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A Proverb a Day Keeps Sin Away

This week we celebrate the life and legacy of George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. I never knew Bush the Elder on a personal level, but met him during the 1980’s. President Bush was an honorable man who served his family and country faithfully.

When I think of him, the character qualities of humility, loyalty and civility come to mind. These and many other traits are marvelously expounded in the Bible’s “Wisdom Book”–Proverbs.

If “imitation is the greatest form of admiration,” then we would do well to follow our former president’s example by re-discovering the moral power of the book of Proverbs.

After all, a proverb a day keeps sin away.

The Power of Proverbs

I met our 41st president during the same period I became acquainted with Cal Thomas, the nationally syndicated columnist. At the time, Cal was working with the Moral Majority under the tutelage of Dr, Jerry Falwell.

Cal has written a clear and personal article on George Herbert Walker Bush that you can read here. I agree with Cal that “character” stands out as a major legacy of GHWB’s life. We need more of it in America today.

That’s why I prescribe an Rx of Proverbs for the coming year.

Here’s why.

Proverbs lies at the center of the “Wisdom Books” of the Bible–a unique set of writings that tell us how to live a good life.

  • Job helps us deal with the injustice of evil.
  • Psalms is a songbook of joy and human feeling.
  • Ecclesiastes teaches us to “fear God” despite despair.
  • Song of Songs captures the delight of young love and marriage.
  • Proverbs give us pithy wisdom for living.

There is no collection of “common sense” like this in any other religion or philosophy. God placed these special books at the heart of the Bible to encourage us to keep wisdom central to our lives.

Many years ago a wise mentor told me that because there were 31 proverbs it would be smart for me to read one each day.

I’ve done so for over 45 years. “Wisest” decision I ever made.

Ron Graham gives us a thematic overview of Proverbs:

  • “Knowing God. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10).
  • Getting Wisdom. ‘Get Wisdom! Get understanding!’ (Proverbs 4:5).
  • Guarding your speech. ‘A word aptly spoken…’ (Proverbs 25:11,Proverbs 21:23, Proverbs 29:20).
  • Sexual morality and marital faithfulness. ‘Rejoice with the wife of your youth’ (Proverbs 5:15-20).
  • Productiveness in daily work.’Go to the ant you sluggard!’ (Proverbs 10:4-5, Proverbs 6:6-11).
  • Abstaining from strong drink. ‘Wine is a mocker…’ (Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 23:31-33).
  • Justice and honesty. ‘A false balance is an abomination to the Lord but a just weight is his delight’ (Proverbs 11:1).”

These vital subjects bring manifold blessings to us when we follow the instructions of the “Manufacturer.”

Professor Carl Laney of Western Seminary provides a helpful list of the broad array of topics covered in Proverbs.

  • Anger           – Prov. 14:17, 29-30; 15:18; 16:14
  • Boasting      – Prov. 20:14; 25:14; 27:1
  • Business      – Prov. 11:1, 15, 26; 17:8
  • Children      – Prov. 10:1; 13:1, 24; 17:25; 20:11
  • Enemies      – Prov. 16:7; 24:17; 25:21; 27:
  • Eyes             – Prov. 4:25; 5:21; 16:2; 17:24; 23:29
  • Fear              – Prov. 1:7; 3:25; 9:10; 14:16; 15:16; 29:25
  • Fear of God – Prov. 1:7; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:16; 16:6
  • Fool              – Prov. 10:1, 8, 14; 12:15, 16, 23; 13:20
  • Friends        – Prov. 17:9, 17; 18:24; 27:6
  • Guidance     – Prov. 3:5-6; 15:22; 16:3
  • Heart           – Prov. 3:5; 4:23; 14:10; 15:13; 20:9; 21:1
  • Honor          – Prov. 3:9; 5:9; 15:33; 18:12; 20:3; 26:1
  • Humility      – Prov. 11:2; 16:18-19
  • Rulers          – Prov. 16:13-15; 19:12; 20:2
  • Laziness      – Prov. 10:4-5; 12:11, 24, 27; 13:4
  • Love              – Prov. 5:19; 7:18; 8:17; 10:12; 15:17; 27:5
  • Masters        – Prov. 5:19; 7:18; 8:17; 10:12; 15:17; 27:5
  • Neighbors    – Prov. 3:29; 11:12; 14:21; 21:10; 25:8-10
  • Parents         – Prov. 1:8; 3:12; 14:31; 21:10
  • Peace             – Prov. 3:17; 16:7; 20:20
  • Poor               – Prov. 14:31; 19:1, 7, 17; 22:2
  • Poverty          – Prov. 6:11; 10:15; 11:4, 24-25; 30:8
  • Pride              – Prov. 12:9; 13:10; 16:18; 17:19; 29:23
  • Right              – Prov. 10:2; 11:4; 14:34; 16:8; 28:1
  • Servants        – Prov. 11:29; 17:2; 30:10, 22
  • Shame           – Prov. 3:35; 11:2; 18:13
  • Sin                  – Prov. 14:9, 34; 20:9; 24:9; 28:13
  • Sleep              – Prov. 3:24; 4:16; 20:13
  • Soul                – Prov. 6:32 11:25, 30; 14:25; 21:23
  • Tongue          –  Prov. 10:18-21, 31-32; 11:9; 12:22; 19:5
  • Trust              – Prov. 3:5; 28:26; 31:11
  • Wealth          – Prov. 10:15, 22; 11:4, 24-25; 13:7; 18:11; 23:5
  • Wicked         – Prov. 10:28; 12:10; 15:8; 16:4; 24:20; 28:1, 12, 28
  • Wine             – Prov. 20:11; 23:31; 31:4, 6
  • Wives           – Prov. 12:4; 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-31
  • Women        – Prov. 2:16; 11:22; 12:4; 14:1; 21:9, 19; 27:15; 31:3
  • Words          – Prov. 12:6; 15:1, 30; 18:8, 14, 21
  • Work            – Prov. 10:4-5; 12:11, 24, 27; 13:4; 18:9, 24:27
  • Wrath           – Prov. 12:16; 14:17, 29; 16:32; 15:1; 30:33

