Proverbs 1:1-7, 20-23 | Matthew 13:54-58
One of my favourite sites on the internet for a little bit of light relief is a blog entitled “1001 rules for my unborn son”. It began when the author discovered that his wife and he were expecting a child, and represents at attempt to pass on to his future son what he had learned about life, and wished he had known in advance.
The rules cover all aspects of life: “never underestimate the power of taking the rubbish out without being asked”, “the best way to ruin an apology is with an explanation”, “expect no sympathy for a hangover”, “take flowers. For her mother”, “don’t be the first to leave the party. Or the last” and “there are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The steps ain’t one”.
There is something refreshing about this light hearted but serious attempt to describe what it means to be a man in the modern world. This is modern, secular wisdom; practical instruction about how to live a life which is “good” in the sense of the ancient philosophers; fitting, appropriate, right.
This week e100 brings us to the biblical wisdom literature; and in particular to the book of proverbs, an attempt to capture the legendary wisdom of Solomon in written form. But of course the first question, before we start to read wisdom literature, must be – what is wisdom? And, in particular, what is godly wisdom, and does it differ from natural or human wisdom? What is it the author of Proverbs hoped to teach us from the wise king?
Fortunately, the book of Proverbs starts out with proverbs about proverbs, wisdom about wisdom. The very first verse lay out what wisdom is all about, what it is for. “for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; Shrewdness for the simple; Knowledge and prudence for young; Learning for the wise; Skill for the discerning”.
And the opening verses end with the memorable couplet: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”