For many years, I’ve found reading a chapter of Proverbs corresponding with the date of the month very profitable. The wisdom and insights this single book of the Bible offers are astonishing. Even for someone that doesn’t believe in God, reading Proverbs regularly would be very beneficial.
In fact, I authored a book some years back, Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace, giving many examples of how it relates to the 21stcentury world of work. I’ve referred to some of the principles from time to time in this blog, and can’t help but wonder about the difference it would make if more people not only read Proverbs, but put what it says into practice.
Being one of the so-called “wisdom books” of the Bible, Proverbs starts with saying much about the value of wisdom itself. It observes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Sounds a tad intolerant perhaps, but at least the primary author, King Solomon of Israel, didn’t mince words.
Need advice on personal financial management? Proverbs 3:9-10 has this to say: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, and the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” As has sometimes been said, you can’t out-give God. So giving to support His work will never leave you short.
Industrialist R.G. LeTourneau for much of his life practiced what could be termed a “reverse tithe” – giving 90 percent of his income to charitable causes and keeping only 10 percent. He explained it this way: “I try to shovel out more for God than He can for me, but He always wins. He’s got a bigger shovel.”
We so often hear and read about people – respected individuals – who fall prey to many forms of temptation. Regarding those pitfalls, Proverbs offers this simple admonition: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Emotional impulses sometimes lead to actions we otherwise would not consider rationally, so making sure our hearts are in the right place, always putting God first and then others close to us, can protect ourselves from potential snares.
There are those who regard biblical teaching as restrictive, even archaic. But according to the writer of Proverbs, observing what it says can ensure a joyous, fulfilling life. “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life” (Proverbs 6:23).
Occasionally, Proverbs provides vivid pictures of what can happen when we choose to disobey God’s laws and commands. None is clearer than the description of a young man who succumbed to an attractive female’s seductions: “With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose…little knowing it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:21-23).
Reports of unethical behavior and wrongdoing seem sadly commonplace these days, not only in the business world but also in the realms of politics, the news and entertainment media, and even the Church. Concerning that we find this warning:“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9).
I’ve cited this passage before, but it’s a special favorite of mine – since it pertains to a weakness I have – and it’s always worth reviewing: “In the abundance of words transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Another verse reinforces that truth: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to remind myself of that.
There are numerous other examples to cite, but in view of the epidemic of arrogance and excessive pride that seems to afflict our society – on every side of the political and ideological spectrum – here are three more verses that seem appropriate:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
“Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).
“Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).