Contentment and So Much More

Proverbs 30

Proverbs 30 8 9 NIV

The author of this proverb, Agur, begins by belittling his understanding. The irony is that his words hold great wisdom. He is not bragging about his knowledge and understanding. He is declaring the LORD our God as unfathomably great. He asks six questions, five of which identify the power of God. The sixth is prophetic of the yet unborn son of God, Jesus. Additionally, his understanding of the perfection of God’s word and the refuge it provides us is astounding. This is a man of great wisdom who humbly recognizes his insignificance before God which in itself makes him all the more wise.

He then focuses on two requests of God; honesty and contentment. He asks that falsehoods and lies be kept far from him. He provides a variety of ways in which lies and deception can bring curses down upon our heads. They destroy our relationships and cause us to spiral ever further from the God who loves us. Entwined in these illustrations are lessons of being satisfied with what we have. Appreciating that our needs are met and being content with that is not easy when there is often so much more that we want. God provides for our needs, the author acknowledged this. Everything beyond our needs comes from our desires which are, more often than not, borne of our sinful natures.

Agur then contrasts contentment with greed. First pointing to leeches which will gorge themselves beyond their needs. Then he personifies four things which are never satisfied. Two of these are actually life-giving; the womb and land. These are bookended by destructive examples; the grave and fire.

Verse seventeen seems oddly out of place and more than a little disturbing. It actually goes with the theme of honesty. The person suffering such a creepy fate has been dishonest in action and words with their family, and likely with everyone else in their life. Ultimately they will be alone and everything they had will be scattered among the people around them.

How do the eagle, snake, ship and couple fit together? Is this what Agur did not understand? I doubt it. Each of these examples can be seen as somewhat mysterious in what path they will take. The eagle is not limited in the great expanse of the sky just as there are few obstacles that the snake could not overcome. Without a rudder and someone to steer, the ship would be tossed at the whim of the sea just as the whims of men and women often make courtship, that is dating for all those not familiar with the term, tumultuous. So how does this fit in with what Agur is trying to convey? It goes back to his self-proclaimed ignorance of, well, everything but specifically of God’s ways and will.

And then we get back to a verse that makes us scratch our head. The mention of the adulteress is actually an example of someone who is neither content with their relationship or dealing honestly with others. Additionally, she is completely without remorse as she sees nothing wrong with her actions. My prayer is that none of us would get caught up in this specific type of behavior but even more so that we would be remorseful of any actions that we take or words that we use which hurt others.

Up until verse 21, Agur has been consistent with themes of God’s power and majesty, honesty, and contentment. Somewhat enigmatic but consistent nonetheless. Beginning with verse 21 though he expands his words of wisdom. First to include the injustices of the world or what he refers to as four things by which the earth cannot bear. Of the four examples the first and last are of one who is raised to a higher position, likely without the benefit of knowledge or understanding of their responsibilities. This type of unfair promotion can lead to disaster in most cases. It is not uncommon though to see someone with little knowledge of how to manage situations or how to lead people placed in a high position. Additionally it is a warning to us not to seek after something we are not prepared or equipped to handle. I guess that goes back to one of the main ideas as well, contentment.

Agur then reminds us that wisdom and understanding are not reserved for anyone. Young and old, big and small may seek after these great treasures. His specific examples are of course of the small creatures and the wisdom found in how they act. The contrast however is of larger creatures and their “stately bearing.” The imagery used is of pride and arrogance. Perhaps a reminder of humility in our own positions, whatever they may be. Given how this proverb concludes that would certainly seem to be the final lesson.

So what have we learned from Agur, other than that he has a pretty cool name? Humility is greatly valued, especially in light of our amazing God’s power. He was in awe of the gift of God’s word that has been given to all men. He esteemed honesty and contentment as the greatest gifts to request from God. And he reminds us that it is not our age or size that matters but our willingness to seek after wisdom that counts.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

In This Moment – Our Relationships

Proverbs 27

Proverbs 27 1 NIV

How often do you think about tomorrow? What is it that you think of? Are you hoping for certain things to happen, praying for a specific outcome? Are you dreaming of what might be?

The implication from James 3:13-14 and 4:13-15 as well as Matthew 6:34 is that tomorrow is promised to no one. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tells us that time and chance happen to everyone. With billions of people each doing their own thing for their own reasons it is easy to see how true that last statement is. So we truly cannot boast about tomorrow for we do not even know if it will come to us and if it does, what it will bring.

We are to prepare for tomorrow, but not presume it. When we dream of tomorrow we may find ourselves imagining our own plans being better than God’s. Additionally, thinking to the future is more often than not the primary source of our anxieties. So again I say, prepare for tomorrow but always trust in our incredible God’s will. If He has called you to Him it is to succeed in His will, not to fail in it.

Of the 27 verses of the 27th Proverb, 16 deal directly with relationships (2-6, 9-11, 13-18, 21-22). It is telling of the importance of relationships to our amazing God. He places the greatest emphasis on our relationship with Him and one another all through the Scriptures.

The three points on relationships that this chapter of proverbs focuses on is a humble heart, the sting of honesty, and the destructiveness of things left hidden.

If there is something that you are really good at you are probably accustomed to receiving praise for it. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that we need to remember not to let it go to our head. If you let it, it can inflate our ego. A brilliant writer receives critical acclaim but it is likely that their talent was developed and nurtured by their parents, numerous teachers, and peers. The passion to do what they do is fueled by hundreds of authors that have come before them. Likewise a superstar athlete has family, teachers, coaches, trainers, teammates and even their competition to thank for honing their abilities. As you can see there is nothing that we do that we could honestly boast about. Everything we do and are capable of comes from others guiding us and believing in us. Ultimately this is all traced back to our LORD and Creator. In His image we are strong and creative. We are intelligent and powerful because of Him.

