By Jeff Smith | PREVIEW Columnist
In the modern world, faithful Christians and the gospel often compete with new, often dark, philosophies such as critical race theory, Marxism, socialism, liberalism and postmodernism. Scripture has a philosophy that shines brighter.
Philosophy is the “love” of being “wise,” from the Greek words “phileo,” or “love,” and “sophia” meaning “wisdom.” Philosophy is how we see the world, how we think it works and how to get a good life. Three thousand years ago, before Socrates, King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs gave us the idea when he pictured our gaining wisdom as a romance. We must “love” Lady Wisdom before she will bless our lives (Proverbs 4:5-9). Solomon was the “wisest” of all the thinkers who would come after him (1 Kings 3:11-15). His key to the good life was simple: know right from wrong.
Solomon’s lessons in reason, logic and right judgment are nothing new to Bible readers. Wealth is fine. Being wise is better (Prov 3:13). An angry outburst may be bad. A “devious” person who plans evil is worse (Prov 14:17). I take these insights. I judge better. I choose better. I don’t do evil to get what I want. My life is better.
However, there is a broader use to them. They are meant to be group ethics, helping not just “me” but “us.” This is what the Queen of Sheba found when she surveyed Solomon’s kingdom and all he accomplished (2 Chronicles 9:1-9).
Here are some other ways we can better use his proverbs.
Christian parents can teach proverbs to their children to prepare them for the hostile ideas in the classroom. Sunday school should include lessons in his logic. Proverbs can inspire robust debate with teens, having them grapple with complex issues so they can best the faulty logic they will face in college and the workplace.
Adults, trained in Bible wisdom, can offer good advice. Advice differs from asking someone to convert. To convert means to give all or nothing. Advice allows the hearer to take all, some or none with no harm done. It presents faith as being reasoned and helpful. It offers safe, common ground for those who believe to talk with those who don’t. It does much good even if it achieves less.
Teaching right judgment would make our churches better and safer. Proverbs 3:3 asks us to balance “mercy and truth,” so if a problem occurs, we default first to mercy. Assume the best, then get the whole story. Problems worsen when we assume the worst with only half the facts. This kind of thinking would lessen the all-too-frequent loss of church leaders who find the pressures of ministry and the poverty too great to bear. Teaching wisdom to us in the pew would help keep the man in the pulpit. Wise churches who differ on doctrine may find common ground based on these better ethics.
Solomon’s Book of Proverbs in the Bible may be one of the hardest books to teach, but it can be done. After that, the larger target for the teaching of proverbs would be the culture outside our church walls.
Western, left-wing thinking on marriage and raising children has done much to fray the fabric of our culture. Its valid concerns about racism, the environment and women’s rights are in danger of being tossed with its tragic views on gay marriage and abortion.
New and better ideas of how to have a good life and make sense of the world need to be ready to take its place.
Faithful students of scripture have a better way of thinking. This dark world needs to see it.
This column may include both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to email@example.com.