Proverbs: Wisdom in Reproof

Part 3 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

I was on a mission trip in the summer of 2006 and I left my beautiful metallic blue 1994 Mercury Tracer at home with my family. When I returned, to my chagrin, I found out that the “Blue Beast” had shock and strut problems. The damage was estimated at $1,200. The car wasn’t worth that much. It was time to buy a new car.

My parent’s neighbor advised me to buy a Chevy Lumina we test drove. It was an older model. It was white with burgundy cloth interior. It was shaped like an elongated box. It didn’t have a CD player. The windows were manual. It smelled like moth balls inside. “But, it will last forever,” he told me. I didn’t care. I didn’t listen. I bought a 1998 Mazda 626, and two years and thousands of dollars of upkeep and repairs later, the Mazda I paid $4,600 had a worn out transmission and was ready to be sold for a measly $1,000.

Looking back on this situation, I think Proverbs 12:1 provides a good commentary:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

The truth is that in our life there are thousands of decisions to be made. These decisions make life difficult. Most of these decisions are very practical, such as: “What job do I take?” “Who should I marry?” “Should I relocate or not?” “What church should I attend?” “Who should my friends be?” “How much can we afford for vacation?” and so on.

We also have character and personality issues that cause life to be hard. We are either too passive or too aggressive. We are too extroverted or too introverted. We are too humorous or too serious. We don’t listen well and we talk too much. We get greedy, envious, jealous, bitter, malicious, lustful, lazy, arrogant, unforgiving, and self-righteous. The list never ends.

The only way we can deal with making hard decisions and growing in holiness is to subject ourselves to wise reproof. This happens in two ways. First, we come under the authority of Scripture. Proverbs 13:13 says, “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.” Second, we need to come under the counsel of wise men and women. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

The Scripture submission may not be hard for you. But what about a person who rebukes you or even offers loving advice? They come to you and say, “I am here to offer reproof, correction, and guidance.” Your first reaction is not normally, “Why thank you! Get out the rod, I need a good rebuking!” But Solomon tells us, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (19:20). I have not been a great example in this, but the Lord is teaching me. In order for us to develop as Christians and people, we need to listen to older, wiser, trusted people.

Finally, Solomon has a few words for those who offer rebuke and correction. He writes, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8-9). He means that people who repeatedly make foolish decisions and ruin their life won’t listen, so don’t waste your time with them. Remember that Jesus even said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matt. 7:6).


The Adulteress and Anberlin

This isn’t a part of our series on Proverbs, but as I was working out today, the song “Feel Good Drag” by Anberlin came on my iPod.  I’ve heard this song hundreds of times, but as I listened today, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the lyrics and Proverbs 5 and 7.

Here’s the first verse and chorus of “Feel Good Drag.”

“I’m here for you,” she said
and we can stay for awhile,
my boyfriend’s gone,
we can just pretend.
Lips that need no introduction,
now who’s the greater sin?
Your drab eyes seem to invite.
Tell me darling, where do we begin?

Was this over before,
before it ever began?
Your kiss, your calls, your crutch,
like the devil’s got your hand
This was over before,
before it ever began.
Your lips, your lies, your lust,
like the devil’s in your hands.

Here’s Proverbs 5:3-6:

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander and she does not know it.

And Proverbs 7:18-19:

Come, let us take our fill of love til morning; let us delight ourselves with love.  For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.

Truly, adultery (and all sexual sin) is a feel good drag.  It might seem sweet for a while, but eventually it will be bitter.  It might appear to be life-giving, but it’s really planning for a banquet in the grave.  The pleasure will be over before it ever begins.

“Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death” (Prov. 7:27).

. . .

Update:  The song “Feel Good Drag” was in the #1 slot on modern rock radio this past week.


Proverbs: Christ the Wisdom of God

Part 2 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

For the longest time, I thought most of the Proverbs were pithy fortune cookie sayings.  Really thought provoking, but not very practical.  As I’m reading through the book now, I’m creating categories, and it’s helping me to think the way Solomon did and contextualize his advice so I can practically apply my life to it.

