“Good understanding produces favor,
But the way of the treacherous is hard.” (NASB)
“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.”
“Tilling the land” is a placeholder for “pursuing worthwhile things.”
“Lacks sense” is, at least in part, not valuing (and thus pursuing) good and worthwhile things.
What is the man pursuing who works his land? Yes, he is pursuing bread to eat; but he is pursuing something of worth – and plenty of it. He is able to focus and work diligently at something of great value. And this shows that he has good sense.
The pursuit of worthless things is different from simple laziness because there is pursuit. But when the target is the knight’s armor and not the gaps in his armor, the end result of all that energy spent is nothing. And nothing, when there can be plenty of something, is worse than nothing. It becomes a negative value. Distracted living, it turns out, is about as dangerous as distracted driving.
A mere fly buzzing around can distract a whole room from absorbing the wise words of a great speaker. [This thought was inspired by Blaise Pascal.]
The pursuit of worthless things is less innocent, I think.
Jesus talks a lot about pursuit of what is valuable. For Him, that is the kingdom of God. It is the pearl of great price. It is the most valuable treasure. Treasure in heaven is more worthy than honour from men.
For Jesus, it is much better to work for bread that doesn’t spoil!
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27). The labour or pursuit is believing (John 6:29).
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’” (John 6:35).
Here is where this eschatological or theological layering of Proverbs comes in. The Son is true God, He is also Wisdom that creates and the Messiah and Priest who calls us to seek after eternity.
What is the highest pursuit? And are our penultimate or secondary pursuits ordered and pointing toward that highest, most worthy pursuit? We wisely till the land to produce bread. But when we seek after this bread, are we doing it in such a way as to pursue the true bread of heaven? Neither of these can be ignored. The ultimate and the penultimate are both worthy and good goals.
In Proverbs 12:11 we are called to wriggle free from the grasp of distraction. We are called to pursue what is worth pursuing. We are also called to wrestle with what is most worthy and to honestly and prayerfully look at our lives, to repent and turn from lesser, worthless gods, and to pursue the one true God.
One major issue in this regard is what we do with our leisure time. Are we drawn to prayer? Or YouTube?
It it’s said that Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). That was where his Father called Him to go; and so Jesus went – with great resolve.
Where is God calling you to go with great resolve? What is God calling you to do with greatness of resolve? I encourage you to pray for direction and for a resolve that can only come from the Spirit, who shows us that joy is ahead (Hebrews 12:2).
Some more questions to ask: Where is my energy being spent? In the place of worthlessness? Or in the place that is proper to me – which has been given or appointed by God?
“The theme of the relationship of the individual to the community, especially through the use of words, runs through these proverbs but they are not a carefully structured cluster” (Lucas, 98).
Today I will be focusing on verses 10 and 11.
There are sure ways to follow so as not to gain wisdom and life:
The weekend is over, and so my posts on Proverbs continue. As it is July 9, I will be discussing Proverbs 9.
Here is wonderful news for the “simple.” Just as the truth is often hidden from the supposedly “wise and intelligent” and is revealed to “infants” (Matthew 11:25; see also 1 Corinthians 1), so here we find teaching that is for the simple. But how will such teaching be received – with open humility or with prideful resentment?
The scene in this chapter is more practical and grounded than some of the previous chapters about wisdom. The focus is on a man’s union with a woman. However, this is analogous to the student’s/son’s union to Lady Wisdom. And so the two are situations are tied together. Faithfulness to one’s wife and faithfulness to Lady Wisdom go hand-in-hand; the women are reflections of each other and faithfulness to one is faithfulness to the other.
We cannot live a good life on our own. Much of who we are is due to our heritage – to a “tradition which has been lived out and tested down the years” (Lucas, 66). What does this mean for those who have come from evil, wicked, daft parents? It means that what we receive and pass on is important; and it is important that we receive and pass on is important, too.
As Brown writes, “… a path can only be formed by the passage of many feet” (46). I would add, with Lucas, that this also takes place “down the years.”
I’m hoping to go through the book of Proverbs here for a few months in a row. The idea is to post some reflections from the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month (i.e., today is July 3 and so I am posting reflections on a section of Proverbs 3). There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so this works out especially in July and August.
The idea is that repeatedly reflecting on the book over and over will lead to initialization and greater insight, undergirding the Spirit’s satisfying work in us as we listen to Him in His Word.
This also means that my own reflections will not be complete or thorough, but likely halfway formed.
Feel free to read along with me! Grab your Bible.