Gather, Distinguish, Practice: The Beginning Of Wisdom

Proverbs 4:7 “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”

DEFINITIONS:

  • Wisdom: skill
  • Get: gather
  • Insight: distinguish or discern

The word “get” is used three times in our verse. We are called here to get or gather skill and insight. We live in a world filled with ideas, concepts, and truth claims. Whatever kind of information we gather during our day, we are called to discern it. To separate it so that we might know whether it is good, wise, and true, or evil, foolish, and false. Jesus Christ is the author of all truth, and the Devil is the father of lies. Becoming wise then is the continual practice of gathering, distinguishing, and putting into practice the insights we learn. Get wisdom, and get insight from whatever information we get throughout each and every day.

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Honor The Lord With Your Wealth

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

We are called to honor the Lord in our body, our spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20), in our actions (1 Corinthians 10:31), and Proverbs 3 teaches us we also are to honor him with our wealth. Wealth here does not simply mean our cash flow. We can have a tendency to think that if we give the first ten percent (our tithe) off the gross margin of our pay check, we then have ninety percent that is ours. What’s Gods is Gods, and what’s mine is mine. Everything I purchase with my money is mine, and the church is responsible to use my tithe as the Lord’s money. I don’t see Proverbs is teaching us that. Rather we are called to honor the Lord with all of our wealth; one-hundred percent of it. Yes we tithe our percentage to the Lord, but he wants us to honor him with all that is part of our wealth. I think this includes everything in your possession that has value.

My house and yours is filled with possessions that have presumably been purchased by the ninety percent. Those possessions are yours and part of your wealth. Yet we are called to honor the Lord with all of it. What that looks like is going to look different for each family. If you have a spare couple of rooms and your children are all grown and moved out; maybe that means you are called to use your house for missionaries to stay in while they are on furlough. Maybe you are called to use your groceries to make meals for a single mom. Or maybe you are called to use your cell phone to send encouraging notes to those who are suffering and downcast. Whatever that looks like for you; we are all called to honor the Lord with our wealth. Matter of fact, we can never have the Lord’s smile upon our lives if we don’t honor him. Honoring him is what we are called to do.

The promise of the text is that if we honor the Lord with our wealth, he will ensure that our barns and our vats will be over-flowing. This does not mean our bank accounts will be over-flowing. But rather we will have an increase of things to share and bless others with. If we use our wealth to honor the Lord, he will give us more to honor him with.

Pride In Our Own Wisdom

Proverbs 3:7-8 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

One of the surest ways to forsake the Fear of the Lord and stray off the Christian path is to have pride in our own wisdom. When we find we no longer submit ourselves under the Lord’s directives in the Word; when our own counsel is more than enough to live by; we can be certain pride has found our heart to be it’s home, and agony, fatigue, and weariness are sure to follow.

Instead, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and not lean on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge him, and he WILL make our paths straight. In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). It is to our Lord Jesus we must daily go to keep pride from plundering our home.

Making A Crooked Life Straight

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

I remember when we first got internet to our house. It was the slowest dial-up you could imagine. And actually it is almost shameful to say our current speed tops out at 3 MB now. Anyhow, I remember perusing the World Wide Web and finding some sort of Christian chat-room of sorts. The people in the room were discussing different moral topics and chiming in on what was the right course of action for each person. I read for a while and decided to start chiming in because “hey, I got all sorts of opinions on what these people should be doing”. As I typed, people started interacting with me and saying that my opinions were wrong. I did not like that. I would stumble around with my words and attempt to justify myself. But I could not clear my name because the folks in the chat-room would point out different Bible verses that contradicted my opinions. It was the first time I can recall being shown to be a fool in light of God’s counsel written down in the Scriptures. I was trusting in myself with all of my heart, and leaning on my own understanding. I saw for the first time that my own understanding is flawed and needs correction from a source of truth outside of myself.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

We are encouraged here to trust in the Lord with all of our heart and not lean or rely upon our own natural understanding. The Lord inspired each and every word in the Bible and has written it down as the main source of truth to correct our own understanding. It is to be our bias, our presupposition for all our thinking. And the more we submit our own thinking to the Lordship of Christ; the more our crooked lives become straight.