The Life Application Study Bible explains:

“Proverbs are short poems (usually in couplet form), containing a holy mixture of common sense and timely warnings. Although they are not meant to teach doctrine, a person who follows their advice will walk closely with God. . . [Proverbs] is not just a collection of homey sayings; it contains deep spiritual insights drawn from experience. A proverb is short, wise, easy-to-remember saying that calls a person to action.”

Following are some actions I’ve taken from reading a proverb a day.

Trust 

I was young in Christ when I went to a Christian liberal arts college. The first “religion” class I took was entitled “Judeo-Christian Life and Thought.” I assumed it would help me grow in my faith.

The professor chose the textbook Honest to God by John Robinson as the main read for his class. Little did I know this book was the flagship treatise of the “God is Dead” movement that was gaining momentum in the 1970’s.

This well established Christian university taught me that God was dead–a figment of my imagination! That lie confused and troubled my young mind. In the midst of the battle, God led me to back to Proverbs 3:5, 6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. ” 

I learned to trust the Bible (God) not people–and to seek his perspective, not my own ideas or that of other fallen human beings.

Two years later, I spent hours on a beach fasting and praying about my future. God again spoke that “He would direct my steps” and pointed me toward Youth With A Mission and a career in missions.

That led to forty plus years of Great Commission ministry–helped on by wise guidance from Proverbs.

Sex  

Like many people, I have struggled with sexual temptation. Sex is one of God’s greatest blessings on earth when enjoyed in the sanctity of marriage. Its abuse opens a Pandora’s box of guilt, shame, hurt and even destruction.

Immorality is a BIG topic in Proverbs.

For many years I kept my hormones in check by memorizing Scripture. I learned to reject the “strange woman” (Proverbs 5) and cast wrong thoughts out of my mind. Proverbs inspired me to live my sexual life God’s way–not perfectly, but redeemingly.

In the age of the Sexual Revolution, I’m grateful that I’ve only experienced sexual intimacy with one woman my entire life–and it began on our wedding night.

No matter what mistakes you’ve made, aren’t you glad God’s blueprint for love is freeing, forgiving, and well taught in the wisdom of Proverbs?

Money

I’ve also learned some hard lessons about money. Though in my early years I’d read Proverbs’ admonitions about debt, I later rationalized its misuse both as a ministry leader and in our family finances.

Some wise counselors eventually rescued me from my stupidity and reminded me to practice what I’d learned in Proverbs: “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Prov.22:7). This revelation led to much repentance over consumer debt, bad spending habits, and even unwise mortgages (how could I ask our missions supporters to pay the interest on my bad decisions?)

Though we’ve never made a lot of money, today our family enjoys a debt-free life that I should have sought much earlier–if I’d obeyed the teachings of Proverbs.

I love Proverbs. It reminds me of what’s right every day of my life.

When we raised our kids, we often encouraged them from Proverbs 1 & 2 that “respect for God is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7), and to seek wisdom “as you would for lost money or hidden treasure” (Prov. 2:4). It will “save them” (Prov. 2:16) and they will “find favor with both God and people” (Prov.3:4).

Interestingly, the word proverb comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rule or govern.” Thus, practicing Proverbs is a key to self government or control (which is, according to Loren Cunningham, the number one quality of a leader).

When you splice Old and New Testament teachings together, good, character-filled living erupts when we choose to live right (Proverbs) through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-12).

So, how about this for a smart 2019 New Year’s Resolution (or godly commitment):

Read a proverb a day to live wisely.

Because  a proverb a day keeps sin away.

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