Hard, Honest Work

  The Book of Proverbs is a practical book. It gives concrete advice about how to live wisely, which in the end means to live well. And one of the areas where we most need advice about living wisely and well is work.   We might begin our study of work by asking a simple question: Why work? Proverbs 16:26 provides an answer:   The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.   We work to acquire food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities of life. This is the most basic reason why we work, although there are … Continue reading Hard, Honest Work

To Give, but Not to Bribe

  Proverbs displays what seems to be a contradictory attitude toward bribery. On the one hand, Proverbs 17:23 says:   A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.   On the other hand, Proverbs 17:8 says:   A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; wherever he turns, he succeeds.   In the first instance, bribery is bad because it perverts justice. In the second instance, however, bribery is a key to success. The morally curious person is left wondering, “To bribe or not to bribe?” Now perhaps that question sounds … Continue reading To Give, but Not to Bribe

Arguing with Fools

  Every now and then, the Bible makes you scratch your head and say, “Huh?”   Take, for example, Proverbs 26:4-5:   Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.   Verse 4 tells us not to do precisely what verse 5 tells us to do. So, put your hand on your head, scratch the same, and say, “Huh?”   If you’re one of those village atheists looking for evidence of contradictions in the Bible, you … Continue reading Arguing with Fools

A Self-Controlled Mouth

  A wise person is a self-controlled person. He keeps a tight reign on his emotions, actions, and words lest they foolishly go and gallop off a cliff with him on their backs. Just as an expert cowboy knows how to make his horse do what he wants it to do, so a wise person turns his emotions, actions, and words to his own advantage.   My Uncle Larry, who was raised in Texas and looks like a cowboy should, is a great example of a man with a self-controlled mouth. He rarely talks, and he never speaks loudly. But … Continue reading A Self-Controlled Mouth

Emotional Self-Control

  One Easter, when I was a young child, my mother was trying to take a picture of my sister and me in our holiday finery. I was anxious for the picture to be taken so I could get down to the serious business of hunting for candy-filled eggs, but my sister—as she is wont to do—was not cooperating. She was laughing, twirling, and otherwise having a fine time. In exasperation, I frowned, harrumphed, and finally stomped my foot.   Unfortunately, my father caught all this on the family’s Super-8 movie camera. The sight of a five-year-old in a three … Continue reading Emotional Self-Control

What Anger Does. What We Should Do.

  The Book of Proverbs teaches us that if we want to live the good life, we must control our anger.   Anger destroys relationships by introducing conflict into otherwise healthy relationships. This is true in marriage:   Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife (21:19).   It goes without saying that a quarrelsome and ill-tempered husband is also hard to live with.   More generally, anger poisons all personal relationships:   A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel (15:18).   As a north wind brings rain, so … Continue reading What Anger Does. What We Should Do.

Leadership and Self-Leadership (Proverbs 31:1-9)

  The Book of Proverbs typically presents itself as a father giving advice to his son about how to live the truly good life.[*] But in Proverbs 31:1-9, it is a mother who speaks to her son. She is no ordinary woman, however; and he is no ordinary man. She is the queen mother, and he is the king. Let’s take a close look at what she says, for she teaches him (and us) several important lessons about leadership and self-leadership.   The sayings of King Lemuel — an oracle his mother taught him:   “O my son, O son … Continue reading Leadership and Self-Leadership (Proverbs 31:1-9)

Addiction: The Dark Side of Alcohol (Proverbs 23:29-35)

  Surf the channels on your television these days, and you’re likely to catch a wave of reality shows. Most of the shows are brainless, some of them are entertaining, but one of them makes for the most heart-wrenching hour of television you’ll watch each week. It’s called Intervention, it airs on the A&E channel, and it tells the stories of addicts who—at the urgent pleading of family and friends—make moves toward clean and sober living. Unfortunately, after a stint in rehab, many of these addicts return to drinking and using, along with all the attendant ills that prompted their … Continue reading Addiction: The Dark Side of Alcohol (Proverbs 23:29-35)

Wine, Wisdom, and Wealth (Proverbs 20:1, 21:17, 23:19-21)

  The Book of Proverbs presents a serious difficulty for me. On the one hand, it offers an inspired analysis of the human condition. On the other hand, from an organizational point of view, it’s a mess. Rather than grouping similarly themed proverbs together, it scatters them like seed throughout its thirty-one chapters.   So, in order to highlight the inspired analysis, I have to organize my devotions by topic rather than verse by verse. In his commentary on Proverbs, Tremper Longman outlines twenty-eight topics the book addresses.[*] Over the next few weeks, I’ll use Longman’s outline to organize my … Continue reading Wine, Wisdom, and Wealth (Proverbs 20:1, 21:17, 23:19-21)

Discipling a “Christian Nation”

On December 6-9, the Gallup organization conducted a poll of 1,027 adult Americans regarding their religious beliefs and practices. It summarizes the major findings of that poll here. Among the conclusions: About 82% of Americans in 2007 told Gallup interviewers that they identified with a Christian religion. That includes 51% who said they were Protestant, 5% who were "other Christian," 23% Roman Catholic, and 3% who named another Christian faith, including 2% Mormon. Sixty-two percent of Americans in Gallup’s latest poll, conducted in December, say they are members of a "church or synagogue," a question Gallup has been asking since … Continue reading Discipling a “Christian Nation”