Proverbially Speaking

Proverbs is one of those books which never ceases to surprise me. Just when I think I have it figured out, that I know the pattern of what Solomon was going for, he pulls the rug out from under me. To be fair, the whole Bible is pretty good at that, but Proverbs has a real knack for it.

Consider this one: "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man" (6:10-11; 24:33-34). Whoa. It begins with some rather pretty poetry, almost a lullaby, and then ends with a harsh wake-up call. Then there's 11:16: "A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth." For most people, that's probably not very off-putting. "I can get wealth if I'm ruthless? Great! No more mercy for anyone!" But like so many other proverbs, the real wisdom isn't noticed until a closer inspection. A ruthless man will gain only wealth. Not happiness, not an honorable woman, not length of days, not compassion from others, nothing. Only money. And that wealth won't matter as much as a ruthless man might think it will.

By far my favorite proverb, though, is 27:5: "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." It's better to chastise someone publicly, to tell them they're horribly wrong, than to hide your love for them. Think about what that means. First, it means to never hide your love for someone. Always let it show. Second, it ties rebuking to love. An open rebuke can be an open show of love. Parents discipline their children; God disciplines us; and we don't want to see our loved ones go against God's will precisely because we love them. A rebuke can be a display of love -- as long as it's done in love and not out of a sense of self-righteousness.

I encourage you to take time this week to read some of the book of Proverbs. Just be ready when it pulls the rug out from under you.

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