Words to Ponder IV: Proverbial Wisdom part 2

Weekends With the Word keeps on digging! Because Proverbs has so much gold to be mined from it, I decided last week to spread it out over two weekends. I have already used the scrim on chapters 1-15; this week I’ll put it to chapters 16-31. As always, I am combing for scriptures that speak to my heart about health, forgiveness and joyful living. I hope you’ll find something here that speaks to you too.

All scriptures are quoted from the HarperCollins NRSV Study Bible; all emphases are mine, as are the interpretations. As I pull these words, I am choosing them for what I hear being spoken through them into my personal context.

When the ways of the people please the Lord, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them.~Pro. 16.7

My take: Living a good, honest and faithful life won’t give others much opportunity to work or speak against you. So seek to live a life pleasing to God.

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.~Pro. 16.16

My take: Silver and gold (material wealth) may be desired, but they are fleeting and do not last. Wisdom and understanding will last longer and carry you further than any material good.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. ~Pro. 16.18

My take: As an Anne of Green Gables fan, I couldn’t leave this one out! Mrs Rachel Lynde says, “Pride goes before the fall, Marilla!” Being proud makes you stumble over yourself. And Paul cautions in Romans 12.3 to “not think of yourself more highly than you ought.”

The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness. ~Pro. 16.21

My take: Who hasn’t been persuaded by a sweet talker? But it takes wisdom to perceive when the pleasant speech is too good to be true.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. ~Pro. 16.24

My take: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.” Good and kind words make you feel better and look better. They are uplifting, and they stick to you! I think this is true both for words received from others as well as words spoken by myself. Don’t you feel happier when you speak pleasantly of pleasant things? It seems kind of old fashioned, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. ~Pro. 16.31

My take: May I be true to this one! I’ve loved this proverb since I was in my mid-2os. I love it even more now that my gray hair is coming in in a “crown”. I basically have it at the top of my head.

One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. ~Pro. 17.9

My take: Another one I have struggled with. It’s easier to forgive with little things than with big. How easy it is to alienate when we can’t get past those affronts.

A rebuke strikes deeper into a discerning person than a hundred blows into a fool. ~Pro. 17.10

My take: A fool never listens to instruction or criticism, but the smart person learns from mistakes.

Evil will not depart the house of one who returns evil for good. ~Pro. 17.13

My take: You wondered if a concept like karma existed in Judeo-Christian faith?

A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity. ~Pro. 17.17

My take: Isn’t this what we all need? Both to give and to receive? This is one thing I’m trying hard to teach my boys. Friends don’t hurt you–they want to be your friend because they enjoy YOU, not because of what they can gain from you.

A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. ~Pro. 17.22

My take: This should be the motto of the Candy-stripers! And it has definitely been my experience with MD Anderson (the good medicine part, that is).

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing a personal opinion. ~Pro. 18.2

My take: We all know people like this, and sometimes we are that person. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to learn, but what a gem to possess the understanding!

The human spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit– who can bear? ~Pro. 18.14

My take: So true! A broken spirit is often more difficult to overcome than an illness. How many lives have been undone by a broken spirit? I think that’s why stories of people overcoming adversity are so inspiring to us.

A gift opens doors; it gives access to the great. ~Pro. 18.16

My take: Didn’t Mom teach us that it was polite to bring a gift? Bring a gift or do something nice for someone and it will be remembered. It may also bring an unexpected blessing. In the Jewish faith, doing something good for someone else is a mitzvah. Originally based in the Jewish law, and seen as religious duty, it has broadened to become nearly any act of human kindness.

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. ~Pro. 18.24

My take: Can I get an “Amen!” here? Who is your best friend? And how does she/he treat you in good and bad times? True friends are with you through thick and thin.

To get wisdom is to love oneself; to keep understanding is to prosper. ~Pro. 18.8

My take: Yes! If you truly love yourself you will keep learning. Seeking and gaining knowledge leads to wisdom, and when you have understand, you are better off indeed!

Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense. ~Pro. 19.11

My take: Oh may I gain the good sense to follow this instruction!

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. ~Pro. 19.20

My take: This just seems to apply to everything, so long as those giving advice and instruction are wise and knowledgeable in what they are saying. You never know when somebody is giving you a nugget that will be useful in the future; pay attention!

The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. ~Pro. 19.21

My take: How many times have I made plans only to discover that God has something else in mind! I have so often felt that God laughed at my plans that I have learned to listen closely and heed those inner messages that seem to direct me.

Do not say, “I will repay evil”: wait for the Lord, and he will help you. ~Pro. 20.22

My take: This one makes me laugh out loud because it sounds like it belongs on a church sign! At first glance it looks like the Lord will work with you in your deeds to repay evil, but it really means that God will help you overcome whatever evil has been done to you. (Think “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” Romans 12.9)

The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair. ~Pro. 20.29

My take: Here it is again, and may this be true! I started going gray in my late twenties. I’m still 90% brunette, but my gray is very obvious as it all sits on top. My kids keep trying to get me to dye it, perhaps they want me to be young and strong?

