I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.
The Proverbs, in addition to being occasionally hilarious (“A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it…” [Proverbs 17:8] – magic stone? Didn’t see that coming), are enormously helpful. It is easy to overlook the wisdom literature, especially Proverbs, as the content isn’t as obviously theological as much of the rest of the Scriptures. I find it particularly tempting to focus on areas where God is more clearly revealed.
Or perhaps more obviously revealed, since knowing wisdom means knowing the source of wisdom. Indeed, if Jesus became “wisdom from God” for us (1 Corinthians 1:30), then knowing wisdom tells us a great deal about theology proper.1 Equally, they are valuable. After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). All of it – every word, including Proverbs. Moreover, wisdom is something that must be sought, not merely acquired by happenstance (Proverbs 17:24).
As such, I’ve increasingly recognized its value to me. It has been a small measure of humbling. And humility, as it turns out, is a topic that comes up time and again in the Proverbs. Reading through chapter 17 today hammered home how essential a quality humility is for the one who would be wise. Wise men – as contrasted with fools – quickly take rebuke to the heart (Proverbs 17:10). Do I? Even fools who are silent can seem wise; wise men do not need to be talking all the time to be heard by others (Proverbs 17:28). Do I? Restraining one’s words and keeping one’s temper both reflect a measure of understanding (Proverbs 17:27). Do I?
It has become very apparent to me over the past few years that few things are surer signs of mature godliness than deep humility. If you want to judge a man’s character, look at the areas where he is most successful and where he is least successful, and how he responds in those areas. Does he glorify God in his victories? Does he graciously use his failures as an opportunity to make much of the grace of God that carries him through? Or does he focus on his own accomplishments and perpetually get hung up on his own failures? Is he a braggart, a loudmouth, or easily angered – or is he slow to speak, slow to become angry, and quick to make peace?
The men I admire most – the men I most want to emulate – are all men of deep, quiet humility.2 Studying the Proverbs and humbling myself to learn wisdom from God who has given us all the wisdom we need is a good place to start.
- Theology proper is the study of God himself: theology, the study of God; proper, meaning what the term properly refers to (as opposed to the many topics that are now part of theology). ↩
- I suspect “loud humility” would be a contradiction in terms, but gladly I don’t think that being physically loud by nature automatically disqualifies one from humility; if it did, I wouldn’t have a chance. ↩