Proverbs 31 comprises a collection of teachings from King Lemuel taught to him by his mother. In Hebrew, Lemuel means “devoted to God.” The first nine verses of the chapter offer 3 main lessons:
1- Be careful not to partner with destructive people, whether in marriage or social/ business circumstances.
2- Be careful with alcohol, lest it clouds our judgment.
3- Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Do any of these bits of wisdom apply to your life or current circumstances?
Verses 10-31 are verses that I hear and read a lot as a woman. These verses are crocheted onto pillows and painted on plaques that women like to keep in view. This section of Proverbs tells us that a virtuous woman is one of strong character, an able and compassionate woman. She is trustworthy and brings good to other people. Her family relies on and blesses her. This Godly woman is an outstanding wife, mother, and businesswoman. The passage doesn’t mention the woman’s outward appearance; only her actions and her character define her. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
The description of the woman who fears the Lord can be overwhelming. However, we are encouraged to be more and more virtuous in our walks with God every day. What can we all (men and women) change or improve to be more like the woman described in the later section of the chapter?
Before writing this post, I did some research about other commentaries and devotionals from Proverbs 30. Many writers have speculated about the author of this passage, whether Agur is a pseudonym for a known author or what wisdom this author may possess. Most of the devotionals focus on verses 5-6: “Every word of God is flawless, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” These verses tell us that we can confidently put our faith in the Lord and warn against tampering with His Word, the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 12:32, and Revelation 22: 18-19 all reinforce these 2 verses in Proverbs 30.
When I read this chapter, however, I did not latch onto those 2 verses like most of the commentaries and devotionals I read. I was drawn to verse 8. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” As a whole, our society is never satisfied. We are always seeking something more. I remember talking about marriage in a psychology class, and the professor was explaining how studies have shown that one reason marriages tend to fail more often now than they used to is often because one of the spouses is seeking something more, whether that be a more attractive partner or a partner who makes more money or whatever qualifications are deemed important, rather than being content and wholly loving the current husband/wife. We are never satisfied, always looking for the next-best thing. Verse 8 asks the Lord for neither poverty nor riches, only what is needed for the day. The writer isn’t seeking more. He’s seeking to be satisfied in the Lord. We’ve all read that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:25), and verse 9 reinforces that someone who is “full” is quick to deny the Lord.
Though society tells us that we always need the newest and next-best thing, the newest iPhone, the bigger tv, the prettier woman or more handsome man—the Bible teaches us to be content with what we are given. Our daily bread is enough.
When reading Proverbs 29, I caught onto a theme of how to handle anger and frustration. Verse 8 says that the wise turn away anger. Verse 11 reads that the wise bring calm whereas the fool vents his rage. Verse 20 instructs us not to speak in haste, verse 22 tells us that angry and hot-tempered people stir up conflict and commit many sins, and verse 23 warns against pride, which is often a precursor to anger and argument.
We all encounter trying situations. We all have tense moments in which we want to scream into a pillow or go for a run or do whatever helps us to cool off. Proverbs 29 instructs us to keep a cool head and turn away from anger. I remember a scene from a movie or television show (although for the life of me, I can’t remember the source) in which a character is stressing out. Another character instructs her to take 3 deep breaths, saying that in the time it takes to complete those 3 breaths, she will stop herself from doing or saying anything she may later regret.
At some point or another, we all get angry. In these times, it is important to know how God instructs us to handle ourselves. I had a classmate in college who would pray for the class before every exam. She always ended her prayers by asking the Lord to keep us calm, cool, and collected during the stress of the exam. Three deep breaths. Calm, cool, and collected. When on the verge of having an outburst, remember to be the wise man and bring calm. Be wise and turn away anger. Don’t speak in haste. Lean on the Lord and His teachings, even in tense moments. Three deep breaths allows for enough time to reflect back on these verses.
