Relational Proverbs

Whenever I’m needing wisdom (quite often, actually), I turn to the middle of my Bible and read the wisdom-filled words of Proverbs. Usually, many will pierce my heart. Often, several apply to relevant situations in my life.

I read through a few chapters and was surprised to realize how many of the Proverbs were relational, how they spoke to modern-day friendships. I love the beauty of ancient, timeless wisdom. Here are a few that captured me this week:

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

What a wonderful reminder this is. We are greater when we rule our tempers, when we let our anger simmer through the gift of time rather than letting it percolate and explode. I wonder how many marriages would benefit from such wisdom?

“He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9).

For a verbal processor like myself, this is a difficult Proverb to live by. It is better in this case to speak of a sin to the Lord first rather than share someone else’s sin. I am reminded about the paradox of Matthew 18–go to the brother, bring a friend, tell it to the church. We are guilty of Matthew 18-ing in reverse–tell it to many, tell it to others, then tell it to the one who offended. And then there is the intonation here that we take the higher ground if we let someone else’s sin go, that we forgive and move on without having to speak about it.

“A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows to a fool” (Proverbs 17:10).

I think I’m often guilty of reading the Proverbs with someone else in mind. “Oh,” I think, “This is a good one for so-and-so.” I forget that they are for ME. Therefore, in this verse, I realize that I need to be a woman of understanding, so that I absorb heartfelt criticism in a way that changes the deepest part of me. I’d hate to have to have God tell me over and over again, through the mouth of a friend, one hundred times and never have it change me.

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14).

Feuds are deadly. (Romeo and Juliet come to mind, as does that strange feuding place in Huckleberry Finn). If I look back on relational strife in my own life, I wonder what could have happened if I abandoned the quarrel in the earlier stages. If you sense a quarrel coming on, re-read this proverb and let it go. Letting out water from a dam is a dangerous thing–destruction is the result. Better to have patience first.

“He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom” (Proverbs 18:1).

Isolation does not cause growth. The only way we grow in our character is through the crucible of relationship and community. If we separate ourselves from all others (whether that be emotionally or physically) we cut off God’s plan for growth in our lives. Community is messy. It hurts. We can only know our blind spots in that context, though, because when we are known by others, things we hide have a way of surfacing. Want to grow in your relationship to God this year? Really? Then dive headlong into community.

“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).

If I am proud, stiff-necked, the outcome of my life will be destruction: destruction of relationships, emaciation of character. If I demand honor, it will not come. If I command humility in others, honor for me will flee. To be an honorable woman, I must embrace humility and brokenness. That means I am the first to admit my sins to others. It means I realize how deeply I need Jesus and His death on the cross. It means I welcome trials that produce humility. It means I live for His reputation more than I fret about my own. It means I dare to be poured out for the sake of the gospel.

“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Oh how quick I am to speak before I’ve really listened. The key of this verse is HEARING. Even if I am attentive, it still takes greater effort to truly HEAR a friend. Oh Lord, set a trap over my mouth so I can hear my friend first. Help me to speak only after I’ve heard. Let it be that I give my friends the gift of my ears before I try to impose the gift of my mouth.

If you’re lacking wisdom this week, take a waltz through some Proverbs. Likely you’ll find great insight into your heart, your actions, your character. Let the words of God sift through your heart.

Amen and amen.

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