Tag Archives: Proverbs

(Proverbs 10-11) Interpreting Proverbs

Proverbs can be confusing if we try to interpret them though a material lens. A proverb might say a good person lives long and an evil person dies young (10:27) when experience tells us that is not always so. A proverb may suggest good people are always rewarded and evil people are always punished (10:16) but that’s not necessarily true, either…

IF we are only considering our physical life on this earth.

The greater truth of proverbs is 100% true 100% of the time. For instance, the righteous ARE rewarded, maybe not with checks in the mail, but with peace and joy and forgiveness and fellowship with God, AND they will never die!

Those who reject God live in bondage to the sin they refuse to confess, and life on this earth will end in an eternal death – where they will be conscious of their excruciating punishment forever, according to Scripture.

Yes, many of the proverbs apply to the physical, day to day living, and tell us how we should treat each other, what our character ought to be. Most of the time we read those and get the message pretty easily. But even the proverbs that seem to contradict what the rest of Scripture teaches, or what our experiences have taught us, can and do apply to our spirit. They give us a bigger picture of the result of how we live in this life, our choices to be honest or dishonest, kind or unkind, generous or stingy, good or bad.

John MacArthur said somethings that helps me look at the proverbs with greater understanding:

“Given the context that surrounds Proverbs – the rest of God’s Word – a student’s failure to grasp a proverb ought not to lead to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with the proverb. A better conclusion would be that the student doesn’t know enough yet or hasn’t paid enough attention. A wise person puts an elusive proverb on hold for further understanding rather than rejecting it as useless. God’s further lessons in that person’s life may well cast a new light on parts of the Bible that have been difficult to interpret.” (The MacArthur Bible Handbook; Thomas Nelson, Inc; Nashville; 2003; p 166)

So let me encourage you to not give up on the proverbs just because you run across some that seem confusing, or even contradictory. Slow down. Look up and consider the bigger picture, the rest of God’s Word. And when necessary, move on. God will give you the interpretation and application at exactly the right time for you.

Not-So-Common Sense

The Proverbs are rich in common sense (or not-so-common these days). Today I read in chapter 16 where it says a whisper can destroy a friendship.

Why is it some people think they have to tell everything they think they know? Why do some stretch the truth or pass on an opinion as fact? Why is it some people are intent on stirring things up, living in drama every day? And how many friendships, even marriages, could be saved if we would learn to control our tongues? (Read what James has to say on that subject in chapter three of his book).

You might whisper the latest gossip into the ear of your closest friend, but once you do you have no control over where it goes from there. And you have no control over the hurt caused by your little whisper. The damage is already done.

It’s like the internet, social media. A hard lesson many people have had to learn is that anything posted can NEVER be completely erased. That picture will always be in cyber space, accessible to anyone. That email sent in private is not so private there on the server.

A whisper, a text, a post can destroy your relationships, can destroy lives. Are you ok with that? Are you willing to be a part of that?

It should be common sense to know that spreading gossip is destructive. It should be common sense to know that the less said, the better on most subjects, especially if the subject is really none of your business or the business of the person you are telling. But God knew we don’t always use the sense we have, common or not.

So he inspired men to write down some common rules of living. Like what I read today in Proverbs. Like what James had to say.

Next time you are tempted to pass on that juicy bit of information… zip it. Show a little not-so-common sense.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for our tongues. That amazing muscle helps us speak, taste, swallow, chew. It’s a pretty handy invention you have there. But God, may we be reminded the power we have in the use of our tongues. May we control them, whether tempted to whisper that gossip in the ear of a friend, or use our fingers to type out the words before we hit “send”. May the words of our mouths and the meditation of hearts be acceptable to you, Lord. And may we use our words to build up, encourage one another rather than be any part of tearing somebody down.