Proverbs 31 – July 31

CC Image courtesy of Megan on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Megan on Flickr.

Proverbs 31
Author: Jana Anderson

If there were ever a series of scriptures that have caused me more guilt and despair and feelings of inadequacy as a wife and a mother, I can’t think of any. Welcome to Proverbs 31:10-31, and enter at your own risk.

That’s what I used to think, but over the years, including the rich teaching in a bible class just a month ago, spiritual mentors and teachers have pointed me to the beauty—and perhaps the true point—of this set of scriptures that describe a Godly and productive woman whose husband and children call her blessed and who can cook, sew, build a business, get up early, go to bed late, and even has a sense of humor. She sounds like a keeper, and it makes sense that she garnered the admiration and respect of so many, especially those at home.

Is the description of this woman, and the beauty of her life, the culmination of the wisdom of proverbs and a checklist for us to follow? Should I use her life as a template for my own? (What do I do with the fact that I can’t sew, which gets mentioned several times throughout these verses and makes my heart race?

These are the wrong questions.

When the writer of Proverbs began this record of wisdom all the way back in Chapter 1:7, he wrote that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Flash-forward to the end of Proverbs 31 and the culmination of the description of the Proverbs 31 woman: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (v. 30).

It seems to me that the whole point of Proverbs 31—and all of Proverbs—is this: if you want to be wise, if you want to start from the right place in all that you think and do, then do this one thing: fear the Lord. Love him. Reverence him. Understand your position in front of Him. If a position of godly fear is the starting point from which you launch your to-do list, from which you think and speak, and the position from which you serve and lead, then you will be wise and will “surpass them all” (v. 29).

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Start there, and the rest will take care of itself, even if you can’t sew. You will be “more precious than jewels” (10) and your wisdom, not your sewing skills, will be worthy of praise.

Proverbs 26 – June 26

Image courtesy of Jana Anderson.

Image courtesy of Jana Anderson.

Proverbs 26
Author: Jana Anderson

We have a fun and happy little dog named Penny, who is sweet and energetic, wags her tail when she sees us, chews on squeaky toys, and generally goes about her day doing typical dog things.

One of those typical dog behaviors isn’t so funny: on long walks, if we are not watching, she will stop and try to consume dog excrement that she happens to spot in a yard or by a tree, as if she were approaching some really exceptional doggie delicacy.

I bet you didn’t expect to read that in your Proverbs devotional, but stay with me, because this (gross) picture of a dog returning to waste is a pivotal metaphor in Proverbs 26, where the writer attempts to show us with a graphic image the nature of foolishness, laziness, and malicious gossip. Make no mistake, the writer says; the consequences of these sins are irrational and repulsive.

Let’s take a closer look.

The writer of Proverbs says that when we act foolishly (v. 1-12), when we are so lazy and sluggish that we can’t even bring our cup to our own lips (v. 15), and when we talk about other people deceptively and enjoy the benefits of being charming in person but speaking maliciously about people in private (v. 17-end), then the writer says that these kinds of foolish, unwise behaviors are just “like a dog returning to his own vomit” (26:11). These behaviors are as unreasonable and illogical as “snow in summer or rain in harvest” (v. 1), or “cutting off one’s own feet” (v. 6), or “shooting deadly arrows [at someone] and saying, ‘I’m only joking’” (v. 18-19).

In other words, the lack of discernment, an unwillingness to work, and delighting in gossip are irrational at best, and in the end, make as much sense as a dog returning to dine on the very things that made it sick.

Proverbs 10 – June 10

Image courtesy of Robert Anderson.

Image courtesy of Robert Anderson.

Proverbs 10
Author: Jana Anderson

Wisdom, righteousness, diligence, kindness, knowledge, discipline, strength, understanding, and joy—in Proverbs 10, these contrast foolishness, wickedness, laziness, ignorance, violence, indiscretion, deceit, dissension, hatred, and evil. The clear winner is the way of the Lord. Choosing the way of wisdom seems so obvious—“blessings crown the head of the righteous . . . the man of integrity walks securely” (10: 6, 9).

Who would ever choose foolishness over wisdom? Unforgiveness over love?

Let me raise my hand.

In Proverbs 10, the distinction between these two ways of living is so starkly clear. One way leads to death; the other way leads to joy and safety and the blessings of the Lord.

On Wednesday, June 10 in Lubbock, Tx., the consequences don’t seem so immediate or clear. It’s probably ok for me to “stir up dissension” about the person who wronged me—right? If I talk about my spouse or friend disrespectfully (and I make sure these parties don’t get wind of it—and after all, they WERE wrong), no one is harmed—right? If I tell that white lie, or don’t work very hard, or am unwilling to think about something deeply, or if I share that private information (it was a prayer request, after all!), or just don’t care about someone’s feelings, or if I spend most of my time mindlessly ambling through each day—no one’s that worse off.

I couldn’t be more dangerously wrong.

Proverbs 10 reminds us that there are only two choices, and the consequences ARE starkly clear. Choose the way of wisdom—be alert, be discerning, be kind, be diligent, be truthful, be loving, and yes–be quiet; choose words carefully; spend time wisely; work hard. Choose the way that leads to life—because when “the storm has swept by, the wicked [will be] gone, but the righteous [will] stand firm forever” (10:25).