The second point made in this proverb deals with the pain of honesty and how good it can be for us. It can hurt when someone tells you, “You sing horribly!” Well, not so much for me because I already know that. But you get the picture. When someone tells you in such a point blank manner or preferably in a more caring way a truth that you need to hear that is for your benefit. Sometimes it is an honest remark about something we said or how we acted that we know was not right. We need to be called out from time to time over our words and actions. This is what the Bible calls a rebuke, a correction of what we do and say.

One of the honest expressions this passage speaks of is anger. Anger can be cruel, to the one who is angry as well as the one at which the anger is directed. But a sudden outburst of anger may allow us to clear the air. It can move us into a place of reconciliation and forgiveness so that healing can begin. The point is that open and honest communication is not always nice and polite. Sometimes it is not possible to be honest in a demure, quiet way. There are times when honesty hurts. Actually, most of the time honesty hurts. But can we truly grow and mature if everyone around us is sugar-coating and shielding us from the reality of a situation?

The third and final point I took from this proverb goes hand-in-hand with honest communication, burying things away. I mentioned the point of anger and the author continues by asking the rhetorical question, “Who can stand before jealousy?” Jealousy, envy, and the like are like smoldering embers. The heat is held inside, never dying down and ready in an instant to ignite at the first opportunity. They are not easily vented or burned out. While anger may subside soon after being released, jealousy and envy grow stronger the longer they are held. They feed off of our relationships, slowly burning them away to nothing. Be careful of what you hold inside for this is the very reason we have the expression, burning bridges.

There is so much more within this wonderful passage that we could have covered. The significance of being in this moment and trusting God for what may come as well as the importance of relationships is what really stuck out to me. So remember, not only do we owe God but many others for all that we are capable of. Honesty hurts but, when coupled with compassion, is helpful. And finally, be careful what you hold hidden inside for it can destroy your relationships and do great harm to you as well. We were created to be in relationship with God. Our Savior, Jesus, spoke of how vital our relationships are. He simplified the incredibly convoluted system of 613 laws that man had in place to two – love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. The heart of these is relationships. Never forget that.

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

A True Friend

PROVERBS 27 – Monday

Prov 27 17

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.

-Megan Bryant

A Refreshing Answer

Proverbs 24 – Wednesday

Proverbs 24:23-26 

23     These also are sayings of the wise:
Partiality in judging is not good.
24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are innocent,”
   will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations;
25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
   and a good blessing will come upon them.
26 One who gives an honest answer
   gives a kiss on the lips.

 

I grew up with my father telling me “Honesty is always the best policy.”  As I’ve grown, I have to admit that there have been many times in my life when I have tested the wisdom of that saying.  And I’m apparently not alone.  In a study done by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of American adults cannot have 10 minutes of conversation without stepping into some sort of lie.  I find that number both astounding and unfortunately relatable.

Proverbs 24-24

A blatant lie is easy to spot.  Calling those who are clearly wicked and have done evil “innocent” is something that we can uncover with even the smallest pursuit of truth.  But I don’t think 60% of people are taking their conversations that far within 10 minutes.  Instead, I think it has a lot more to do with our desire/need to want to impress those around us (at least I know that it is for me a lot of the time).  So I don’t make up some story whole-cloth.  I pull at the story here a little or there a bit to make it more grandiose or impressive.


Here’s the kicker though, whenever we start to do that our stories actually become less believable and others start to hold us in lower regard than if we were truthful in the first place.  As humans, we have incredibly intuitive brains that can sense when things don’t quite add up.  This is why an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.  Not romantic, but refreshing and life-giving.

 

See, I’m married and if I’m exhausted or frustrated, my wife can give me a small kiss (even just a peck) and I can start to feel better.  Not because a kiss is magic but because it reminds me of what is most important in life.  We may experience the same thing when we kiss our family goodbye or give our closest friends an earnest hug.  An honest answer is refreshing and shows us what is really going on – we are engaging in relationship with those around us.

-Graysen Pack

Integrity!

Proverbs 20

prov 20-17 (1)

We read previously that honest scales and balances belong to the Lord so we understand that God wants us to possess fairness, honesty and integrity.  Proverbs 20 shows us the importance of being honest with everyone around us in our daily lives.  For instance, in verse 23 we are told that the Lord detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him. Dishonest scales refers to the loaded scales a merchant might use in order to cheat customers. Those who cheat others think that their actions will not be discovered and they will have benefited from what they did. Unfortunately, Statistic Brain estimates that $270,000,000,000 is lost annually by the U.S. Treasury due to unreported income. Maybe they cheat because they just don’t think they will be caught.  After all, this same report states that 79% of people think it is morally wrong to cheat on their taxes.

But as Christians we value what God thinks of us.  We want His approval.  As verse 17 explains “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.”  Sometimes, it is tough to do the right thing, but we should always take the moral high ground.  After all, integrity can be described as doing the right thing when no one is watching. And as Children of God, we know God is not only watching, but helping us by “directing our steps”(v.24).

Something to think about. What is verse 1 saying about the abuse of alcohol leading the unwise astray? How could this affect someone’s integrity or honesty?

By Rebecca Dauksas