EP96 - Proverbs - Context

Hello and welcome to episode ninety-six of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we’re going to continue our series in Proverbs. This is week five - Context.

 

In the last episode, we did some contrasting between folly and wisdom, and that’s where we find ourselves at the start of this episode, looking at folly and wisdom.  Consider a mural versus graffiti. Graffitists paint where they don't have permission. They paint in attempts to make territorial claims on property they don't own, they deface buildings, and they do so in defiance of authority.  When someone paints a mural, he or she very often does so at the behest of the property owner. They’re given a theme for their work, and if part of their work is not in line with the vision of the property owner, they correct it. Every stroke of the graffitist opposes the property owner and the graffitist takes delight in their oppositions.  The muralist’s work is in concert with the spirit of the vision of the property owner and anything they do wrong is forgiven and allowed to be corrected.

 

The graffitists unauthorized artwork is folly.  A lot like when we live our lives outside of the wisdom that the Lord gives, and we do things we know we shouldn’t do.  Things that don’t line up with our Christian walk. Not only is the graffitist's work not wanted, but the results of our work, of our lives in that situation is the same thing.  For the graffitist, it’s work is likely to be short-lived and then it will be removed or painted over. The same thing for us, the physical toil that we put our hands to that line up with the plan the Lord has for us, that don’t line up with the Christian walk we know we’re supposed to be living; they are temporary.  While we may get that temporary fulfillment, there’s no eternal value to those things.

 

These ideas of folly and wisdom, they have to be invested in, they have to be learned.  Did you ever play sports as a child? I did a little bit of soccer, and a little bit of baseball.  I was never really that good at any sports. When children are learning to play baseball they are often afraid of the ball when it’s their turn at bat.  I know I was. I was afraid of the ball at bat. I played right field, I was afraid of the ball when it was coming out into right field at me. Which, let’s be honest, as a kid that very rarely if ever actually happened.  I was basically out there just holding the ground down and watching the grass grow. The instinct is to duck or step out of the path of the ball. Their perception of the situation for that child is that the ball is going to hit them.  They have to trust when the coach tells them the ball is not going to hit them. They have to let go of their own assessment of the situation and trust, having the wisdom to stand where the coach tells them so they can swing the bat and hit the ball.  The same way the child has to trust the coach and avoid a natural reaction to what is going on, we have to trust God with every situation in our lives and ask Him the proper way to respond.

 

The name of this episode is context, and the book of Proverbs is often mistaken for a collection of “if-then” rules.  Rules we can use to command and predict the outcome of our lives. As if life was that simple and black and white. Really proverbs is a collection of general observations about how the world tends to work, but they aren’t intended to be promises.  If we think of every proverb as an unbreakable rule or promise from God, we will misunderstand, misapply, and misrepresent them when we engage with them. The wisdom in the book of Proverbs is more about how its knowledge and wisdom will affect us than a list of rewards we get for following the rules.  If it were, we wouldn’t find contradictory proverbs like Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5, verse four reads, “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself.” Verse five reads, “Answer a fool according to his foolishness or he’ll become wise in his own eyes.” If Proverbs were a list of commands or laws, then one verse would have just commanded us to not answer a fool according to his foolishness with the very next verse commanding the opposite.

 

Another misunderstanding out there is the belief that the Bible teaches us not to study or not to pursue education.  Believe it or not, Proverbs 3:5–6. You probably know it, you can probably quote it with me, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  That and similar verses have been used by some inside the Church to ignore reason, to neglect study, and even scoff at scientific data and research. Using these verses as a license to abandon intellectual honesty can lead some to the conclusion that Christianity is an unlearned and anti-intellectual faith.  I’ll put a link in the blog post for this episode where you can read the account of one man who left the faith for this very reason. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2013/08/27/anti-intellectualism-and-the-bible/) But believing Proverbs 3:5–6 is telling us not to study runs counter to the rest of the book of Proverbs. When we read it in concert with passages like Proverbs 2:1–6, we see trusting the Lord involves seeking out wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  Reading this verse in context clarifies that trusting in wisdom and understanding means trusting the Lord while trusting in folly means leaning on our own understanding—and even ignorance.

 

Colossians 2:3 says, “In (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  That word knowledge there is the Greek word:

G1108 γνῶσις gnōsis gno'-sis From G1097; knowing (the act), that is, (by implication) knowledge: - knowledge, science

“In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and science.”  When faith in Christ and science bump heads it’s due to nothing more than a lack of data, either a lack in the believers' theology or in the science.  On the first account, the believer needs to increase in the wisdom and knowledge that only Christ can give them, and in the second instance. That’s only reconciled by time, patience, and continual scientific study.

 

When we understand that faith does not require us to abandon our intellect, we begin to see how the Lord has put wisdom within the reach of His children (Proverbs 9:1–6).  When we see all the sound wisdom of humanity is the gift of God, we begin to see its beauty, and its value. We will then pursue it and invest in learning, knowledge, and understanding.  We will abandon simplistic ideas about the Bible, and the world around us, and embrace the deeper treasures the scriptures hold.

 

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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