Proverbs: The Wisdom We Need Right Now (and Always)
The more 2021 resembles 2020, the more Christians should be grounded in those unchanging truths given us in Scripture. We must rest on those revelations that make sense of our cultural moment: that Christ is risen, that Christ is Lord, and that Christ is making all things new. God has placed each of us in this time and in this place. It is here and it is now that He wants us, where He calls us to participate with Him as agents of reconciliation in His larger story of redemption.
To do this well, especially in light of the chaos of 2020, we must recalibrate. As Paul told Timothy, this is exactly the point of Holy Scripture. “All Scripture is God breathed,” he wrote, “and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting and for training in righteousness.” Isn’t that exactly the trajectory we need right now? To know what’s right, to be confronted when we are wrong, and to be turned around to start again on the right path?
The book of Proverbs is straight-forward. That’s one of the reasons I love it so much. It’s not some kind of esoteric, hard to understand, “spiritual wisdom” that’s offered in the holy books of many faiths. Proverbs gets right to the point and shoots you between the eyes.
It’s centered on how we can pray in light of the instruction of a particular proverb. For an example, here’s my good friend Sean McDowell, whose reflection on Proverbs 25:15 hit me right where I needed:
One of the proverbs that has jumped out to me over the past year and a half, and one that I’ve been thinking about a lot as the temperature in our culture is increasing, is Proverbs 25:15. The ESV reads, “With patience, a ruler may be persuaded and a soft tongue will break a bone.”
I love that this is not an isolated proverb. There are themes throughout Scripture about kindness, about tenderness, and about patience. It seems to me that we’ve lost some of those lessons today in the Church.
Rather than being patient, we are quick to anger, but in the letter to the Romans, it’s God’s loving kindness that draws us to repentance. Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft word turns away anger. Christianity is not only true, but what it offers to the world is uniquely truth and grace.
I think Proverbs 25:15 represents a small step of showing grace to people both in and outside the Church that, frankly, today people don’t expect. It catches them off guard. Here are a couple insights about this proverb.
First, this proverb reminds us that some change only takes place with patience. We should be thinking more about the long term than how do we fix this by tomorrow, or even next year, or maybe even five years. The second thing that it says patience is long-suffering, meaning that the process to see change take place can be painful. This is certainly true for athletes, but it’s true spiritually as well.
Now this proverb not only talks about patience but talks about “a ruler.” I love this. Obviously, the writer was thinking more of a king or maybe the nobles of his day, but “ruler” today is really anybody with authority over us. Those in the government or those in the university system or maybe those in Hollywood. These people, in a sense, rule our culture.
The proverb says they may be persuaded. I don’t know about you, but I look at certain leaders and I’m tempted to think they’re beyond hope. They can’t be saved; they’re gone. But, then I start thinking, “This is such a human perspective.” This passage says rulers can be persuaded. That’s a good reminder.