One category that stands alone from the rest of the book is Christ Personified. In chapter 8, Solomon writes of wisdom saying,

The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water…When he established the heavens, I was there…then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always (vv. 22-24, 27a, 30).

If wisdom here seems like a person, it’s because wisdom in Proverbs is a personification of Christ.  Christ was “set up” as God’s wisdom before the earth was created.  He was there at the beginning, as the “master workman” through whom God created the world (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).

In John 1, John writes about “the Word”  being God and becoming flesh.  This “Word” is the Greek word logos which means “wisdom.”  Christ literally is “the Wisdom of God.”  Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, “We preach Christ crucified…to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Before we read any of the Proverbs and try to understand Solomon’s wisdom, we must believe that Christ is where our wisdom begins.  In him is the fullness God’s wisdom (see Col. 1:19).  Remember that Solomon started his book with, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7).  This LORD is the same Lord who worked as a carpenter, taught us the Scriptures, healed people, fed thousands, died on a cross, rose from the dead, and lives and reigns as supreme King today.


Proverbs: The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

Series Index

Part 1 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

Socrates is credited by most to be one of the founders of Western philosophy.  Many consider him to be one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Interestingly enough, he is known only through the writings of his students, most extensively through Plato.

Modern-day philosophers look to men like Socrates and Plato, and other Greek philosophers (such as Euclid, Socrates, and Antisthenes) as primary sources to learn about morality, ethics, and virtue.  Anyone who has taken a university philosophy class knows that most teaching on wisdom and critical thought flows, at some level, from the Greeks (with much less attention given to Roman philosophers).

It is interesting to me, to say the least, that little attention (in academia, and in general) is paid to Solomon, King of Israel.  After all, he pre-dates Socrates, dying 462 years before Socrates was born (931 BC), and has many of the same insights on virtue and ethics as other Greek philosophers.  Of course, Solomon worshiped God, Socrates did not; and Solomon looked toward the coming Messiah, Jesus, and Socrates did not.  This seems to be the main reason tribute is not paid to him by modern-day philosophers.

Nevertheless, we have many more writings from Solomon (three biblical and other extra-biblical, as well as over a thousand songs/poems) than we do Socrates (zero).   The Bible would suggest that Solomon, perhaps, was the wisest man who ever lived (outside of Jesus), the richest man who ever lived, and the most honored man who ever lived.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll focus on the Proverbs of Solomon and his advice for wise, righteous, practical, and —  most importantly — godly living.

Life Theology

Distinguishing Between Love and Lust

Augustine of Hippo, the great Christian theologian of the 4th Century, struggled mightily with sexual addiction before his conversion to Jesus.  In his autobiography, Confessions, he writes about his problem between figuring out what was love and what was lust in his early life:

Bodily desire, like morass, and adolescent sex welling up within me exuded mists which clouded over and obscured my heart, so that I could not distinguish the clear light of true love from the murk of lust.

I doubt that this is uncommon for most people — especially for nonbelievers, but for Christians as well.  So often we “feel” with our bodies and seldom understand what true love is.

In Proverbs, Solomon says to his son, “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it” (5:3-6).  Obviously, this “love” is really love.  It’s lust.  It’s deceptive.  It’s adulterous (7:19).  This “love” gets you place in line to hell.  This “love” will lead to death, not an abundant life.  It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy true happiness.

I’m not a counselor, or a doctor, or a pastor  yet.  But I know that true romantic love is rooted in the gospel of Christ.  It is reflective of Ephesians 5:22-33.  True love is about service and sacrifice and joy and delight and rejoicing in Christ, not the person.  C.S. Lewis talked about gifts from the Lord being “the sunbeam” and God himself as the sun.  The beam from the sun is not to be delighted in, the sun is.  In the same way, God’s gifts are like sunbeams.  They lead us to the greater glory of God himself.  That is what true love should do.  Lust only distracts us from God and causes us to be idolaters.

Seek your satisfaction in Jesus above all things, and soon the murky fog of distinguishing between love and lust will clear into a bright summer day filled with heavenly delight and joy, not guilt and shame.