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Proverbs and the subject of wisdom and status

12:9 He who is of low position and has a servant, is better than one who has a high opinion of himself and is in need of bread.

Or, “Better is a poor man who provides for himself, than a noble man who lacks bread” (Adam Clarke). Someone who is poor who can handle their money is better than one who is rich, who can’t. This verse also shows us the problem of those who can’t do common work because they deserve better. The idea of what we deserve to have and what we are too proud to do can trap us if we aren’t careful. There’s nothing wrong with flippin’ burgers to pay the bills and buying only those things we can afford. The wise allow a humble paycheck to create a humble heart. That heart is free.

“It is greatness to do little things well.”

14:19 The knees of the evil are bent before the good; and sinners go down in the dust at the doors of the upright.

Most will tell us that it is the weak who bow before the strong and the poor before the rich. Now go further. It is the dumb who most often bow before the smart, the pupil before the teacher, the child before the adult, the lower class before the upper class, the worker before the boss, the follower before the leader, the slave before the master, the younger before the older, the loser before the winner, the fat before the thin, the ugly before the pretty and the out-crowd before the in-crowd. But Solomon says that the only status that is vital is being good or evil or in doing right or wrong. And when the lowly do right and the highborn do wrong, the status quo starts to change.

15:31 The man whose ear is open to the teaching (or rebuke) of life will have his place among the wise.

In any group of people, there are those are looked to for advice and are seen as sages, or wise people. That is what Solomon is talking about when he talks about our having a “place among the wise.” We come to that place by being the kind of person who can be taught, or corrected, or even rebuked. Matthew Henry describes this process like this. “Those that learn well, and obey well, are likely in time to teach well and rule well.” Because they know how painful it is to be corrected, they can correct others with grace. In time, critics and skeptics alike, place them among the wise.

“Most of us would rather be ruined by flattery than edified by rebuke.”

15:33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.

God exalts no one but them that are truly humbled (Notes found in the Geneva Bible 1544).

Pro 17:2 A servant who does wisely will have rule over a son causing shame, and will have his part in the heritage among brothers.

Servant hood or being a slave was a clear reminder of rank and status in the ancient world. Servants served in households for years, sometimes for a lifetime based on what kinds of agreements they could make. Some believed that there were those who were just born to be slaves; their lack of brains didn’t allow them to be something better. Surprise! Being wise had a power that was greater than the most rigid social roadblocks of that day, or any day.

My book, “Want To Be Wise? Applying the Wisdom Of Solomon To the Modern Issues We All Face,” by Jeff Smith, is available through Wine Press Publishers. My blog is

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