If I have only a short time to read, Proverbs is where I turn first. Every day that I do, I feel like my foundation is being shored up.
February 1, 2014
There’s nothing original about reading a chapter of Proverbs a day. Thirty-one days in a month (roughly); 31 chapters in the book. Easy. In fact, it’s so obvious, it’s easy to overlook.
Don’t. Very little in my life has yielded such rewards with such little effort.
Here’s my system. First, I don’t read an entire chapter each day. It’s just too much of a good thing. Like eating a pound of chocolate in one sitting, the wonder wears off quickly from over-exposure.
Instead, I choose the chapter matching the date, then read the first half on odd numbered months (January, March, etc.) and the second half on even months (February, April, etc.) Simple.
I don’t manage it every day, but I do get to it often. If I have only a short time to read, Proverbs is where I turn first. Every day that I do, I feel like my foundation is being shored up. If I miss a day, I don’t try to catch up. I just start with the current day’s reading. No worries.
At only 16 verses (on average) at a sitting, it’s not burdensome. Even so, I don’t hurry. I read slowly enough to give thought to each line, as if seated before the master himself taking lessons (“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction...” 1:8).
I don’t try to plumb the depths of every verse, either. Rather, I’m alert for the bits of counsel that seem meaningful for me at the moment. There’s always a couple of thoughts that are relevant for me on any given day. Then I ponder their lessons.
Some proverbs are almost like riddles and the parallel thoughts (the lines above or below your verse) are often key to piecing together the puzzle. When I make a discovery that strikes close to home, I pray. I nurture it carefully with a thoughtful petition.
Sometimes the guidance offered is general: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (1:10), “In the abundance of counselors there is victory” (24:6), or, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life” (13:3). Other times, a proverb gives very precise direction: “Abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (17:14), “Do not love sleep, or you will become poor” (20:13), and, “Do not associate with a man given to anger...or you will learn his ways” (22:24–25).
A word of warning: Proverbs are not promises. They are short (usually), pithy sayings giving insight into how life works on balance. Life takes odd turns, but generally “luck” favors the prudent.
Here’s how I know. Though proverbs aren’t promises, the book itself offers assurances for those who are students of its wisdom:
He who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil (1:33). Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course (2:9). Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil (2:11–12a). For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.... So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man (3:2, 4).
Wow. What else pledges such rewards?
And here’s a bonus for parents. Since I’m always on the lookout for simple ways to invest my spiritual life into the lives of my girls, when I can, I walk my nine-year-old, Abby, through a session after I’ve finished my own musing.
First, I have her use the formula to locate our passage for the day (“So I can learn to do it myself, right Papa?”). Though we share the reading task, I have her read aloud the verses I think will be most meaningful for her.
Then I invite—and guide—her reflection. “What do you think Solomon was getting at here, honey?” I don’t ask what it means to her (that’s the relativist’s question), but rather what lesson the teacher is trying to convey. Only then can we talk about application.
It’s a modest habit—pondering a handful of proverbs a day—but what a payoff. And if you have growing children, all the better. There is hardly anything this simple that can pay such big dividends in your life or in the lives of those in your family.
The more you acquaint yourself with Solomon’s instruction, the more trends stand out, like the persistent emphasis on imparting knowledge to the young. Since they are naïve and untutored, they are vulnerable.
It’s why STR has always sought to train youth as well as adults, and why this month we want to send you a copy of Brett Kunkle’s DVD, “Who’s Waiting for Your Kids.” Brett carefully assesses the current challenge to our children, then maps a strategy for meeting it. It’s our gift to you for your gift to STR this month.
Will you provide a gift of any amount this month to help us to reach yours and future generations?
When you send your support, be sure to ask for “Who’s Waiting for Your Kids.” It’s our way of saying thanks, and helping you “train up a child in the way he should go.”
Warmly and gratefully,