Prov 1:1–7 “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
We always want to know why and how…? Why are we here and how are we to live? The big questions of life – that’s the area of expertise of the Book of Proverbs. It is the collected wise sayings of the great King Solomon and a few others. Of course – Solomon ended up foolish and too well endowed with wives – he forgot to listen to himself which is a shame really.
Proverbs isn’t like other books in the Bible – it starts so well, clear, concise, and enticing. Read this and it will all make sense. But fact is – it’s a collection of sayings and it is all over the shop – it covers a wide range of stuff.
It’s about making mature choices. That’s what happens as you mature – you become aware that you can make choices – and that in any given situation you can choose. Proverbs covers a great raft of things, from how to treat your farm animals to how to choose a wife – sounds like fun – we’re just going to look at a few topics – friendship, the mouth and marriage – we’re going to look at the foolish steps we can take, the way of wisdom and the impact that living this side of the cross of Jesus makes.
Let me tell you a story
Sue and Helen were friends since childhood. They understood each other, sounded like each other, wore the same clothes and so on. When they left school Sue went to work and Helen to Uni. Sue’s job meant money, a car, a place to live and time. Helen was a student.
Sue often popped in to Helen’s – would browse the fridge, borrow clothes and stay late at night. If only she’d listened to Proverbs.
Proverbs 25:17 “Don’t go to your friends’ house all the time—too much of you, and she’ll hate you.”
Helen didn’t realize how annoyed she was getting until one night she had an uncontrollable urge to hide Sue’s wallet. She knew Sue well enough to know that even though it was a little thing it would really get up her nose. As Sue searched Helen scored points – until the tears came. Helen had to admit that it was a practical joke.
Prov 26:18-19 “Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows, is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
Playing practical jokes on friends is like playing with a deadly weapon. Things quickly deteriorated – Sue lost her job and had her car stolen and went to Helen for friendship. Instead she found self righteous anger. Helen … “now you know how it feels to struggle without money and a car, catching trains and coping”. (OHP9)
Proverbs 25:20 “Like vinegar on a wound is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.”
Words and actions can become almost insurmountable barriers – even between the closest of friends – they eat away at us, especially when they come from “a friend”.
A few days later the gossip started – Helen’s such a slack friend – Sue’s such a cow – and their friends made sure that Helen and Sue knew what was being said. (OHP10)
Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”
After that their lives never connected – until a friends wedding where they found themselves next to each other. Still they couldn’t talk – Helen’s wallet on the table made her think of Sue’s cruelty, and every time Helen talked to someone else Sue thought she was gossiping about her. What a mess – based on a refusal to forgive.
Proverbs 17:9 “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.”
A friendship that could have lasted 50 years ruined by foolish steps – I wonder how many of us could tell a story like that one – a story of foolish choices. But it’s not that all friendships are like that or have to be – there is a way of wisdom in friendship.
Steve remembered the first day at training – he expected to be treated like a no-body. But his team members all knew that he was tipped to have a great future in Rugby – his playing career in Schoolboys was well known. From day one everyone wanted to be Steve’s mate.
Proverbs 19:6 “Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts.”
Steve remembered that proverb – and he wanted a real friend. So he chose carefully and refused to take all offers of friendship. At first Tim seemed to be the right bloke. He was confident and handled the ball well – Steve thought he could learn from him. What he didn’t know was that when things went wrong Tim was not the best bloke to be around. He would spit at referees, break rules – he was a poor choice.
Proverbs 22:24-25 “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Steve noticed he had most in common with Michael in the reserve grade – they were both Christians. As their friendship grew so did Steve’s injury count – the knee, the shoulder, he was slowing down and missing tackles – and he was picked less and less. But his popularity was irrelevant to Michael – he was in for the good and bad.
Proverbs 18:24 “Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.”
Years later that friendship showed its strength. Steve’s wife walked out and Steve decided his life was one big mistake. His footy mates made jokes about other fish in the sea – only Michael stood by him and listened. People at church avoided Steve – he felt awkward and embarrassed – but Michael met with him every week and they prayed and talked about how God might fit into it all. Steve often felt anger and bitterness towards God – Michael just listened to that anger and talked about the kindness and mercy of Jesus – and when he had to he was honest with Steve about the mistakes he was making.
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 27:9 “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the sweetness of a friend is better that one’s own counsel.”
Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs is big on choices – so what are we going to do?
Are we going to make foolish steps in friendship or are we going to walk the path with them?
Are we looking for friends like Sue and Helen – or Michael?
If we want to take the book of proverbs for what it is – wisdom for life – then we’ll follow the wisdom and find out how good friendship can be.
This side of Jesus’ Cross
The thing is – unlike Solomon and the other writers we know the extent of good friendship – Jesus has bent over backwards – or rather – stretched out his arms – to show us what incredible friendship is. All the stuff we say we want in friendship – commitment, honesty, truth, dependability, steadfastness, true love – this is Jesus to us.
If we’re looking for the ideal friend – husband, wife, a life long confidant – we must look no further than Jesus and the friendship he gives. That will be wisest thing of all – to stop looking for the ideal friend and with Christ’s strength to start being the ideal friend.