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The Practicality of Proverbs — Part One

Proverbs could be the most quoted book in the Bible. It’s easily understood. It’s practical. It’s a book of simple guidance. Its plain words yield a sense of rightness. Some proverbs are quoted by secular types as well as religious types.

Without attempting to downplay the inspiration of Proverbs, it often reads like something Mark Twain or Will Rogers or Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac) could have written. It just makes good sense, as well as imparting spiritual wisdom.

The beginning of Proverbs sets the stage for what we should expect: “The proverbs…for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young — let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Bible’s self-help book?

Some of the proverbs sound like other ones. They may not say exactly the same thing, but there’s a point of wisdom worthy of a second, slightly different look. For example, “One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.” (Proverbs 17:18, NIV) Then, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.” (11:15) Again, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” (12:1) Then, “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” (10:17) Again, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (17:22) Then, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (14:30)

Tomorrow, we’ll look at several more proverbs.

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