Lesson 8

Words of Wisdom

(Proverbs 20-22)
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Introduction: "Miscellaneous maxims" is how one Bible commentator referred to a portion of our study this week. That brought a grin to my face, because our readings in Proverbs this week seem disjointed and repetitious. Repetitious is good - at least for me. I need to have things repeated to get them to stick in my mind. In my law school classes, I teach some of the Proverbs we will study today. Even though I teach them, I need to remind myself about them - which is the advantage of miscellaneous repetitive maxims! Just last week I had a difference of opinion with one of my bosses. I thought he was wrong, but the Proverb came to mind about avoiding the wrath of the king. Let's dive into the Bible and read about the wrath of the king and other instructions for a more successful life!

  1. King's Wrath


    1. Read Proverbs 20:2 and Proverbs 19:12. Who is a "king" in your life? (People who are in authority over us.)


      1. How would you like to stand by a lion while it is roaring? (That would be unpleasant, to say nothing about being frightening.)


      2. When you think about "dew on the grass" what kind of feelings come to mind? (Pleasant feelings. Relaxed feelings.)


      3. Did you notice that both of these proverbs start with the same phrase, but they end with different warnings? One gives the positive side of having a good relationship with the king, and the other warns of what? (Death.)


    2. Read Proverbs 20:3. Consider quarrels with those in authority over you. What is the reason that you might want to argue? (Pride of opinion is a major reason. When your pride causes you to argue with your boss, then "death" of your job may well follow.)


      1. Are there instances when arguing with your boss is the right idea? (I'm not sure that arguing is ever useful, although a humble boss will be open to good ideas. But, there are times when the requirements of honesty, integrity and justice require us to raise our voice. We just need to understand that it might cost us our job.)


    3. Read Proverbs 21:1. What is the best way to deal with disagreements with your boss? (We should not quarrel, instead we should pray to God. The boss is our supervisor, but God is the supervisor of the boss (the king). God can direct the king's heart in the way God chooses.)


    4. Read Proverbs 21:2. We discussed that our pride might be the source of our disagreement with the "king." What is the problem with dealing with our own pride? (We are unlikely to be able to see our own pride. We might claim the dispute is over honesty, integrity or justice, but maybe we have simply deceived ourselves.)


    5. Read Proverbs 21:4. What does our pride have to do with the way we see things? (This is another reason why we cannot trust our own opinion when pride is involved. Our pride is "the lamp." We see things through our pride - and the result is distortion and sin.)


      1. What should we do if we cannot trust our self (because of pride) in dealing with those in authority over us? (Read Proverbs 20:18. We must talk to others whose wisdom we trust.)


    6. Read Proverbs 20:8. "Winnow" is a term used in separating the wheat from the chaff. How can the king "winnow" with his "eyes?" (An alert king understands what is going on. Thus, if the authorities in your life are alert, they will realize when you are suggesting the right course of action, and when it is just your pride that is speaking.)


      1. What should you do if the authority in your life is evil? (I would change jobs when I had the opportunity.)


  2. Sluggards


    1. Read Proverbs 20:4. What is the failure of the sluggard here? Is he not working at all? (No. It seems that he is not working carefully. He is plowing at the wrong time.)


      1. Why does he look for a harvest when he plowed at the wrong time? (He looks because he expects something.)


      2. We have read before about sluggards who are lazy and sleeping. But, this seems to be a different aspect of being a sluggard. What is this "sluggard's" problem? (This sluggard has not learned his trade. He is not reading the instructions, paying attention, or doing his best to be excellent.)


    2. Read Proverbs 22:13. What is the failure of the sluggard here? (He is afraid of everything! He imagines problems to make excuses for not working.)


    3. Read Proverbs 20:5. Have you improperly called someone "lazy" (sluggard)?


      1. What is the caution here? (People are complex. We need to get to know them before we can reach proper conclusions about them.)


    4. Read Proverbs 20:6 and Proverbs 20:9. Are we all sluggards when it comes to sin?


    5. Read Proverbs 20:7. Apparently not everyone is a sluggard when it comes to sin! Read Isaiah 64:6. How do you reconcile these two texts? ( Isaiah 64:6 is in accord with Proverbs 20:6 and Proverbs 20:9. I think Proverbs 20:7 is our goal. The payoff is that we will bless our children with our correct behavior.)


    6. Read Proverbs 20:16. Poverty can come from being lazy, but it can also result from being foolish. What is the first problem described here? (This person agreed to be responsible for a stranger. The Proverb says that if you are so foolish as to do that, then it is proper to take your property to teach you a lesson.)


      1. Look at the second half of Proverbs 20:16. How does a "wayward woman" fit into this lesson on foolishness? (You should also take the property of someone who is so foolish as to agree to be responsible for a woman with whom the foolish person has a romantic link.)


      2. An old friend, who I have not seen for years, recently began serving a prison sentence. One reason he went to prison was that a prostitute threatened to go to his wife unless my friend gave the prostitute money. The friend got the police to threaten the prostitute - and apparently that was one main reason he is in prison. If I have the facts right, it seems no one has "clean hands" in this situation. What do you think is the lesson that Proverbs 20:16 suggests? (Sexual sins end up costing you more than your reputation. They harm you in other ways.)


    7. Read Proverbs 21:17. What is another way in which we can be a sluggard? (Spending too much time on pleasure.)


      1. Is rest wrong? (Hardly. God would not have commanded rest ( Mark 2:27) if it were wrong. The problem comes in "loving" pleasure - taking it to an extreme.)


    8. Read Proverbs 22:1. My friend has just lost his good name, and being a sluggard is the path to a bad name. Why is a good name better than wealth? (What is the purpose of wealth? Why do people want to be rich? In part it is so that people will respect them. People will admire them. A good name gives you respect and admiration.)


  3. Right Result


    1. Read Proverbs 22:5. What does it mean to "guard your soul?" (Be careful about your thoughts and what influences your thoughts. Sin starts in the mind. If you want to avoid "thorns and snares," keep watch over your thoughts.)


    2. Read Proverbs 22:6. What role do parents play in the success of their children? (Teach your child to love God and God's wisdom, and it will pay off later.)


    3. Read Proverbs 22:10. Early on in my church work, I tried to mollify those members who were critical of the church. Was that the right approach? (As this text suggests, I later learned to move the mockers along. They need to be in a different church.)


    4. Read Proverbs 22:29. What is the result of seeking excellence? (Success!)


    5. Friend, if you are careful in your dealings with those in authority, if you are diligent in your work, if you seek excellence and are careful about your thoughts, your life will be better! Why not commit to that today?


  4. Next week: Words of Truth.

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