Most of us prefer clear, guaranteed courses of action. We like to think that if we follow all the traffic laws, we won’t get into a car accident; if we invest our money wisely, we will have a comfortable retirement; or, if we say all the right things to our kids, they will turn out just fine. However, we also realize that life doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes drunk drivers run red lights and destroy innocent lives. Sometimes the stock market tanks and wipes out your retirement fund. And sometimes kids decide to go their own way, no matter how well their parents raised them.
The biggest challenge to understanding Proverbs is to realize it is teaching principles rather than making promises. It may seem like Proverbs is promising us that listening to our father and mother will guarantee a desired outcome. Therefore, we believe that if we follow the book’s wise advice, we’ll receive these benefits. When calamity strikes, we may feel God has not kept His word. The books of Job and Ecclesiastes struggle with this very question.
But Proverbs is giving us principles, not promises. We are advised that it is better to be wise than foolish, which is true. Most of the time, hard work leads to success and pride causes our downfall. But in the context of this earthly life, we see exceptions. We know people who have worked hard their entire life and never experience success.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist’s faithful service ends in death. Many others faced a similar fate. It is helpful to read Proverbs in context of the entire Bible; many of these promises will be realized in the next life, where we will dwell forever as the adopted children of God.
>> Try to read the book of Proverbs as principles instead of promises. Keeping an eternal perspective helps us better understand the benefits of wise living in the here and now.
Do we seek wisdom so our lives will be easier? Or do we seek wisdom because it is good, and because we crave holiness? Give us wisdom, Lord, and if our motives are not right, sanctify them.