Thursday, March 10, 2005

Using wisdom literature wisely

Proverbs, more than any other book of the Bible, is the one from which Christians lift single verses, often out of context, to "apply" to our lives. In his meditation on Proverbs, Conrad Gempf points out that even this most "everyday" book of the Bible is more about transformation than information. The radical teaching of Jesus, Conrad notes, is built upon the foundation of wisdom found there:
Again, even in a book like Proverbs, which aims to be above all things practical, it's striking how much of the advice isn't just about what to do or how to do it but about how to think, what attitude to have. Jesus and his concerns may be a development, but it's a development completely in line with Judaism: "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart" (3:3). Or "do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act" (3:27).
The book of Proverbs is easy to misuse, especially if we try to take verses out of context (to see the problem with doing this, compare Prov. 26:4 and 26:5). Proverbs, like all the Word of God, is intended to challenge us, to shape us, to transform us. God didn't give us the book to do our thinking for us, but to teach us how to think. We are interacting with the book best not when we pull out a nugget of wisdom to apply to a situation, but when the wisdom of God's Word fills us and influences our every decision from the inside out.


Blogger John Schroeder said...

Great Post Milt! I added a little humor to it here

9:49 AM, March 12, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, John, for interacting with my post at Blogotional. Peace.

8:20 AM, March 14, 2005  

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