I apologize for not posting on Tuesday of this week, it was moving day and I am excited to tell you that we are in our house and there are boxes everywhere! So, here is a post for you and I hope and pray it is of use in your journey of faith!
The book of Proverbs is much like opening up a toolbox, the tools are extremely useful if I know what I’m doing with it. However, I can injure myself as well as others if I don’t know how to use a tool for its purpose. So, how do we use these Proverbs? And what is their role in the larger picture of faith and life with God? These are good questions, and let’s do some exploring together.
First, we must know how to read the Proverbs. And just to be clear, I’m talking mostly about the material in chapters 10-24 of the book, there are other features that have been discussed through this blog. For the purposes of this post we are asking how to read a proverb:
The nature of proverbs combines somewhat opposed truths, as is evident to everyone as reality, but also has some element of ambiguity. If we take for example, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” we see the sentiment behind the thought that when we are apart from those we love, we long for them with greater enthusiasm. However, we might also know the proverb, “Out of sight, out of mind,” which can also be used for a situation when we are separated from someone we love, but in a totally different sense in which the person is free to do what he/she wants when the other is not around. Both can be used, but the occasion and the appropriateness of each one does vary…(and when not used correctly, they can cause some heartache).
When it comes to the biblical proverbs, Lawrence Boadt writes, “Proverbs was not a boring book to the original audience, but a treasure of practical wisdom which invited reflective thought and new discoveries of its meaning, especially in light of Yahweh’s revelation of his word (Reading the Old Testament, 481). As we think about the qualities of biblical proverbs, let’s think about how useable they were and still are for us. First, proverbs are packaged in memorable form (Hebrew parallelism). Second, proverbs are flexible, promote thought (riddle, parable, slogan, cliché). Third, proverbs are brief and witty (uses vomit a lot). Last, proverbs are not absolutes nor are they generalizations. (they are intended to apply to certain situations).
So, let’s take a biblical proverb and meditate on it for a moment:
12:18 Some people make cutting remarks,
but the words of the wise bring healing.
Oh, a proverb that speaks to criticism…how appropriate! We have all faced criticism and had those who sought to correct or challenge or improve us. Yes, this is a reality with which, I would think, every person can connect. There are things that are said to us that get under our skin…the words are irritating and we question the person’s motives. On the other hand, there are those who can tell you the same stuff and it is done in a different spirit, and just as the proverb says, they bring healing. Thus, we can distinguish between a WISE person and someone who wants to do harm to us (or, simply put, is not very wise).
Of course, that’s if you are the receiver of the critique, but what does this proverb say to the those of us who want to give the critique. Well, the manner in which we say what needs to be said shows whether we are wise, trying to heal and help a person; or whether we are foolish and hurtful, in that our words are cutting. If we want to be considered among the wise, then our advise, critique, and conversations need to bring healing.
So, when is the appropriate time to use this proverb? Hmmm…I think that when you receive something that you may not want to hear, ask yourself if this person is trying to cut your down or heal you up (yes, I said heal you up). And when we consider saying something to a person that might be hard for them to hear, this proverb is a great place to start meditating on how you are going to approach someone. There is a lot packed in so tiny a saying, and that is a proverb!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.