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 1–The Fear of the Lord

FullSizeRender.jpgDuring the summer I read through the book of Proverbs and made some notes. My plan is to share these in an on-again-off-again kind of way.

Proverbs 1 is clearly a general opening to the theme of the book. Two paths are before each of us. One path is that of wisdom. Wisdom’s path is clearly marked by the finger of God. Those who fear him are on the right path. The other path is folly. The way of folly is easy to find as well, because it is littered with the fools who have sinfully gone ahead.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

Two thoughts came at me quickly as I read this verse. The first is the word ‘beginning.’ I’ve never reckoned with that word before, but it indicates our spiritual connection, or awareness, of God is where our knowledge begins. We might think of that as a foundation. No lasting knowledge can be gained without the foundation of a heart and head pointed toward the Lord.

It is intriguing to me what the text doesn’t say. It doesn’t teach us the fear of the Lord is the end of all knowledge. This is because God is more than knowledge, and our journey with him is one in which we grow and change. We never stop learning. Knowledge is not finite. This is especially true in the knowledge about ourselves. The older I get, the more I learn about who I truly am. This could rightly be called self awareness–about my tastes, preferences, privileges, disadvantages, biases, and so much more. Wisdom is recognizing myself as I interact with the world around me and knowing my role in it.

The second thought that came to my mind is what fools despise. They despise instruction–because a fool is one who is arrogant. A fool rejects other people’s wisdom or insight, believing that he or she already knows all about everything. This is their pride, and they think they are already wise and need no teacher. They know more than everyone else. A fool chooses to stay foolish. It is not a congenital defect a person has no choice over, and as such it is not linked to intelligence. A fool refuses to see the world through anyone else’s eyes, but steadfastly insists they and they alone are all that matter.

The wise says, “Tell me what you think. I want to hear what you’re view is.”

The fool says, “Shut up and listen to me and I’ll tell you how it is.”

What fools despise is what the wise crave–to be taught and learn things from other people.

“O Lord, mold me into a person who craves wisdom, and rejects folly.”


So, I’m a little behind schedule.  I hope to make up time during the month of June and still finish this translation of the New Testament letter from Paul the Apostle to the church in Rome before Independence Day.

Translation Notes:  In rendering this particular passage, I opt for the phrase ‘made righteous’ where a lot of English translations choose ‘justified’ to allow the English reader to perceive it is all the same word group. Also note, my verses 25 and 26 are very different from most English translations. I don’t really know what their problem is?

Theological Notes:  In my opinion the key text here is Romans 3:22 & 23, with its ringing judgment that everyone, Jew and gentile alike, are not righteous before God but through faith they are able to receive grace.  This is the main work of Romans 3, to put everyone on equal footing.  God doesn’t play favorites, as we were told in Chapter 2, and Paul is telling us that here is the proof, proof that has been there all along, according to his long string of quotations from Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Proverbs in verses 10-19.

Chapter Three
1. What, then, is the Jewish advantage, and what exactly is the benefit of circumcision?
2. A lot, and in every possible way. It is primarily because they were entrusted with the words of God.
3. So what if some of them were unfaithful, did their lack of faith nullify the faith of God?
4. Of course not! People are liars, but God is true, just as it is written, “So that you will be vindicated in your words and victorious in your trials.”
5. Humanly speaking, then, if the righteousness of God leads to our unrighteousness, what can we say? Is God unrighteous in bringing the wrath?
6. Never! How then could God judge the world?
7. But if my lie magnified God’s truth and glory, then why am I being judged as a sinner?
8. And why not say—as we are slandered as having said—that we should do evil so good might come of it? Those who say this of us deserve their condemnation.
9. What now? Are we better? Not at all, for we determined beforehand that both Jews and gentiles are sinners.
10. Just as it is written, “There is no one righteous.
11. No one understands, no one seeks God.
12. Everyone turned away together, becoming useless. No one shows kindness, not even one.
13. Their throat has become an opened grave. Their tongues deceive. Asp venom is upon their lips.
14. Their mouths, full of curses and bitterness.
15. Their feet, swift to shed blood.
16. Ruin and misery is their way.
17. They have not known the way of peace.
18. The fear of God is not before their eyes.”
19. We know at least this much, that the law says it shuts every mouth of those under it, and eventually the whole world shall be held accountable to God.
20. Therefore, because of this sin consciousness, it is not from works of law that all people will be made righteous before him,
21. but now the righteousness of God has been made clear apart from the law as attested to by the law and the prophets.
22. Through the faith of Jesus Messiah the righteousness of God is for all those believing, for there is no difference.
23. For everyone has sinned and come up short of the glory of God.
24. They are being made righteous as a gift of his grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Jesus.
25. God designed a place of propitiation with blood by his faith as proof of his righteousness, by overlooking their sins committed beforehand.
26. God’s tolerance toward us back then is proof of his righteousness right now, to the righteous and those he is making right by the faith of Jesus.
27. Where then does all this boasting come from? That was done away with, but by what kind of law? Works? No—not at all, but through the law of faith.
28. For we reason people are made righteous in faith without works of the law.
29. Is God of the Jews only? Not also the gentiles? Yes, yes, in every way.
30. If true, then God will make righteous those circumcised by faith and those uncircumcised through faith as well.
31. Do we therefore abolish the law because of faith? Never. Instead we keep the law.

Romans, Chapter One

Romans, Chapter Two


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.