Summary: The aim of the Book of Proverbs is to help us acquire and apply God’s wisdom to the decisions and activities of daily life. The starting place in becoming a wise guy (or woman) is to treat God with reverence and awe.
How to Be a Wise Guy
Happy New Year! How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Not so good, huh? As the year unfolds before me, I often find it difficult to even remember what I resolved to do. I tell myself, “This year I’m going to turn over a new leaf. I’m going to start rooting for the Illini…” But then somehow I forget. Maybe you have that problem, too.
That reminds of a single man who had moved into a retirement community and soon met a single woman. They spent a lot of time together and finally one evening he proposed, asking her to marry him. The next morning when he woke up he remembered his proposal, but he couldn’t remember her answer. So he tracked her down and said, “I’m really embarrassed. I proposed to you last night but I can’t remember if you said ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ To which she replied, “Oh, thank goodness! I remembered saying ‘yes,’ but I couldn’t remember who asked me.”
Most of us think of a resolution as a decision to stop doing something that’s bad for us or as a promise to do something that’s good for us. We wish each other a “Happy New Year,” (whatever that means) and we want the same for ourselves. And yet, if the truth were known, many of us are the same this year as we were last year, and we’re not really sure that we even can change.
On Thursday, when I was working out, I asked several people how their new year was going. When I was leaving, I asked one guy, “How’s your new year so far?” His answer jarred me. This is what he said, “Great. Nothing’s changed. Nothing’s changed. Everything’s the same.” I thought for a minute and then replied, “That’s good if you don’t want your life to change and not so good if you do.”
I’m going to make an assumption this morning that one of the reasons you are in church is because you want to change. And instead of encouraging you to make some resolutions, as helpful as they can be, I want to challenge you to make just one request that will not only alter your year, but will literally change your life.
If you could ask for one thing in 2002, what would it be? Fame? Power? Money? Good health? Long life? Be honest. What would you ask for? One night God appeared to Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5 and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” This was his chance to have anything he wanted. Solomon’s answer was startling in its simplicity. He merely requested a discerning heart and the supernatural ability to distinguish between right and wrong. God was pleased with this kind of request and said in verse 12: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart…” Because he didn’t ask for riches and honor, God poured out His material blessings on Solomon as well.
1 Kings 4:29 says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” His fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. Verse 34 tells us, “Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom…”
Many of Solomon’s words of wisdom ended up in what we know as the Old Testament Book of Proverbs. This book is part of the section of the Bible known as wisdom literature, which is made up of five books. Each of these books emphasize something different:
Song of Solomon love
Job pain and suffering
Psalms the heart
Ecclesiastes the mind, on a search for meaning
Proverbs the will, or choices we make
We all live by proverbs, whether we know it or not. Unfortunately, some of the sayings we follow today are contradictory. Let me illustrate.
“Look before you leap” is hard to reconcile with “He who hesitates is lost.”
“Many hands make light work” runs contrary to this one, “too many cooks spoil the broth.”
The proverbs in the Bible are not contradictory because they are inspired by God and speak to life itself. These wise words to live by are for the everyday world, not just for church. Listen to Proverbs 1:20: “Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech.” A proverb has been called a “short sentence founded upon long experience.” That’s probably what was behind one of my favorite ones: “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own” (26:17). That’s wisdom from experience!