For nearly 45 years, for as long as he was alive, my father taught me through his words and example what he believed I needed to know in order to be successful in this life and the one to come. Not unlike any other Christian parent, he wanted the best for me, his son.
One of the areas he placed the most emphasis on in our home was attitude. As the Bible points out, he wanted me to know and to understand that apart from a healthy attitude I simply could not be successful in life. Perhaps I could be successful in terms of how the world measures success, but I couldn't be ultimately successful in what matters most—living a mature Christian life that leads to living eternally as a spirit being.
Attitude and Wisdom Are Intricately Connected
Our loving Father in heaven expects each of His chosen people to exhibit an attitude of submission to Him (James 4:7). If we are working hard on developing this submissive attitude, we are much more likely to appreciate the value of God's wisdom. By doing so, we begin to make wiser decisions and become more successful as Christians.
Conversely, by actively working on making wise decisions, we will also reflect a much more teachable attitude.
Sure, there are many other passages that teach us what godly wisdom is (James 3:17), but no place in the Bible focuses more specifically on the subject of wisdom than Proverbs.
A Book of Practical Godly Wisdom
Knowing all we face on a daily basis today, it's nice to know that we can turn to Proverbs and find specific instruction that offers straightforward and precise answers to so many of our questions or concerns.
For example, do I tell my friend Joe that he is doing something that is violating God's law when I know he is? Well, that depends on whether or not Joe cares about God's law (Proverbs 9:8).
How about this question: What does God say carries value? Money? Power? Beautiful possessions? The answer is quite clear in Proverbs 8:10-11. What God values as true wealth is His instruction and spiritual wisdom.
The book of Proverbs also reinforces what other passages in the Bible tell us. The biblical principle found in Galatians 6:7, "Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap," appears throughout the Bible (Proverbs 1:33; 2:21-22; 10:4). It is important we learn and understand this principle, because Satan (and society around us) would like us to believe that the principle of reaping what we sow is not true.
Proverbs is a book of godly wisdom. It promotes wisdom, instruction, understanding, righteousness, justice, equity, prudence, knowledge discretion, learning and sound counsel. The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary defines wisdom as "power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, and understanding, etc."
It would be fair to say godly wisdom is "doing or practicing the law of God—doing the right thing at the right time with the right people or person."
There are two Hebrew words for wisdom found in the first chapter of Proverbs. Chokmah found in verse 2 means skillful or wise; and sakal found in verse 3 means to be circumspect, expert, prudent, skillful, wise or guided wittingly.
Although Proverbs is commonly known as a book written for youth or directed towards them, I find myself continually rereading it as time passes. Reading a proverb may take only a few seconds, but applying a proverb can take a lifetime. Usually a verse or two are all it takes before I have much to think about and take to God in prayer.
You may have noticed as I have, the influence that television has had on our society. I'm about convinced that we aren't far removed from an entire segment of our population growing up having honed one skill more than any other—that of vocalizing opinions. The prevailing school of thought seems to promote saying whatever comes to mind, regardless of its worth.
In nations such as the United States, Great Britain and Australia, there is widespread pride in "freedom of speech." It is reinforced through media in schools, universities and most homes. Although I appreciate the ability to teach the truth of God and be protected by law, I also recognize that God teaches in Proverbs, as well as throughout the Bible, that "freedom of speech" is not the end of the story.
A Practical Application of Proverbs
Proverbs 17:28 states the following, "Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive."
Many years ago someone told me, "Better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt." How many times have you blurted out a comment only to regret it just as soon as it escapes your lips? I think of that saying every time I read Proverbs 17:28. It takes wisdom to know what to say and what not to say, when to say something and when to refrain.
Proverbs not only draws our attention to what should or should not come from our lips but, even before that, what should or should not be in our minds. Proverbs 15:26 reinforces that good words come from good minds. In other words, if our thoughts are where they should be, our speech will reflect that. Conversely, the same can be said if our thoughts are not appropriate. Nothing crosses our lips without first entering our mind.
If my father were still alive today, I know he would still be reminding me about the importance of attitude, of making wise decisions and of growing in character. He would tell me about the importance of humility and being submissive to God. And He would most definitely remind me of how important it is to maintain a strong prayer and Bible study life.
When I read Proverbs, I find this same set of instructions. Every time I turn there, I'm reminded of the expectations our Heavenly Father has for you and me. I'm encouraged to have this reminder and set of "how to" instructions. Proverbs isn't just for teens, or for any specific age group, nor is it passé. Proverbs is a book of ancient wisdom for modern times, hands-on instruction for anyone at any age who chooses to grow in wisdom. Proverbs speaks to all of us. UN