Proverbs 1:1-7, 3:1-8
For learning about wisdom and instruction,
for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
knowledge and prudence to the young—
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
My child, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life
and abundant welfare they will give you.
Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them round your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and of people.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.
Because I went out fishing with the local military veterans yesterday, I’m reminded of the one about a 70-year-old retired military officer who had only one hobby – he loved to fish. He was sitting in his boat the other day when, out of nowhere, he heard a voice say, “Pick me up.” The officer looked around and couldn’t see anyone. He thought he was dreaming when he heard the voice say again, ”Pick me up.” He looked in the water and there, floating on a lily pad, was a frog. The retired officer asked, “Are you talking to me?” The frog responded, “Yes, I’m talking to you! Pick me up, then kiss me, and I’ll turn into the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. I’ll make sure that all your friends are envious and jealous, because I will be your bride!” The man looked at the frog for a short while, reached over, picked it up carefully and put it in his shirt pocket. The frog said, ‘What, are you nuts!? Didn’t you hear what I said?! I said, ‘Kiss me, and I will be your beautiful bride.!’” He opened his pocket, looked at the frog, and said “Nah. At my age, I’d rather have a talking frog.”
I think most guys out at that outing yesterday would also prefer a talking frog over a beautiful lady as well! Those guys have sacrificed enough not to want to sacrifice more in appeasing a beautiful woman. Say what you will about beautiful women but they tend to have high maintenance costs. That beauty isn’t free by any means so unless you’re willing to pay the price for it, it’s best to find contentment in a talking frog. And besides, more people would be impressed with a talking frog than a beautiful woman. You’d get a heck of a lot more attention with the frog than the woman! Those who have sacrificed anything understand this all too well…
But besides his military service, that man also had age and experience to help guide his decision-making. For most of us, with age and experience comes wisdom. The older we get, the wiser we become. Of course there are some of us who just refuse to get with this plan and continue to make poor decisions all throughout their lives. But for most of us, our decisions get better as we become older and wiser. There’s a definite benefit to wisdom. It helps us make better decisions with our lives. And with better decisions comes longer, more productive lives. The quality of our lives is directly correlated to the decisions we make along the way. It is good to become wise and Scripture helps us learn wisdom.
Today we kick off our 3rd sermon series for the summer by exploring the truths found in the wisdom and poetry of Scripture. We’ll focus in particular on the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and what they have to teach us. The book of Proverbs is a compilation of brief lessons taught by arguably the wisest king to have ever lived, King Solomon. Recall when asked by God for a specific gift, Solomon chose the gift of wisdom above all else. Solomon used his gift to effectively rule his people and help them live better lives. Sadly we won’t get to explore the various little lessons but instead reflect on the importance of wisdom as a whole. I would recommend digging into the lessons when you get a chance but only in small doses. There’s a lot of wisdom in the book of Proverbs, too much to consume all at once. But taken in small doses, they are effective tools in helping us make better decisions with our lives. I like to think of them as mental and spiritual exercises. They build and strengthen our mental and spiritual muscles much the same way physical exercises help the body so get into them if you want to become stronger.
They encourage not only strength but growth as well and you know how I feel about growth–all of life encourages growth and unless we’re growing then we’re dying. God wants us to grow and wisdom only furthers that growth along. Each of us is but a seed planted in this world and God gives us all that we need to grow to be strong and fruitful. What a gift and a blessing! We need the gift of wisdom to help us grow as our reading tells us, “my child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you.” When we refuse his gift of wisdom, we are refusing his gift of life…long life…good life. Our God is a good God who wants us to know goodness in this life. The apostle James writes, “if any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” (1:5) Unfortunately, simply living doesn’t necessarily mean we become wise. We must ask God for wisdom as James teaches us. We open ourselves to receive his wisdom, never relying solely on the wisdom we’ve already received. God presents us with situations to apply our wisdom AND receive new wisdom. Why? Because we’re always growing, or at least we ought to be always growing.
The wisdom of God is a great gift to us. James goes on to tell us, “but the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” (3:17) You’ll notice how all those qualities not only encourage life but good life, harmonious life. We ought to want to live good, harmonious lives. We ought to want to live God-fearing and God-pleasing lives at the same time. We ought to heed the wisdom of Paul when he advises us in his letter to the Ephesians, “be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (5:15-17) Friends, we ought to make the most of our time in this world. Let us use our lives to encourage the lives of those around us. Death has no part in us. We are a people of life…life-encouraging, life-sustaining, life-empowering, life-enabling. Wisdom allows us to be so. Let us graciously give thanks for God’s gift of wisdom. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.