On Sunday we gathered. The lights were on, but the sun was shining brightly outside too! We were wide awake and we opened in prayer. Then we started talking. We’d made it through Proverbs during the month of October, reading one chapter a day (and if we forgot or got lost the date helped us know which chapter we were focusing on!) And so we spoke about what had stood out to people in this last set of days reading through Proverbs.
Some noted how we moved quickly through this book, while others noted how it seemed we have been spending LOTS of time with this book full of wisdom. Some felt that men got the proverbial short end of the stick as far as being named as foolish in this book, while others had noticed begrudgingly how often women had been named as quarrelsome or as a type of adultress. Perhaps the point in some respect is not so much the gendering of such behavior as much as that all genders (that is all of us) are able to find ourselves acting foolishly and also in a way that draws others away from God and into sin (forgive us please God!).
We looked closely at the invitation to engage discipline (considering the parent child relationship while also understanding God as parent & we as child); at the idea that when the wicked are in charge the righteous go into hiding; at the understanding charm and beauty are fleeting attributes. We considered how Proverbs, whether we find the book to be long-winded and repetitive, too short, or just right, offers us a perspective and framework for all of life (even — gasp! — including politics — & I do hope y’all are getting to the polls today). The beauty (& annoyance) of Proverbs (and Scripture, and Jesus with his parabolic speech & teaching!) is that we are to be actively engaged, we are to be seeking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us — and we must (on our best & aptly humble days) realize that the framework will not always lead us to the same conclusions on every topic…this is that challenge of being in community of course (& knowing that “I’m” always right…). While one around the table aptly recognized so much of Proverbs instructs us to be those who are peace-makers, those who do not stir up dissension among others, it does not instruct us with what that looks likes at all times, and this can be FRUSTRATING. It’s part of why we need Jesus, part of why we keep coming to read Scripture together, part of why we are part of the unified & diverse body of Christ, part of why we continue coming together to worship, part of why we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness!
And someone mentioned Proverbs 30:8-9,
And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things before I die; don’t refuse me— Banish lies from my lips and liars from my presence. Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’ If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God.” (The Message, Proverbs 30:7-9)
Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need. If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you; if I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name. (Contemporary English Version)
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (New International Version)
Which is beautiful, a prayer for “enough” a prayer for our “daily bread” — however, it does not specify what is “enough.” So we have Scripture, and we have this wisdom book, Proverbs, and we have just read it through. SO — while it is very helpful, while we learn & notice new things (truths!) each and every time we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit in the reading of Scripture — maybe there is something we think is missing, a Proverb yet to be written, or maybe we think there is something that really needs to be articulated in our own language, or maybe we found Proverbs to be too verbose and really a short version/summary/cliff notes version is in order….well — indeed — THIS is our homework assignment! Choose one of these:
- Write a Proverb of your own which is missing from the book of Proverbs.
- Write a Proverb in your own words (personalize it!).
- Write a cliff notes version/summary of the book of Proverbs!
And of course y’all, come ready please to share this work! I’m excited to get to hear how God moves in this assignment and look forward to being blessed in the sharing round the table next Sunday. And for this — and so much more I am grateful. Until next time…
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater