Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Project Proverbs

Our church blogged through Proverbs last month. I was assigned several chapters. I’ll copy my journaling here:


The really neat thing about this book is there are so many “proverbs” of truth on each page. Chapter 6, in itself, is divided up into 4 parts. When I first read over this chapter, my thought was “Hmmm… I wonder which portion is the one that will speak to me the most for the purpose of journaling this week? The first element on keeping our promises? Or, the second part on laziness? What about that third section where it talks about the wicked man. The guy full of pride who, in the end, finally receives his punishment? Or, what about the last segment on adultery? Now THERE’S an attention grabber!”

But as I actually studied, it dawned on me that there is a reoccurring truth shouting at us throughout the entire chapter… Overall, Proverbs 6 reminds me to be a woman of CONSISTENT, GENUINE, HONEST, RELIABLE, AUTHENTIC, DEPENDABLE, ORGANIC, SINCERE INTEGRITY.

>>> "If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your mouth.” (verses 1 and 2) Normally when we hear a message on this portion, an emphasis is made on borrowing money. But the truth is that every promise we make with another person is binding. Our follow-through will measure our level of integrity.


>>>Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies…” (verses 6 through 8) The popular emphasis here is usually on laziness and working hard for your living. But digging deeper, the underlying quality being highlighted is still consistent, sincere integrity. “Having no captain, overseer or ruler” I looked up ANT BEHAVIOR on a couple different encyclopedia sites. It was interesting to learn a little about their social structure. One site stated that “A family of ants employs queens, gardeners and bandits that have developed specialized tools and skills to get their respective jobs done. Within each species, division of labor varies depending on an individual's age and sex… Ants looking after the brood and working inside the nest tend to be younger, while those defending the nest and foraging outside are older. Like all the social species of the insect order Hymenoptera, female ants do all of the work; males just spread their genes around… ‘Males are little flying sperm missiles,’ said Alex Wild, an entomologist at the University of Arizona.” I had to add that last bit in because even though I’m off topic here, I found that piece of information absolutely hysterical and not much different that that of the human species. (Just joking.) =) Anyway… We are told to take a look at the industrious nature of this little bug and take note that even though there is not a boss to watch their every move, they continue to be industrious creatures. That’s integrity. Sincere, honest, authentic integrity. I recently read this on a relationships solutions blog: “Integrity is about honor and consistency. It's about what you do when no one is looking.” Good stuff.


>>> "He winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers; perversity is in his heart.” (verses 13 and 14) I found that the amplified versions magnifies the text like this: “He winks with his eyes, he speaks by shuffling or tapping with his feet, he makes signs [to mislead and deceive] and teaches with his fingers. Willful and contrary in his heart…” I think for the most part, people can see through our religious facade to the person that we really are. Casting Crowns has a song that asks: “Are we happy plastic people. Under shiny plastic steeples. With walls around our weakness?” But according to Proverbs, this “stained-glass masquerade” can’t continue forever. Verse 15 tells us that this man who hides wickedness in his heart will be broken. The masquerade crushed. The hidden ugliness is eventually revealed. So what does God require? Perfection? Thankfully, no.


>>> “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light. Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (verses 23 and 24) The rest of the chapter speaks on walking in purity. Plain and simple, if we are living our lives according to the Light of what God has to say through the Bible, we have the power to avoid the temptations that surround us. Walking in purity is not a religious act. It is not simply playing the part of a devoted wife or a faithful husband. Purity is being real. Honest. Sincerely working out -day by day- my life according to what God has to say on each issue, temptation, idea, philosophy, thought, question, and obstacle I face. Sincerity. No pretenses. The genuine “me”. That’s the “me” that matters. The “me” with no masks. No façade of religious behavior. Just me. Who I am when no one is watching.

CONSISTENT, GENUINE, HONEST, RELIABLE, AUTHENTIC, DEPENDABLE, ORGANIC, SINCERE INTEGRITY. That’s Proverbs 6 in a nutshell. Or at least, that’s what I got out of it.


This chapter is full of verses on the advantages of listening to wisdom and making wise choices. (4) “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing. But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich... (9) The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked will be put out... (10) By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.... (13) He who despises the word will be destroyed, But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded. (14) The law of the wise is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death. (15) Good understanding gains favor, But the way of the unfaithful is hard..."

This goes along with the Bible lesson I’m working on for our SouthPointe Kids preschool group. Once upon a time, there were a group of fishermen who were told by Jesus to cast their nets in a certain way. And though they were professionals, they obeyed Jesus’ counsel and received a BOATLOAD of reward. Their nets were jam-packed full of fish! =)

And so it is in our present-day lives. According to Proverbs, as I follow the wisdom that God has laid out for me in His Word, my soul will be rewarded with overwhelming richness. We all know that it’s not money that makes us happy. It’s the pleasure that sits in our very souls. It’s our soul’s satisfied longings. It’s the feeling of fulfillment of purpose. Proverbs is filled with wise advice. It will do me well to learn from it, live by it, and love it. For the health and enrichment of my soul.


Do you ever find yourself almost mirroring the very thing that you hate? I know that’s a cliché, but it is true. We can become what we despise …if not dealt with or responded to properly.

There is one thing in particular that I seriously loathe. (Get ready... A secret ugliness from my heart is about to be revealed.) I hate hypercritical behavior, attitudes, and comments. I gew up in a fundamental, religious environment where people would pass judgment on individuals who did not attend a church with just “the right” name, read “the right” Bible translation, listen to “the right” kind of music, send their children to “the right” kind of schools, or dress “like a Christian”. This behavior hurt me deeply. And I saw it hurt many others by either turning them away from God completely or, on the flipside, by presenting them with a false sense of Christ-acceptance.

I’m grateful to Jesus for rescuing me from that. I’m still learning that I’m not required to jump through man-made religious hoops in order to be completely received by Him (or church leaders). And it is SO FREEING!  But herein lies my secret… The unattractive issue being exposed from the corners of my heart: The very thing I hate is the exact behavior I have gradually and covertly adopted. The slimy pit of self-righteousness that He pulled me out of is there once again, calling my name. I’ve got to stop this already! Because look at what I found in Proverbs this week… *** Proverbs 20:6-9 (NKJV) Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, But who can find a faithful man? The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? ***
I usually would think of this passage as a warning against self-righteous boasting. But what really hit me this week is the ugly thing that has burrowed its way into the secret places of my heart. An “I’m-angered-because-that-person-is-so-judgmental” reaction is an ugly attitude of superiority. The Amplified translation illustrates verse 6 like this: “Many a man proclaims his own loving-kindness and goodness, but a faithful man who can find?” What benefit is it for a person to think they are good for being good? How righteous is it for me to think, “I am more right than the next guy, so I’m a better person”? Of course I wouldn’t say these things out loud! I wouldn’t boast this attitude publicly. But the self-righteous thoughts have made their way into the secret places of my heart. Maybe no one else has been able to see it. Maybe it’s not been as obvious as it is with the religious groups standing outside the abortion clinics and pride marches. Or maybe it IS just as obvious. Maybe it has accidentally trickled through my conversations, giving this unattractive secret sin away to. But it doesn’t matter, really. God has seen it. And I’m ashamed. And repentant.


There are a couple of significant verses on friendship in this chapter, but I’d like to focus on verse 17: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

To begin with, I wondered about the word “countenance” and after doing some reading, it dawned on me that this word refers to the face. You can often see a person’s personality and intellectual level exhibited in their face. So according to this passage, as iron is sharpened by iron, we are filed, made smooth, bright, and wise by open and honest friendships.

We are each, in our varying walks of life, surrounded by an array of superficial friendships. And there is nothing wrong with that. The fair-weather friend who’s there to communicate with about our hobbies, jobs, favorite recipes, and children. But it is essential to our health and maturity that we surround ourselves, too, by good people who we can feel free to open our lives up to for honest, loving criticism. Imagine a man who has never allowed himself to be vulnerable enough to be sharpened by another. Until he is able to allow some sharpening, he will remain the same person with the same character with the same annoying faults and the same perspective on life.

God has blessed me by surrounding me with fantastic friends who have so much to offer! I could really use some sharpening from time to time. Well, daily to be honest! I hope that I allow my friends the freedom to be honest with me and to love me enough to sharpen me in the areas where my life, my character, my perspective and my personality might become a little dull.

“As iron sharpens iron.” Just like the rest of the beautiful book of Proverbs… A simple analogy exploding with truth.