Verses 13-28 examine the fates of the wicked compared to the righteous. Verse 13 reads, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” In which camp would you routinely place yourself? Are there certain parts of our lives that we are quick to share if we sin or fall short, but others that we conceal for the sake of reputation or fear of conflict or avoidance of the consequences? This verse doesn’t specify between transgressions; whoever conceals his sins will not prosper. Confessing before the Lord and all other necessary parties brings mercy and an opportunity for growth. Are there specific wrongs in your life that need to come into the light? We all have room for growth, and we should ask the Lord to reveal to us our shortcomings. John 15:2 reads, “Every branch that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Even our fruitful endeavors need pruning.
I would encourage you to pray about your transgressions. Admit to yourself and the Lord that you have sins, not that you just make mistakes or have oversights. Ask for help in renouncing and repenting of these shortcomings, and actually try to follow through in walking away from whatever you have been keeping in the dark. Don’t just make a quick promise, but deliberately seek righteousness.
PROVERBS 27 – Monday
Verse 6 reads “faithful are the wounds of a friend…” In this context, the wounds of a friend appear to be necessary. Friends who love us enough to be honest with us, even when it hurts, are the best kinds of friends. I can remember multiple times in my life in which I didn’t enjoy the truth that I was told, but my friends and family loved me enough to tell me anyway. We often think that allowing people their momentary happiness is a kindness, but if someone is in sin, it is our duty to tell loved ones the painful truth. Just as iron sharpens iron (verse17) by chipping away the outer bits of metal, honest friends sharpen each other by helping each other to turn away from sin and helping to recognize the things that are keeping us spiritually dull.
Finding a friend or a group of friends who can be open enough with each other to share this kind of love is invaluable. Someone told me that a friendship that lasts 7 years is a lifelong friendship—if you can make it 7 years, you can make it forever. I don’t particularly like the idea that a length of time is necessary to determine true friendship; I think that real friendship is proven by friends who can be brutally honest in love. I was close to a girl in college for 4 years, but I could never tell her hard truths. It weighed on me when I saw things that needed attention, but I was too scared of upsetting her to be a forthright friend. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Don’t be afraid to confront your people when you see them in or approaching sin. We need each other to keep us accountable.
Saturday’s Weekly Recap with Graysen Pack
This week we’ve walked through another six chapters of Proverbs and found words that, although written thousands of years ago, still speak to the persistent struggles of human existence. Answers to guide us seek the wealth that God promises, to join God’s work as he defends the orphaned and poor, to earnestly engage in honest community, to be aware of the emotional strife of ourselves and others, and to use our words to build a church of sincerity.
It can be easy to forget that even when we read the oldest parts of the Bible, the words are still alive and active. And we don’t really read Scripture, but instead engage in a conversation with it. It isn’t a professor lecturing at us from the front of a large classroom. Instead, it is a dialogue that speaks to who, where, and when we are. The words of God are both alive in the history of Israel and the church as well as our lives today.
As you continue to read through the Word of God this year, remember that you are entering a conversation that will speak to your life and the life of the world today.
Proverbs 26 – Friday
18 Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows,
19 so is one who deceives a neighbor
and says, “I am only joking!”
There’s a popular show on HBO called Game of Thrones. And whether you’ve ever seen it or not, it has become a meme factory. And there’s one line that is currently making the rounds on social media: “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything and then there are no more answers. Only better and better lies.”
Like the boy who cried wolf, this proverb is a warning that words are powerful. Although we want to believe that only sticks and stones can break our bones, words can often cripple us in a way that no wound ever could. I think it is probably fairly rare that we intentionally fire hurtful words at those around us (although when tempers flare I have unfortunately found a sharper tongue than I ever expected in my mouth). What is really dangerous are the words we throw at someone else veiled in jest.
I learned this from Andy Cisneros, but in every piece of sarcasm there’s a little nugget of truth. Something real about the thing we’re pretending to say but really meaning. While we may find them easy to move past at times, sarcastic words erode away at us like water through a canyon. They’re poison pills wrapped in sweetness and given in bitterness.
We may not consider ourselves to be con men – deceiving our neighbor intentionally – but we deceive ourselves and shoot arrows at our neighbor when we pretend that the words we say don’t have weight to them. This proverb encourages us to become people who use our words wisely, to mean what we say, and to engage with each other genuinely so we can build a better community together.