January 11, 2011

Proverbs

I've got a feeling that when all is said and done Proverbs will be my favorite book in the Bible. Since I started this long and surreal journey through the world's most famous book there have been some really interesting parts and some food for thought but it hasn't really been much of a page turner. To use a Bible metaphor (just to prove that I have been reading it), we'll say that I've been able to take some time enjoying the manna but mostly I've just been wandering in the wilderness. Well ladies and gentleman, once I opened up the Book of Proverbs I reached the promised land.

Proverbs is overflowing with useful wisdom for everyday life that holds up surprisingly well. The emphasis on the importance of knowledge is particularly striking and welcome after reading so much "do what I command, or else" in the previous books. I, and people like me, probably would have been a lot more receptive to religion if church leaders focused more on content like this and less on fairy tales, hell and brimstone and all that hippie acoustic guitar stuff. I don't care if it is religious or secular, I could never imagine subscribing to a philosophy of life that wasn't rooted in common sense and knowledge. I think if people would pay more attention to the lessons taught in Proverbs and worry less about the bits condemning men laying with other men then religion could have a much more positive impact on society than it currently does.

Many people look to the Bible in a time of personal crisis. This is where they should start. I think everyone should give Proverbs a look. If a crotchety atheist like myself can gain some insight from it anyone should be able to. It reads an awful lot like a book of sayings from Confucius or even  your standard book of quotes. And who doesn't love quote books? I'm actually working on memorizing a few of them for when people come to me for advice. For example:

Proverbs 18.2 is absolutely perfect for all of the pundits on cable news: A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion.

If a friend of mine is having trouble with his crazy girlfriend I could offer Proverbs 11.22: Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without good sense.

Proverbs 19.8 might be the truest thing I've read in the Bible so far: To get wisdom is to love oneself; to keep understanding is to prosper.

During the latest Lil' Weezy video I can remember Proverbs 13.7: Some pretend to be rich, yet have nothing; others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth.

If I'm ever unsure about confessing my feelings to a pretty girl Proverbs 27.5: Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Lastly, Proverbs 29.20 made me look at myself a little differently yesterday and inspired me to write the post "In the Mirror": Do you see someone who is hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than for anyone like that.

Some of these Proverbs I used in jest, others I showed in a more practical light, and one even helped me with something in my personal life. They can all be used for different things. When it comes to knowledge and truth, versatility and practicality breed timelessness and that is why these Proverbs, in my opinion, are still valuable today.

By the way, I wrote applications for a lot more verses but in the interest of brevity I didn't post them here. I'll put them in the comments though if you enjoyed them.

15 comments:

  1. If the U.S. Supreme Court is right and corporations are people I would say this to them Proverbs 22.16: Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.


    If MC Hammer and I ever get into a conversation about hindsight there is Proverbs 20:21: An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.

    If I feel guilty from turning away from a friend who repeatedly makes the same mistake Proverbs 19.19: A violent tempered person will pay the penalty; if you effect a rescue you will only have to do it again.

    For the people at BP who didn't take care to make sure that oil rig was safe Proverbs 18.9: One who is slack in work is close kin to a vandal.

    During a rough work week Proverbs 15.15: All the days of the poor are hard, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

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  2. During a debate I at times have a tendency to berate instead of being civil and I'd do well to remember Proverbs 16.21: The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness.

    When I feel old because I find a gray hair I can read Proverbs 16.31: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

    After the next natural disaster when Jerry Falwell says something crazy I can tweet him Proverbs 17.5 Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

    When a good friend makes a mistake that really makes me mad I can look at Proverbs 17.9: One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.

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  3. I really just plain like Proverbs 13.12: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

    When deep in argument about economic injustice I can lean on Proverbs 13.23: The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.

    I may someday meet an emo kid that needs help coming up with a status message. For that I have Proverbs 14.10 and 14.13: The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief.

    If I receive a backhanded compliment from someone that grates on my nerves I can think of Proverbs 12.16: Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult.

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  4. If I need to mediate a heated argument and bring reconciliation there is Proverbs 12.18: Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

    When I get the urge to be a know-it-all (as is often the case) I can think back to proverbs 12.23: One who is clever conceals knowledge, but the mind of a fool broadcasts folly.

    If I'm arguing against war (or trying to seduce an impressionable idealist) I could whip out Proverbs 10.12: Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

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  5. Wow, you really went all out. More people should study the Bible this closely (me included!).

    I liked the one on feeling guilty about turning away from a friend who repeatedly makes the same mistake. Good advice and SO hard to follow . . . especially when you're related to them.

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  6. Wow. You've inspired me to pick up the Bible, Chris. As a child, my grandmother used to read from it all the time and I enjoyed her interpretations. Thanks for the reminder.

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  7. I'm fond of this one: Proverbs 2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

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  8. Janet: Well don't get the wrong impression from this post it has taken me 3 years to get this far and my mind wanders quite a bit through most of the boring bits. But this book happened to keep my attention.

    Robyn: That's me, the atheist evangelical. Something like that. I did really enjoy Proverbs and think about the meaning behind all the different verses.

    Elle: I really loved the emphasis on wisdom in this book. Wish that was the main push of the entire bible.

    Mikey: Yea, it was pretty cool I have to say.

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  9. I've never read the bible. I should probably take a look but for some of the reasons you stated above as to your feelings on most of it, I haven't yet. It was interesting to read the Proverbs you posted though. That's the kind of thing I can relate to.

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  10. I'm impressed with your patience to get through the thing. Sounds like it's treating you well. I think Proverbs is the only bit I've ever actually read.

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  11. Eva: It's definitely really something you have to commit to. I've given it up so many times already but I've been stubborn enough to get back to it.

    A Beer: There are ups and downs, I'm getting to the end of the Old Testament so I'm starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

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  12. As a good church going girl, I've read Proverbs quite a few times and found that there's a verse for everyone I know. In my culture we're lucky enough to not have these priests that dig the gloom and doom and we don't do the hippie hippie shake in chruch either. Going to church over here is like having a drink on a Saturday night: normal. Glad you found Proverbs, it could be your gateway drug :)
    Thanks for the comment on my blog!

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  13. Great post! I've always thought of the Bible as a collaborative novel full of great life guidelines.

    I have an award for you at my blog.

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  14. ladytruth: Well, if there's drinks, I'm there.

    Tara: I'm glad you enjoyed it. While I wouldn't consider the entire Bible to be like that this book is. And thanks for the award!

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