Commands:

  • Trust in the Lord with all of my heart
  • Don’t lean on my own understanding
  • Acknowledge God in all of my ways

Promises:

  • If I acknowledge the Lord, trust him, and not my own understanding, he will make the paths of my life straight.

Thoughts:

  • Trusting the Lord comes in levels, or depths; we are called to trust him with all of our heart
  • It is natural for us to trust in ourselves with all of our heart and not the Lord
  • Leaning on our own understanding is our natural tendency and must be fought against
  • Crooked paths comes from trusting in self

Steadfast Love And Faithfulness

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” -Proverbs 3:4-3 ESV

Steadfast love and faithfulness can be summarized by a heart that consistently and lovingly clings to truth. Jesus is the picture perfect model of this, but a visual example of this for our family is my dear sweet wife. Almost daily, my children have seen her display steadfast love and faithfulness. She consistently and lovingly clings to the truth, teaches the truth, and hangs her expectations up on the clothesline of truth. She sits in her recliner before the kids wake in the morning and binds the truth around her neck; she writes it on the tablet of her heart.

Because she has done this each and every morning for years, she has found favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Success here simply means discretion, knowledge, prudence, wisdom, insight, or understanding. These qualities are not innate (or natural) to any of us. And so we are called to daily bind, and daily write our Lord’s Word upon our heart. If we do not, we will soon find that we have drifted out to sea and forsaken the shoreline and anchor point of life.


Commands:

  • Do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake me
  • Bind steadfast love and faithfulness around my neck
  • Write steadfast love and faithfulness on the tablet of my heart

Promises:

  • If I bind steadfast love and faithfulness on the tablet of my heart; if I don’t let them forsake me; if I bind them around my neck; I will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

Application:

  • If I want to find favor and good success with God and man, I must bind myself to steadfast love and faithfulness. Steadfast love and faithfulness can be summarized by consistently and loving truthfulness, or merciful truth.
  • Steadfast love and faithfulness will have a tendency to forsake me, I must act against that tendency.

Do Not Forget My Teaching

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” -Proverbs 3:1-2

There are many things I think I have learned, but then soon find out they were not actually lodged in my memory. Most of the time it is because I never practiced the truth for a period of time sufficient to burn it into my memory, or become a part of who I actually am.

The Lord comes to us as a Father and lovingly says to us “son, do not forget”. Do not forget me, and do not forget my teaching. To forget is to wither away from the memory, and cease to be important. It is shameful to think that our Father’s teachings cease to be important to us, but that is exactly what happens.

O Lord, do not let us forget you or your commandments. Let our heart regard you as important and necessary. And let not your teachings wither away from our minds.


Commands:

  • Do not forget the teachings of God
  • Let our heart keep the commandments of God

Promises:

  • If we do not forget God’s teachings, we will have a long a peaceful life.

Applications:

  • The way to remember God’s teachings is to practice obedience to his commandments. Practice makes perfect, and it assists with the mind not letting truth become important.

Glorified In Hide And Seek

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

I don’t quite know what it is about this verse that gets me. One of the cross reference verses is about Job where he says:

Job 29:16 I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.

In my little mind, I think something like this…

Before the world was created, there was just the triune godhead; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God was glorified it seems to me through the Spirit and the Son. Yet I don’t know how there could have been anything hidden or concealed in the godhead because all three persons are equally omniscient. In other words, I think there was more glory to be had, and it would come in time through his creation.

Ephesians 3:1-6 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Jesus Christ was a mystery. He was seen through the ages by some as they searched out the things God had concealed. Those who were content to leave the stones covered, did not get the glory of kings, nor gave glory to God in the way described in Proverbs 25. But the ones who turned over every stone saw glimpses of the mystery, and therefore received the glory of kings, and gave more glory to God than those content to look on the surface.

This morning my little girl Elsa was hiding from me. I looked around for her not knowing she was hiding. I walked from room to room searching for her and wondering why she was not where she should have been. I asked my wife and she did not know. Finally I had a suspicion she was hiding and called out her name. I then heard a snicker from behind the living room chair. As I went to see her she had a huge smile on her face. She said she was watching me go from room to room looking for her. She said she moved to multiple hiding places as she watched me search. I gave her a big hug and praised her for her ability to hide and conceal herself. She received more glory this morning because she concealed herself, and I searched her out. She received more glory, and I had the privilege of giving it to her. And as I gave her the praise, I also received a new level of joy by giving her what she deserved.

