Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines a proverb as “a short, traditional saying that expresses some obvious truth or familiar experience; adage; maxim.” Ben Franklin collected and published common American proverbs in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. For example, one famous Franklin proverb stated, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Franklin, however, did not live by this adage or maxim during the time he served as Ambassador to France and participated in Parisian nightlife.
Biblical proverbs have a different character. Proverbs sets forth two ways—the way of folly and the way of wisdom. The contrast between the two ways is eternal. The benefit of godly wisdom, however, also connects to real life issues. Proverbs highlights numerous benefits of godly wisdom. What are the benefits of biblical wisdom?
First, biblical wisdom provides security and protection (Prov. 1:33; 2:7-8; 20-22). Beginning in Prov. 1:20, the Bible describes wisdom as a woman calling out in the public marketplace. Wisdom calls out for a response. Neglecting Wisdom results in destructive consequences (1.32); heeding Wisdom’s call brings positive blessings. The promise of positive blessings is conditional—“whoever listens (obeys) me.” The Hebrew term translated “securely” expresses a subjective sense of well-being and objective security based on the one in whom one places his or her confidence. In other words, the sense of security is only as valid as the object of one’s trust—in the case of a believer that would be God.
Individuals heeding the universal call of wisdom experience success in the path of life (paths, way). The Hebrew term translated “success” means “sound judgment.” The biblical evaluation of success radically differs from the biblical definition of success. Sound judgment derived from an intimate relationship with the source of wisdom for life produces protection (shield, guard, protect).
Second, biblical wisdom delivers discernment and guidance (Prov. 2:5-6; 9-12; 3:5-6). Wisdom in the Bible is not intellectual knowledge. Wisdom must be internalized, a matter of mind and heart (2:10). Biblical wisdom provides guidance in matters of moral life (understand integrity, discretion, and rescuing from evil according to 2:5-6). The promise of guidance is conditional. First, a person must humble themselves rather than facing life in a self-confident manner—“rely on your own understanding.” The term “rely” describes a crutch elsewhere in Scripture. Second, the source of knowledge is exclusive—the Lord. Trust is a command. An individual must trust God with the totality of his or her personality (heart). Trust describes the idea of an individual lying facedown before God in a helpless position. God promises to guide on the right paths, literally “the smooth paths.” The implication is that God’s guidance brings a believer to His goal.
Third, biblical wisdom produces wholeness in life (Prov. 3:1-2, 7-8). Not forgetting biblical wisdom by means of a heart of obedience results in long-life and well-being. “Well-being” is the translation of the Hebrew term “shalom.” Shalom is a life as a gift from God—a life characterized by sufficient provision, freedom from hostility, joy, and contentment. A life of seeking the way of folly and sin establishes destructive habits and character in an individual’s life. Mere length of days without biblical shalom would be a curse. Perhaps the gift of a life of “many days” points to eternal life with God, the source of wisdom.
Fourth, biblical wisdom serves as a foundation for positive, healthy relationships (Prov. 3:3-4). Loyalty (sometimes translated “steadfast love”) and faithfulness both describe the keeping of commitments associated with a relationship. Loyalty and faithfulness describe integrity in relationships. A believer should publicly display the jewels of loyalty and faithfulness in relationships as a prominent necklace. Yet, the public display is worthless without the writing of relationship values upon the heart.
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