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. ~Pro. 21.21

My take: I’d only add that one must do this with humility. Makes me think about that poem: “100 years from now.”

To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble. ~Pro. 21.23

My take: This one doesn’t need any explaining! And I know the opposite too well. : (

Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. ~Pro.22.9

My take: Have you ever served at a soup kitchen or gone on a mission trip? Then you know what this means.

Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads, or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare. ~Pro. 22.24-25

My take: Mom always said to choose your friends wisely, this is why!

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. ~Pro. 23.18

My take: I think this is my favorite of the whole book. It rings back to Jeremiah 29.11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Wise warriors are mightier than strong ones, and those who have knowledge than those who have strength; for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of couselors there is victory. ~Pro. 24.5-6

My take: As I’ve said before, when you’ve got all the best on your team, success is more likely.

Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds? ~Pro. 24.12b

My take: Who is the great lover of my soul but God? God keeps watch over it and knows its contents better than I.

My child, eat honey for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off. ~Pro. 24.13-14

My take: More about hope. Gaining in wisdom and knowledge surely increases my hope, because knowledge brings light to the dark spaces, and being informed reduces fear.

Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble, or else the Lord will see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from them. ~Pro. 24.17-18

My take: We were created to be in relationship, to love and be loved. It is wicked to find pleasure in someone else’s pain. I don’t believe in a spiteful God, as the second part of this scripture would indicate, but I do think that the commandment to love is because God desires peace for all.

Do not fret because of evildoers. Do not envy the wicked; for the evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will go out. ~Pro. 24.19-20

My take: Don’t waste energy on the bad guys. Their deeds will lead them to their own destruction. And for goodness sake, don’t wish you could join them because it is a miserable existence!

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, or else, having too much, you will vomit it. ~Pro. 25.16

My take: Just like Mom said, don’t be greedy! It’ll just make you sick and that’s not pleasant. Plus, it spoils it for others.

Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, otherwise the neighbor will become weary of you and hate you. ~Pro. 25.17

My take: More of Mom’s wisdom, don’t overstay your welcome. Know when it’s time to leave. You don’t want to be one of those people who is always around even when your presence is not desired. This one holds true for pastoral calls too!

If your enemies are hungry give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the Lord will reward you. ~Pro. 25.21-22

My take: I’m more drawn to the first part of this, which is social justice. It’s just the right thing to do. And many an enemy has been turned to friend by kindness.

Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, an undeserved curse goes nowhere. ~Pro. 25.2

My take: If someone curses you and you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t worry about. Their words will slide off you like water off the back of a duck.

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whispering, quarreling ceases. ~Pro. 26.20

My take: The quickest way to stop gossip and rumours is to refuse to be part of it. If you aren’t repeating it or starting it, it’ll die down. And when that happens, there isn’t anything to fight about. And, if you think you might be upset about something, bring the issue out into the open. Get clarity and get on.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. ~Pro. 27.5

My take: For some parents, this is how they show their love, by rebuking and disciplining. But I think it’s good to also encourage good behavior, and to show love by affection.

Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but the soul is torn by trouble. ~Pro. 27.9

My take: It’s good to have beauty around you, it lifts the spirits and brings a smile. But troubles hurt deep inside, and only hope and relief of the trouble can restore the soul.

Those who trust in their own wits are fools; but those who walk in wisdom come through safely. ~Pro. 28.26

My take: Again, it’s the “consult the experts” advice. I’ll fare better if I trust in the folks who know more about my condition than I do, but only if I use the knowledge they give me.

One who is often reproved, yet remains stubborn, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. ~Pro. 29.1

My take: Here we go again, fools need to learn to heed counsel, otherwise the consequences can be devastating.

A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back. ~Pro. 29.11

My take: It’s silly to fly off the handle. But if you can hold your temper and keep your tongue, things will work out on their own.

Discipline your children, and they will give you rest; they will give delight to your heart. ~Pro. 29.17

My take: Another statement of “train up a child in the way he should go and he will not stray from it.” And a much better way to look at the earlier version “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure. ~Pro. 29.25

My take: When you focus on how others might trap you, you get trapped. But if you focus on God, you’ll make it in spite of those who wish you harm.

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. ~Pro. 30.5

My take: Another repetition of the idea that God protects those who trust in God.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. ~Pro. 31.25

My take: This comes from the description of the capable wife. It speaks to me of the power of a wise woman. No matter what she actually wears (housedress, hospital gown, or a business suit), she appears dignified and refined. As for the future-she laughs in the face of uncertainty! Her assurance comes from God.

Whew! That was a lot! 

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