“To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,”
Proverbs 1:2 (ESV)
Why study Proverbs? Some may argue that they’re old sayings from ancient manuscripts that mean nothing to us today. But, people still struggle with the same human emotions and basic problems since the beginning of time when it comes to relationships. We study Proverbs for wisdom in making good decisions in our relationship to others.
Solomon makes it clear from the opening words of Proverbs exactly how this book can help us and why it is important: it is for gaining wisdom, instruction and understanding. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge: wisdom is knowing how to apply knowledge and use it correctly in any given situation because what may work in one situation does not always work in another. Anyone who has raised more than one child can attest to this!
Has knowledge ever steered you wrong? Over the weekend I was watching the 1952 movie rendition of Les Miserables, and it dawned on me that police inspector Javert’s unrelenting pursuit of Jean Valjean (who stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family) all in the name of strictly upholding the law, was legalistic and Pharisaic. Javert was running only on knowledge of the law rather than the appropriate application of it. Had he used wisdom to weigh the situation, the lives of many, including his own, would have been better.
How often do we take a Biblical principle and stand so solidly on it that we harm those around us with it? Jesus came to fulfill the law so that we could live in his kingdom of mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:15). In Matthew 9:12 Jesus says to the Pharisees who are complaining that he is eating with tax collectors, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He also challenges the Pharisees and teachers of the law who are so bent on upholding the law of the Sabbath with a question, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) In essence, Jesus is telling them, and us, to use wisdom in our lives and not rely only on a mere knowledge of the law, for when we follow the greatest commandment and love the Lord with our heart, soul, and mind, and love others as we love ourselves, we fulfill the Law with grace and mercy (Matthew 22:37-40).
Proverbs are wise sayings that remind us of how we should treat each other in order to live a godly life. The beauty of their poetry and ancient culture references makes them interesting and relevant. Don’t just read them; study what they mean and apply them to your life. A proverb you read today may just be the thing that helps you maintain harmony with a friend or family member and it may be the agent of peace to a broken relationship.