Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool. Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet. --Proverbs 19:1-2 I’ve always been deeply drawn to the Book of Proverbs - attracted by its wisdom and practical instructions for life.
Take, for example, the verses cited above and also the rest of chapter 19. This chapter of Proverbs can be summed up as teaching, firstly, the heeding of instruction; and, secondly, the handling of wealth.
Heeding instruction and handling wealth were two essential responsibilities of Israel's cadre of young leaders. Like some of our young people today, they were talented, confident, assertive, ambitious, and affluent—or about to be. Their personal skill, administrative responsibility, and social influence needed outside help if they were to be well used. Yet the very poise and pride that contributed to their success made them susceptible to arrogant self-sufficiency.
Many of us are not well-known for taking instructions. Just ask our spouses. There's a lot within us that resists advice, that says, “You can do it on your own, you don't need help … don't bother anybody else, don't depend on outsiders. Do it yourself, do it your own way.” The wise teachers of Israel understood these feelings and hammered hard to counter them. Especially dangerous, in their view, was the tendency of their young people to resist correction. There is something that makes us resent most what we most need to hear—what we have done wrong and how we can do better next time.
A hallmark of the "wise son" or daughter in Proverbs is the ability to accept even stern or painful advice with open ears: he who does not, is labeled a “scoffer”. Proverbs 12:1 puts it bluntly: “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” If we stop to think about it, the barrier to heeding instruction is pride - pure and simple.
What about handling wealth? Listening to solid advice even when it hurts is crucial to handling wealth.
What do prudent people do about budgets, investments, and the use of material blessings? That question is still the central one for all boards of trustees of churches, schools, and other corporations. There is no way we can always be right: The markets, economies, and local circumstances can do curious and hurtful things. Seeking the best possible counsel does not make us foolproof. But the surest way to prove we are fools is not to seek expert counsel, not to solicit and heed the advice of prudent persons, especially those who both know their business and care about God’s mission.
And we must not depart from the three major themes of wise counsel that come from Proverbs: hard work, divine grace, and righteous behaviour. “The labour of the righteous leads to life, the wages of the wicked to sin” says Proverbs 10:16.
Proverbs and the Bible teach hard work as a key to prosperity; Wisdom knows that the ultimate source of material success is the enriching grace of the Lord: “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).
Rev Robert Chew