Pastor, Gospel Chapel
When I was living in Edmonton in 1990, I met a man who gave me a little piece of advice that I’ve not acted on until recently. Mr. Edgington worked for a large sports equipment company, was a committed Christian, and someone many respected for his wisdom and integrity. Coworkers would come to him in times of trouble, often with financial or relational issues. His advice to them, which he passed on to me one day, was simple: “There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs and most months have 30-31 days. Read one chapter each day and apply one principle you find. Do this every month.” This habit not only informed his business dealings, saving him from making critical financial mistakes, but also guided his time and energy at home and in the community.
Proverbs is a collection of practical wisdom, addressing the practical stuff of day-to-day life. The purpose of the book is stated in the first seven verses: “These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king. Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what is right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women” (Proverbs 1:1-7, The Message).
One misconception about Proverbs is that it is a book of promises (i.e. Do this and the result is guaranteed). Batman’s first life lesson for Robin is, “Life doesn’t give you seatbelts,” (Lego Batman movie). Similarly, Proverbs isn’t a promise book, but the most likely outcomes one can expect if the wisdom we find there is lived out consistently.
For example, “God won’t starve an honest soul, but he frustrates the appetites of the wicked” (Proverbs 10:3). If this were a promise, one could conclude that anyone in need, in poverty, without food and homeless have done wrong—ergo, they deserve it. Transpose this to thousands of starving children in Africa, or people left living in an RV due to flooding, and the problem is immediate. Hunger and poverty aren’t simply a matter personal choice – they can be the result of poor leadership, mismanaged resources, oppressive government or society, natural disasters, and the list can go on. The issues of life are complex. Proverbs doesn’t offer simplistic answers.
As we read on in Proverbs we will be invited into the complexity of life and how to navigate the various realities we face. One verse can’t answer the whole question. We’ll read that poverty can be the result of a person’s mistakes, but it is also that those who are well off to respond to with compassion. We’ll read that riches and possessions can be dangerous, sometimes more so, than poverty. Things are not always what they seem on the surface. Life isn’t that simple. Proverbs calls us to think deeply about the complexities of life, and to wrestle with the answers.
The Proverbs prescription for living well in the complexities of life: take one chapter a day for thirty days, find one thing, think about it and live it. “The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good” (Proverbs 10:17).