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Proverbs 3–Trust and Good

There are two different things going on in this rumination on Proverbs 3.

The first comes from that classic passage–3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Recently I worked on this passage for a sermon (okay, it was last Sunday) and I played around a bit, rewriting these words with a different twist. I called the first one “Still True From A Negative Angle.”

Trust in yourself with half your heart, and lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge and call attention to yourself, and you will utterly destroy your path.

I enjoyed doing that so much, that I decided to write what I called the “Spiritual Sounding But Not Right Angle.”

Trust in The Lord when things are tough, and lean not on the understanding of fools. In all your spiritual ways acknowledge him, and your path will become evident.

This rendering sounds true. The problem is that is not what the Bible teaches, but rather accurate of what we often teach and how we talk.

The last one I wrote is just ridiculous. I call it the “All Wrong But Exactly How We’d Like It To Read Angle.”

Trust in The Lord with some of your heart, and pray through your own

understandings. When you are hurting, acknowledge him and he will send a Facebook meme to cheer you up.


My second thoughts come from Proverbs 3:27. Here, the writer tells us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” I think this verse properly applied could change the world. Seriously.

My mind began to think about current political issues. The application of this is much broader, but here is a place to dialogue.

  1. Immigration
  2. Health care
  3. Taxes
  4. Opioid crisis
  5. Mass killings

You’re doing right now what I was guilty of, I think. If not, you are a better soul than me. For each of these, I assumed that what I thought and what I felt emotionally would be the ‘good’ that should be done.

But my opinion, or my knee-jerk, is not always the good. My perception of the writer’s intention is to inform us of the hard work in the application of wisdom to perceiving what the good is. Let’s take the opioid issue. I readily admit this is complicated, but fixing it might involve something more than more crisis managers, more first responders, or more federal dollars. Perhaps the good involved is about addressing the cultural, economic, religious, and educational systems that provide such a fertile ground for destruction. As such, maybe the best good is to admit not much good can be done for those who are addicted now, but the money should be spent on the next generation. My power for the now is low, but my leverage for the power to do good for the future is high.

And if that is not enough to push me along, the question comes with the phrase “to whom it is due.” Is help due to someone who has willfully, voluntarily, and repeatedly put themselves and others in harms way? I know that is a tough line, but goodness you have to ask at what point has someone’s actions disqualified them from assistance and help. This question is important. Resources are limited.

To children, to communities, to the unborn next generation, much is due. They are due a healthy environment. They are due a hopeful, optimistic world. They are due security. The are due a fighting chance.

What is in my power? To whom is it due?

If we apply these questions, we might find we don’t like the answers, and that is the exact point of wisdom.

 

 

Pick A Winner–Seriously, Pick A Winner

I need your opinion.

I’m playing again. I should be working. In fact, staff meeting is in ten minutes.

But I’m playing.

Writer’s Digest has a contest for writing prompts. You’re supposed to write an opening line, in twenty five words or less, for a story that goes along with the picture that is the writing prompt. I have entered four or five times over the past couple of years, but I’ve never sniffed victory. This time, I thought I’d get you guys to help me pick. I’ve written several different possible lines. Vote for which one you like best.

Here is the picture.

GettyImages-468054817_Julia-DavilaLampe-768x512.jpg

If you want to play too, click on THIS LINK. It’s fun and easy.

Now, back to my problems. Below are my opening lines, and then a poll for you to vote. Remember, you have to click the word “vote” to register your selection. Thanks!

A. With each step into the dark woods, Jenna sealed her fate.

B. “Here kitty, kitty.”

C. Maybe the red coat wasn’t the best choice for hide-n-seek?

D. Maybe the red coat wasn’t the best choice for war games?

E. Mary regretted her decision to accompany her boyfriend on his family’s annual Thanksgiving wild-turkey hunt.

F. As night began to fall, she remembered how the old man at the lodge had warned them funny things happen in these woods.

G. It had been eleven days since Jenna had seen another person.

H. “I found Carmen Sandiego,” the boy shouted.

 

Proverbs 2–If . . . Then

Proverbs 2 seems to imply the search for wisdom is in and of itself the path to understanding. This is mainly because the search for wisdom is the search for the Lord, and he is the one who grants a wise heart.

The chapter is divided, to my eye anyway, in two portions. The last portion is a warning to stay away from the harlot. Here, the harlot is not literal (although it is literally good advice) but instead the harlot represents the way of foolishness. This second part is shorter, and begins in earnest in verse 16.

The first portion is what intrigues me. It is a series of “If . . . Then” statements which remind me of my computer class back in high school in the 1980s. We were always writing these silly programs that began with something like “If x<3 then …” whatever. I can’t remember anything beyond that. This is the same style the author of the proverb uses.kenyon-starlin-code-screenshot_c

If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:4-5).

The search is key. It must be the key. God is the one who gives wisdom, so it is not as if the Lord is some kind of rubric waiting to be translated or the maker of mazes hoping you’ll find your way out. That would be a wrongheaded way of understanding the search for wisdom. The search is learning the ways of the Lord, studying the scriptures, and listening to the world around us as he reveals himself. We don’t search for wisdom because we want to know the secret to wisdom; we search for wisdom because we want to know the one who gives wisdom, the source of wisdom. We do not search so that we can know, we only know that we must continue to search.

This concept culminates in verses 9-10.

Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, and every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Then–and only then–will you understand.

  • Righteousness: the requirement of the Lord, and the ways of faith. This is the moment you realize there is no one righteous. No, not one.

 

  • Justice: There is no peace without justice. Justice is not simply law and order, but it is holding people accountable for their actions and protecting the weak who have no advocate.

 

  • Equity: The world is not fair because it is baed upon power and force. Wisdom, by contrast, sees the necessity for equity and can spot when things are inequitable.

 

  • Every good path: A catchall phrase that can be loosely understood as the good life. Wisdom allows a person to see the things that really matter and maximize those for the benefit of all.

The goodness of God is that he grants these things to the wise.

The failings of humans is that we think we can have these without the Lord. The result is a foolishness that knows no bounds. We want righteousness in the world so we try to make people be righteous through coercion, politics, or law. We think we have justice, but really there is only a masquerade of justice that protects the powerful and exploits the weak. We claim equality for all, but as soon as we get a chance we remind everyone of how much better we are. We believe we can have the good life, but all we do is pop another pill and download another video. There is no true wisdom in any of this, because we have not sought the Lord.

If you and I search for wisdom for the sake of wisdom, we will never find it. If we search for the Lord and seek him, wisdom will wash over us.