Over the course of some recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy reading and discussing the book of Proverbs. My discussions have been with various people in my church, folk who have a wide array of life experiences, diverse ages, different religious perspectives and political persuasions. It’s both interesting and comforting to me that Proverbs has wisdom for all of us, no matter our age, experiences and points of view.
To this end, here are some core themes that get repeated throughout this book of wisdom:
- Receiving correction is essential to being wise and becoming mature. In some discussions, we have come to realize that how correction is given isn’t always as important as how we receive it. If we are correction resistant, it could be possible that we are wisdom resistant. Proverbs 12:1 is a great axiom for the correlation between wisdom and correction. “Anyone who loves correction loves knowledge. Anyone who hates to be corrected is stupid.” (NIV)
- Pride is a sure way to pain and destruction. In our discussions, we have often concluded that arrogance is a certain path to hurt and being disillusioned. Proverbs 16:18 is a great summation of this principle: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
- Having reverence for God is necessary for receiving wisdom and doing life with prudence. To this end, consider Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
- It’s very essential that we continually commit our ways to God, even though we may have great ideas and plans. Proverbs 16:3 speaks to this priority, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”
- Fools choose many hurtful behaviors: quarreling (Proverbs 20:3), despising wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7), scorning prudent words (Proverbs 23:9), talking without first listening (Proverbs 18:13) and using the mouth for harm and ruin (Proverbs 18:6-7). These are a few things to consider in our behaviors so that we could hopefully “fool-proof” our lives.
- Friends are important our lives! Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Additionally, in Proverbs 27:17 we read, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” These verses can help us to remember value good friendships!
As I think about Proverbs, I recognize that it has lots of wisdom, insights, applications, practical help and core essentials for living a constructive and fulfilling life. While I appreciate all of the timeless wisdom that overflows throughout this book, I’m very aware that Proverbs has really good insights for our relationships.
To this end, I think my all-time favorite verse in Proverbs is found in 18:24: “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (NASB1995). If you look at this verse with some curiosity and time, you’ll see that the translators added the words that are in italics. Additionally, you might see a footnote that’s next to the word “friend,” in reference to someone who sticks closer than a brother. In the footnote, it says that the Hebrew word used for friend in this verse is the word, “lover.”
When we pause to ponder what is being said in this verse, maybe it could be helpful to look at the Passion Translation for some greater clarity. In this translation we read, “Some friendships don’t last for long, but there is one loving friend who is joined to your heart closer than any other!” This verse can remind us that Jesus is our one loving friend who is most closely joined to our heart! Let’s keep in the centrality of our thinking and outlook, that Jesus is our closest friend. In the vast array of our relationships, no one is more essential and constructive in our lives than Jesus!