Proverbs 4–The Forward Gaze

Proverbs 4:25 teaches us,

Let your eyes look directly forward,

and your gaze be straight before you.

Wisdom and righteousness are always forward looking. These twin attributes do not dwell on the past, for that leads to bitterness and regret. Right now is important, but only insofar as right now is the first movement toward the future. The future is just the present that hasn’t happened yet, and therefore, unlike the past, the future is something we can control and change. The present is a downpayment on the future.

The more I ponder it, the wise person doesn’t even dwell too much on the right now. True, wisdom learns to enjoy the moment, but we never have all the information we need right now. In the future we will have more information, and that is when we make more informed opinions and thoughts. The mind is always adjusting and changing with new data. The wise person will choose the future over the present. Fools, by contrast, throw the future away and only live in the moment. Wise people plan for the future, enjoy the present, and learn to let go of the past.

  1. Wise people prepare. Fool are never prepared.
  2. Wise people dream. Fools squander opportunities.
  3. Wise people watch trends to see where people and things are headed. Fools wish for yesteryear.
  4. Wise people keep options open. Fools shut doors.
  5. Wise people don’t burn bridges. Fools keep matches in their pockets.
  6. Wise people “might” burn boats. Fools are afraid of change.
  7. Wise people learn how to forget. Fools never learn how to move on.
  8. Wise people don’t hold grudges. Fools have scores to settle.
  9. Wise people don’t waste time on nostalgia. Fools build monuments to the glory days.
  10. Wisep people use the past (history) to inform the future, not to shape it. Fools use the past as a template for the future.

Don’t waste energy by dwelling on the past. The future is where the action is.

PROVERBS WE NEED, RIGHT NOW

In a world filled with idiots and fools, where can a person go to gain wisdom and insight?

A good place to start is the Proverbs from the Bible.  They have universal cross cultural application and have been cherished by wise people for millennia.  Here are a few I’ve cherry picked this morning.

Proverbs 6:6-11–The Ant

6.  Go to the ant, O sluggard;

consider her ways, and be wise.

7.  Without having any chief,

officer, or ruler,

8.  she prepares her bread in summer

and gathers her food in harvest.

9.  How long will you lie there, O sluggard?

When will you arise from your sleep?

10.  A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest,

11.  and poverty will come upon you like a robber,

and want like an armed man.

Learning from the ant is always a good idea.  Work hard.  Plan for the future.  Take the initiative.  Don’t wait to be told.  These are powerful lessons for life.  If only we could work this into the high school curriculum.

Proverbs 13:3

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;

he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

This is the YouTube/Twitter/Facebook Proverb.  The greatest problem our world has today is that everyone is talking and no one is listening.  Nobody guards their mouth, they just blather on endlessly.  I have a lot of high hopes for the Millennial Generation, but this is a problem for them and they’re going to have to figure this out before they drown in a sea of stupid words.

Proverbs 18:24

A man of many companions may come to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

I never had a brother.  I don’t know how close a brother sticks.  Yet I do know that I am blessed in that in Christ there are a select few people whom I trust implicitly, and whom I know would never in a million lifetimes cause me ruin or pain.

Proverbs 26:4-5

4.  Answer not a fool according to his folly,

lest you be like him yourself.

5.  Answer a fool according to his folly,

lest he be wise in his own eyes.

This passage is a mystery to many people.  So which is it?  Do I answer a fool, or do I not answer a fool.  The answer is, stay away from the fool altogether.  Refuse to get dragged into a conversation with them because you can’t win with a fool.  If you speak, you’re doomed.  If you don’t speak up, your doomed.  The only good advise is to stay away from fools.  To do this takes courage, because you must be willing to label certain people as fools and foolish and then limit their access to you.  Note, this is not the same as calling someone a “fool” as a swear in anger like Jesus prohibited in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22) but instead the right labeling of someone is ethically, morally, and socially foolish.

Proverbs 26:17

Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own

is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.

This should be called the “Playground and Foreign Policy Proverb.”  Seriously, it boils down to ‘mind your own beeswax.’  Leave the dog alone, and he will probably ignore you, unless you’ve got bacon in your pocket.  If you’ve got bacon in your pocket he is your best friend forever.  If you grab the dog by the ear, he will become agitated and angry, but as long as you have him by the ears, you are momentarily safe.  However, if you let go of one hand, he will swing around and bite you.  If you let go with both hands, he will bite you.  Once you interfere with the dog, it is inevitable that you will get bit.  It works on the playground in kindergarten when you are learning about social interaction and it works in foreign policy in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and lookout, Ukraine.

Before I wrap this up, though, I leave you with the one Proverb you should absolutely memorize and live by.  Proverbs 3:5-6

5.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

6.  In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

For more Proverbs from Greenbean, click here.

ADVICE ON ADVICE

I’ve got a series of blogs worked up in my head that center around the theme of advice that I will be coming out with over the course of the next week or so, but before I did that I wanted to do some kind of overview on the nature of advice–that way you know where I’m coming from.

