Building a Life on the Bedrock of Wisdom
Proverbs 22 SCC 11/29/15
It is significant what you build your life upon. That bedrock becomes the foundation of your life’s decisions and direction. If it is built on foolishness chaos will ensue and a life of disorder, disharmony, and destruction will follow. If it is built upon wisdom that will preserve order, prevent chaos, and produce the foundation upon which one can pursue maturity. Solomon instructs us to build our lives on the bedrock of wisdom. Here is what that looks like:
PRESERVING ONES REPUTATION IS WISE 1
Solomon says a good reputation is more valuable than wealth. Great riches or wealth is a significant possession of course since it can relieve many difficulties in life. However, in comparison, a good name is worth more than an abundance of silver or gold. The point is that preserving ones reputation exceeds any other blessings in life. It is a ‘good name’ that is matched by ‘being esteemed’. Together a reputation that delivers esteem has no rivals.
The work that goes into preserving one’s reputation is righteous and virtuous and consistent with wisdom. In this case one will not attempt to cut corners and jeopardize his or her good name. So the point is that the preservation of a good name engages one in living the wise life. The wise life is the good life. This good life is the bedrock of wisdom.
NB: Your first priority in life ought to be maintaining your personal and spiritual integrity. Our reputation takes a lifetime to construct and only a moment to lose. Character is developed one decision at a time in areas where people are usually not looking. Areas like your private thoughts, your personal priorities, your passions, your perspectives, and your plans. Who you are when no one is looking communicates volumes about your personal and spiritual integrity or lack of it.
GUARDING ONE’S LIFE TO AVOID ITS SNARES IS WISE 5, 8
Those who have the discipline of wisdom elude life’s dangers. The first part indicates that the wicked are on a path to death, which is covered by thorns and snares. Like thorns and snares their conduct hinders them so they are stopped like a trapped animal. In contrast to the wicked is the one who is aware of those consequences and is cautious enough to avoid them.
Discipline is essential for avoiding evil. We need discipline because we are morally evil. We have a sin nature, which will pervert everything we do. Discipline will scour away at that sin nature. Discipline will never make us holy, but it will help keep us from being perverse. Discipline is another attribute of wisdom essential to keep our lives from chaos.
NB: Guarding our lives means we must be diligent about not allowing our lives to conform to the perversity our sin nature craves. This may include purposeful and deliberate plans that keep us away from situations or persons that are alluring. Guarding my life means I must be proactive so as to avoid the pitfalls that can and will ensnare my life. That would include jealousy, revenge, rage, slander, malice, hatred, pride, or seduction.
TRAINING YOUR CHILDREN AND DISCIPLES IN WISDOM IS WISE 6, 15
Many expositors suggest that this phrase should be translated: Train up a child according to his own way or according to the way which is his, instead of the way it is translated in both the NASB and the KJV (in the way he should go). The point they are making is that each child is unique and should be trained up according to his own way.
But this idea of individual training according to his own way is not found elsewhere in Proverbs and although it is not contradictory it is not Solomon’s point in Proverbs. Even if we were to translate it according to his own way, we would understand in the context of the entire book that Solomon would be defining his own way as the right way, the wise way, the righteous way, not his own individual way.
The significant thing here is that parents are not just to discipline a child but to train him. This reminds us of Deuteronomy 6:6-7: These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
NB: In Proverbs there are only two ways a child can go—the way of the fool and the wicked or the way of the wise and the righteous. It is the way he ought to go, the proper way—the way of wisdom that creates order—that includes discipline, instruction, and correction.
BEING A GENEROUS PERSON IS WISE 9 (2, 7, 16)
Literally the thought is to have ‘a good eye.’ This is in contrast the ‘evil eye’, which is stingy and covetous. Selfishness and stinginess is associated with evil and wickedness. One who is benevolent Solomon says will be blessed. This is a general statement about his life without any commentary. A generous person can expect his or her life to experience the highest degree of self-fulfillment not as a prisoner of one’s selfish desires but by giving not getting, hoarding or coveting.
One specific case of generosity is pointed out—that is a willingness to share food with the poor, feeble, and helpless. The poor is mentioned in v 2 where the poor are valuable due to fact that they too are part of the order of God’s creation. As such we should not make value judgments about their worth. In v 7 the poor are often poor due to their indebtedness. In v 16 the poor no matter the reason for their poverty should not be oppressed by extortion or bribery. It is easy to do so but God is watching.
NB: Be more generous than you have ever been and continue to be generous. Be more generous today than yesterday. Be more generous tomorrow than today. Stop excusing yourself from generosity. Be generous when you cannot afford to be. Generosity is godly. None of us will ever be too generous.
USING HONEST AND GRACIOUS SPEECH IS WISE 11
We cannot underestimate the significance of one’s words and communication in Proverbs. Solomon announces that someone who is gracious and honest with his or her words will have an advantage with leaders in high positions. Naturally people of influence want to surround themselves with such people. In this case it is a king or we could say any leader. They need people like this.
People who are honest and candid are valuable to governments. Political leaders, business leaders, and leaders in every discipline know that without these kinds of people their domains can become chaotic, disruptive, and unjust. This all begins with purity of heart where one’s desires are established. Eventually these make their way to our mouths and are valuable to those who hear, listen and speak.
NB: Try being honest and gracious with your speaking to others, of others, and about others. If you are in a position where you have a say, use your words wisely with the desire that your honesty and graciousness will have an impact and be useful. Calculate, think, prepare, and engage with words.
THE PURSUIT OF WISDOM IS WISE 22-29
In v 17-21 is the introductory call to pursue the wisdom of the wise so one can give sound answers and reliable instruction. This begins a series of several words of wisdom in the form of warnings:
1. Do not oppress the poor because the Lord avenges them v 22-23. The poor are defenseless, they are poor, and so can be robbed easily, making this crime contemptible but tempting v 22. This oppression is out of bounds and the Lord will champion the defenseless plundering the guilty instead v 23.
2. Do not associate with a hothead v 24-25. The warning is against being a friend of or even associating with ‘a possessor of anger’ v 24 because his influence could prove fatal v 25.
3. Do not become foolishly entangled in others financial problems v 26-27. Pledging what one has jeopardizes it. You cannot control future circumstances. The risk is that if someone lacks the means to pay his creditors can come after you v 27. If you desire to help someone, give instead of lending.
4. Do not steal someone’s property v 28. Solomon is simply reminding his son not to violate the Mosaic Law in the area of moving a property line. Moving a property line is simply a way of stealing property. In their case, it was a property line that was determined before they entered the land and should never be moved (Dt 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2; Hosea 5:10).
5. Skill earns recognition and advancement v 29. Hearing of a good worker skilled in his or her craft, a worker can be assured of finding the proper setting where that skill is appreciated and not wasted.
NB: Apply wisdom to every dimension of your life—humility, friendships, finances, content, and work.