The wisdom in Proverbs

Drew Collins, Crier staff

On May 27th, 2017, right after sophomore year, I got married. I have absolutely not regretted it for a second, before you ask. After five years of dating (two of which were long distance) I knew I wanted to spend my life with Joy.

However, that’s basically all I knew. I was 19, unsure of what to do after graduation, and seriously lacking in practical knowledge about adult life.

So when my father-in-law stood up during the wedding and prayed for wisdom for me as a husband (amongst many other things), I felt a desperate need for that wisdom. A few weeks later our pastor began a sermon series on the book of Proverbs, one of the Old Testament’s wisdom books.

With the burning desire for wisdom and the knowledge of where to look for it, I dove into an intense personal study of Proverbs.

Proverbs is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament, the others being Job and Ecclesiastes (though Psalms and Song of Solomon are sometimes included in the list).

Proverbs records the “wise sayings” of King Solomon, who asked God for wisdom and was granted it (1 Kings 3:1-15). The book is primarily written as advice from a father to his children, though it does include speeches and proverbs from people other than Solomon.

The purpose of the book is literally to provide wisdom to its readers, and Solomon makes it clear right off the bat what the first step to achieving wisdom is; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

Fearing the Lord is having humility, it is understanding our brokenness and need for change. It is the opposite of having contempt and pride. Right away the book of Proverbs challenged my attitude, and pushed me to change.

Proverbs lays out the costs of living a foolish life, and the benefits of living a wise one. Many times the book describes the foolish/wicked ones who wander through life unsure of where they are going, making mistakes and “not know[ing] over what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:19). These people are usually led into sin (Proverbs 7), or are taken advantage of by others (Proverbs 5:9-15).

On the other hand, wisdom provides “righteousness and justice and equity, every good path” (Proverbs 2:9). Further, Proverbs states that it was by this type of wisdom that God created all things (Proverbs 3:19).

This is a bold statement that wisdom is an aspect of God that we can possess. God is all-powerful, omniscient, omni-present, and wise, just to name a few of his aspects. We can’t have the rest of those pieces of who God is, but wisdom is a part of who God is that can be a part of who we are.

As for the actual wisdom of Proverbs, it teaches a number of timeless messages that made me question many of the ways that I act and think.

I believe that one of the worst feelings ever is the knowledge that I’ve messed up, that the consequences are coming, and that there’s nothing that I can do about it. So I immediately saw myself in Proverbs 6:6-11 which reprimands people for putting off work.

The message comes from an agricultural society where there was a certain, brief time period that was good for planting. If a farmer slacked off during that period they would have a weak harvest and would be hungry in winter.

However, they wouldn’t feel those effects for months, making procrastination easy. I got lazy like that far too often during my first couple years at school, and I knew that my junior and senior years were much more important. If I get lazy now it’s not my grades that will suffer, it’s my job opportunities.

Another message of Proverbs that comes up repeatedly in the book is that words can build people up or tear them down. This is stated most clearly in Proverbs 18:21; “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” This powerful statement made me revaluate how I speak to, and about other people.

These are just a couple of the topics that hit home with me as I read Proverbs. The messages of this book woke me up to my bad attitudes and habits, and drew attention to the fact that I wasn’t taking some important parts of daily life seriously.

Change is incredibly hard, but self-improvement is absolutely vital. Proverbs has become regular reading for me, I consistently find the wisdom I’m looking for in that book.

Whenever I get that familiar feeling of “I have no idea what I’m doing with my life or how to be an adult,” I return to Proverbs to find a little more of God’s wisdom.