus became the wisest ever person to offer to live in our lives so that we love wisdom. Imagine what a church full of wise people could do in a world run by the wicked. Imagine if we were all putting to death decisions based on getting stuff.
The invitation to the good life doesn’t always seem desirable or very wise.
Why does wisdom matter? It is the foundation of social order (v12-18). In leading with authority, there is a great temptation to lead with pride, arrogance and perverse speech. Wisdom is built into the creation order (v22-31). Wisdom is described as being at the beginning of all of creation and being built into the very fabric of how the world was created to be. Slow down and understand that what you’re doing is valuable. Wisdom bears fruit and a rich inheritance (v19-21).
Wisdom is concerned with the long term growth and an inheritance. The rewards of wisdom may not seem immediately apparent but it’s worth it. As a Christian, you have your entire life to make wise decisions. Wisdom is relational.
Who is wisdom? Godly wisdom is hard to desire. We often don’t think it’s worth it but that’s because we’re going about it the wrong way. Listen to the one who made you and is walking through your life with you. Jesus came down to show us what the truly wise life is – perfectly relating to humanity, perfectly relating to creation and perfectly relating to his heavenly father. The lengths he went to to save us proves that this good life is worth it. Ask yourself what is Jesus teaching me in this situation or what is Jesus calling me to.
The heart is our whole inner self. Proverbs has a lot to say about the heart. The heart can be wise or foolish. We get contrasting pictures of this all the way through. It’s the heart that trusts and loves and provides our hopes. What is your heart trusting? What is it hoping for? If everything flows out of it, one’s life reflects the heart. Whatever our heart wants is what our life will look like. Proverbs also tells us the heart is corrupted. There is a struggle in ourselves between trusting in ourselves and in God.
We should only follow our heart if what it’s leading you to is wise. Left to their own devices, our hearts wants and longings are foolish and corrupt. The things that your heart loves will eventually be seen in the way you live your life. If our hearts are foolish, our whole lives will be too.
Every decision we make is moving our hearts to either being foolish or wise. It’s easy to make excuses when our decisions are foolish. Our heart is the part of us that God will test. When he does, what will he find? Impure hearts will not survive the test. We can’t ignore the reality of our foolish hearts and stand in opposition to the one who rules the world and will judge it. When we open our hearts to the Lord, he pours love onto us and rewrites what we love.
Christ died for us so he can cleansed from our impurities. His love changes your inner self. In Christ, our heart is transformed, saved by him. We will always follow our hearts, but they are prone to attach themselves to foolish things. Where is your heart leading you?
We all want this good life but can be tempted to think we can get it without its creator. The good life apart from God looks deceptively exciting but it leads to death. The world is full of temptations to find the good life on our own. Don’t even start along the path towards the temptation.
We can be conned. The father urges us to run away. Every small decision that we make does change us. There is a moment where we decide that the wise thing to do for ourselves is to step outside of God’s wisdom. It puts us on the path towards death. It’s complete foolishness. You’ll realise that you’ve lost everything that matters when it’s too late. People fall for the call to adultery. We don’t realise that every decision in our life pushes us towards wisdom or foolishness. Being willing to be turned from the path is almost impossible.
If this true satisfaction can only be found in the way God intends, how can we avoid this path? Love the one you’re with. We go from destructive power to thirst quenching joy and wisdom. You already have everything you need to be truly satisfied right where you are. Ultimate satisfaction is found in Jesus. He offers this eternal satisfaction. He offers to quench our thirst in a way that’s only available through him (John 4:14). Knowing Jesus means knowing that you already have what satisfies you in your life.
The writer gives a final warning. Your decisions are made in full sight of God. Whichever path you are on, God sees it. It leaves us with one question. Am I becoming foolish or am I becoming wise?
Proverbs is unfamiliar territory. It suggests our pursuit of the good life in this world is good.
We all want the good life
God creates and it is good. Some pictures echo Genesis 1. What is the good life? How do we live it? Wisdom literature forces us to deal with how we spend the rest of the day. Even if we seek the holiness of the law, we can still make a mess of our lives. We take very little time to think of everyday activities. Proverbs shows there’s many ways to be foolish, as well as wise. The good life is built into creation almost like a song. It’s our job to play along with it.
We all lead wise lives
Wisdom is composed of knowledge and action. It’s putting knowledge to work. Two kinds of wisdom – man’s and God’s. Both claim to be wise. One says seek, the other rest. One says despise, the other learn. Do you find yourself using your own wisdom or godly wisdom? Proverbs shows us we can think we’re wise but actually be foolish.
The good life is a godly life
Trust, learn from, honour the Lord. Fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We live in his good world as his created beings. It’s not enough to simply know about God. Wisdom requires you to put this understanding to work. The good life doesn’t come without cost. Some of our wisdom must die. Do you move through life just reacting? Do you act like your decisions are accountable to God? Where are you ignoring your need for wisdom?