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

Integrity, Poverty, And Faith

Proverbs 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

Some proverbs teach the general principle that hard work can tend toward prosperity, or financial security. Other proverbs teach integrity and wisdom can lead the same direction. I am not meaning by these statements I think God wants us healthy, wealthy, and happy. I am just acknowledging the scriptures do make general connections between hard honest work, and financial security.

But then there are proverbs like 19:1 which tell us honesty and integrity of speech sometimes lead to poverty. The encouragement from this text is a reminder. It is better to maintain honesty and truthfulness in business rather than crookedness and lies; even if it leads to poverty. The man who chooses to tell the truth with his business partners, and gets fired because of it, is better off than the man who participates in the lies and prospers in his bank account.

James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

James reminds us the important thing for us to be rich in is faith. Those who place their faith in Jesus become heirs of God’s eternal kingdom. And better is a poor person who walks in his integrity by faith, then those who are crooked in speech and have no inheritance after death.

Gnarling At Society

Proverbs 18:1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

I do my morning studies in a corner of my basement. My office consists of a desk pushed in a nook next to our exercise equipment. I am isolated as I do my study. The sun has not risen, and my wife and kiddos are all sleeping. As I read Proverbs 18:1 this morning, I wonder what is the intended meaning. Am I breaking out against all sound judgement as I pray, read, and type?

The commentaries I looked at tell me this person who isolates himself is more than our cultural catch-phrase antisocial. It is a person who is an enemy of society. A person who gnarls his teeth at everyone around him, not wanting anyone to come near or offer wisdom. This person desires no input from others. They are wise in their own eyes, and show their teeth to anyone who says otherwise. I am not like this person, and I am guessing you are not either. Yet this person lives down the river from where each one of us are at; it is just a matter of how far down. You may arrive on his shore in two days, and I might be there in thirty minutes. The exhortation of the proverb indicates neither of us should let the river carry us to his dwelling place. We should put our ores down and begin paddling in the opposite direction. But what does the other house look like?

This person’s house is like the wise woman’s house of wisdom I mentioned in a previous post HERE. It is a house where the bread is buttered and warm, the wine is in abundance, and the instruction is continual. There is community, fellowship, laughter, and joy. No one in this house is gnarling their teeth in the corner. This house is filled with smiles and sound judgement, or sorrow with simple rejoicing. Life is hard, and pain is real. And this woman’s house has plenty of room for prayerful tears.

The only time Jesus isolated himself was to be alone with his Father. Let’s go and do likewise.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. -Proverbs 18:1

Turning Over The Embers Of Wrath

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

We have had a number of bonfires over the past fourteen years my family has lived in this house. As the fire begins to die down, I will head inside and monitor it from time to time from our kitchen window. I know when I cannot see anymore embers glowing, it’s time to make a trip back outside. As I approach the fire, I will only see the slight glow of a smoldering piece or two of wood. The fire appears to have died down. Yet when I take the shovel, turn over the embers, and wait a moment or two; a flame inevitably grows once again and begins to consume what remains of the wood. Turning over embers stirs up a consuming fire. Harsh words are much like the turning over of embers.

What happens if I were to take a three foot glass bowl and place it atop the fire? The fire would slowly die down because it now lacks the supply of oxygen. A soft answer is much like placing a bowl over a fire.

I have many examples of this happening in my life. Two months ago I showed up on a job site to start a customer’s cooling tower. It was scheduled the week earlier. When I arrived the maintenance person was very mad. His boiler had shut down, a person doing demo work had cut into a water line, and I was there asking questions regarding the job I was there to do. He was slamming doors, cursing, and so frustrated. As I followed him around at warp speed, I kept saying to myself “a soft answer turns away wrath, a soft answer turns away wrath”.

As time passed, and my soft calculated words covered the fire; the man began to soften. He never apologized to me mind you. But he did begin to speak kindly and explain his frustration. And even expressed a hint of thankfulness for me being there.

The softest words I can think of that turned away the greatest amount of wrath was when Jesus at Calvary said “it is finished”, and then bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1