The Delightful Book of Proverbs
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, OFM
The Book of Proverbs, which was written about 400 years before the birth of Jesus, covers only 32 pages in the Bible. These are wisdom sayings that were attributed to King Solomon, the son of King David. In fact, for many years, Proverbs had been called “The Book of Wisdom.” These sayings aim to guide and instruct the reader in the correct ways of behaving toward others and in understanding our relationship with God.In the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, and James quoted wisdom sayings. In Romans, Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty give him to drink; For live coals you will heap on his head.” In modern parlance, we have the saying, “Forgive your enemy because it messes up his head.”
The Book of Proverbs covers many areas of life, such as one’s relationship with God. “For each man’s ways are plain to the Lord’s sight” (5:21). In other words, with God there are no secrets. About prayer: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but the prayer of the just he hears” (15:29). Concerning abandonment to the Lord: “Happy is he who trusts in the Lord” (16.20).
Words of Wisdom
Most people have little wisdom sayings that are an indication that we are made in the image and likeness of God. God gave us intelligence, understanding, and the ability to see the results of our acts. Parents often guide their children through their own wisdom sayings. Don’t we remember our parents telling us to look both ways before crossing the street? Not to mention our parents warning us to never get into cars with strangers. We can be sure those words of wisdom have prevented some terrible tragedies.I came across a wisdom saying from Confucius—who has hundreds of such proverbs. In fact, one would have fit very well in the Book of Proverbs. Confucius said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Revenge will almost always affect the life of the avenger in ways he could not foresee.
If you are on the lookout for a used car, there is a very practical modern-day proverb full of wisdom: “Show me the Carfax.”
The Goodness of God
There is a powerful proverb (3:31) that warns, “Envy not the lawless man and choose none of his ways.” Our wounded human nature being what it is, the temptation may be to wish we didn’t feel so guilty in doing something wrong or sinful. In a moment of weakness, we could wish our conscience was not with us. And yet what a blessing and grace that is for us.
For a moment, we might envy the gains of the man who always gets his way. And it is sometimes difficult to always want to seek the good and the right when it might seem easier to put our conscience to sleep. And yet, when we take a moment to think, we know we are grateful for our well-formed conscience. As the wise saying goes, “The softest pillow we can lay our head on is a good conscience.”
We can be grateful that we are bathed in the goodness and the wisdom of the Lord. We would be miserable without it.