When I pastored a local church people would often come to talk to me, but I rarely gave them any advice.  I usually just listened and then prayed with them.  I stopped offering advice because whenever I offered it up, most people always had an excuse on why that wouldn’t work in their particular situation.  If people asked for advice or my opinion I most definitely gave it, but that was rare.  It was rare because of this simple truth:  Most people don’t really want wise advice–what they want is someone who will agree with what they already want to do and they will generally keep looking around until they find someone who will validate their bad idea.

When should you seek advice?  Anytime is a good time to learn from the wisdom of others, but here are some specific times in your life when you might want to consider getting someone’s input.

1.  When you are making a big decision that impacts your future and the future of others.

2.  When you feel like your life is out of control or when you feel like things are stuck and you’re going nowhere.

3.  There is a problem that will not go away.

4.  You are faced with a task of which you know little about.

Where can a person get good advice?  I have observed that where people get their advice often determines their outcome.  Fools tend to congregate and share their folly and commiserate their outcomes with even more poor decisions.  To make progress in this world, I suggest that you get advice from these kind of people.

1.  People you admire and whom you want to be like.

2.  People older than you, usually a generation or two older.

3.  Someone who has no interest in your decision or outcome other than wanting the best for you.

4.  A person who is spiritually mature. 

By the same token, these are the types of people you should never get serious advice from.

1.  Business partners.

2.  People who have failed and messed their lives up completely. 

3.  Spiritually weak people. 

4.  Anyone who could possibly benefit financially, strategically, or relationally from your decision or situation.

In today’s atomized world, a lot of folks might not have a vibrant community where wisdom flows freely, so people might ask, “What if I don’t know anyone who might give good advice?”  Well, here are some suggestions.

1.  Make friends.

2.  Call a professional in the field (business adviser) or pastor or get a referral.  Don’t be afraid to pay for good advice (doctor, lawyer, etc…)

3.  Sometimes the best advice comes from dead people so read a book.

4.  Pray. 

Sometimes the best advice ever is not specific like, “do this, then do that, and finally make sure and put this over it and wrap it up with a rubber band,” but instead it is general–general principles that help guide us through the choices we have to make.  To that end, here are the three best pieces of advice I have ever found.

“This above all, to thine own self be true” Polonius’ last bit of advice to his son Laetes, from Hamlet by William Shakespeare. 

“You’ve got know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”  The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

“He has told you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

A SAMPLING OF PROVERBS

Today my daily Bible readings have me in Proverbs.  It has been such a delight to reread these again.  Once upon a time I read a chapter of Proverbs every day as a part of my devotions.  I may pick that practice up again after I complete my reading schedule for this year.  My favorite life-altering Proverb is no doubt Proverbs 3:5-6; today’s were not as serious but certainly memorable.  I thought I would share some of them with you, as well as a little running commentary.

Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense. 19:11

Sometimes the best thing is to just let it go.

 

A stupid child is a ruin to a father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.  19:13 

I am so thankful I don’t have either one of those problems, however I know many who suffer from these twin afflictions.

 

Discipline your child while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction. 19:18

So many of our societal ills, the apparent destruction of all that is good, could be traced to a lack of will by parents to discipline their children.  It is not a parent’s job to be a child’s friend.  It is a parent’s job to raise children into productive, moral people.

 

What is desirable in a person is loyalty, and it is is better to be poor than a liar. 19:22

Integrity is the most valuable attribute anyone brings to the community or to the marketplace.

 

The lazy person does not plow in season; harvest comes, and there is nothing to be found. 20:4

Yeah.  That pretty much sums it up.

 

An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end. 20:21

When success comes too quickly, or it has not be ‘earned’ through hard work and devotion, then it is taken for granted and will be administrated foolishly.  For more information, cross reference Lindsay Lohan.

 

The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair.  20:29

Our society does not understand true beauty.

 

If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.  21:13

Jesus karma.

 

To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble.  21:23

If we can learn to control our mouth much of the pain in life we suffer would fade away.

 

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.  21:31

We prepare and plan, and that is right and good.  But when the moment comes, it is not our strength or skill that wins the day, it is the Lord.  The way the Lord often chooses to do this is by blessing our planning and preparation.  This passage does not mean don’t get your horse ready for battle.

I’ve got to wrap this blog post up, because I am certain you are already weary.  However, let me leave you with one more.   It came toward the end of my reading today and it is among my favorites.

Do not answer fools according o their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.  Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.  26:4-5

These back to back proverbs have perplexed interpreters for thousands of years.  How can one both answer a fool and not answer a fool?  Which is the right answer.  I think I have the answer (in a heart of wisdom I have gained understanding?) The answer is that the writer of the proverb is saying “Don’t get close enough to a fool to hear his statements because once you start talking to a fool, you can’t win.  His or her foolishness will inevitably rub off on you.”

In summary, today’s blog lesson is stay away from fools, sluggards, and those who would ruin your integrity.